Persian: The colloquial Definite Article marker

PersoLatin

Senior Member
UK
Persian - Iran
را/râ seems to be the go-to 'definite article' marker in Persian, at least as far grammar books are concerned, yet the one that is mostly used and most easily understood by students, is ignored & dismissed because it is 'colloquial'. I explain, in English you say: Where's the man/brick/fifth one?, the exact Persian for it is , مرده/آجره/پنجمیه کو؟ - mardé/âjoré/panjmié ku? Here the 'definite article' marker is /é/, in the accents of Tehran & north central Iran, and /a/ in regional Iran also I believe in Afghan & Tajik Persian, so مرده کو؟ - mardé/marda ku? Where is the man?

The formal Persian for مرده کو؟ - mardé ku? is not so succinct, often you'll see/hear آن ‏مرد ‏کجاست؟ i.e. equivalent to where is that man? which is not quite the same.

I have asked this question before as part of other posts, what is the etymology this colloquial 'definite article' marker é/a?

There's another definite article marker that this must have originated from but let's hear others' thoughts before I speculate.
 
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  • PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    There is a small amount of scholarly information in this article by Hossein Fatemi which you may find useful.
    https://curve.carleton.ca/system/fi...emi-thesemanticsofthepersianobjectmarkerr.pdf

    https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:538905/FULLTEXT01.pdf (Afzali pp 12-13)
    Thank you Qureshpor, I managed to look at these and as you'd eluded there's not much about the colloquial Definite Article marker in either book, except that they acknowledge it exists and what it means.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    My own theory on its etymology is that the definite marker é/a is the same as definite marker /i/ as in the following:

    FORMAL: مردی که دیروز دیدیم آمده/mardi ké diruz didim âmadé
    INFORMAL: مرده که دیروز دیدیم اومده/mardé ké diruz didim omadé
    The man we saw yesterday has arrived

    NOTE: Below I have used 'forgotten sound' for what is known amongst subcontinental Persian speakers as majhul, personally I get confused with the word majhul in this context, in any case, 'forgotten' is what has really happened to these sounds in Modern Persian.

    I suspect in ENP (and MP, even OP), there was only one version for this marker in spoken & written forms and that was the 'forgotten sound' of /i/, in modern Persian é/a is closer to that original forgotten sound, whilst formal Persian has gone completely the other way and the definite marker /i/ now sounds just like a normal /i/.
     

    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    In my opinion, after much thinking, it has its origin as a diminutive suffix, like -ak. That's why some dialects actually have it as -aka, -eku, or even just -ak. And that's why (at least in my dialect), it's attached to names to imply affection (many other languages use diminutive suffixes for affection). Consider also that some southern dialects have it as -u, and -u also doubles as a diminutive in those dialects (I wonder if this is at all related to suffix -u in words like ترسو).

    I think this perfectly explains why this was never used in the written language, affectionate diminutives are not very "formal" after all.

    By the way, it's very, very frequently used in our, and neighboring, dialects. It attaches to nouns after demonstratives, almost always. I haven't seen this in dialects like Tehrani.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    In my opinion, after much thinking, it has its origin as a diminutive suffix, like -ak. That's why some dialects actually have it as -aka, -eku, or even just -ak. And that's why (at least in my dialect), it's attached to names to imply affection (many other languages use diminutive suffixes for affection). Consider also that some southern dialects have it as -u, and -u also doubles as a diminutive in those dialects (I wonder if this is at all related to suffix -u in words like ترسو).

    I think this perfectly explains why this was never used in the written language, affectionate diminutives are not very "formal" after all.

    By the way, it's very, very frequently used in our, and neighboring, dialects. It attaches to nouns after demonstratives, almost always. I haven't seen this in dialects like Tehrani.
    We are not talking about the same thing here, what you have said is a good answer but not to my question, I am talking about a colloquially used definite marker and not a term of endearment, have I have misled you and others?
     
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    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    I'm saying they're one and the same.

    In some dialects, -u is the "definite suffix" and also a diminutive.

