1. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    miyaaN is a term of respect, roughly equivalent to "sir, mister". Platts gave an incorrect derivation for this because according to Steingass and several recent dictionaries, this word originates from the Persian miyaan, meaning "middle". This is further validated by its use in mainly Urdu contexts. Does anyone have an idea about how "middle" could turn into a term of respect? My guess is that the Persian miyaanjii, which means "mediator, arbitrator" facilitated this change in meaning. Are there any other theories or further information on this?
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The Indian Muslim title evidently derives from Persian miyān “middle”, but the semantics of it are rather obscure.
  3. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    Thanks for the response. I figured it would tough to determine the underlying semantics of this word.
  4. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I do not believe the word "miyaaN" has anything to do with the Persian word "miyaan" (middle). To the best of my knowledge, Platt's explanation is correct.

    I don't have any sources of the word's etymology but nevertheless, I shall try to offer some explanation of its meaning and significance.

    Firstly, if this word was of Persian origins, then we would have it in Urdu (and other languages within the Subcontinent that employ it) both in the nasalised form "miyaan" and also with the nuun fully vocalised, "miyaan". But, we only find it in the nasalised form. This to me is an indication that this word can not be of Persian origins. In Urdu poetry, there is a tradition that Persian and Arabic words can be nasalised to suit metrical requirements but an Indic word is never nasalised (apart from one exception paan > paaN) when it has a full nuun. In the reverse direction an Indic word that has a nasal, e.g. maaN, is never written as "maan".

    In the Punjab, one of the meanings of the word "miyaaN" is a teacher, almost always that of the Qur'an. I believe one of the meanings for this word in Urdu is also a "teacher". In Punjabi poetry, you will find it being used for God. You may have heard Abida Parveen, a famous Pakistani folk/sufi singer singing "O miyaaN, O miyaaN..", again here "miyaaN" implies God. In this respect, it's meaning is equivalent to the Hindi word swami. We also say "Allah miyaaN".

    In Urdu, "miyaaN" means a husband, as in "miyaaN-biivii" as well as "Mr/Master/Sir, as in.

    Akbar miyaaN kahaaN haiN?

    faqiiraanah aa'e sadaa kar chale
    miyaaN xush raho du3aa kar chale


    Here is what Platts says. And followed by it is a link to an Urdu dictionary, explaining the word's origins and usage. You will see that "miyaaN" is used quite extensively, e.g. "miyaaN miTThuu", "miyaaN kii ToDii". The first is commonly a term used affectionately for a parrot. The second is a musical mode with Hindustani Classical Music. There is a city in Pakistan called "Mianwali" (miyaaN vaalii).

    H ميان मियांmiyāṅ, or मीयां mīyāṅ [Prk. मिअओ, मित्तओ; S. मित्र+कः], s.m. An address expressive of kindness, or respect; Sir! good Sir! good man; master; husband; lord; father; a title by which eunuchs are addressed;—(in the hill-districts) title of the sons of Rājpūt princes;—an evil spirit:—miyāṅ-ādmī, s.m. A good-natured man;—a respectable person, a gentleman:—miyāṅ-jī, s.m. A schoolmaster; the respected master (esp. schoolmaster);—a go-between (i.q. bhaṛwā):—miyāṅ-jī-garī, s.f. The profession of schoolmaster; teaching.

  5. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    In his Hindi dictionary, McGregor utilizes Platts as a source and gives updated etymologies for the words. Based on my recollection, I believe he lists the Persian miyaan as the source for miyaaN. Do you think McGregor, in this instance, is wrong?

    Steingass also lists "schoolmaster" as one of the definitions for miyaanjii in Persian. Would you say this Persian word is borrowed from Urdu/Hindi?
  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Thank you, Qureshpor, for reopening this important disscussion. I agree that the Persian derivation has its problems, especially from the semantic point of view. Platts was a great expert on Hindi and Urdu, but he was not an expert on Indo-Aryan comparative linguistics. His derivation of miyān from Skt. mitra+ka is, if I may put it this way, preposterous. mitra- ‘friend’ is in fact continued by forms like Hindi mīt, Punjabi mitt, etc. (see Turner no. 10124). miyānjī “mediator” is genuine Persian (Middle Persian mayānjīg), but in the meaning “school teacher” it is possibly a borrowing of Urdu miyān+jī (do not forget that Steingass is essentially a dictionary of Indo-Persian).
  7. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Yes, McGregor does link it to the Persian word "miyaan".

    Re: "miyaanjii", in my humble opinion, "miyaan-jii" is in reality "miyaan-chii" where "-chii" is a Turkish suffix, providing an agentive sense. In Urdu, we have other such words, e.g. "top-chii" (gunner), "xazaan-chii" (treasurer). In Punjabi, I remember the word "gol-chii" (made from the English word goal), to mean goal-keeper! So, this "chii/jii" has nothing to do with the word of respect "jii", as in Wolverine9 Jii, fdb Jii. So, yes I do think McGregor is wrong.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
  8. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    The semantic side of the thesis of the Persian derivation appears indeed an argument which rules it out. As far as I remember Platts, not being an expert on Prakrit and etymologies which could be traced back to it, based his information on other sources available at his time (they are mentioned in his preface to the dictionary, if my memory serves me right). You are right no doubt to submit the argument of the Sanskrit mitra having evolved into miit or mitt in KhaRii bolii and Punjabi respectively, but in my opinion it only serves the theory of miyaaN having originated from the Prakrit, especially if one looks at the etymology proposed in the Platts entry (miao, mittao) which clearly points out to the forms that are mentioned in Turner. Let us not forget that the word in Urdu is miyaaN or miiyaaN (see Platts' entry) and as has been stated before, the N is a nasalization of the last vowel, so there is no question of miyān derivation from Sanskrit. Moreover, the existence of both short and long somehow coincidences with miit or mitt.
  9. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Thank you fdb. At the moment I have nothing to offer by way of any entomological quote from some scholarly piece. There just does n't seem to me to be any connection with the Persian"miyaan" (waist/loins/middle) and the meanings associated with "miyaaN" in Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi and possibly other languages. Words do take on new meanings in the original language as well as languages borrowing them but we still have "miyaan" in Urdu and other related words. It has not disappeared to become "miyaaN", the word under discussion.
  10. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    Do you agree that miyānjī has the the Turkic suffix jī/chī? What is your source for the Middle Persian form?

    Perhaps miyāN is a cross between mitra and miyān, with the meaning closer to the former and the form closer to the latter.
  11. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Does not sound very likely.

    It is in MacKenzie's dictionary and I have encountered it in Pahlavi texts.

    I do not see how it can have anything to do with mitra-. It is possible that (Persian) miyān and (Urdu) miyāṅ (mīyāṅ) are two different words, but I cannot suggest an etymology for the latter.
  12. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    An afterthought:

    The –jīg in MP mayānjīg comes from the Old Iranian suffix *-čī-ka-, which is used very often to form adjectives from nouns. The Turkic suffix –či is very likely to derive from this same Iranian suffix, that is: it was borrowed from Sogdian into Old Turkish.
  13. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    ^Thanks. Yes, an Old Turkish borrowing would explain the similarity in the suffix.

    Found this entry in Turner's Nepali dictionary:

    मियाँ miyã̄ s. A Muhammadan. [lw. P. miyã̄ title of respect for Muhammadans and among Rajputs.]

    Turner suggests Punjabi as the source of the loan. Maybe looking at Punjabi usage of the word will help clear up the etymological picture.
  14. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    So with the help of this piece of information from Turner, this time an expert on Indo-Aryan comparative linguistics, we've got the thesis of Persian origins and the link with the Persian (and Urdu) miyaan (at least direct), finally excluded, and we come back to Prakrit.

    The etymology which Platts provided doesn't appear to be preposterous in any way; and as I tried to indicate in my previous post, seems quite plausible.

    Otherwise, maybe the later meaning 'a teacher, a teacher of the Qur'an' got extended onto other semantic meanings.
  15. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    It may or may not ultimately be of Persian origin. Turner doesn't list any cognates for the word or trace its origins beyond Punjabi. However, since Punjabi loaned the word into Nepali, perhaps Punjabi also loaned it into Urdu. So if it is an Indic word, it may be of Punjabi origin, perhaps derived from an unattested Prakrit or Old IA word.
  16. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I agree and you are right that there is no trace in Turner. An old Punjabi dictionary available on the net says that it is a corrupted form of the Persian word; however I strongly doubt that Punjabi has had such a strong influence to spread this word literally everywhere where Urdu used to be spoken, including the Deccan. Possible that the source of this word in Nepali is from Punjabi, but not necessarily is the situation the same with Urdu.

    Please consider the following argument in support of Platts:

    As you know, the word for 'a well' is kuu(N)'aaN. This can be traced back to Sanskrit kuupakah.
    There is also baayaaN for ´left´ and it takes its origins in Sanskrit vaamakah;
    while Platts has miyaaN <--- mitrakah.

    I have a hunch that barring what we've discussed until now, there is still another way we can explain it.

    بهوميا भूम्या bhūm'yā, bhumyāṅ, bhuīyāṅ, bhuīṅyāṅ, n. m.
    1. A landlord; proprietor of the soil.
    2. An inhabitant long settled.

