Exploring Translation Strategies of Middle Persian Texts: The Case of the 19th Chapter of Vandidad

Document Type : Original Article


1 Assistant Professor of Ancient Culture and Languages of Iran, Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran.

2 MA in Ancient Cultures and Languages, Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran.


The main objective of the present study was to semantically and syntactically explore translation strategies applied by translators in the translation of chapter nineteen of Vandidad from Avestan to Middle Persian for ritual purposes. To this end, the Middle Persian translation of Vandidad was studied, and the meaning of the words accompanying their syntactic roles in the Avestan language were compared to their Middle Persian equivalents. Then, the strategies applied by the translators were divided into two categories: semantic and syntactic ones. The findings of the study can shed some light on the translation strategies applied in the translation of ancient texts which can be used for deeper and broader scientific inquiry into Iranian ancient languages.


1. Introduction

Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European language family which have been spoken natively by inhabitants of Iranian Plateau. This linguistic term has been adopted from the name of Iran which is a very wide area without any kind of cultural borders, namely the region where Iranian languages were spoken since ancient times (Schmitt, 2011, p. 23). Ancient Iranian languages were spoken in a wide area from the northern borders of China in the east to the northern coasts of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov[i] to the west and from the north western parts of the Iranian Plateau to the costs of Persian Gulf since the Iranian groups were separated from their Aryan siblings at the end of the second century BC until the collapse of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BC (Jackson, 2014, p. 9). From a historical perspective, Iranian languages are divided into three categories: Old Iranian, Middle Iranian, and New Iranian. The two directly attested Old Iranian languages are Old Persian and Old Avestan. Old Persian as the ancestor of New Persian, is a language belonging to Achaemenid period (559 to 330 BC) in Pars and the only reliable evidences remained are the cuneiform inscriptions of Achaemenid kings. The language and the scripts, however, disappeared after the fall of Achaemenid Empire (Tafazoli, 1999, p. 23).  Avestan is the language of Zoroastrian scripture, and there is a long time interval between collection and compilation of the oldest part, namely Gathas. The Middle Iranian languages are linguistically classified into two main groups: Western and Eastern Middle languages. The Western family includes Parthian (Arsacid Pahlavi or Pahlawānīg) and Middle Persian. The Parthian language was common in Parthian Period, and the Iranians have written works in this language to the late Sassanid period. Middle Persian language or Pahlavi was the language of the south and south western parts of Iran as well as the official language of the Sassanid dynasty (Tafazoli, 1999, p. 12).

Middle Persian known as Pārsīg which is a Western Middle Iranian language rooted in Old Persian continued to function as an official language even after the collapse of Sasanian Empire. The Middle Persian appeared after the demise of Achaemenid Empire, and continued up to the present time. Accordingly, from the third century BC until the late eighth and ninth centuries, Middle Persian was a living language; however, it was used as a dead ritual language up to the ninth and tenth centuries by the Iranian Zoroastrians (Schmitt, 2011, p. 223). The modern period includes Persian language and a wide variety of Iranian dialects and languages which were common within or beyond the borders of Iran or the languages which have been died or are still spoken. Vandidad is an ancient collection of Zoroastrian myths, prayers, and religious observances intended to defend against sources of infection and evil. The term Vandidad (which was previously Vidodad [Vi.daēva.dāta]) means someone whose rule is to evade and get away from Div (demons). The term Div originally meant god, i.e. a set of Indo-Iranian gods rejected by Zoroaster[ii]. Later on, the meaning of Div changed from god and then rejected god to its modern meaning which is demon or devil. When writing and dividing Avestainto various sections, this part of the book was called Vandidad since it discusses the purity, cleanliness and avoidance of demons (Tafazoli, 1999, pp. 60-61). Vandidad is the nineteenth Nask or section of Avesta in the Sassanid period. It includes 22 fargard or chapters. In order to document the concepts which did not originally constitute the Zoroaster’s doctrine, the questions are presented by him and Ahura Mazda[iii] answers these questions. Unlike other parts of Sassanid Avesta, Vandidad is largely intact. It seems that due to the religious functionality of the book in nightly rituals which were held on midnights (Ushahin Gah), it had to be protected against demonic threats (Kreyenbroek, 2005, p. 237). Moreover, it was used for issues regarding cleanliness and impurities. As a literary and religious book, the content of Vandidad has often been misunderstood by many scholars to the extent that it sometimes is not in consonance with modern perceptions and visions. However, the book narrates and clarifies various dimensions of everyday life in ancient Zoroastrian society. The nineteenth chapter, which was selected for the present study, includes 47 paragraphs on issues such as the efforts of Ahriman[iv] to deceive and kill Zoroaster, the commands of Ahura Mazda to Zoroaster to appeal gods for elimination of deceptions and distortions from the society, the fucntion of Barsom to praise the creation of plants, the cleanliness of Asho (clean) man which is infected by touching Naso, preparing and passing across Chinvat Bridge where they meet the Din god, praising the gods of Bahram and Tishtar, five Gahani songs, seven territories, Hirmand River, and the power of Zoroaster against demons and retreat of demons into darkness after the birth of Zoroaster.