    In fact, this diminutive usage has its origin in the old suffix -uya, an affectionate diminutive suffix:

    ویه - Wiktionary

    1. Forms diminutive or affectionate form of nouns., transliterated as -ūya, -ūyah, -uya, -uyah, -ōē (Classical Persian), -uye, -uyeh (Iranian Persian), -awayh, -awaih, -uwayh (Arabized)

    Hence old names like sibuya سیبویه.

    We have many towns in southern Iran with the suffix -uya, and they are all pronounced colloquially as -u, and these same places often use -u as the definite suffix. So, the modern colloquial reflex of -uya is -u.

    I suspect the -u in Persian words like kučulú, xordú might have the same origin.

    In dialects with -eku, -aku, it is the same but with the additional diminutive '-ak'.

    Coming to -é in Tehrani, I believe it had this development: -ak > -a > -é. I'm sure you know that it is attached to names, to impart a kind of familiarity or affection, e.g. afšiné. I think this was in fact the original usage, which then spread to a general "definite article" (we are calling it that but its really better described as a "referential" since the definite in Persian is something different).
     
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    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    You offer no explanation on how this -é/e/a, that you insist is the diminutive suffix, has come to be the definite marker, it just doesn't make sense that the diminutive suffix, which I fully understand, is the same as the one under discussion. Please refer to the links in post #3, although there's not much information there but at least the two studies acknowledge existence and the name of this marker & unsurprisingly there's no mention of the diminutive suffix.
     
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    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    Because they (the definite suffix and the diminutive suffix) are literally the same in certain dialects, like I've said several times. And -e in Tehrani, while not exactly a diminutive, is attached to names to impart familiarity or affection.

    This idea of the diminutive being grammaticalized into the definite is acknowledged in linguistic papers anyway. Like from this paper on Koroshi:

    ... the definite suffix -ok/-ak (originally a diminutive suffix, see Section 3.2.1.1.3).

    ... The historical diminutive function of the suffix -ok/-ak has been weakened, and it contributes to a definite singular interpretation of the word to which it is attached
    https://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:810250/FULLTEXT01.pdf

    So, in some dialects we have -ak as the definite marker, which is obviously from the diminutive -ak, and in other dialects -u as both definite and diminutive (from the diminutive -uya). Why should -e in Tehrani be any different?
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    We still have -ak as diminutive marker, so why is that stayed the same while the other has changed to -é?

    What you are saying is that when I say مرده/the man, I’m really saying مردک/little man or زنک/little woman, but these are used as insults, analogously I suppose کتابه/the book, based on what you are saying, is/was equivalent to کتابک/little book, none of this makes sense.
     
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    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    That's why I said grammaticalized into a definite. When used as a definite, it loses the strict sense of a diminutive, I'm merely suggesting its origin in a diminutive that became grammaticalized (by way of being a marker of affection/familiarity for names of people, then being generalized to a marker of anything "familiar" to the speakers involved) . The topic of this thread is the origin/etymology and that's all I'm suggesting.

    Anyway, I've already shown that some dialects do in fact say mard-ak for mard-é and ketâb-ak for ketâb-é, but I guess this will continue to be dismissed.

    Edit: This is my explanation again for how this process may have happened: the diminutive suffixes (-ak, -uya), were used to impart familiarity with/affection for people, then became grammaticalized as markers of specificity to an object that is familiar to both the speaker and listener.
     
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    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Thank you, that makes more sense to me now.

    What is your view on what I said below, based on what you are saying ی/i in مردی/mardi has nothing to do with ه/é in مرده/mardé, that is correct isn't it?

    My own theory on its etymology is that the definite marker é/a is the same as definite marker /i/ as in the following:

    FORMAL: مردی که دیروز دیدیم آمده/mardi ké diruz didim âmadé
    INFORMAL: مرده که دیروز دیدیم اومده/mardé ké diruz didim omadé
    The man we saw yesterday has arrived
     
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    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    Is the "formal" form really not productive in colloquial speech? Anyway, I personally interpret:

    márdi ké diruz didim âmadé

    as simply:

    A man, who we saw yesterday, came.

    Even in English, while it sounds a bit weird because you would normally use "the", it still conveys the idea of a particular man.

    Maybe this rephrasing is more acceptable in English:

    The man came.

    Which man?

    A man who we saw yesterday.

