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Old Iranian Online

Lesson 2: Old Avestan

Scott L. Harvey, Winfred P. Lehmann, and Jonathan Slocum

In addition to the 'ahuric' beings that Zarathustra's poetry brings to light, several Gathas also mention Geush Tashan, the 'Creator of the Cow', and Geush Urvan, the 'Soul of the Cow'. Though the ontological status of these two is not clearly spelled out, they do seem to maintain at least a semi-divine status due to their central role in early Iranian social life. Like their Indian cousins, the Eastern Iranians of this period were pastoral nomads. Their economy depended on cattle and, from the earliest times, their sacrificial ritual incorporated this most precious commodity by offering it up to the gods. While Zarathustra seems to have proscribed this older practice, he continued to employ the symbols of the earlier age, even as he refashioned them in keeping with new themes.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Yasna 29 continues with Ahura Mazda's response to Zarathustra's invocation. He appears to ignore Zarathustra himself and address only the cow, whose inquiry began the hymn. Zarathustra, as poet, seems to be using this speech to begin a progression to his main point, i.e. that it is he who is the spokesman who can lead humanity to their god. In verse six, Ahura Mazda declares that there is no one righteous enough to play this role, but then asks, in seven, if this is really so. In verse eight, Good Mind personified determines it is not, for Zarathustra Spitama stands ready to sing the Truth, inspired by the sweetness of right thinking. Verses nine through eleven then show the cow's reluctance to accept Zarathustra, Zarathustra's willingness to accept the responsibility, and finally the cow's acceptance of Zarathustra as her ambassador to the gods and Mazda's ambassador to the world.

6 - aṯ ə̄ vaocaṯ ahurō       mazdå vīdvå vafūš vyānayā

  • aṯ -- particle; <aṯ> 'then, but, and, so, thus' -- so
  • ə̄ -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <a-> 'he, this' -- the
  • vaocaṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist indicative active <vak> 'say, speak, declare' -- says
  • ahurō -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • mazdå -- noun; nominative singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' -- Wise
  • vīdvå -- perfect active participle; nominative singular masculine <vid> 'see, know, obtain' -- the Knowing One
  • vafūš -- noun; accusative plural masculine <vafu-> 'prophecy, teaching, solemn words' -- solemn words
  • vyānayā -- noun; instrumental singular feminine <vyāna-> 'insight, perception' -- by (his) insight

nōiṯ aēvā ahū vistō       naēdā ratuš ašāṯ-cīṯ hacā

  • nōiṯ -- negative particle; <nōiṯ> 'no, none' -- no
  • aēvā -- adjective; instrumental singular masculine <aēva-> 'one, alone' -- by one
  • ahū -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahu-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • vistō -- past participle passive; nominative singular masculine <vis> 'find' -- found
  • naēdā -- negative particle; <naēda> 'not, nor' -- nor
  • ratuš -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ratu-> 'judgement, model, plan' -- paragon
  • ašāṯ-cīṯ -- noun; ablative singular neuter <aša-> 'truth' + emphatic particle; <cīṯ> 'indeed, verily, etc.' -- some Truth
  • hacā -- adposition; <hacā> 'from, out of' -- in accordance with

aṯ zī θwā fšuyantaē-cā       vāstryāi-cā θwōrəštā tatašā

  • aṯ -- particle; <aṯ> 'then, but, and, so, thus' -- alas
  • -- emphatic particle; <zi> 'for, indeed' -- ...
  • θwā -- enclitic pronoun; 2nd person accusative singular <θwa> 'you' -- you
  • fšuyantaē-cā -- present participle active; dative singular masculine <fsuya-> 'breed (esp. cattle)' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- for the benefit of the cattle breeder
  • vāstryāi-cā -- noun; dative singular masculine <vāstrya-> 'herdsman; pasture' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and the herdsman
  • θwōrəštā -- noun; nominative singular masculine <θwōrəšṯar> 'Fashioner' -- Fashioner
  • tatašā -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect indicative active <tas> 'carve, create, fashion, shape' -- has fashioned