    What will we get if the initial bhuu were to be abandoned?
  17. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    Maybe the "yan" in four given samples of that language has the meaning "there" or the site. I noticed these words "Kuu(N)'aan" and "baayaaN" have the same meaning in Tagalog. They existed in Tagalog as 1.) Kuhaan (source or the one who provide) and 2.) Bayaan (let it be) or left . Yaan and Yan in Tagalog is "there" or it is. Maybe it will be more helpful if the meaning and origin of use of "Y'(Yod= why has ayuda in spanish?) in Aramaic and other ancient language be analysed. In Tagalog the sound Y is like the bridge (Tulay) between two parties. In some posts here, Miyaan has the meanings 1.) middle and 2.) sir. In my language when the word Sir is translated , it is "Ginoo" and in its archaic meaning it means Lord/Sir!And in christian teaching the Lord is the one who become the Mediator for mankind.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  18. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    ^ I don't think miyaaN or any of the other Urdu/Hindi words have any connection to Tagalog, beyond possible superficial resemblances. Linguistic contact between the two cultures was too limited for there to have been any lasting influence in either direction. Furthermore, Tagalog is not an Indo-European language; it belongs to the entirely distinct Austronesian language family.
  19. Treaty Senior Member

    I think it is reasonable to think miyaan as teacher is related to being a medium (middle) between heavenly knowledge and students. This belief (that you need a mediator) is very popular among Shia muslims and sufis (and as far as I know among some Hindu and Buddhist sects).

    However, another explanation can be the PIE root of me(h,s,g) for greatness. Like in mega (Greek), mister and master, mehtar and mah (Persian) and maha in Hindi (?)
  20. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    The development of Majority of Southeast asian languages were influenced by Indian languages (migration of different ethnic groups from Indian/middle east asia to Southeast asia) and one of the ancient language that came from Indian region is Kavi (extinct already) . and i think via the evolved forms of kavi, Tagalog and its other sister languages developed.
  21. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    This is possible.

    IE *megh- is continued by Indo-Iranian *mah-, Persian mih, mihtar. Persian miyān comes from IE. *medhy- (as in medius, middle, etc.). So the two are not related.
  22. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Interesting thing would be to see if "miyaaN" (or indeed miyaan, is known amongst the Farsi speaking peoples (mother tongue speakers of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan..including in such places as Samarqand and Bukhara) in the senses that it is used in the Sub-continent. Is it attested in Persian literature? I suspect the answer to these questions is no! And if this is indeed the case, why has it not taken at least one additional meaning to its usual significance but when it enters the Subcontinent, lo and behold, it becomes very fruitful!?
  23. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    ^ miyaaN may be attested in Indo-Persian literature, since it's listed in Steingass. There are several other Persian words which have gained additional meanings in the subcontinent too. For example, daaruu in Farsi means medicine, but in Urdu and Hindi it usually means alcohol; barf means snow in Farsi while yax is used for ice, but in Urdu and Hindi barf (or baraf) is used for both snow and ice.
  24. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    daaruu is still used for medicine in Urdu including the compound "davaa-daaruu". But my main enquiry is about seeking examples within the Farsi/Dari/Tajik speaking world of "miyaan" where it means something other than "middle" or "waist". Try posting "miyaan" in the Indo-Iranian Forum and see how many native speakers come up with any additional meanings which "miyaaN" has in the Subcontinent in the various languages.
  25. Treaty Senior Member

    As a Persian speaker, I've never seen any other usage. Of course, there are metaphoric usage like "disturbing/fixing people's miyan" in which miyan refers to relationship or miyan-bor (shortcut) which refers to removing what's in between and make it direct. There is also the cognate meidan which means square (plaza), that actually refers to what happens or build in the middle of the square.
  26. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    ^ Actually, I think meydaan is of Arabic origin; therefore, not a cognate of miyaan.
  27. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I think you are right on this!
  28. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Maydān is Arabic, but it is borrowed from some Iranian language (perhaps Parthian). It has the same etymology as Persian miyān.
  29. Treaty Senior Member

    It is right. I don't think there is any cognate for it in Arabic (like from y.d.n or w.d.n)
  30. mundiya Senior Member

    Hindi, English, Punjabi
    This is a good explanation fdb jii.

    I also like this explanation Treaty saahib.

    Persian "miyaan" to Urdu "miyaaN" makes sense to me with the above two explanations. There are several words of Persian or Arabic origin in Urdu and Hindi that have undergone phonetic or morphological changes or changes in meanings.
  31. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)
    There are two phonetic problems in deriving U. miyaaN < Pkt ... < Skt. mitra-ka-:
    1. tr > ø, y
    2. -aka > -aaN -> The nasalization of the second syllable

    Your examples address only point 2. Even then, only kUpaka > kuuaaN example is relevant. In bhuiiyaaN and baayaaN, the nasalization evolves from the original nasal consonant m.

    As for point 1, in Prakrits, intervocalic -tr- normally became -tt-, with shortening of the previous vowel if needed. From Prakrit to NIA, depending on the exact NIA under consideration, either this shape is retained, or the -tt- is simplified to -t- with compensatory lengthening of the previous vowel. Hence, mitra > P mitt, HU miit; patra-ka > HU pattaa, Bengali pata (< paataa), etc. miyaaN does not fit this bill.

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