    Now, that last line uses indefinite article "a", but the part "who we saw yesterday" (ke diruz didim) makes it definite. Without "who we saw yesterday" (ke diruz didim), it loses the definite sense.

    Whereas mardé can stand on its own to convey definiteness:

    ki âmade?
    mardé.

    Who came?
    The man.

    Now, this doesn't discount the possibility that mardi ke somehow shifted and grammaticalized into mardé ke, but considering the totality of dialectal evidence I've presented in this thread (and dialectal evidence is extremely important when discussing what is essentially a colloquial/spoken phenomenon), I think it's unlikely. The diminutive origin seems more likely to me. Unfortunately, this is a topic largely ignored by scholars (seemingly).

    saying مردک/little man or زنک/little woman, but these are used as insults
    It's interesting to note that in some dialects مردک/مرتیکه and زنک/زنیکه (or their local variants) don't have the same insulting connotation which they have in Tehrani. They are rather similar in meaning to یارو. (Again, I suspect the -u in یارو is the diminutive -uya, and of course یارو is used to refer to a person who is familiar to both speaker and listener - just like how the definite suffix is used - you see how this is all connected to the topic at hand).
     
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    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Is the "formal" form really not productive in colloquial speech? Anyway, I personally interpret:

    márdi ké diruz didim âmadé

    as simply:

    A man, who we saw yesterday, came.

    Even in English, while it sounds a bit weird because you would normally use "the", it still conveys the idea of a particular man.

    Maybe this rephrasing is more acceptable in English:

    The man came.

    Which man?

    A man who we saw yesterday.
    Although in a particular context márdi ké diruz didim âmadé could mean "A man............" but more often than not, it means "The man....". In your "dialogue"...

    The man came.
    Which man?
    A man who we saw yesterday.

    We would n't say, "A man who we saw yesterday" but "The man who we saw yesterday" and if we are really being
    pedantic, "The man whom we saw yesterday".

    I was reading another article about this topic and will try to find it and post the link.
     

    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    Well Persian isn't English. It could be that Persian uses what in English would be directly translated as "A man who we saw yesterday", but is equivalent in meaning to "The man who we saw yesterday".

    Okay, maybe in this dialogue saying "a man" is acceptable:

    Who was that man who came?

    A man who we saw yesterday.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    ^ Yes, I know Persian is n't English. So, we'll just agree to disagree.

    I think both you and PersoLatin will find these of use even though they do not provide any etymology for the -e suffix.

    The Suffix that Makes Persian Nouns Unique

    https://jasbi.github.io/research/jasbi_habibi_NACIL1.pdf

    Colloquial Persian

    Colloquial Persian - PersianDee (Rule 4)

    When morphology does better than Syntax: The Ezafe construction in Persian

    http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.125.205&rep=rep1&type=pdf (Read 4.1 on wards)
     
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    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Is the "formal" form really not productive in colloquial speech? Anyway, I personally interpret:

    márdi ké diruz didim âmadé

    as simply:

    A man, who we saw yesterday, came.
    I am afraid that is not correct it is 'the' man (as Qureshpor has already said), the presence of ensures that.

    in that sentence, 'yek mard' or 'a man' doesn't work in English or Persian.

    márdi ké diruz didim âmadé ==can only mean=> the man we saw yesterday has come



     

    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    Sorry, I'm bad at explaining what I mean. I'm not saying it translates to "a man" in English (which is wrong English anyway). Just that, word for word, it looks like "a man". After all, indefinite -i is from OIr. -aiva "one". It looks like "a man who we saw yesterday" but carries the meaning of "the man who we saw yesterday". There must be some linguistic jargon for what I'm trying to say here.

    I was just trying to convey that it is in fact the indefinite -i, but following it with ke didim gives it a definite sense.

    My point was that mard-é can stand on its own and retain definiteness, it always and only means "the/that man", while mard-i must be followed by ke didim to have any definite sense.
     