During the Parthian and Sassanid Empire, Avestan was considered a dead language, which was learned and practiced only by Zoroastrian clergies and was not understandable by general public. Therefore, it was translated into Middle Persian, the language spoken by the public during Sassanid era, to be well protected and preserved. The translated text was also accompanied by a number of interpretations. The translation and interpretations of the Avesta into Middle Persian, which is also known as Zand, were prepared based on the Avesta recorded during the Sassanid era. The translation of Avesta to Middle Persian along with the supplementary interpretations constitute the Zand texts, which originally means explanation. The collection of Zand available today includes Zand Yasna, Vispard, Vandidad, a part of the smaller Avesta such as five prayers, Panj Gah, small and large Sirozeh, Bahram Yasht, small and large Soroush Yasht, Neirangestan and Hirbodestan. Although the precise date of compiling Zand texts is not known, it is believed that Middle Persian Translation of Zand Vandidad was prepared in two stages: (1) literal translation from the original text which accounts for Zand, and (2) addition of extra explanations and interpretations. However, deeper investigation suggests that these two stages are intermingled and are not completely distinct since translation depend upon the addition of commentaries and the Zand texts are consequently influenced by the original text. Amouzegar has defined three stages for translation of Zand texts: (1) literal translation of the Avestan text in which a Middle Persian equivalent which shares analogous roots and morphological features with Avestan word is selected (2) explanations on the reasons for acceptance or rejection of Avestan sentence; some of these explanations includes only one word which is often a simpler Middle Persian word for technical terms, and (3) shorter or longer interpretations as footnotes or appendices added to explain the concepts in each one of the chapters. These interpretations are extensive in scope when it comes to various aspects of everyday life. These interpretations are more prominent in Zand Vandidad, Neirangestan, and Hirbodestan (Amouzegar, 2007, p. 40). Regarding the linguistic value of Zand texts, Tafazoli believes that there was a literal translation from Avesta into Middle Persian. The Avestan language is an inflected and Middle Persian is a non-inflected language. Therefore, literal translation based on the syntactical features of Avestan language would in some cases leads to abnormal structures in Middle Persian (Tafazoli, 1999, p. 126).  Whether all these interpretations had been prepared by one individual, as in Medu Mah’s Vandidad, or they are a set of notes collected through several generations, is not clear yet; however, the high level of observed dissimilarities and differences will prove the second theory (Encyclopedia Iranica, 2006). It is also probable that the scripting and translation of Avesta has been done simultaneously in the Sassanid period (Josephson, 1997, p. 10).

