Final -e as definite article in Persian

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Treaty, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. Treaty Senior Member


    In colloquial Persian -e (sometimes -he) is added to the end of single nouns to make them definite. For example, mard (man) becomes marde (the man, or that man). There is no equivalent for this in formal Persian. Where did it come from?

  2. asanga Member

    It comes from the OP demonstrative aiva, MP ē(w).
  3. Treaty Senior Member


    Anyway it is interesting that this structure is remained in colloquial but omitted in formal language.
  4. asanga Member

    This may be a fairly recent state of affairs. Salemann and Shykovski's Persische Grammatik from 1889(where I got this from) says: "In Laut und Schreibung ganz mit den eben besprochenen [unbestimtimmte Artikel یای وحدت] identish ist der bestimmte Artikel." (p.35) "In speech and writing the definite article is identical with the just described indefinite article."

    They mention that the definite particle is called یای اشارت or یای تعریف.
  5. CapnPrep Senior Member

    That seems like a rather undesirable state of affairs for a language… :rolleyes: But I thought the indefinite article was unstressed -i.
  6. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    Is this the same word as aiva- "one"?
  7. Treaty Senior Member

    I'm a bit confused here. یای وحدت is similar to "a" in English and it is indefinite. یای تعریف is similar to "the" but only used before که. It is like "the noun that" in English. In colloquial Persian both are pronounced [i:] like in formal Persian. However, what I say is never used before که and is pronounced [e].

    Considering a similar ekû used in Behbahani dialect for the same reason I guess you may be right if we consider ekû is similar to Persian -ī ke (یای تعریف). However, again there is a problem: The Behbahani version is never used like the Persian یای تعریف with که. Please consider below:

    یای تعریف : pesar-ī ke āmad ... = The/A boy who came ...
    یای وحدت : pesar-ī āmad. = A boy came.
    my ه : pesar-e āmad. = The boy came
    ekû : pesar-ekû āmad. = The boy came. (The pronunciation is changed to ease comparison).
  8. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    What asanga is describing is the Classical Persian "e" which is now pronounced as "-ii-" in Modern Persian. This "e" is added to a noun to make it "indefinite". Modern linguists describe it as a "specifier" if I remember correctly.

    mard-e = a man/ some man or other/ a certain man

    marde kih iinjaa aamad, dost-i-man ast.

    The man who came here is my friend.

    In other contexts, even after kih, this "-e" imparts the meaning of "A x who/that" or "Such an x who/that".

    What Treaty is asking about is the "e" suffix added to nouns without "kih" in colloquial speech. I don't know about its etymology. Neither am I aware if this is connected with the Classical "-e-" (modern -ii-) or not. So, I think we are back to square one!
  9. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The suffix –ē (Western Persian –ī) attached to a noun has two functions in the New Persian written language:
    (1) An indefinite (or perhaps better: individualising) article, from the number (not demonstrative) OP aywa-, MP ēw, meaning “one”.
    (2) A particle to mark the antecedent of a relative clause (mard-ē ki…. “the man who”). This structure is not attested before the New Persian stage, but it seems to have
    developed out of (1): originally “a man who …”, then “a particular man who…”, then “the man who”.

    The colloquial mard-e (with short e) “the man” must have a different origin.
  10. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    There is also"-e" for habitual and irrealis. I don't know if this has any connection with the above mentioned suffixes.
  11. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    No, we are talking about nouns, for the moment.
  12. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Point taken.
  13. asanga Member

    Salemann & Shukovski claim function 1 comes from "altem aiva 'ein'", whereas function 2 is "ursprünglich ein altes Pronomen aiva 'dieser'", which I assumed was a variant of hauv/ava-. I'm in awe of 19th century (German) philologists, but I guess I shouldn't trust them unquestioningly.

    They state that, while it's currently pronounced î, it's "eigentlich یای مجهول ê". They also give an example without که from the Jawâmi ul-Hikâyât: سیه فامانی ازعنبرسرشته "those black-colored ones [i.e. Africans] [who are] made out of amber".

    I thought this kind of construction could easily come to mean "the black-colored ones made out of amber" in informal speech, and eventually be used entirely independently of adjective phrases.
  14. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Salemann was a first-rate Iranist (incidentally a Russian, though of Baltic-German descent), but our knowledge of
    Iranian languages has moved on a bit since his day.
  15. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Gernot. L.Windfuhr in an article in "The Major Languages of South Asia, the Middle East and Africa" (1987) gives this suffix a passing mention without providing any etymological details.

    "The colloquial language in Iran has developed a focalising suffix -e, e.g sag-e "the dog mentioned".
  16. aisha93

    aisha93 Senior Member


    In some southern dialects I know they use a long (u) at the end of the word.
    For example: marde = mardu = the man.
    Some others use (iku) as Treaty said.

    I think the (u) at the end of یارو (which is a very common word) is also the same.
    Though I sometimes hear یاروئه (yaru-e) the last (e) seems to be the same as in "marde" which is superfluous I think since there is already the definite (u). What do you think of this word Treaty?

  17. Treaty Senior Member

    Well said! There are dialects that pronounce it [u:]. I guess the -ek part of -eku can be the belittling suffix -ak. Therefore, it is probable that the -e in central Iranian Persian is pronounced -u in southern Persian dialects (though this is a wide generalisation of geographic location). It is interesting that in dialects which use -u the other types of yā are still pronounced like ī or ē.

    Here it means "Zoleykha had ... some amber-made Africans". Actually, my problem with this poem is the earlier couplets where the یای مجهول is not used but implied.
  18. asanga Member

    May I ask how you managed to find the passage? Is there a searchable e-text available on-line?

    Is this usage as some, rather than a, or the + relative clause, common in classical NP texts? It at least suggests the article was used less rigidly in the past.
  19. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    In classical as in modern Persian the “indefinite” suffix is frequently added to a plural noun, e.g. mard-ān-ē (Western Persian mardānī) “some men” (the stress is on –ān-; the suffix is enclitic).
  20. Treaty Senior Member

    Persian is the most complete online database of the Persian poems. However, it uses edited versions which may differ from the original in a few minute details. I search that phrase in Google and ganjoor was the top result for me.

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