A Grammar of the Persian Language/Editor's Preface

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[ xiv ]


Having been requested to superintend another Edition of this work. and having deemed it necessary to make some additions to its matter, as well as alterations in its arrangement, it is necessary here to state what those additions and alterations are.

When I undertook to revise the last Edition, it appeared to me that the application of the vowels to the Persian examples, and an abstract of the Arabick Grammar, were absolutely necessary to insure a sound and rapid progress in the learner. All I have seen or heard on this subject since that period, has only tended to confirm the opinion I had formed : and, the consequence has been, every thing then added has now not only been retained, but augmented and in other respects improved.

The additions made are these, viz. 1. An account of the changes which occasionally take place in the letters. 2. Rules with appropriate examples for the introduction of the ي of unity, ascription of greatness, particularity, &c. 3. A more compendious method of deducing the form of the Imperative and Aorist from the Infinitives of verbs, for which I am indebted to the suggestions of an ingenious and learned friend. 4. Some additional forms in the tables of the conjugation of verbs, as well as in the derivation of the nouns. 5. An entirely new tract on the Syntax, much more copious than that given by Sir William Jones, and which, it is hoped, will be found more useful to the Student 6. An Introduction to the Prosody of the Persians, not more extensive perhaps than that given originally by the Author of the Grammar, but certainly more conformable with the usage of the Orientals, and perhaps more easily reducible to practice. 7. A brief view of the principles of the Arabick Syntax. This I have deemed it important to add, because the Student will occasionally meet with entire periods of Arabick composition in the Persian books he may have to consult, and which he will never be able to understand without such assistance ; and because the Arabick and Persian Syntax will serve mutually to illustrate each other : it being a fact that the Persians have now for some ages been cultivating their own language upon the grammatical principles of their neighbours the Arabians. Augmentations, too, will be found in almost every page of the work; but those illustrative of the forms of the Arabick nouns, triliteral and pluriliteral, may be pointed out here as the most considerable.

The alterations made are chiefly these. 1. Instead of supplying every vowel to the examples, as in the last edition, the system adopted by Mr. Professor Shakespear, in his Grammar of the Hindustani, has been taken as being the simplest and best hitherto proposed: because, as it diminishes the number of vowels to be printed, so does it also diminish the number of errors of the press which might otherwise occur. It also affords an opportunity for expressing the واو and ياي, termed مجهول majhūl, which cannot be done in the other system ; and leads the student in some measure towards reading without the vowel marks, which he must sometime do. — I may here remark, that although the distinctions of واو and یايُ مجهول just mentioned, do not appear to be generally made in Persia, and need not therefore be regarded by persons who may have to reside in that country, they are nevertheless in Hindustan, whether right or wrong is not for me to say : I have on this account preserved them, as far as my means of information would allow me. The learner, therefore, will be at liberty to adopt them or not; just as he may think proper, or as his teacher may advise.

Another alteration is a new and more literal translation of all the examples ; another the application of numbers to all the paragraphs, which has been done in order to facilitate reference : and another, the removal of the Abstract of the Arabick Grammar to an Appendix, by which the Student will be enabled to study either that or the Persian Grammar without any interruption. In the last Edition I followed the example of Mr. Lumsden : but, from my own conviction, as well as the advice of some friends, on whose judgment I could rely, the present arrangement has been adopted : and, for the sake of uniformity, the Prosody, Praxis, and Vocabulary, form the three Appendixes following.

The works consulted in preparing this Edition have been : 1. The elaborate and valuable Persian Grammar by Mr. Lumsden,[1] a work of which the Student ought at some period to make himself perfect master ; for, although I differ in opinion in some respects from its estimable and learned Author, I have no hesitation in affirming, that it is the best work on this subject, that has hitherto appeared in Europe, and perhaps in the East itself.— 2. The Persian Grammar attached to the King of Oude's Persian Dictionary, entitled the Seven Seas (هفت فلزم[2]). This work contains some good remarks, with an extensive list of very valuable examples, of which I have occasionally availed myself. It also contains a good tract on the Prosody, which appears generally to be copied from that of Saifee,[3] and a very valuable and elaborate account of the different sorts of Persian Poetry. — 3. I have made the greatest use, perhaps, of a very excellent Persian Grammar and Commentary, printed apparently at Calcutta,[4] a few years ago, under the title of شرح قصیدة جوهرالتّكيت. The text is given in Persian verse from the pen of Shiva Ram, the Commentary is by Hayder Ali. This is certainly the best Eastern production on Persian Grammar that I have ever seen : and, although some of its rules do not appear universally to prevail, it is highly deserving of the attention of the Student, and I think of being reprinted, translated, and illustrated, for the sake of Oriental Literature generally. Among its rules, which appear not to be universal, are those copied into this edition (at Artt. 154, 206), stating that the Iẑāfat[5] does not take place before nouns ending in the یايُ نسبت, and the termination انه. This is one of the instances in which Doctors may be said to disagree : but, as this grammar was composed in Hindustan, it is highly probable that these rules prevail there : I have on that account, thought it advisable to give them. This work originally belonged to Mr. Lumsden, but is now deposited in the Public Library of Cambridge, (under the class marks Zz, 20, 38.) — 4. Another work which I have occasionally consulted, is a small Persian Grammar, written at Calcutta at the suggestion of Sir Gore Ouseley,[6] entitled Chihār Gulzār (چهار گلزار). This is a valuable little work, and particularly in the short tract on Prosody, which is appended to it. — 5. I have also consulted the grammatical treatise prefixed to the Burhāni Kātia (برهان قاطع), a Persian Dictionary so called, as also a few of the Scholiasts, and the last edition of Meninski, of which the Student will find some mention made as he proceeds. To the remarks made on the former edition, particularly those by the Baron de Sacy, I have paid every attention, and have adopted them, or not, as their justness seemed to require. One of the readings, however, recommended by M. de Sacy as proper to be inserted in the Praxis, namely, جانْرا in the phrase معطْر دماغ جانرا, to be translated, perfuming the sensorium of the Genii, [7] I have not been able to admit; because, not only do I find no manuscript, printed edition, or even phraseology, to sanction it, but the opinions of intelligent and learned Persians whom I have had the opportunity to consult, directly against it.