7 - tə̄m āzūtōiš ahurō       mąθrəm tašaṯ ašā hazaošō

  • tə̄m -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- the
  • āzūtōiš -- adjective; genitive singular feminine <āzuiti-> 'fat, butter' -- for (procuring) butter
  • ahurō -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- the Lord
  • mąθrəm -- noun accusative singular masculine <maθra-> 'mantra, magic formula' -- magic formula
  • tašaṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist indicative active <tas> 'carve, create, fashion, shape' -- fashioned
  • ašā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <aša-> 'truth' -- with Truth
  • hazaošō -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <hazaoša-> 'like-minded' -- allied

mazdå gavōi xšvīdəm-cā       hvō urušaēibyō spəntō sāsnayā

  • mazdå -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <mazdā-> 'wise' -- Wise (One)
  • gavōi -- noun; dative singular feminine <gao-> 'cow' -- for the cow
  • xšvīdəm-cā -- noun; accusative singular masculine <xšvid-> 'milk' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and milk
  • hvō -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- the
  • urušaēibyō -- adjective; dative plural masculine <uruša-> 'emaciated' -- toward the emaciated (ones)
  • spəntō -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <spənta-> 'beneficent, holy, sacred' -- beneficent
  • sāsnayā -- noun; instrumental singular feminine <sāsnā-> 'teaching' -- in accordance with the teaching

kastē vohū manaŋhā       yə̄ ī dāyāṯ ə̄əāvā marətaēibyō

  • kastē -- interrogative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ka-> 'who, what' -- who
  • vohū -- adjective; instrumental singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • manaŋhā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- by Mind
  • yə̄ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- who
  • ī -- enclitic demonstrative pronoun; 3rd person accusative plural masculine <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- he
  • dāyāṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist optative active <dā-> 'give, put' -- might set down
  • ə̄əāvā -- preposition; <ə̄əāvā> 'down' -- down
  • marətaēibyō -- noun; dative plural masculine <marəta-> 'mortal' -- for mortal men

8 - aēm mōi idā vistō       yə̄ nə̄ aēvā sāsnå gūšatā

  • aēm -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- this
  • mōi -- enclitic pronoun; 1st person dative singular <azəm-> 'I' -- for me
  • idā -- particle; <idā> 'here' -- here
  • vistō -- past participle passive; nominative singular masculine <vis> 'find' -- found
  • yə̄ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- who
  • nə̄ -- enclitic pronoun; 1st person genitive plural <azəm-> 'I' -- our
  • aēvā -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <aēva-> 'one, alone' -- alone
  • sāsnå -- noun; accusative plural feminine <sāsnā-> 'teaching' -- teachings
  • gūšatā -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative middle <guš> 'hear' -- hears

Zaraθuštrō Spitāmō       hvō nə̄ mazdā vaštī ašāi-cā

  • Zaraθuštrō -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Zaraθuštra-> 'Zarathustra' -- Zarathustra
  • Spitāmō -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Spitāma-> 'Spitama' (clan name of Zarathustra) -- Spitama
  • hvō -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- he
  • nə̄ -- enclitic pronoun; 1st person dative plural <azəm-> 'I' -- for us
  • mazdā -- adjective; vocative singular masculine <mazdā-> 'wise' -- O Wise One
  • vaštī -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active <vas> 'desire, wish' -- wishes
  • ašāi-cā -- noun; dative singular neuter <aša-> 'truth' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and for Truth

carəkərəθrā srāvayeŋ́hē       hyaṯ hōi hudəmə̄m dyāi vaxəδrahyā

  • carəkərəθrā -- noun; accusative plural neuter <carəkərəθra-> '(hymns of) praise' -- praise
  • srāvayeŋ́hē -- causative infinitive; dative <srāvay-> 'cause to be heard' -- to recite
  • hyaṯ -- conjunction; <hyaṯ> 'if, so, when' -- if
  • hōi -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- to him
  • hudəmə̄m -- noun; accusative singular masculine <hudəma-> 'sweetness' -- sweetness
  • dyāi -- verb; 1st person singular present subjunctive passive <dā-> 'give, put' -- should be given
  • vaxəδrahyā -- noun; genitive singular neuter <vaxəδra-> 'speech organ' -- of voice

