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The Middle Persian Dictionary Project

The Middle Persian Dictionary Project
The dictionary project is a collaborative effort of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in Paris and the Union Académique Internationale. The project’s director and associate director are, respectively, Prof. Shaul Shaked of the Hebrew University, a member of the Academy, and Prof. Carlo Cereti of Sapienza University of Rome. Since Prof. Cereti has been serving as Italy’s cultural attaché in Tehran in recent years, he is not currently active in the dictionary project. The project coordinator is Dr. Domenico Agostini, who has resided in Israel for about six years.
 
During the first stage of the project, all of the relevant texts in Middle Persian were uploaded to a dedicated Internet site, including, as far as possible, the entire corpus of Zoroastrian literature in Middle Persian; a selection of texts in Pazend (a late script used by Zoroastrian writers); the Manichaean texts in Middle Persian discovered at Turfan, written in one of the scripts of the Syriac language (courtesy of Prof. Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst, composer of the Dictionary of Manichean Middle Persian and Parthian); and the epigraphic inscriptions in Middle Persian on slabs and seals, as well as other archeological findings, such as papyri and parchment documents.
 
The plan is to also document words in Middle Persian that appear as borrowed words in texts in neighboring languages, such as the various dialects of Aramaic, Armenian and Arabic.
 
Ms. DS (first page of the Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg 16 in Pahlavi Middle Persian) belonging to the Meherjirana Library of Navsari (India):
 
 
Ms. RJ (first page of the Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg 1 in Pāzand Middle Persian) belonging to the Meherjirana Library of Navsari (India):
 
 
The texts are uploaded to the site in critical editions, transcribed in Latin letters, after rigorous proofreading, with translations into one of the principal languages of research. These texts are intended to serve as the basis for a comprehensive dictionary of the language.
 
A small team of research assistants, some of them volunteers, is working in Israel, Italy and the U.S. to prepare a database for the dictionary, which will be the first of its kind. One of the team members this year is Dr. Miguel Angel Andres Toledo of the University of Salamanca. The team includes assistants who are collecting material pertaining to the etymologies of the Middle Persian lexicon, as well as an expert computer programmer, Mr. Yuval Kaplan, who is developing and maintaining the software. The team meets periodically to conduct scholarly discussions and exchange ideas. The Hebrew University Computation Authority (HUCA) provides server and support services for the project, and other services are purchased in the private sector.
 
Prominent among the volunteers working in other parts of the world to provide material for the dictionary’s database are Prof. P. Oktor Skjaervo of Harvard University and Dr. Judith Josephson of University of Gothenburg in Sweden, who contributed their philological research to the dictionary project.
 
In the project’s second stage, which is just beginning, the dictionary team will be working on the dictionary entries. This stage will continue for two to three years.
 
The Academy does not provide financial support for the project, but it receives funding from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF). The group working in Rome previously received financial support on an individual basis in the framework of Middle Persian Studies at Sapienza University. Recently, however, Italian involvement in the project has been severely curtailed due to budget constraints. Today, the ISF provides the only financial support, allocated for the years 2014–2018.
 
A first edition of the dictionary is expected to appear around 2020. The plan is to first publish the dictionary in a print edition, while continuing to maintain and improve the digital version.
 
The Most common symbol of Zoroastrianism. Bearded man within winged ring
(Persepolis, Iran):



An ancient Zoroastrian prayer book in Avestan: