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Parthian is not Turkish
Dr. Kaveh Farrokh
manuvera@aol.com
Republished: January 12, 2007

From Kaveh Farrokh
To Professor Diker
Friday, January 10, 2003 1:34 PM

Greetings Professor Diker,

It has been bought to my attention that you describe Parthian as a Turkish language in your website (or a related website):
http://www.compmore.net/~tntr/crescent_starb.html

This is linguistically incorrect. Parthian is not a Turkic language. It is an old western Iranian language that is also called "Parthian Pahlavi". It is a very close relative of "Middle Persian" or "Sassanian Pahlavi". The syntax and vocabulary of Parthian are recorded (e.g. Dinkard) and are of Iranian stock. The language of "Parthian" is actually called "Pahlavi" - deriving from "Partha" into "Pahla". It is evident that the individual who hosts this website does not speak Pahlavi. Allow me to demonstrate this language and its Iranian character by way of example:

"haft celan istaft polawad im pad dast grift" which means "the seven daggers of hard steel that I have grasped with my hand". Many of the words are common in modern Farsi (e.g dast - hand; Polawad (polad in Farsi) - steel; - grift (gerefet in Farsi) - grasped). "Haft" is the number seven; clearly Indo-European - the Turkish counting system is entirely different.

For an introduction to Pahlavi, you may wish to refer to the following works by Professor Mackenzie:

MacKenzie, D.N. (1967). Notes on the transcription of Pahlavi BSOAS, 30, 17-29

MacKenzie, D.N. (1971). A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary. London: Routledge.

Variations of the language of "Pahalvi" are still spoken among Iranians. The Kurds of Iran as well as many Kurds of Turkey and Iraq speak variations of Pahlavi. Turks cannot understand Kurdish and require interpreters to communicate with Kurds who speak Sorani and/or Kurmanjii (variations of Pahalvi amongst Kurds). The people of northern Iran speak variations of Pahalvi as well - Mazandarani and Gilani for example. Baluchi in southeast Iran also has Pahlavi elements (e.g. Ahsen "Iron" or "Eisen" in English and Ahsan in Pahlavi - "Ahsen" is not "Iron" in Turkish).

You may wish to visit Iran and visit numerous Parthian sites or the victory inscriptions of Shapur I over the Romans and examine this language. The main academic reference used by Pan-Turanian nationalists to claim a Turkish identity for the Parthians is Rawlinson who wrote in the late 19th Century. Linguistic studies and primary historical and archeological sources have long since discredited Rawlinson's claim - especially since he (a) did not speak Parthian/Pahlavi and (b) mistakenly described Iranian names as Turkic. For example he argued that "dat" or "dad" (given or provided by in Iranian languages) is Turkish - there is not such root in Turkish linguistics with that meaning.

You also claim Soghdian as Turkish and reject Richard Nelson Frye's studies. Professor Frye is a well respected scholar with over 4 decades of international class research. He is well known for his studies of linguistics and is a world authority in the ancient languages of Iran and Central Asia. I suspect that you do not speak Soghdian or read Soghdian. If not, you may first wish to have an introduction to the linguistics of Soghdian and its east Iranian characteristics - kindly refer to A.J. Arberry's "Legacy of Persia" starting on page 187.

Arberry. A.J. (1953). The Legacy of Persia. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Read Chapter 7 (pages 174-198). The linguistics of Parthian/Pahlavi are also described and how these are related to the modern Persian of today.

Soghdian, like other older East Iranian languages predate Turkic languages by at least a 1000 years in Central Asia. Professor Frye has recently published a book on the history of Central Asia and how Turkish expansion eventually displaced and/or absorbed Iranian peoples such as the Scyhtians (Saka), Alans, Sarmatians and Soghdians. Technically, I am not totally correct regarding the Soghdians being displaced since some of their descendants may still survive live in Tajikestan where the main spoken language is Tajiki (very close to Farsi) as well as a language named "Yaghnoubi" - which I have not studied, but which is (if I am not mistaken) Iranian. The book by Professor Frye is:

Frye, R.N. (1996). The Heritage of Central Asia: From Antiquity to the Turkish Expansion. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers.

Older Iranian languages of Central Asia are commonly known to us as Saka (Scythian in western sources - especially Ukraine area) and later Sarmatian/Alan languages. Turks came in waves over the centuries into Central Asia as invaders, pushed out of the east Mongolian region by Chinese military activity. Turks may derive from a people known to us "Shaing-Nou"; although some Chinese sources mention the word "Tueh-Chi" (helmet) - which may have been one of the possible sources of the term "Turk".

