Sogdian language

Sogdian language

extinct=largely extinct by the 9th century, remnants evolved into Yaghnobi
fam4=Eastern Iranian

The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana (Zarafshan River Valley), located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (chief cities: Samarkand, Panjakent, Fergana).

Sogdian is one of the most important Middle Iranian languages, along with Middle Persian and Parthian. It possesses a large literary corpus. The language is usually assigned to the Northeastern branch of the Iranian languages. No direct evidence of an earlier version of the language ("Old Sogdian") has been found, although mention of the area in the Old Persian inscriptions means that a separate and recognisable Sogdiana existed at least since the Achaemenid era (559-323 BCE). Sogdian possesses a more conservative grammar and morphology than Middle Persian.

The economic and political importance of the language guaranteed its survival in the first few centuries after the Islamic conquest of Sogdiana in the early eighth century CE. The earliest Modern Persian texts were written in Sogdiana under the patronage of Samanid kings, with the result that many Sogdian words entered Modern Persian.

Various Sogdian pieces have been found in the Turfan text corpus. They consist almost entirely of religious works by Manichaean and Christian writers.

A dialect of Sogdian, called Yaghnobi, has survived into the 21st century. It is spoken by mountain dwellers in the Yaghnob valley.

Writing system

Like all the writing systems employed for Middle Iranian languages, the Sogdian script ultimately derives from the Aramaic script. Like its close relative the Pahlavi writing system, written Sogdian contains many logograms or ideograms, which were Aramaic words written to represent native spoken ones. The Sogdian script is the direct ancestor of the Uyghur script, itself the forerunner of the Mongolian script.

As in other writing systems descended from the Semitic script, there are no signs for short vowels. The consonantal signs ’ y w can stand for the long vowels [a: i: u:] respectively.

In transcribing Sogdian script into Roman letters, Aramaic ideograms are often noted by means of capitals.

Sample Sogdian text (transliteration): MN sγwδy-k MLK’ δy-w’šty-c ’t x’xsrc xwβw ’pšwnw δrwth γ-rβ nm’cyw

Word-by-word translation: From Sogdiana's King Dewashtic to Khakhsar's Khuv Afshun, (good) health (and) many salutation...

External links

* [ Iranian Language Family]
* [ Introduction to Sogdian] by P. Oktor Skjærvø
* [ Sogdian]
* [ Sogdian Dictionary]

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