Persian: Contraction of long a (ā) to short a, e.g. ماه/māh to مه/mah

PersoLatin

Senior Member
UK
Persian - Iran
I am assuming the direction of change was e.g. from گاه to گه and that گاه was the original etymological word, if that’s correct, then was it the poets alone that created those contractions originally?

I appreciate that those contracted forms are found everywhere and not exclusively in poetry.

Also, to qualify for contraction, a Persian word has to end in -ā/اه-, compound words excepted.
 
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  • mannoushka

    Senior Member
    Iran/Persian
    Hello, PersoLatin. I don’t know the true answer, but am inclined to think it was always music and rhythm that led to short, snappy diphthongs where the word was originally long and a bit drawn out. Of course, as if to have plotted to throw the avid scholar off the scent, we had to have words such as گه‌گاه, رهبان, and نگهداری.
    Incidentally, I always have a feeling that آ (‘aa’) as a sound is a particularly noble vowel, because it appears in many “good” words: والا، زیبا، هویدا، اهورامزدا، بینا، شنوا، گویا, etc. To back that up, look at how lately people go to such excessive lengths to name their babies names that end in an ‘aa’. My (sort of) point is that maybe if it is one of those ‘good’ words, then the long-vowel form was what was originally there.
     
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    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    then the long-vowel form was what was originally ther
    I certainly believe that is the case but for completeness I added the other possibility, as far as I know we only have contraction of words in languages & not every the opposite (??), i.e. expansion.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Of course, as if to have plotted to throw the avid scholar off the scent, we had to have words such as گه‌گاه, رهبان, and نگهداری.
    I’m sure these compound words initially formed with the longer version so نگاهداری راهبان ماهین شاهین گاهواره
     
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    mannoushka

    Senior Member
    Iran/Persian
    But it occasionally happens post-contraction: نگهبان seems to contain the ‘original’ form, while نگاهبان appears as the expansion.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    I doubt that with نگهبان but it is possible that more modern compounds were formed with the contracted form, basically cutting the corner, can’t think of many now, how about شهبانو
     

    mannoushka

    Senior Member
    Iran/Persian
    I’m sure these compound words initially formed with the longer version so نگاهداری راهبان ماهین شاهین گاهواره
    How far back do we go, though? Think of the name منوچهر: it is made up of مَه plus نو plus چهر. And the name appears in the Shaahnaame, so it is sufficiently old for us to think that what was there “initially” was flexible even then, maybe.
     
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    mannoushka

    Senior Member
    Iran/Persian
    I was once told by a learned gentleman of the same name that the ‘ma’ was a contraction of ‘maah’, the moon, and so the ‘manou’ stood for ‘maahe no’, ‘the new moon’.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran

    mannoushka

    Senior Member
    Iran/Persian
    Anyhow, I doubt, for instance, that Daryus the Great wrote out his many mountain engravings in prose that was lessened by the use of the contracted form, though the hapless engraver hanging in midair may have wished it dearly. It was always through music that contracted forms found their usefulness.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    مینوچهر؟؟
    A manifestation of paradise? OK, I concede. The learned gentleman must have not googled it.
    Maybe kinder to leave things as they are.

    Anyway, usually the full moon or just the moon, is used to describe beauty in Persian & not the new moon but maybe either is used in that way (??)
     

    mannoushka

    Senior Member
    Iran/Persian
    Perhaps long ago a pretty female face was resembled to the full moon, while on seeing the young handsome face of a man the new moon was the thing one immediately thought of. No? Fine. So do you believe texts written in prose favour contractions?
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    So do you believe texts written in prose favour contractions?
    Sorry no, I don’t know where I may have implied that, in the OP I ask if it’s poetry that’s demanded and hence created it, prose doesn’t demand meter or rhyme.
     
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    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    The name Manuščiϑra- occurs already in the Avesta, meaning “of the seed (čiϑra) of Manu-“. Persian Manūčihr was reinterpreted as Mīnūčihr “whose face (čihr) is like heaven (mīnū)”. This is a folk etymology.
     

    Dib

    Senior Member
    Bengali (India)
    Anyhow, I doubt, for instance, that Daryus the Great wrote out his many mountain engravings in prose that was lessened by the use of the contracted form, though the hapless engraver hanging in midair may have wished it dearly.

    Well, Daryus' Persian was structurally a very different language. Compared to that, pretty much every word in modern Persian is "contracted". His own name was spelt "d-a-r-y-v-u-š" (and "d-a-r-y-v-h-u-š" = of Daryus). Not very useful to compare in context of the present topic.

    I certainly believe that is the case but for completeness I added the other possibility, as far as I know we only have contraction of words in languages & not every the opposite (??), i.e. expansion.

    Vowel lengthening to fit the metre is known as well. It is quite common in Vedic Sanskrit poetry.