While investigation of the Zand texts is generally profitable for better perception of the original text, the majority of scholars believe, due to the inherent syntactic and semantic deficiencies in Middle Persian equivalents, they will not be much helpful in understanding the Avestan texts. The majority of translations have been done on a literal base resulted in creation of texts incongruent with the standard structure of Middle Persian language which are often difficult to understand. There are also multiple examples of awkward repetition of original Avestan sentences in the Middle Persian text. Furthermore, the translators have sometimes added their understanding of the Avestan text to the Middle Persian equivalents and have written commentaries on it. The present study aims to investigate, both linguistically and contextually, the nineteenth chapter of Vandidad and compare it with recommended translation in order to discover the strategies applied or followed by the translators.

2. Literature Review

The studies on Avestan translations into Middle Persian has been progressing slowly because the scholars of ancient languages believe that Zand texts are not much efficient in understanding Avestan texts due to their special semantic and syntactic structure. The first Middle Persian translation of the Avesta was published by the German orientalist, Friedrich Spiegel[v], (1858). Then, the German linguist Hübschmann[vi] (1872) presented his first critique of the features of Zand texts. Jamasp Asana[vii] (1907) has also studied the Avestan and Middle Persian texts of Vandidad. Few studies have been done on the strategies applied in translation of Avestan texts into Middle Persian. The very few studies which have been specifically conducted in this area generally consider translation from Middle Persian into Sanskrit. Degener[viii] (1991) wrote an article on the analysis of translation of ‎Šak-ud-gumānīgīh-vizār from Middle Persian to Sanskrit by Naryosang. He has studied semantic and syntactic translation methods too. Gropp[ix], the German archaeologist (1991), has investigated the interpretation of Ahuna Vairya by Zadasperm, the most sacred and revered text of the Gathic hymns of the Avesta. Several bilingual works have also been published recently.Some of these works cover translations of Middle Persian to English among which we can point out the book by Ankelsaria[x] (1949) including the translation of Vandidad into Middle Persian along with English version and the related dictionary. In addition, Josephson[xi] (1997) has studied the principles of translation into Middle Persian based on the text of Hom Yasht. Oktor Skjærvø [xii] (2006) has also provided an English translation of several chapters of Vandidad at Harvard University.

3. Methodology

3.1. The Corpus

The data for the present study comes primarily from the text of the Vandidad in both Avestan and Middle Persian languages respectively based on the manuscripts by Karl F. Geldner and Tehmuras Ankelsaria. The Avestan corpus consists of the Avesta grammar by Williams Jackson, dictionary of ancient Iranian languages by Bartholomae, dictionary of Avestan roots by Jean Kellens, translation of Avestan texts in English by James Darmesteter (2005), and New Persian translation of Avestan texts by Jalil Doostkhah. The secondary set of the data concentrating on semantic and syntactic studies of Middle Persian text consists of the Middle Persian dictionary by David Neil Mackenzie, Middle Persian grammar by Rastorgueva, Pahlavi language by Jaleh Amouzegar and Ahmad Tafzali, Pahlavi dictionary by Henrik Samuel Nyberg, roots of Iranian verbs by Johnny Cheung, Middle Persian grammar by Prods Oktor Skjærvø as well as the translation and interpretation of Middle Persian Vandidad texts into New Persian by Hashem Razi (2006). The article corpus also consists of a set of sources mostly rich in commentaries on ritual and mythological terminologies including the critical and bibliographic guide of Zoroastrianism by Antonio Panaino, review of devine and demonic words in Avesta and Saošyant in Avesta by Rezaei Baghbidi, rituals in Neirangestan by Philip G. Kreyenbroek, persistence of ancient customs in contemporary Zoroastrian traditions by Katayoun Mazdapour, rituals of purity in Zoroastrianism by Mohammad Mashhadi et. Al and length measurement units by Farzane Goshtasb.

