Syllable structure in Old, Middle and Modern Persian: A contrastive analysis

Document Type : Research Paper


Tarbiyat Modares University


Evolution of languages has always been of interest to linguists.  In this paper we
study  the natural progress of the syllable structure from Old  Persian  (O.P)  to
Middle Persian (Mi.P) and up to the Modern Persian (Mo.P). For this purpose all
the words containing consonant sequences are collected from specific sources of
each  of these  languages,  and then  analysed  according to the syllabification
principles. Pulgram (1970) distinguishes three principles for this matter which is
stated in Hyman (2003:279).The first one,  is the maximum open syllable
principle, the second, the minimum coda and maximum onset principle and the
last one is the irregular coda principle. In addition ,  to find the syllable structure
of the words,  phonological rules are also  applied. Greenberg (1978)  suggests  a
number of  rules specifying the collocation constraint of phonemes and
phonological structure of the word, which are:  Obligatory  Contour  Principle
(OCP),  Sonority  Sequencing  Principle (SSP) and  Syllable  Contact  Law (SCL).
On basis of these rules and principles the clusters are separated from sequences,
and the syllable structure of each language is  acquired. Finally the progress of the
syllable structure change is studied through  representing the data from all three
languages, and investigating the process taken for clusters to reach the present
time. As  the data exhibits, in O.P  initial consonant clusters are frequently
observed and also,  through syllabification,  some final syllable clusters  will be
obtained. In  Mi.P  also both initial and final clusters fully exist,  with growing
number of final ones. Initial consonant clusters are completely omitted in  Mo.P
and only final clusters remain. Deletion and vowel insertion are the two most
occurring processes in these processes.