Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


Footnotes on a Parthian sound change   1

Agnes Korn 

University of Frankfurt am Main


The treatment of Proto-Iranian *θw (PIE *t ) is one of the isoglosses distinguishing Middle Persian from Parthian and thus important for Western Iranian dialectology. The re-discussion of the Parthian development of this consonant cluster by Nicholas Sims-Williams presents a welcome opportunity for some notes on the matter. I will argue that there is some additional evidence in favour of his suggestion that the Parthian result is not -f- as previously assumed, but a consonant cluster. I will also suggest a modification of the steps that the development takes. The Middle Persian development of *θw as well as some related issues of historical phonology and Pth. orthography and Western Ir. are likewise discussed.


  • Parthian;
  • Middle Persian;
  • Western Iranian;
  • Historical phonology;
  • Isoglosses;
  • Iranian dialectology


1  The present article is a revised version of a German paper. For reasons of typographical simplicity, θ, w and y are used instead of ϑ, and for Proto-Iranian. As per Iranological tradition, italics represent the transcription (phonemical form) for Parthian and Middle Persian, but the transliteration (graphical form) for Sogdian. Manichean, Middle Persian and Parthian are quoted from and in the form of DMD unless otherwise noted.

Abbreviations: Av. = Avestan; B = Buddhist Sogdian; C = Christian Sogdian; Ir. = Iranian; Manich. = Manichean; M = (Sogdian in) Manich. script; MP = Middle Persian; OInd. = Old Indic (Vedic and Sanskrit); OP = Old Persian; PIE = Proto-Indo-European; Pth. = Parthian; S = (Sogdian in) Sogdian script. For bibliographical abbreviations see the references at the end of the article.

I am indebted to Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst, Jost Gippert, Thomas Jügel, Nicholas Sims-Williams and Yutaka Yoshida for comments and discussion, and to several colleagues for their contributions acknowledged in the notes.

  To the memory of Jochem Schindler (1944–94)