The Turco-Hun presence was fully felt by the Sassanian Empire in the 5th Century AD - the Iranian peoples of Central Asia were simply driven out, eliminated or absorbed. As noted by Newark (p.65) "The Huns destroyed the realms of both the Alans and the Sarmatians". The Soghdians and some of the Saka survived by retreating in Nagoro-Bedakhshan, Western Afghanistan and Seistan (ancient Eastern Persia). The Ossetians of the Caucasus are direct descendants of the Alans and their language has no connection to Turkish. They retreated into the Caucasus mountains to safeguard their language and culture from being absorbed into later waves of Hunnic, Turkic and Mongolian invaders. In fact, despite over 1000 years of separation from Iran proper, many Ossetian words (as well as syntax) have cognates in both Farsi and Kurdish.

Not to be outdone, your website claims that the word "Saka" is Turkish. The term "Issyk" has no linguistic or historical link (that I know of) to the word "Saka" - which has existed since recorded history. Your reference has not scholastically demonstrated any Turkish link. One of the old meanings of "Saka" that I have found is "our friend" in old Achaemenid Persian, although other Iranian meanings have been found as well. The term "Issyk" has never been consistently used to refer to the Saka (or Scythians) by either Persians or non-Persians Greeks (see Herodotus).

Allow me to demonstrate the Iranian linguistic character of the names of
the Saka confederations during Achaemenid times:

Saka Haumavarga - The Saka bearing the Hauma - Hauma is the sacred drink of the Zoroastrians and ancient Areyan Hindus of India.

Saka TigraKhauda - The Saka with the pointed hats. "Khauda" for example is middle Persian (Pahlavi) "Khaud" and present day "Khood" or "Kolah-Khood" in modern Farsi (Helmet).

Saka Paradraya - The Saka from beyond the sea. Para is Indo-European (and it's subset Iranian) for "beyond" (there in no such root in Turkish or indeed any Altaic languages that I know of). Certain dialects in Khorasan still seem to use the word "para" in that context. "Draya" is sea (Persian "Darya" - which is also a word loaned into modern Turkish as "Derya").

For further information I humbly suggest that you refer to:

Gamkrelidze & Ivanov (1984). Iindo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Typological Analysis of a Proto-Language and Proto-Culture (Parts I and II). Tbilisi State University.

Mallory, J.P. (1989). In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language Archeology and Myth. Thames and Hudson. Read Chapter 2 and see 51-53 for a quick reference.

Newark, T. (1985). The Barbarians: Warriors and wars of the Dark Ages. Blandford: New York. See pages 65, 85, 87, 119-139.

Renfrew, C. (1988). Aecheology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European origins. Cambridge University Press.

I also seriously doubt the claim that Sumerian is a Turkish language since no Turkic speakers were remotely close to the later-Persian realm or let alone the Middle East at the time of the Sumerians. In addition, the time element is in error - Sumerians pre-date ancient Babylon - Turks appear in historical records thousands of years later. I am of course no expert in that area and will leave this in the hands of other scholars. In addition, I (along with many specialists and scholars) would seriously question your claims of Hittite and Cimmerian being Turkish.

You are citing your book TRK Dili'nin Bes Bin Yili ("Five Thousand Years of theTurkish Language") as your reference source. I fully respect your expertise in Geophysical Engineering (in which you have a Doctorate and are very well informed and experienced), however I am also humbly aware that you do not have any formal and/or academic training or expertise in ancient languages and/or archeology - nor (and correct me if I am wrong) have you visited and/or engaged in excavation/study of sites in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikestan or Nagorno-Bedakhshan.

Finally, Professor Diker, I may have read that portion of your website incorrectly, however it does seem that your book claims that it has "proven" that all languages have their roots in Turkish. I am certain that no serrious scholar will entertain the suggestion that the world's mother language is Turkish. Excellent research is already underway in this area and you may be interested in referring to the texts below as an introduction:

Ruhlen, M. (1994). The Origin of Language. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Provides the linguistic and genetic bases of languages and how attempts are being made at "reconstruction". This book clearly distinguishes between Turkic and other Indo-European languages such as those of the Iranian family (e.g. Parthian/Pahalvi) - also read p.25 (Kurdish).

Cavalli-Sforza, L. L. (2000). Genes, Peoples and Languages. New York:
North Point Press. This text provides a good summary to the series of Italian studies (spanning, I believe, close to 2 decades) in which the relationships between genetics and languages have researched. Note that Cavalli-Sforza's works indicate an African (not Turkish) origin for modern humans as quite possibly languages as well.

If you have any questions regarding modern or classical Iranian languages, feel free to contact me. Note that many individuals on the forwarded list are themselves scholars who are well informed on Iranian studies and are aware of the Iranian basis of the Parthian language.

Regards

Dr. Kaveh Farrokh (Ph.D.)

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