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Studies in Iranian Philology

Barbera, Gerardo, Matteo De Chiara, Alessandro Del Tomba, Bhikkhunī Dhammadinnā, Federico Dragoni & Paola Orsatti (eds.). 2024. Siddham. Studies in Iranian philology in honour of Mauro Maggi. Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag.

This volume is a tribute to Mauro Maggi, celebrating his distinguished career and significant contributions in the fields of Iranian, Indo-Aryan, and Central Asian philology and linguistics. It features a diverse collection of papers presented by colleagues, former students, and friends, reflecting the broad spectrum of Mauro Maggi’s research interests. This collection not only honours Mauro Maggi’s extensive scholarly contributions but also serves as a valuable resource for researchers in Iranian, Indo-Aryan, and Central Asian studies. It will be of interest and value to scholars of Iranian philology and linguistics, as well as those in Indo-European linguistics, Central Asian philology, and Buddhist literature. Through this comprehensive tribute, the volume underscores the lasting impact of Mauro Maggi’s work and his enduring legacy in the field.

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Zoroastrian Hermeneutics in Late Antiquity

Vevaina, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw. 2024. Zoroastrian Hermeneutics in Late Antiquity. Commentary on the Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 (Iranica 32). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 is one of the most enigmatic and yet fundamental texts of Zoroastrianism. It is a commentary on the ‘Old Avesta’ of the 2nd millennium BCE produced in Pahlavi (Zoroastrian Middle Persian) in the Sasanian (224–651 CE) and early Islamic centuries. This commentary purportedly based on earlier Pahlavi translations and commentaries of lost Young Avestan tractates commenting in turn on the ‘Old Avesta’ is a value-laden, ideologically motivated discourse that displays a rich panoply of tradition-constituted forms of allegoresis. This terse yet highly allusive text mobilizes complex forms of citation, allusion, and intertextuality from the inherited Avestan world of myth and ritual in order to engage with and react to the profound changes occurring in the relationships between theology, religious praxis, national identity, and imperial politics in Iranian society. Despite its value and importance for developing our nascent understanding of Zoroastrian hermeneutics and the self-conception of the Zoroastrian priesthood in Late Antiquity, this primary source has attracted scant scholarly attention due to the extreme difficulty of its subject matter and the lack of a reliable translation. Volume 32 serves as an intertextual commentary on this often-bewildering text. It contextualizes and historicizes the traditional intersignifications of the Sūdgar Nask which evince indigenous hermeneutical interventions that violate the ‘plain sense’ of meaning, thus challenging our philological approaches to understanding the archaic corpus of the ‘Old Avesta.’ Reading the Sūdgar Nask is a hermeneutic process of traversing texts, genres, and rituals in both the Avestan and Pahlavi corpora, thus activating nodes in a web or network of textual and meta-textual relations that establish new forms of allegoreses or meaning making. It is argued that this entire hermeneutical complex of weaving a ‘new’ text composed of implicit proof text and explicit commentary renews, extends, and, ultimately, makes tradition.

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Avestan ī̆šti-

Musavi, Fatemeh. 2024. The Avestan ī̆šti- in Middle Persian texts. BSOAS FirstView.

Middle Persian translations and interpretations of Avestan texts employ the word īšt in the translation of the Avestan ī̆šti- “capability, capacity, competence”. The word became a vocabulary item in the Middle Persian corpus. It seems to be a calque of its Avestan counterpart. The Avestan ī̆šti- has presented challenges in the Avesta scholarship and is translated with words from different semantic domains. This article discusses the definition of Avestan ī̆šti- and how it is reinterpreted and understood in the Middle Persian translations. It is argued here that Av. ī̆šti- refers to “capability, capacity, and competence”. However, it is understood and interpreted in the MP texts as “wealth, property”, “remuneration”, or “reward”. It is sometimes translated to a verb form from xwāstan “desire, want”.

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The “Sūdgar Nask” of “Dēnkard” Book 9

Vevaina, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw. 2023. The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9. Text, Translation and Critical Apparatus (Iranica 31). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 is one of the most enigmatic and yet fundamental texts of Zoroastrianism. It is a commentary on the ‘Old Avesta’ of the 2nd millennium BCE produced in Pahlavi (Zoroastrian Middle Persian) in the Sasanian (224–651 CE) and early Islamic centuries. This commentary purportedly based on earlier Pahlavi translations and commentaries of lost Young Avestan tractates commenting in turn on the ‘Old Avesta’ is a value-laden, ideologically motivated discourse that displays a rich panoply of tradition-constituted forms of allegoresis. This terse yet highly allusive text mobilizes complex forms of citation, allusion, and intertextuality from the inherited Avestan world of myth and ritual in order to engage with and react to the profound changes occurring in the relationships between theology, religious praxis, national identity, and imperial politics in Iranian society. Despite its value and importance for developing our nascent understanding of Zoroastrian hermeneutics and the self-conception of the Zoroastrian priesthood in Late Antiquity, this primary source has attracted scant scholarly attention due to the extreme difficulty of its subject matter and the lack of a reliable translation. This volume represents the first critical edition and translation of this formidable text which will contribute to the philological, theological, and historiographical study of Zoroastrianism in a pivotal moment in its rich and illustrious history.

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A new Middle Persian document from Hastijan

Asefi, Nima. 2023. A new Middle Persian document from Hastijan belonging to the Farroxzād family. Berkeley Working Papers in Middle Iranian Philology 1(3), 1–14.

