The last of these is contemporaneous
with the rise of the Achaemenian power in the sixth century B. C.
Possibly when Old Dari, i.e., the language of the coins and
inscriptions of the Achaemenians, was current in the western and
southern regions of the country, namely, Media and Parsa, Avestic
happened to be the language of the eastern or at any rate of the
north-eastern provinces of Ariana.
Philologically speaking, the Avestic
language runs parallel to and is contemporaneous with Sanskrit
and, apparently, the origin of both these languages can be traced
back to yet another ancient language which was perhaps the original
language of the Indo-Aryan Aryan stock.
The language of the coins and
inscriptions of the Achaemenians, ever since they came to power in
the middle of the sixth century B.C., is distinctly Aryan in
character and is known as Old Dari. This language is also
contemporaneous with Avestic, and#039; the growth and development of
the two dates back to the same age. There are reasons to believe that
when Avestic was passing through the early stages of development in
the eastern provinces of the Aryan plateau the Old Dari language was
also making headway in the west and south-west of Ariana.
With the establishment of the
Achaemenian Empire the people of Ariana suddenly found themselves to
be the neighbours of various Semitic nations of western Asia
including the regions of western Ariana. The Semitic languages made
an inroad into the country and their influence was so strong that the
Aramaic language and script were officially adopted by the Aryans.
The Achaemenian kings were men of liberal views and they granted full
freedom of belief to their subject races as well as liberty to
develop their own languages. That is why the cuneiform Achaemenian
inscriptions are recorded not only in Old Dari but also a parallel
translation of the same runs in the Syriac, Elamite, Nabataean, and
The establishment of
the Achaemenian Empire saw the people of western Ariana divided into
two main groups, namely, the Medes and the Daris ("Parsis").
It appears certain that either they spoke the same tongue, i.e., Old
Dari, or their languages bad very close kinship with each other. We
find no traces of the Median language in the Achaemenian
inscriptions. Apparently, if the Medes had spoken a different
language, the Achaemenian emparors who had employed the Syriac,
Elamite, and Nabataean languages in their inscriptions would
certainly not have ignored Median. Moreover, a couple of words of
this language and the names of the Median chiefs that have come down
to us suffice to establish the close affinity of Median with Old
From 330 B.C. when the Macedonians
conquered Ariana, Greek became the official language of the country
and continued to enjoy that status for a long time. Right down to the
Christian era Greek is the only language to be seen in the Seleucid
and Parthian writings. Needless to say that during this
span of three centuries and a half the
Aryan languages continued to flourish. Old Dari, however, is an
exception, which gradually went out of use. We can witness definite
marks of decay in the Old Dari writings of the later Achaemenian
period in contrast with those of the earlier one.
At the dawn of the Christian era we
find two languages in the Aryan plateau running parallel to each
other. One of these grew and developed in the eastern regions. This
has always been called "Dari" by the Aryans. The other
which flourished in the western parts of the country was known as
"Pahlawi." These two languages have come down to our own
times. Many dialects of "Dari" still continue to exist in
the eastern regions of the Aryan plateau as far as the Chinese
frontiers; the most important of these are spoken in the Pamir
The Pahlawi language has lived in the
form of verse known as "Fahlaviyyat," in the books
written in Dari on the art of poetry and in dialects spoken in the
north, south, and west of the country.
The above-mentioned two languages have
very intimate relationship and these have apparently stemmed from the
same origin. A number of Aramaic words, however, entered Pahlawi and
these have been known as "Huzvares_h" or "Zuwaris_hn."
These words found their way also into books of lexicography. In the
Indo-Pakistan sub-continent these have been erroneously given the
name of the "Zend and Pazand" language. "Dari"
was too far away to receive the impact of the Aramaic language. On
the contrary, it accepted the influence of the eastern languages such
as Tukhari, Sughdian, and Khwarizmi.
At first the Aramaic script was adopted
for both the languages. Later, however, a change took place and
certain Aramaic letters were put together in Pahlawi to form what
later came to be known the Pahlawi script.
The Orientalists did not fully grasp
the significance of these subtle technical differences and they have
been treating old Pahlawi and Dari as one language. Consequently,
they have been employing the terms Northern Pahlawi or the Parthian
Pahlawi for the later language. In recent times, however, some of
them have defined it as the Parthian language whereas Pahlawi itself
has been referred to as the Southern or Sassanian Pahlawi.
The number of the extant pre-Islamic
works of these two languages is very small. The most important
ancient work in Dari consists of the Manichaean texts and translation
of parts of the Avesta into old Dari known as "Pazand." The
contemporary Dari has also been employed in some of the inscriptions
of Sassanian kings.
Both Dari and Pahlawi possessed
literature of their own before the advent of Islam. This literature,
unfortunately, has not come down to us.
The history of the
earliest Aryan dynasties during the Islamic period begins from the
year 205/820. The dynasties which sprang up in the eastern regions
raised the structure of their national politics on the basis of
language. Since the language of these tracts was "Dari,"
the literature produced in it was bound to outshine Pahlawi
In 429/1038 the Saljiiq Turks poured
out of Turkestan to invade Ariana. They gradually conquered the whole
country. Since they hailed from the east and their officials also
belonged to this region, it was natural that they should adopt "Dari
Dari" as their Court language, which they carried to the
farthest corners of Ariana. Consequently, in the first quarter of the
fifth/ eleventh century, Dari had attained the status of the common
literary language of the whole country. It gained supremacy in other
regions also where Pahlawi had been the popular spoken language till
then. From this date Dari became the undisputed literary language of
Ariana and, like many other dialects prevalent in the country,
Pahlawi was reduced to the status of a dialect. The last vestiges of
Pahlawi in the form of inscriptions and coins in Tabaristan in the
north of Ariana date back to the middle of the fifth/eleventh
The first specimens of Pahlawi
literature which belong to the early centuries of the Hijrah consist
of a number of books of religious nature which the Aryan Zoroastrians
had written with the specific object of preserving their Canon Law.
These books were taken to the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent when the
Zoroastrians migrated there. European scholars have been publishing
their texts since the last century. Amongst these, certain books are
claimed to have belonged originally to the pre-Islamic Sassanian era.
There is ample evidence, however, to prove that these were composed
during the Islamic period.
What is now known of Pahlawi literature
is confined to these very books and treatises. They suggest that
Pahlawi literature had, at any rate towards the end of the Sassanian
period, flourished on a vast scale. It is an undeniable fact that,
while during the four hundred years which immediately preceded the
Saljoq period, Dari had been recognized as the literary language of
the country, Pahlawi had flourished in the north, south, and west of
the presentday Ariana. Of this only a specific form of verse
known as "Fahlaviyyat" has come down to us, the quatrains
of Baba Tahir-i `Uryan of Hamadan being its most remarkable specimen.