I know : and, until I am informed to the contrary, I shall contend that M. de Sacy left this phrase nearly as bad as he found it. But the phrase is in other respects wrong; نحو is applied generally to the Syntax. To make this title suit the work, therefore, we should have در صرف ونحو پارسي[8] as it has been given in this edition, and not در نحو زبان پارسي which is not Persian phraseology. There is another trifling mistake in M. de Sacy's article, which is in the measure he gives of some verses occurring in the Praxis, (p. ib. 202), Gram. p. 198. The measure he gives is مفاعیان مفاعیلن مفاعیلن, which will neither suit the verse in question, nor his own scansion of it as given a little lower down ; viz. Ghŭlēsch sĭrā-[bĭ zābī zīn-]dĕghānī, where it is impossible, as I conceive, to make dĕghānī, equal in measure to مفاعیلن. the quantity ⏑ - - equal to ⏑ - - -; but this must be an oversight. There is still another trifling mistake made by us both in the word عطر (p. 203) which he writes at-rĭ, instead of it-rĭ, (عِطْر) as given by Golius and the Author of the Kamoos, and which I have corrected in this edition. We differ in one instance more. It is the second example given at p. 197 of the Grammar. The measure proposed by M. de Sacy is مَفْغُولُ فاعِلَاتُنْ مَفَاعِیلُ فَاعِلَاتْ, which, I am sorry to say, is like that proposed by myself, to be found in no treatise on the Persian Prosody, although the verses in question may be scanned by either of them. The proper measure is مفعولُ فاعلاتُ مفعایلُ فاعلات, and is to be found in Mr. Gladwin's work in p. 124. In the Arabick department, the Grammars of Mr. Lumsden, M. de Sacy, and Martelotto, have principally been followed. The doctrine here exhibited on the use of the tenses of the Arabick Verb, given for the first time in Europe in my Hebrew Grammar (pp. 341-363) has been taken from the native Commentators on the Arabick Grammar, and cannot fail, it is presumed, very much to facilitate the acquisition of that language, as also as to throw great light on the Persian, which is cultivated on precisely the same principles.

The plates inserted in the last edition, through the kindness of Dr. Wilkins will be found in this, with an additional one containing some good specimens of Arabian writing, for which also he is entitled to the thanks of the Public. With respect to myself, I will only say, that I have spared no pains in endeavouring to render this work subservient to the great end for which its admirable Author intended it, namely, public utility: and, in the instances in which I may have failed (for I am not vain enough to suppose, that the work is yet perfect) I must request the indulgence of the learned reader, assuring him, that any hint offered either publicly or privately, by which it may be improved, will be received with gratitude, and duly acknowledged, provided it come in the shape and spirit which will entitle it to regard.

  1. A Grammar of the Persian Language, Calcutta, 1810, in two volumes, folio.
  2. A Dictionary and Grammar of the Persian Language by his Majesty the King of Oude, Lucknow, 1822, two volumes, large folio.
  3. A work on Prosody, of which some use was made by Mr. Gladwin in his work on the Rhetoric and Prosody of the Persians.
  4. The copy here referred to has no date or place mentioned.
  5. Transcriber's Note: Due to the z with three dots not in the original scanned copy of the book not being available on the Unicode system, like common Arabic/Persian shorthand, the three dots have been connected into an arch above the "z".
  6. Printed at Calcutta in 1818.
  7. Journal de Sçavans for April, 1824, p. 203. There are a few other remarks in that critique to which I cannot accede, and which ought to be mentioned here : — they are these. M. de Sacy says (at p. 197) respecting the Persian title found at the head of the title page, "Il est singulier que ni W. Jones, ni les éditeurs qui lui ont succédé, ne se soient aperçus qu'il falloit ecrire در نحوِ زبان پارسی et non نَحْوِي avec un ي" I remark, M. de Sacy is certainly right in stating that the ي ought not to have appeared ; and I confess I am surprised that such an oversight could have been committed : still, it is far from certain, whether even the kesrah ought to have appeared. But M. de Sacy should have gone further : the word زبان ought not to have been inserted : نحو can there mean nothing but the Syntax, &c. of Grammar, and grammar can apply to nothing but language. For this reason it is, perhaps, that نحْوِ زبان the Syntax of Language, never occurs in the Persian, as far as only do I find no manuscript, printed edition, or even phraseology, to sanction it, but the opinions of intelligent and learned Persians whom I have had the opportunity to consult, directly against it.
  8. I have in one place written, &c. در تصریف, which is not quite so good.