Forogh Hashabeiky

A Corpus based Orthographic and Morphosyntactic Description of the New Persian of the 16th–18th Centuries

The period of the 16th to the 18th century, is an important era for Persian linguistic evolution; a transitional period that links the late Classical Persian of the 14th–15th centuries with Modern Persian. During this period, Persian was the literary language and lingua franca of a vast area stretching from Anatolia to China and the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent, and from Central Asia to Afghanistan and Iran. A detailed and corpus based linguistic description of the New Persian of this period is therefore of great importance, not only for understanding of the lost link between late Classical Persian and Modern Persian, but also for understanding the dialectal variations in the period. The purpose of this project is to finish and to extend my linguistic description of the New Persian of the 17th century and to provide a detailed orthographic and morphosyntactic description of the language of this period, with a focus on language changes and dialectal variations caused by language contact. The corpus used in this study will include four historiographical works from each of the three above-mentioned regions—India, Central Asia and the Safavid Iran. The morphosyntactic description will be done within the framework of a structural-functional approach. The result will be published in book form. The book will be of great benefit for further manuscript studies and text edition projects.
Final report
The purpose of this project was to complete and extend my description of the New Persian of the 17th century and provide an orthographic and morphosyntactic description of the New Persian of the 16th–18th centuries, and to publish the results in the form of a monograph.

The initial plan for this project was to take advantage of both manuscripts and critical editions of twelve historiographical works, depending on the accessibility. After having reviewed the critical editions of some of the selected works, I realized that critical editions, especially those lacking a detailed footnote apparatus, are not very reliable for such a study, because they often have been “normalized” or “standardized” in accordance with their editors’ linguistic intuition. Another problem with the critical editions was the adaptation of the original orthography of the manuscripts to the standards of Modern Persian orthography. I also realized that having a diversity of genres among the studied works is crucial to being able to draw reliable conclusions. These considerations led me to make changes in my initial plan, causing the project to demand more time than the allotted sabbatical period of seven months.

The first step was to select some new works and localize digitalized manuscripts of them at libraries around the world. This process took up a large part of the allotted time but resulted in a more satisfactory corpus that includes twelve works from three different regions: four historiographical works from Safavid Iran; ?three historiographical works, and a tazkira (biographical work) from the Khanate of Bukhara (Central Asia); and two historiographical works, an autobiographical work, and a memoir from Mughal India. The autobiographical work is authored by a woman and the memoir is a Persian translation of an original work in Chaghatay Turkish. With the exception of one work, for which I was unable to get access to any manuscript, the corpus was based on the manuscripts of these works.

The second step was to review these manuscripts and make a careful selection of the parts or pages to be investigated to ensure the “linguistic value” of the corpus. The main criterion was mostly to select pages from those chapters that the authors wrote about their own time, and mostly in the author’s or scribe’s home region. This step was especially important in relation to the historiographical works, as most Persian historiographical works include several chapters of universal histories, mostly copied from other earlier histories.

The third step was the “close reading” of the selected parts in search of the divergent morphosyntactic structures that could provide me with clues about the language shift and the dialectal variations of this period. The appraising and close reading of the manuscripts also turned out to be more time-consuming than expected.

At any rate, the results of this study are now summarized in a monograph entitled: The Missing Link? The New Persian of the 16th–18th Centuries in Three Socio-Political Spheres. The book will be published in early May 2021 at the latest, and will be freely accessible on DiVA. A hard copy of the book will also be sent to libraries and institutes of Iranian studies around the world.

One interesting finding of my study that has resulted in further research questions is related to the issue of evidentiality as a grammatical category in New Persian. I aim to publish the findings on evidentiality as a separate paper. Based on these results, I have also applied for a grant from Swedish Research Council (VR).
Grant administrator
Uppsala University
Reference number
SEK 540,000.00
RJ Sabbatical
Specific Languages