3.2. Procedure

To identify the strategies applied by translators, the Avestan as well the Middle Persian texts were precisely analyzed in terms of semantic and syntactic characteristics. The contrastive review of both texts was coincidentally performed to examine the occurrence and frequencies of transference of the morphological and syntactic features of lexicon from Avestan to Middle Persian language. The strategies extracted from the texts were subsequently categorized into semantic and syntactic groups. Each group includes several sub categories for further explanation of the translation strategies.

4.  Data Analysis

4.1. Syntactic Strategies

4.1.1. Etymological Subscription

The clergies who decided to translate the Avestan texts in to Middle Persian language for ritual purposes, usually prefer to select equivalents which have a similar root to the original word. This is probably because the equivalent word is in fact the most common one used by Middle Persian speakers at the time; however, it is almost impossible to prove or disapprove this assumption since the Middle Persian language is a dead language at present time. The second reason may include the extreme loyalty of the translators to the original concepts to maintain the sanctity of the text. For instance, in 19:26, haxšāne (I guide) is a verb from hak (accompanying, directing) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1739). In the Middle Persian text the equivalent of hâchêni (I invite) from hâčitan (inviting, preaching) is used. The translators try to choose the Middle Persian equivalent with a root similar to that of the Avestan word, and this is evident throughout the text.

4.1.2. Transference of the Original Word

The other common strategy followed by the translators is use of the original proper nouns and ritual words in the Middle Persian text. This type of translation involves words whose translation may reduce the value and significance of the text and the best way is to keep the original words to maintain the sanctity and accuracy of the text. For instance, in 19:13, vātō (wind) from vātay from the root (to blow) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1409) is the god of wind, this is considered as a proper noun in the Middle Persian and is translated as “vat”. In 19:40, vāzištəm (Vazshiste) is a noun from vāzišta which is the name of one of the five sacred fires which moves among the clouds and eliminates the darkness of the air. In the Middle Persian translation, it is written as Vazist (Vazshit).

4.1.3. Incomplete Transference of the Word Meaning

Sometimes the translators select a word which includes only the semantic portion of the original word. This is probably due to the limitations of the lexicon of the Middle Persian language or due to the fact that studying a word through comparison of various languages as well as other linguistic and scientific considerations, which are common practices in modern translation, was not available to the translators at that time. For instance in 19:17, yasna (praise, prayer) from the root yaz (praising) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1274) is translated in Middle Persian language as gûbisn (speech) from the root gaob (saying). The term gûbisn doesn’t transfer the meaning of the Avestan word correctly because the translators could have used a better word such as yasn which invokes the connotation of praying in Middle Persian language (Mackenzie, 2011, p. 167).

4.1.4. Transference of the Implicit Meaning of Word

Sometimes the translators select an equivalent which communicates only the implied meaning of the word in Avestan. For instance in 19:3, the word kamərəδəm (head, demonic head) is a noun from kamərəδa and it is a demonic term. In order to communicate the secondary meaning and the correct usage of the word in Middle Persian, the translators used kamār (head) which is also a demonic term in Middle Persian. In 19: 46, the term aduuarəṇta (they ran away) is originated from the root dvar (demonic escape) which is translated as dôbâriṭ (they escaped) from dobaridan (demonic escape).

 [Hast ke aêṭûn gûyêṭ, aê: Ôi dâst pa in zami chand pahanâ garṭ, dûrviṭara; vas ãn jâk dâst, pa-Drejiya zbar, ander mân I Pȯrûs-asp]

[There is someone who says that he hold in his hand on this earth the size of the horizon, far horizons; there he had darja (darjia) horizon in Pourwoshasb house].