This study publishes a first edition of a newly-discovered Middle Persian document located in a private collection but stemming from the area of Hastijan, Iran. It is related to the ‘Pahlavi Archive’, the majority of which is held in the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, and the contents concern the family of a certain Farroxzād, mentioned in several other documents in the archive.

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Graffiti in Middle Iranian

Cereti, Carlo G. 2023. Graffiti in Middle Iranian: Some Preliminary Notes. In Ondřej Škrabal, Leah Mascia, Ann Lauren Osthof & Malena Ratzke (eds.), Graffiti Scratched, Scrawled, Sprayed: Towards a Cross-Cultural Understanding (Studies in Manuscript Cultures 35), 327–354. De Gruyter.

Graffito from Kal Jangal (after Henning 1977, Plate XXVII)

This article aims to present a limited selection of Middle Iranian graffiti while proposing a definition of the term ‘graffito’ in the Iranian area. Middle Iranian languages were spoken over a vast region that stretches from Mesopotamia to Central Asia. Traditionally, scholars in our field consider the Middle Iranian period to cover the fourth century BCE to the end of the first millennium CE. The number of known written artefacts dating from this period has progressively increased and today we possess a sizeable epigraphic corpus, of which languages such as Middle Persian, Parthian and Sogdian take the lion’s share. Here the author presents a selection of written artefacts that, on material and linguistic grounds, seem to better fit the idea of ‘graffito’, and briefly focuses on a few drawings scratched into palace walls in ancient Persepolis. Furthermore, the article aims at contributing to the growing debate on graffiti across different traditions, while remaining well aware that the definition of ‘graffiti’ in the Iranian area is still an open question and requires further discussion to establish a shared classification.

The entire volume is available online as Open Access.

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Estudios Iranios y Turanios (Vol. 5)

Estudios Iranios y Turanios 2023, Vol. 5, has now been published. The whole issue is dedicated to the Avestan, Middle Persian (Pahlavi) and Ossetian Studies.

  • Alberto Cantera: The interpretatio iranica of Heterograms in Book Pahlavi: The Case of YTYBWN- “To Sit Down, to Dwell and to Set” and Some Related Problems
  • Götz König: Nicht-avestische Texte im Xorde Avesta: die Texte des Danksagens
  • Jaime Martínez Porro: Text and Context of the Yasna ī Rapiθβin
  • Paolo Ognibene: About Some Kabardian Loanwords in Ossetic
  • Éric Pirart: La vejez avéstica
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Avestan-Middle Persian tense mismatches

Peschl, Benedikt. 2023. Avestan-Middle Persian tense mismatches in the Zand and the Middle Persian “performative preterite.” Indogermanische Forschungen 128(1). 9–64.

This article addresses the issue of Avestan (Av.)/Middle Persian (MP) tense mismatches that are occasionally found in the Zand, the MP translation with commentary of the Avesta. While most of these mismatches turn out to be aspectually insignificant or illusory once examined more closely, some of them appear to illustrate the use of the MP preterite as a temporally unspecified perfective category, contrasting with its usual perception as a simple past. In accordance with a pattern found also in non-translational MP literature, the perfective usage of the preterite is argued to be present in the translation of a series of Av. performative utterances in Visperad 3 (the “installation of the Av. priestly college”). Moreover, its use can be observed when the Zand depicts two punctual events as temporally coinciding within a timeless (gnomic) statement. Proceeding from these observations, I discuss the expression of performativity in MP on a more general level. The observations shared in this article support the view that, if considered diligently, the older Zand texts have the potential to contribute valuable data to the linguistic description of MP. Conversely, the article shows how paying close attention to the MP translators’ use of verbal forms may inform our interpretation of the Zand.

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On Middle Persian hassār and hassārīh

Fattori, Marco. 2023. A note on Pahlavi lexicography: Middle Persian hassār, hassārīh. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 1–12.

This article deals with the identification and interpretation of two rare Middle Persian words. Firstly, some attestations of the as yet unrecognized word <hs’lyh> hassārīh are discussed, showing that it means “direction”. Then, a semantic analysis of its underived counterpart hassār is carried out, as a basis for an etymological proposal. Finally, it is argued that hassār descends from Old Persian *haçā-sāra- “(having the head) in the same direction”, and a possible reconstruction of the semantic development of the word is provided.

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Studia Iranica, vol. 50

Volume 50 of Studia Iranica (2021) is out in two issues. For a table of contents of individual issues, see below.

Volume 50, issue 1:

  • Michał MARCIAK, Robert S. WÓJCIKOWSKI, Daniele MORANDI BONACOSSI & Marcin SOBIECH: The Battle of Gaugamela in the Navkur Plain in the Context of the Madedonian and Persian Art of Warfare
  • Meysam LABBAF-KHANIKI: The Sasanian Stuccoes of Notheastern Iran Khorasanian Imagery in Late Antiquity
  • Rika GYSELEN, Samra AZARNOUCHE & Mohammad-Ali AMIR-MOEZZI: Une ‘traduction’ moyen-perse du verset du Coran 5:8 sur un poids d’époque omeyyade
  • Maryam NOURZAEI & Thomas JÜGEL: The Distribution and Function of Person-Marking Clitics in Balochi Dialects from an Areal Perspective
  • Compte rendu