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    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    "I brought with me the book that I had bought last year"

    "I brought with me a book that I had bought last year"

    Don't both of these sentences translate in Persian to:

    کتابی که پارسال خریده بودم با خودم آوردم


    Further, isn't the book definite in both the English examples?
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    "I brought with me the book that I had bought last year"

    "I brought with me a book that I had bought last year"

    Don't both of these sentences translate in Persian to:

    کتابی که پارسال خریده بودم با خودم آوردم


    Further, isn't the book definite in both the English examples?
    No "کتابی که پارسال خریده بودم با خودم آوردم" doesn't have two meanings, the position of که relative to کتابی is the key and that makes کتابی که/the book

    کتابی که پارسال خریده بودم با خودم آوردم
    I brought the book that I had bought last year with me / I brought with me the book that I had bought last year

    یک کتاب پارسال خریده بودم که با خودم آوردم OR کتابی با خودم آوردم که پارسال خریده بودم
    I brought a book with me that I had bought last year / I brought with me a book that I had bought last year
     
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    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    I see, I wasn't aware of this syntactical strictness, I thought it could have both meanings.
     

    Derakhshan

    Senior Member
    Arabic (BH), Persian
    I have found some scholarly support for my thoughts here:

    On the Definite Marker in Modern Spoken Persian

    He even suggests my derivation of Tehrani -e from -ak:

    I therefore argue that the diminutive suffix in Persian, -ak, is a likely candidate for the origin of the -e suffix. The diminutive suffix carries stress, like the -e suffix, and a reduction of -ak > -a > -e in MSP is not hard to envisage. It may be interesting to note that the definite marker -aka in Sorani Kurdish is likewise stressed (on the final syllable) (Thackston, p. 9), and so is the definite marker -eke / -e in Bakhtiari (Anonby and Asadi 2014: 67). Also in these languages, the definiteness marker is likely to be a diminutive suffix that has taken on the grammatical role of marking definiteness.


    I am still confident in the derivation of southern -u from diminutive -uya.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    I read it, it says the same thing as you and uses the same reasoning.

    Modern Written Persian (MWP), as well as Classical Persian (CP) is a language that marks indefiniteness, or rather individuation (see e.g. Korn 2009: 75), with the clitic (CP , Middle Persian ēw ‘one’).
    Reading the above reminded me of another possibility. As the above line states and as we know, in MWP, /i/ is an indefinite marker and it means ēw 'one'. We also know the modern 'one' i.e. yak/yek, is made up ēw + -ak (not a diminutive suffix here but who knows). So couldn't the definite marker under discussion (e/é), have been derived from this /i/ (ēw ‘one’), after -ak was added and in the same way as this theory, -ak was dropped from it?

    There is no dedicated marker for definiteness in CP or MWP.
    What about /i/ in this configuration (noun + /i/ + ké)? e.g. ...کتابی ‏که - the book...

    Inherently definite nouns (where there is only one possible referent) never take -e, such as ‘the sun, the moon, the world’.
    I am not saying the statement above is incorrect but these are interesting: ماه شب چهارده/mâhé ŝabe ĉâhârdah - the full moon (the moon of the 14th night) or, آفتاب بعد از با ران/the sun after rain
     
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    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I see, I wasn't aware of this syntactical strictness, I thought it could have both meanings.
    It can, depending on the context.

    كافرِ بيداردل پيشِ صنم
    به زِ دين دارى كه خفت اندر حرم
    اقبال

    A disbeliever with an awakened heart, standing in front of an idol
    Is better than a believer who has fallen asleep in the Holy Sanctuary!
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    It can, depending on the context.


    كافرِ بيداردل پيشِ صنم
    به زِ دين دارى كه خفت اندر حرم
    اقبال

    A disbeliever with an awakened heart, standing in front of an idol
    Is better than a believer who has fallen asleep in the Holy Sanctuary!
    This is a bit confusing Qureshpor, in your example دين دار means 'the believer' as it follows the rule i.e. the bold part دين دارى كه which is the same as one of my examples which prompted Derakhshan's comment in post#21, to which you replied, so how's that different?
     

    marrish

    Senior Member
    اُردو Urdu
    Here the 'definite article' marker is /é/, in the accents of Tehran & north central Iran, and /a/ in regional Iran also I believe in Afghan & Tajik Persian, so مرده کو؟ - mardé/marda ku? Where is the man?
    I've dug up this old post which indeed confirms the usage in (spoken) Dari :
    So here's a general rule
    Suffix:
    a
    - a definite object attached to a noun when the object of a verb and when the noun ends in a consonant