4.1.5. Explanation and Interpretation of Word

In some cases, the translators add a word or group of words to the Middle Persian text to further explain the subject. For instance in 19:14, mazištąm (the greatest) is a superlative adjective from mazišta (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1158) and is translated in Middle Persian by mahest (the biggest) (Mackenzie, 2011, p. 103). The translators add the explanatory term, patan, (in size and body) to emphasize that the size of the body is meant here. In 19:24, the translators add the explanatory term vastra (dress, clothes) which is not present in the Avestan text. Moreover, in 19:14, sraēštąm (the most beautiful) is the superlative adjective of sraēšta from sri (being beautiful) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1632), which is corporal beauty. The translators select nêvaktom (the best) for this term (Mackenzie, 2011, p. 111) and adds the explanatory term pa ditan (for looking at) to show that the visual beauty is to be induced here. In 19:34, narō (man) is a noun from nar which is translated as mart in Middle Persian. The translators explain that this term refers to “Ushidar, Ushidarmah, and Saoshyant”.

[Hast ke Aûsêṭar, Aûsêṭarmâh û SȯsÎyasns gûyêṭ]:

[Which is Ushidar, Ushidarmah, and Saoshyant.]

4.1.6. Literal Translation

Another characteristic of the text, which usually reduces the linguistic validity of the translation, is the literal translation of the Avestan text into Middle Persian. The translators neglect the syntactic structure of Middle Persian language and puts words together based on the sentence structure of Avestan language. For instance, in 19:46, the term ãn dêvãn snah ([for] him, there [are] weapons [against] demons) which is a translation of the Avestan hāu.daēuuanąm.snaϑō doesn’t display a correct sentence structure. Moreover, the expression ãn dêvãn pêtiyâra (He [has] enmity [towards] demons) which is a translation of Avestan hāu.daēuuanąm.paitiiārō cannot correctly communicate the meaning of the Avestan sentence and is only a literal translation of the original text.  However, sometimes the translators repeat the Avestan expression in order to maintain the sanctity of the text and the Middle Persian translation is followed by Avestan statement. For example, the expression nǝmō.uruuaire.vaŋuhi.mazda δāte.aṣ̌aone (praised be [you], the good plant created by holy Mazda) which is a praise in Zoroastrianism is repeated; however, its Middle Persian translation follows the text as well:

(Praised be you, oh the holy noble plant created by Ahura Mazda)

Later on, the Ashem Vohu prayer, which is one of the three important Zoroastrian prayers, is repeated as the original Avestan text.

Avestan: aṣ̌əm.vohū.vahištəm.astī.uštā.astī.uštā.ahmāi.hiiat̰.aṣ̌āi.vahištāi.aṣ̌əm

Middle Persian: ashem vohû vahistem asti; ustâ asti: ustâ ahmâi hyaṭ ashâi vahistâi ashem

In fact, the loyalty of the translators to quote sacred statements which have significant ritualistic meaning is one of the characteristics of the translation of Vandidad, which is seen throughout the text.

 4.2. Syntactic Strategies

4.2.1. Selection of Different Syntactic Groups in Avestan and Middle Persian Languages

In the first and most common type of changes, the translators have to select a word which belongs to two different syntacticgroups in the two languages in order to provide the closest equivalent which communicates the original concept. In other words, the original word in Avestan may be a noun while the closest equivalent in Middle Persian may be a verb, and adjective etc. For instance, in 19: 3, the term paiti (verb prefix) + dauuata (answered) is a verb from root dav (demonic speaking) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 688). This verb prefix which reverses the meaning of the verb (Jackson, 2014, p. 2010) is translated into Middle Persian as pasukh (answer), which is a singular noun. In other words, in Avestan, the word is a preposition and its equivalent in Middle Persian is a noun. Moreover, in 19: 21, yaoždāt̰a (someone who is purified) is a participle from yaoždā (purifying and cleaning) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1235) which is an adjective for someone who is purified; in the Middle Persian translation, the used term is yōsdāsrīh (purification and cleanliness), which is an abstract noun. In 19: 22, frasrāuuaiiōiš (composing a poem) is a verb from root srav (to sing) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 145) which is the second person singular transient of present tense (Jackson, 2014, p. 145); in Middle Persian it is translated as frāz–srāysin (composing a poem), which is a gerund. In 23: 19, the term uzgəuruuaiiāt̰ (rising) is a verb from grab (grabbing) + prefix uz (up) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 526) in third person singular of present transient tense (Jackson, 2014, p. 163). In the Middle Persian translation, the selected equivalent was aūlā–girisn (rising upward), which is a gerund.