9 - aṯ-cā gə̄uš urvā raostā       yə̄ anaēšəm xšanmə̄nē rādəm

  • aṯ-cā -- particle; <aṯ> 'then, but, and, so, thus' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and so
  • gə̄uš -- noun; genitive singular feminine <gao-> 'cow' -- of the cow
  • urvā -- noun; nominative singular masculine <urvan-> 'soul, self' -- the soul
  • raostā -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist indicative middle <rud> 'howl, cry out, lament' -- laments
  • yə̄ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- (I) who (am)
  • anaēšəm -- adjective; accusative singular masculine <anaēša-> 'powerless' -- powerless
  • xšanmə̄nē -- infinitive; dative <xšam> 'accept' -- to accept
  • rādəm -- noun; accusative singular masculine <rāda-> 'provider' -- provider

vācim nərəš asūrahyā       yə̄m ā vasəmī īšā-xšaθrīm

  • vācim -- noun; accusative singular feminine <vāc-> 'voice' -- voice
  • nərəš -- noun; genitive singular masculine <nar-> 'man' -- man's
  • asūrahyā -- adjective; genitive singular masculine <asura-> 'weak' -- weak
  • yə̄m -- relative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- which
  • ā -- preposition; <ā> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- ...
  • vasəmī -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative active <vas> 'desire, wish' -- I wish
  • īšā-xšaθrīm -- adjective; accusative singular feminine <īšā-xšaθri> 'powerful' -- strong

kadā yavā hvō aŋhaṯ       yə̄ hōi dadāṯ zastavaṯ avō

  • kadā -- adverb; <kadā> 'when' -- when
  • yavā -- adjective; instrumental singular masculine <yavan-> 'during life' -- in (my) lifetime
  • hvō -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- he
  • aŋhaṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active <ah-> 'be, become' -- will emerge
  • yə̄ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- who
  • hōi -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- to him
  • dadāṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active <dā-> 'give, put' -- lends
  • zastavaṯ -- possessive adjective; accusative singular neuter <zasta-> 'hand' + possessive suffix <-vat-> '...' -- hand
  • avō -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <avah-> 'help, helping' -- helping

10 - yūžə̄m aēibyō ahurā       aogō dātā ašā xšaθrəm-cā

  • yūžə̄m -- pronoun; 2nd person nominative singular <yūžəm-> 'you' -- you
  • aēibyō -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- to them
  • ahurā -- noun; vocative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- O Lord
  • aogō -- noun; accusative singular neuter <aogah-> 'power, strength' -- strength
  • dātā -- verb; 2nd person plural aorist imperative active <dā-> 'give, put' -- may you give
  • ašā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <aša-> 'truth' -- through Truth
  • xšaθrəm-cā -- noun; accusative singular neuter <xšaθra-> 'power' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and power

avaṯ vohū manaŋhā       yā hušəitīš rāmąm-cā dāṯ

  • avaṯ -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter <ava-> 'this, that' -- that
  • vohū -- adjective; instrumental singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • manaŋhā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- through Mind
  • -- relative pronoun; instrumental singular neuter <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- by which
  • hušəitīš -- noun; accusative plural feminine <hušiti-> 'good dwelling, comfort, safety' -- comfort
  • rāmąm-cā -- noun; accusative singular neuter <rāman-> 'peace, tranquility' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and peace
  • dāṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist subjunctive active <dā-> 'give, put' -- one may receive

azə̄m-cīṯ ahyā mazdā       θwąm mə̄ŋ́hī paourvīm vaēdəm

  • azə̄m-cīṯ -- pronoun; 1st person nominative singular <azəm-> 'I' + emphatic particle; <cīṯ> 'indeed, verily, etc.' -- For I myself
  • ahyā -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- of that
  • mazdā -- adjective; vocative singular masculine <mazdā-> 'wise' -- O Wise (One)
  • θwąm -- pronoun; 2nd person accusative singular <θwa> 'you' -- you
  • mə̄ŋ́hī -- verb; 1st person singular aorist indicative middle <man> 'know, think' -- I know
  • paourvīm -- adjective; accusative singular masculine <paouruya-> 'first, original' -- primordial
  • vaēdəm -- noun; accusative singular masculine <vaēda-> 'provider' -- provider

