Persian: /h/ vs. /x/ in Avestan and Modern Persian


Senior Member

According to this page (and other sources) the name Ḵosrow خسرو was written in the Avesta this way Haosrauuah (Haosrawah), and in Pahlavi texts this way Husrōy.

I would like to know how this name came to be written with an initial /x/ خ in New Persian? This is not the only word that was written with /h/ in the Avesta but with /x/ in New Persian. Was there a phonological shift in Persian that changed /h/ sounds to /x/?
  • fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    The shift of initial h- to x- is common, but not regular. The exact chronology of the shift is not always clear (you must bear in mind that in Pahlavi script h and x are written with the same letter, though they are distinguished in Manichaean script). It happens in words like:

    Avestan hauruuatātō > MP hordād > NP xurdāδ (name of a Yazata)
    Iranian hu-čiϑra- > MP hučihr > NP xujīr ‘fair of face’

    and many more.

    It also affects h- from original zero, as in:

    Iranian āyaka- (cognate with English ‘egg’) > hāyag > NP xāya
    Iranian awšaka- > MP hōšag > NP xōša ‘ear of corn’

    But there are lots of words where this change does not happen. It is, as I said, irregular.
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