4.2.2. Non-Transference of Morphological Features of Original Word to Its Middle Persian Equivalent

In this type of changes, the translators substitutes a word from a syntactic group with a certain attribute by the same syntactic group with different attribute. For example, the three cases of masculine, feminine, and neutral and three counts of singular, dual, and plural in ancient Iranian languages including Avestan, do not exist in Middle period languages. For instance, in 19: 2, the term āpō (waters) is a feminine noun from āp (water) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1394) and Vaŋhuiš (good) is a feminine adjective from vahehi (better) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1394). These two words are translated in Middle Persian as āw.vēh (good waters). While in Avestan language, the case and inflection of these words indicate that they are dual in count, this characteristic cannot be seen in Middle Persian since Middle Persian lacks any genders for words. In 19:22, the term gaēϑanąm (the world) is a feminine noun from gaēϑā and the term astuuainti aŋhuuō (Astomand World, material world) is created from two words, namely aŋhuuō (world, being) a feminine noun from aŋhuuō and astuuainti (material), a feminine adjective from astuant, which are the names of two worlds in Zoroastrianism. In the Middle Persian translation, the translators do not translate gaēϑanąm. The term aŋhuuō which is dual, is translated as ahvân (worlds), which is a plural noun (noun + the plural preposition of ān) since the Middle Persian language lacks the dual characteristic, the translators use plural number to show the meaning.

4.2.3. Non-Transference of Syntactic Structure of Avestan Language to Middle Persian Language

In this case, the translators change the syntactic functionality of a linguistic structure. For instance, in 19: 4, fraṣ̌usat (started going) is a verb from fraṣ̌usa originated from the root šū (going, becoming) + the prefix fra (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1707). The case of this verb is an inchoative case which means the start or beginning of an action that is not acted upon before until the verb (past, present, imperative) is accompanied by the present preposition of (a) and the inchoative prefix of (s), and then the action starts. In Ancient Iranian languages, the inchoative case is created by adding s to the root and then inflexing the thematic a after that s (Jackson, 2014, § 697, p. 192). This verb is translated into Middle Persian using prefix fra (starting to go) with the term frāz–rapt. While the translators accurately communicate the prefix and the inflection of the verb, there is no inchoative case in Middle Persian since this language doesn’t consider such an attribute for verbs. In 19: 12, the term yaoždaѲāni (I will purify) from the root yaož (purifying) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1231) is the first person singular transient subjunctive present verb (Jackson, 2014, p. 145). In Middle Persian translation, the equivalent yōsdāsrīnēm (I purify) is a verb from the same root which is the first person singular declarative present tense (Guyova, 2000, p. 140) and the subjunctive property of this verb is neglected in the translation. While subjunctive present tense is used for verbs showing doubt, desire, and wish, the declarative present is used for verbs which are occurring in the present or continuously in the present. In 19:2, the term frāiiazaēta (high praising) is a verb in third person singular of declarative non-transient (middle) present tense (Jackson, 2014, p. 144). While there is no consensus regarding the usage of non-transient verbs in Avestan language, Moghadam believes that these verbs carry non-transient inflection suffix that are used when the action of the verb is not related to a person or something else and the receiver of the action is the same as the subject of the verb. In other words, these verbs do not have an opposite texture. Ritualistic verbs are one of the eight sets of verbs in Avesta which are conjugated as non-transient. The root yaz (praising) is an example of such verbs (Moghadam, Nematollahi, 2012, p. 103). In the Middle Persian translation, frãz–yazit is used which is the third person singular of transient past tense (Goyova, 2000, p. 146); however, it cannot be conjugated as non-transient since the Middle Persian language does not have a transient or non-transient attribute for verbs.