11 - kudā ašəm vohu-cā       manō xšaθrəm-cā aṯ mā mašā

  • kudā -- adverb; <kudā> 'where' -- where
  • ašəm -- noun; accusative singular neuter <aša-> 'truth' -- Truth
  • vohu-cā -- adjective; nominative singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- good
  • manō -- noun; nominative singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- Mind
  • xšaθrəm-cā -- noun; nominative singular neuter <xšaθra-> 'power' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and power
  • aṯ -- particle; <aṯ> 'then, but, and, so, thus' -- ...
  • -- enclitic pronoun; 1st person accusative singular <azəm-> 'I' -- me
  • mašā -- noun; instrumental singular masculine <mašya-> 'human being' -- mortal

yūžə̄m mazdā frāxšnənē       mazōi magāi-ā paitī-zānatā

  • yūžə̄m -- pronoun; 2nd person nominative singular <yūžəm-> 'you' -- you
  • mazdā -- adjective; vocative singular masculine <mazdā-> 'wise' -- O Wise (One)
  • frāxšnənē -- noun; locative singular masculine <frāxšnəna-> 'concern' -- in (Your) concern
  • mazōi -- adjective; dative singular masculine <maz-> 'large, great' -- great
  • magāi-ā -- noun; dative singular masculine <maga-> 'gift' + preposition; <ā> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- for (the) offering
  • paitī-zānatā -- verbal prefix; <paiti> 'near, toward, with respect to' + verb; 2nd person plural present imperative active <xšnā> 'know' -- know

ahurā nū nå avarə̄       ə̄hmā-rātōiš yūšmāvatąm

  • ahurā -- noun; vocative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- O Lord
  • -- adverb; <> 'now' -- now
  • -- enclitic pronoun; 1st person dative singular <azəm-> 'I' -- to us
  • avarə̄ -- adverb; <avar> 'down' -- down
  • ə̄hmā-rātōiš -- pronoun; compound stem form <azəm-> 'I' + noun; genitive singular masculine <rāta-> 'gift' -- on account of our gift
  • yūšmāvatąm -- pronoun; genitive plural masculine <yūžəm-> 'you' + possessive suffix; <vat-> 'like' -- for (those) like you

Lesson Text

6 aṯ ə̄ vaocaṯ ahurō       mazdå vīdvå vafūš vyānayā
nōiṯ aēvā ahū vistō       naēdā ratuš ašāṯ-cīṯ hacā
aṯ zī θwā fšuyantaē-cā       vāstryāi-cā θwōrəštā tatašā

7 tə̄m āzūtōiš ahurō       mąθrəm tašaṯ ašā hazaošō
mazdå gavōi xšvīdəm-cā       hvō urušaēibyō spəntō sāsnayā
kastē vohū manaŋhā       yə̄ ī dāyāṯ ə̄əāvā marətaēibyō

8 aēm mōi idā vistō       yə̄ nə̄ aēvā sāsnå gūšatā
Zaraθuštrō Spitāmō       hvō nə̄ mazdā vaštī ašāi-cā
carəkərəθrā srāvayeŋ́hē       hyaṯ hōi hudəmə̄m dyāi vaxəδrahyā

9 aṯ-cā gə̄uš urvā raostā       yə̄ anaēšəm xšanmə̄nē rādəm
vācim nərəš asūrahyā       yə̄m ā vasəmī īšā-xšaθrīm
kadā yavā hvō aŋhaṯ       yə̄ hōi dadāṯ zastavaṯ avō

10 yūžə̄m aēibyō ahurā       aogō dātā ašā xšaθrəm-cā
avaṯ vohū manaŋhā       yā hušəitīš rāmąm-cā dāṯ
azə̄m-cīṯ ahyā mazdā       θwąm mə̄ŋ́hī paourvīm vaēdəm

11 kudā ašəm vohu-cā       manō xšaθrəm-cā aṯ mā mašā
yūžə̄m mazdā frāxšnənē       mazōi magāi-ā paitī-zānatā
ahurā nū nå avarə̄       ə̄hmā-rātōiš yūšmāvatąm

Translation

6   So the Wise Lord, the Knowing One, speaks the solemn words [inspired] by [his] insight:
    "There is no lord found by even one [among us], nor a paragon in accordance with any Truth.
    Alas, the Fashioner has fashioned you for the benefit of the cattle breeder and the herdsman.
     
