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This map shows the regions of the world where Avestan (Parsi) is still used in the religious rites of Zoroastrianism (red circles). Avestan comes from the Iranian sub-branch of the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European languages. Avesta is most closely related to Baluchi, Kurdish, Pashto, and the extinct language of Sogdian. It is somewhat more distantly related to Old Persian and Persian.

The language's name comes from the Avesta, the holy book in the Zoroastrian religion. The Avesta consists of two sections: (1) the Avesta itself, which contains a series of Zoroastrian laws, hymns, legends, and prayers dating to perhaps 700 BCE; and (2) the Gathas, which are the metrical sermons of Zoroaster dating to about 1000 BCE. The two sections differ considerably in linguistics. They are about as different as Middle English and Modern English.

Avestan is sometimes called Zend, though technically Zend is only the language of certain late commentaries on the Avesta. At one time, the Avestan language was much more widespread, and in many ways it occupied in the near-eastern portion of Eurasia a similar position to that of Latin in western Europe; i.e., it was a widespread scholastic and religious language used by an educated class of teachers and priests.


Daniel M. Short originally created this map and the other Indo-European language charts for his website at http://www.danshort.com/. I reproduce these images here with the author's permission, but they are copyrighted by Daniel Short as of 2002. These charts should not be reproduced or reused without Mr. Short's approval. You may contact him at danshort@gte.net for more information. These images are not public domain.

 

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Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2016. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated August 15th, 2016. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.