Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 5.djvu/19

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INTRODUCTION.
xiii

But, whereas the Semitic Assyrians adopted a Turanian syllabary, these later Aryan Persians accepted a Semitic alphabet. Besides the alphabet, however, which they could use for spelling their own words, they also transferred a certain number of complete Semitic words to their writings, as representatives of the corresponding words in their own language. These Semitic representatives (the number of which might at any time be increased or diminished at the discretion of the writer) were probably never very numerous, and not more than four hundred of them are to be found in the Pahlavi writings now extant ; but, as they represent nearly all the commonest words in the language (excepting those specially relating to religious matters), they often constitute more than half the bulk of a Pahlavi text. The use of such Semitic words, scattered about in Persian sentences, gives Pahlavi the motley appearance of a com- pound language; more especially as Persian terminations are often added to the Semitic words. But there are good reasons for supposing that the language was never spoken as it was written. The spoken language appears to have been purely Persian ; the Semitic words being merely used as written representatives, or logograms, of the Persian words which were spoken. Thus the Persians would write malk&n malk&, 'king of kings/ but they would read sh&h&nsh&h. This is still the mode in which most Parsis read their Pahlavi literature ; and it is only by assuming it to have been their universal practice, in former times, that we can account for the total and immediate disappearance of the Semitic portion of the Pahlavi, from their language, when the Persians adopted their modern alphabet. As the Semitic words were merely a Pahlavi mode of writing their Persian equivalents (just as 'viz.' is a mode of writing ' namely ' in English), they disappeared with the Pahlavi writing, and the Persians began at once to write all their words, with their new alphabet, just as they pronounced them. In the meantime, the greater part of the nation had become Muhammadans, and a new influx of Semitic words commenced, but of a very different character. The Semitic Digitized by VjOOQIC