7   "The Lord [who is] allied with Truth fashioned the magic formula
          for [procuring] butter and milk for the cow.1
    This Wise (One) is beneficent towards the emaciated in accordance with the teaching.
    Who is there for you who might set these [things] down for mortals by Good Mind?"
     
8   [Good Mind?: There is] this [one] found here for me who alone hears our [holy] teachings --
    Zarathustra Spitama: he wishes to recite [praises] for us and for Truth, O Wise One,
    If I shall give to him sweetness of voice."
     
9   And so the soul of the cow laments: "I who am to accept a powerless provider,
    A weak man's voice which I wish [to be] strong --
    When during my lifetime will he emerge, [the one] who lends to him a helping hand?"
     
10   [Zarathustra:] "O Lord, may you give strength to them2 through Truth,
    And that power, [which comes] through Good Mind, by which one may receive
          comfort and peace.
    For I myself, O Wise One, know You as the Primordial Provider of that."
     
11   [The Cow:] "Where are Truth, Good Mind, and [their] power? Know me,
          through the mortal one,3
    You, O Wise One, in Your concern for the great offering.
    Come down to us now, O Lord, on account of our gift for those like you."

Grammar

6. Short and Long i- and u-Stem Nouns

Nominal stems in short i and u take identical inflections in all cases of the masculine and feminine, and in the oblique cases of the neuter. Long ī- and ū-stems appear primarily in the feminine, with accusative singular raθī- 'chariot' and instrumental singular and plural and genitive singular hizū- 'tongue' attested in the masculine.

6.1. i- and u-Stem Nouns, Masculine
Singular:   gairi- 'mountain'   mainyu- 'spirit'
Nom.   gairiš   mainyuš
Acc.   gairim   mainyuš
Instr.   gairī   mainyū
Dat.   gairayāi   mainyavē, mainyavāi
Abl.   gairoīṯ   mainyoīṯ
Gen.   gairoiš   mainyə̄uš
Loc.   gairā   mainyāu
Voc.   gairiai   mainyō
Dual:        
Nom.   gairī   mainyū
Acc.   gairī   mainyū
Instr/Dat/Abl.   gairibyā   mainyubya
Gen.   unattested   mainivāh
Loc.   unattested   mainivau
Plural:        
Nom.   gairayah, agairayō   mainavah, mainavō
Acc.   gairiš   mainyuš
Instr.   aspāiš   unattested
Dat/Abl.   gairibyō   mainyubyah, mainyubyō
Gen.   gairinąm   mainyunąm
Loc.   unattested   mainyušu
6.2. ī- and ū-Stem Nouns, Feminine
Singular:   vahvī- 'good'   tanū- 'body'
    (from msc. vohu-)    
Nom.   vaŋuhī   tanuš
Acc.   vaŋhīm   tanvə̄m
Instr.   vaŋhuyā   tanvā
Dat.   vaŋhuyāi   tanūvāi
Gen.   vaŋhuyå   tanuvah, tanuvō
Voc.   *vaŋhvī   unattested
Dual:        
Nom.   *vaŋhvišī   unattested
Instr/Dat/Abl.   vaŋhubyā   unattested
Plural:        
Nom.   *vaŋhvīš   tanuvah, tanuvō
Acc.   *vaŋhvīš   *tanuvah, *tanuvō
Dat.   *vaŋhubyō   *tanuubyō
Gen.   *vaŋhunąm   *tanuunąm
Loc.   unattested   tanušu
6.3. i- and u-Stem Nouns, Neuter
    buiri- 'richness'   vohu- 'good'
Nom.Acc.Voc. sg.pl.   buiri   vohu
7. Personal Pronouns

Pronominal forms abound in the Avestan language. The first and second person are unique, while the third person uses primarily the first of three third person pronominal stems. Both full and enclitic forms appear (on the use of clitics, cf. Section 15). The oblique cases of all personal pronouns form a suppletive system, i.e., they are based on a stem different than that of the nominative case.