    In fact, metrical lengthening happens also in Persian poetry, though it is not shown in the spelling, and I am not sure how the reciters handle it exactly. Let me give an example (don't ask me why I chose this poem! :p):

    صفت چند گوئی به شمشاد و لاله
    رخ چون مه و زلفک عنبری را؟

    How a modern Iranian would probably read it is:
    sefat čand gūyī be šamšād-o lāle
    rox-e čūn mah-o zolfak-e 'ambarī rā

    The metre is (v = light syllable; - = heavy syllable):
    v-- v-- v-- v--

    To maintain this metre, all the little clitics in bold letters in the second half-line have to be metrically lengthened.

    -----

    Anyway, I do not know the answer to the original question, and I am also curious to find it out.
     
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    mannoushka

    Senior Member
    Iran/Persian
    Dib, you make a good point about the language the achaemenid kings spoke in. I was just trying to say that there is no justification for introducing short forms in a text written in prose. But what you say about your example is lost on me. The poem, to me, reads fine without any pronounced lengthening of any of the syllables. Or maybe I just fail to notice it? Could you expand on that a bit please?
     

    mannoushka

    Senior Member
    Iran/Persian
    The name Manuščiϑra- occurs already in the Avesta, meaning “of the seed (čiϑra) of Manu-“.
    Thank you, fdb. I looked up the word Manu here:
    Quote
    In the Zoroastrian sacred lore, Manûš is the ancestor of “thinkers, sages, and the wise, learned scholars”.
    Unquote
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Vowel lengthening to fit the metre is known as well. It is quite common in Vedic Sanskrit poetry.

    In fact, metrical lengthening happens also in Persian poetry, though it is not shown in the spelling, and I am not sure how the reciters handle it exactly. Let me give an example (don't ask me why I chose this poem! :p):

    صفت چند گوئی به شمشاد و لاله
    رخ چون مه و زلفک عنبری را؟

    How a modern Iranian would probably read it is:
    sefat čand gūyī be šamšād-o lāle
    rox-e čūn mah-o zolfak-e 'ambarī rā

    The metre is (v = light syllable; - = heavy syllable):
    v-- v-- v-- v--

    To maintain this metre, all the little clitics in bold letters in the second half-line have to be metrically lengthened.
    Thank you very much Dib for the informative post.

    I suppose with lengthening vowels the amount of lengthening depends on the metric requirement of a word in a verse so many versions may exist but contracting can only produce one version which becomes a new independent word.

    Having said that, I am not familiar with lengthening vowels as a conscious method in reciting Persian poetry.
     
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    mannoushka

    Senior Member
    Iran/Persian
    I think I suddenly get it! This business of lengthening a vowel to the right metrical size appears to me, either as a plain native or as someone who always wrongly sees the spoken word as essentially fixed, as a declamatory device, not easy to record on paper, and therefore imperceptible and negligible. I realize this is my personal blind spot, but there it is. Also, I am beginning to see how in reciting a poem in Persian one might easily fail to appreciate its intrinsic music all because of the subtle changes that must be made to the pronunciation to bring out the beat. This happens a lot, where you realize you are offbeat and have to go back and recite the line again. I have never before thought about why this can occur. Anyway, thank you, Dib!
     

    Dib

    Senior Member
    Bengali (India)
    I suppose with lengthening vowels the amount of lengthening depends on the metric requirement of a word in a verse so many versions may exist but contracting can only produce one version which becomes a new independent word.

    I don't know so much nitty-gritty details of Persian metrics as to be able to judge this comment. But it probably makes sense to the extent that in modern Persian pronunciation, the "phonological" short and long vowels do not just differ in length/quantity, but also in quality. So, a lengthened "e" is not pronounced the same way as an "ī", or a "short a" is not pronounced the same as would be a "shortened ā". From that perspective, mah and māh would seem to contain completely different vowels (and hence, be "different words") while a lengthened -o feels like the same word. However, I suspect the situation may have been quite different 1000 years ago. The short and long versions may have felt like two different pronunciations of the same word. It's, of course, my conjecture without any evidence to back it up with.

    Also, I am beginning to see how in reciting a poem in Persian one might easily fail to appreciate its intrinsic music all because of the subtle changes that must be made to the pronunciation to bring out the beat. This happens a lot, where you realize you are offbeat and have to go back and recite the line again.

    Yes, length changes may very well contribute to that.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    I suspect the situation may have been quite different 1000 years ago. The short and long versions may have felt like two different pronunciations of the same word. It's, of course, my conjecture without any evidence to back it up with.
    In my view that's exactly how it was then and how it is now.

    So two different pronunciations of the same word with one meaning for the two flavours.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Probably, you'd like to rephrase one of the two to make them consistent?
    I have now committed myself to those, I'll be happy to correct them once I am told the consistent version & I don't doubt what you said :)
     
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