 4.2.4. Selection of Different Syntactic Groups in Avestan and Middle Persian Languages

In this type of changes, the translators select an equivalent for the word which is different regarding syntactic hierarchy in Avesta and Middle Persian. To be specific, a single word in Avestan language, is turned into a prepositional phrase or a noun phrase. For instance, in 19:3, pouru.xv ărǝnaŋhō (full of glory) consists of two words, namely pouru (full) plus xvărǝnaŋhō (glory) originated from xvărǝnah (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 903) which is an adjective from Zaraϑuštrō (highly-glorious Zoroaster). In the Middle Persian translation, it is translated as ez pōr-khărēhīh (due to having a lot of glory), which is a prepositional phrase. In 19: 18, the term uruϑmiianaąm (booming, growing) is an adjective from uruϑmiia originated from the root, raoδ (growing) (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1492). In the Middle Persian translation, it is a prepositional phrase of â-rȯyisn-aûmand (having the capability of growing).

4.2.5. Conversion of Syntactic Features in Avestan Language to Morphological Features in Middle Persian  

 In this type of changes, the relation between the words, which is shown in Avestan language through syntax, is shown in Middle Persian using semantic relations. For instance, in 19:9, the term zrūne (time) is a noun from zaurvan (Bartholomae, 1904, p. 1684) which is a locative object. The term akarane (limitless, infinite) is an adjective from karana (limit, border) plus the negative prefix of a (without). To establish the relation between the adjective and the described noun, the translators use the preposition pad and adds ī: pa zamãn i akanãra (in an infinite time). In 19:23, bāzuuō (arm) originated from bāzav has an ablative case (Jackson, 2014, p. 77). The terms hāuuōiia (left) and daṣ̌ina (right) are adjectives for bāzuuō and follow their noun. Because the Middle Persian is not an inflected language, the translators have used the preposition pad: pa–havē–bāzā (with the left arm) and pa (ān) das (with the right one (arm). In 19: 33, the term yaoždāϑriiō (purity, cleanliness) is a noun from yaoždāϑra and is an ablative object. In the Middle Persian translation, ez–yȯsdâsrîh (from purity and pureness) is selected. The translators have used the preposition ez to show the conjugative case of the term in the Avestan language.

5. Discussion and Conclusion

A review of the nineteenth chapter of Vandidad leads us to the conclusion that the translators have been compelled to make inevitable changes in order to provide the closest equivalent in the Middle Persian. The changes could be divided into two groups, namely semantic and syntactic strategies. It is probable, however, to discover other categories through further investigations. The syntactic evaluation of the text proves that the preference of the translators, due to their radical allegiance to the Avestan text and their effort to adhere to the sanctity of content, is usually to select an equivalent which is closer to the syntax of the Middle Persian language. In other words, the translators have no choice but to change the structure of the Middle Persian statements. Sometimes the characteristics of the Middle Persian language make the translators obliged to communicate certain aspect of word’s meaning since Middle Persian has lost several attributes of ancient languages such as gender, number and dual characteristic of lexicon. However, in many cases, the translators select a word which belongs to two different semantic groups in Avestan and Middle Persian which are inconsistent in syntactic terms. Sometimes, the translators have no choice but to make some changes in the syntactic structure of Middle Persian language to communicate the meaning of the word more efficiently. In other cases, the translators select an equivalent belonging to two different syntactic hierarchies in Avestan and Middle Persian languages, which sometimes obstacles the transference of the word meaning. In many cases, the words association which is presented through syntactic relations in Avestan language is achieved through semantic relations in Middle Persian. Middle Persian is a non-inflective language, therefore the translators are often obliged to add several words to the text to communicate the original Avestan concept more efficiently. In semantics terms, the translators select equivalents which have the highest subscriptions with the roots and morphological features of the Avestan word. Sometimes, the translators would select an equivalent which contains only partial meaning of the original word and results in failure to accurate conveyance of the message. This may be originated to the limited number of the lexicon in Middle Persian or translators’ insufficient knowledge about the semantic and syntactic features of words which are now perceived through scientific linguistic investigations and comparative studies of languages. Inadequate acquaintance of translators as well as their excessive adherence to the ritual terms and geographical or religious proper nouns justifies the awkward repetition of words in their original form, even when an appropriate known equivalent is available in Middle Persian. Another characteristic of the Middle Persian text which damages the validity of the translated volume is the literal translation which could be seen throughout the book. The translators neglect the syntactical structure of the Middle Persian language and puts words together based on the syntactical structure of the Avestan language. Sometimes, the translators repeat the Avestan expression to adhere to the religious sanctity of the text and then supplement the text with explanatory notes. In some cases, the translators add a word or a group of words to the Middle Persian text to achieve more precise explanation of concept. In fact, the translators’ commitment to quote sacred statements, which bear specific ritual significance, is one of the characteristics of the translation of Vandidad which is observed throughout the text.