    Kitoba dari? do you have the book
    Uksa dari? do you have the picture (photo)
    Túsha dari? do you have the marker


    This only shows definiteness when an object of a verb. You CAN'T use this as a subject.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    را/râ seems to be the go-to 'definite article' marker in Persian, at least as far grammar books are concerned, yet the one that is mostly used and most easily understood by students, is ignored & dismissed because it is 'colloquial'. I explain, in English you say: Where's the man/brick/fifth one?, the exact Persian for it is , مرده/آجره/پنجمیه کو؟ - mardé/âjoré/panjmié ku? Here the 'definite article' marker is /é/, in the accents of Tehran & north central Iran, and /a/ in regional Iran also I believe in Afghan & Tajik Persian, so مرده کو؟ - mardé/marda ku? Where is the man?

    The formal Persian for مرده کو؟ - mardé ku? is not so succinct, often you'll see/hear آن ‏مرد ‏کجاست؟ i.e. equivalent to where is that man? which is not quite the same.

    I have asked this question before as part of other posts, what is the etymology this colloquial 'definite article' marker é/a?

    There's another definite article marker that this must have originated from but let's hear others' thoughts before I speculate.
    Hi PersoLatin, please read page 50 onwards. I believe all your questions about this "colloquial definite article", "the yaa-i-nakirah", "yaa-i-ishaarat" and the "relative yaa" will be answered. Certainly, I feel better for it!

    FROM OLD TO NEW PERSIAN
     
    را/râ seems to be the go-to 'definite article' marker in Persian, at least as far grammar books are concerned, yet the one that is mostly used and most
    مرده or زنه is a slang form of article, till now, as I know, most of masters in Farsi refused to accept it as part of Farsi language. Only Shamloo in his preface to دن آرام announce that, he want to use in his books and I think the best reference is its preface and that books. Publisher also add a note to the books that, main propose, was theory and knowledge that Shamloo got in کتاب کوچه and show us in this book!!!
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    ... most of masters in Farsi refused to accept it as part of Farsi language.
    I understand you but most 'masters' of this type have this habit, they don't allow themselves to think freely, basically if there is no evidence they will reject new ideas, and if there is evidence, however flaky, they believe it as 'anything said in the past in the truth'.

    مرده or زنه is a slang form of article
    There's a distinction between slang and colloquial, the latter is the backbone of all or most formal forms of words, unless we believe formal Persian was sent to us from the heavens and us mortals ruined it by using it colloquially.
     
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    I understand you but most 'masters' of this type have this habit, they don't allow themselves to think freely,
    Absolutely, I agree with you and have many discussion with my friend who is working in فرهنگستان!!!
    Regarding slang and colloquial, sorry you know that my English is very poor and sometimes (no lot of times) I making mistake, and will be happy if anybody let me know my mistakes!!!!
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Hi PersoLatin, please read page 50 onwards. I believe all your questions about this "colloquial definite article", "the yaa-i-nakirah", "yaa-i-ishaarat" and the "relative yaa" will be answered. Certainly, I feel better for it!

    FROM OLD TO NEW PERSIAN
    Thanks for this, I can't get this as the website that holds it wants a pound of flesh in the form of your emails address etc, they then bombard you with emails, offers etc.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Thanks for this, I can't get this as the website that holds it wants a pound of flesh in the form of your emails address etc, they then bombard you with emails, offers etc.
    OK, no problem. I shall try to type the relevant bit at my earliest disposal. I think you will be pleased to read this piece.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    ^ Thank you, to save you the trouble of typing it, maybe you can take a screen grab of that section.
     
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    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    ^ Thank you, to save you the trouble of typing it, maybe you can take a screen grab of that section.
    ...as a marker of the head noun of determinative relative closes was brought to completion only in modern times. (Jahani 2000b)
     

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    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    I read it and it is indeed the first official recognition of this Definite Article marker that I have seen, so thank you very much Qureshpor.

    I understand books like this are technical and that's fair enough but the style of writing is so very difficult to follow, god help anyone who doesn't know the subject matter as they will not learn much from reading this type of book (written by gods for gods). I will however try and get copy of it.
     
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