7.1. First and Second Person Pronouns

The first and second person pronouns have no inherent gender, and no locative or vocative forms appear. Dual forms are rare. The azem- 'I' and tvə̄m- 'you' paradigms are given here, with enclitic forms in parentheses.

Singular:   First Person   Second Person
Nom.   azə̄m   tvə̄m, tūm4 ()
Acc.   ()   θąm (θvā)
Instr.   unattested   θvā4
Dat.   mabya, mabyah (mai)   tabya, tabyah (tai)
Abl.   mat   θat
Gen.   mana   tava (tai)
Plural:        
Nom.   vayam   yūžam
Acc.   ahma   (vāh)
Instr.   unattested   šmā
Dat.   ahmabya (nah)   šmabhya, yušmabya (vah)
Abl.   ahmat   šmat, yušmat
Gen.   (nah)   (vah)
7.2. Third Person/Demonstrative Pronouns

The unique third person pronoun stems hi- and YAv. di- 'he, she, it' are found only as enclitic forms. The demonstrative pronoun ha- 'this', suppletive ta-, doubles as the standard third person pronoun 'he, she, it'.

Singular:   Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
Nom.     tat  
Acc.   tə̄m, (hīm), YAv. (dim)   tat   tąm, tām
Instr.     unattested   unattested
Dat/Gen.   OAv. (hoi), YAv.(he)   unattested   unattested
Dual:            
Nom/Acc/Voc.   , (hī)   unattested   unattested
Plural:            
Nom.   tōi, taē   unattested   unattested
Acc.   tə̄ng, OAv. (hīš)    
Instr.   tāiš   unattested   unattested
Dat/Abl.   taēibyō        
8. Athematic Presents and Ablaut

As noted in Lesson 1, verbs of the present system are based on various stems; thematic stems were discussed there. Five classes of athematic stems are attested, with grades that depend upon ablaut.

8.1. Athematic Classes

The root class stems add an ending directly to the verbal root, e.g. ahmi 'I am', first person singular present indicative active of ah 'be'. The root may appear in its strong or weak grade, depending on the verb's ablaut pattern, on which see Section 8.2 below.

The reduplicating class forms its stem by adding a reduplicated syllable to the beginning of a verbal root. For roots beginning in a consonant, the reduplication usually consists of that consonant plus a, , i, or u. But if the initial consonant is velar, it is reduplicated with a corresponding palatal (cf. Lesson 1, Section 2 for lists of velars and palatals). For example, jigərəz- > gərəz. Further, when an original Proto-Indo-Iranian (PII) stop or s has changed in the Avestan, as e.g. *p > f and *s > h, the PII stop and the s are preserved in the root but changed in the reduplication. Thus, hišay- > ši, šay-.

The na̱- class and nu- class add a form of -na̱-/-na- or -nau-/-nu- to the root, according to ablaut pattern. A third nasal category, the infix class, has -na- inside the root.

Athematic Present Paradigms: ah 'be' and mrū 'speak, say'

Indicative   Active   Middle
1 sg.   ahmi   mruyai
2 sg.   ahi   *mrušai
3 sg.   asti5   mrūitai, mruyai
         
1 pl.   mahi   mrūmaide
2 pl.   stā   unattested
3 pl.   hənti   *mruvan̨te
         
Imperative        
2 sg.   zdi   mrūidi
3 sg.   astu   mraotū
         
2 pl.   unattested   mraota
3 pl.   hantu   mravątu
         
Subjunctive        
1 sg.   aŋhā, *anhāni   *mravāi, mravāne
3 sg.   aŋhaṯ   unattested
         
1 pl.   åŋhāmā   unattested
3 pl.   aŋhən   mravaire
         
Optative        
2 sg.   hyə̄m   mruviša
3 sg.   hyāṯ   mruvītā
8.2. Vowel Gradation