While the studies carried out in this area often leads us to the conclusion that translations are mainly of literal nature which do not present the structure of Middle Persian and are not beneficial to the perception of the Avestan text, the current study tries to outline specific translation strategies and mention the obstacles faced by translators.

We hope the studies conducted in this area pave the way for further researches on this valuable book. To carry out deeper studies, it is essential to refer to other grammatical sources of Middle Persian language to closely investigate the structure of this language. Moreover, dictionaries on related ancient languages can provide us with comprehensive information regarding the roots, meanings, usage and historical meanings of the words which helps us achieve deeper, more precise comprehension. Investigation of other chapters of Vandidad and precise comparison with the nineteenth chapter, which was studied here, could also be very effective.

[i] The northern part of the Black Sea and it is linked by the narrow (about 4 km or 2.5 mi) Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea. The sea is bounded in the north by mainland Ukraine, in the east by Russia, and in the west by the Crimean Peninsula.

[ii] The prophet Zoroaster is regarded as the founder of Zoroastrianism, which is arguably the world’s oldest monotheistic faith.

[iii] Ahura Mazda is the creator and highest deity of Zoroastrianism.

[iv] Ahriman is the evil, destructive spirit in the dualistic doctrine of Zoroastrianism.

[v] Friedrich Spiegel, Avesta, die heiligen Schriften der Parsen, I, der Vendidad, Wien, 1853; II, Vispered and Yaçna, Wien, 1858.

[vi] Hübschmann “Zur Beurtheilung der traditionellen öbersetzung des Avesta”   in Sitzungsberichten der philos- philo. Kl. der K.b. Akademie der Wissenschaft zu München, Bd. II, 1872, 639.

[vii] Jamaspji Dastur Minochehrji Jamasp-Asana “Pahlavi-Vendidad”, Bombay, 1913.

[viii] Degener, A., “Neryosanghs Sanskrit-übersetzung von Škand gumānīk vicār” in Corolla Iranica, ed. by Emmerick, R. and Weber, D., Frankfurt am Main 1991, 49-58.

[ix] G. Gropp   “Zâdsprams Interpretation des ahunavaoiryo- Gebetes” in Corolla Iranica 1991, 79-89.

[x] Bahramgore T.Ankelsaria, "Pahlavi Vendad, Zand-I Jvit-Dev-Dat", Cama Oriental Institute, Mumbai, 1949.

[xi] Josephson Judith, "The Pahlavi Translation Techniques as Illustrated by Hom Yast", Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, Sweden, 1997.

[xii] Skjærvø, Prods Oktor, online in introduction to Zoroastrianism: Zoroastrian. http:// www. Fas. Harvard. Edu/ Iranian/ zoroastrainism/ index.html. University of Harvard, 2006.



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Volume 6, Issue 1
January 2021
Pages 21-34
  • Receive Date: 17 November 2020
  • Revise Date: 06 January 2021
  • Accept Date: 01 February 2021