The Avestan verbal system exhibits evidence of vowel gradation, or ablaut, which occurred earlier in Proto-Indo-European. The vowel in either the root or suffix of a verbal stem may change depending on whether or not that syllable was stressed. When the vowel was stressed, its grade is strong or full. This strong grade is formed by adding a short -a- to the vowel. For example, the third person singular middle imperative of mru is mraotū 'let him speak!', where u > o under the influence of added a. If the vowel was unstressed, the grade is weak and the vowel remains unchanged, as in the first person singular middle indicative mruyai 'I say', or it is reduced, as in the third person plural active frinənti 'they satisfy' from the stem frinā-. (Here, the final ā of the stem is reduced to ə before the ending is added.) Another example, from the nasal-infix class, may be even more clear: the third person singular active indicative vinasti 'he finds', from the root vid, vs. the third person singlar middle *vindatai 'they find.'

Verbs of the root class also fall into two sub-categories according to their ablaut pattern. Roots of this class having a static ablaut pattern always have the accent on the root, so the verb always appears with the root in the strong grade; roots having a changing, i.e., dynamic ablaut pattern appear in the strong grade in the singular indicative and injunctive active, in the active and middle subjunctive, and in the third person singular imperative active.

9. Causatives and Denominatives

A causative stem is formed by strengthening a root and adding the suffix -aya- to it. The endings of the present system are then added to complete the verb. As its name implies, the causative form changes a verb's meaning to convey the sense of causativity: e.g., vat, vatahi 'you understand' vs. vātayahi 'you cause to understand' = 'you explain'.

A denominative is a verbal stem formed by adding the suffix -ye- to a noun stem. Like the causative, it takes the endings of the present system: vāra- msc. 'rain' > vārayemi 'I rain down'.

10. Adverbs, Prepositions, and Preverbs

Avestan adverbs can be analyzed into two types: those that are clearly derivative from inflectional forms, and those that are not.

10.1. Derived Adverbial Forms

The derivation of adverbs from adjectives or other parts of speech was not systematic in Avestan. Some are frozen inflectional forms.

Adverbs based on a-stems, h-stems, and t-stems may be accusative; e.g., arəm 'correctly, properly', ākāh 'certainly' (?), and θaṯ 'then, again'.

Adverbs derived from a-stems and t-stems may be instrumental; e.g., 'thus, in this way, therefore' and yavatā 'insomuch as'.

Adverbs with ablative endings are based only on a-stems; e.g., asnāṯ 'nearby'.

There is one locative adverb, durai 'far', with the ablative durāṯ having similar meaning.

Derivative adverbs usually stand after the object of the verb that they modify; in a standard Subject-Object-Verb sentence, between the object and the main verb. This rule is not hard and fast, however.

10.2. Non-derivative Adverbs, including Prepositions and Preverbs

A number of adverbial forms do not appear to be derived from other parts of speech. These may be classed as to whether they function independently, or as prepositions and verbal prefixes.

Some examples of independent non-derivative adverbs include:

    āviš visible, manifest
    azdā certain
    where
    , nūrə̄m now

Some adverbs function as prepositions and verbal prefixes. The most common examples are as follows:

    Preposition or Verbal Prefix   Verbal Prefix   Preposition
    antar between   apa away   parā before
    api toward   ni down    
    ava down   niš out    
    ā near, back   fra forth, toward    
    upa up to   vi apart    
    pati toward, against   ham together    
    pairi around        
    parā away        

Non-derivative adverbs follow the word order of their derivative counterparts. Those functioning as prepositions and preverbs usually precede the word they modify. Preverbs may commonly be used as postpositions.

Footnotes

1   'Butter and milk' is a metaphor for 'strength and prosperity' often employed by Zarathustra.
2   Insler renders this 'to these mortals' and Humbach 'to those present,' suggesting a request on behalf of all men or just Zarathustra's audience, respectively. I leave the pronoun's reference open.
3   Zarathustra.
4   Young Avestan form.
5   The PII /s/ > Av. /h/ in most environments, but not in consonant clusters. Note here that the /m/ in first person ahmi is considered a resonant -- i.e. a sound that functions as a consonant when in a vocalic environment or a vowel when in a consonantal environment.