Avestan (/əˈvɛstən/ a-VES-tən) is a language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian sacred texts, i.e. the Avesta. The texts are composed in a dialect of Old Iranian, and date from around the 1st millennium BCE. The Avesta's Old Iranian dialect is closely related to Old Persian. The Avestan language is attested in two forms, known as Old Avestan and Younger Avestan. Younger Avestan did not evolve from Old Avestan; the two are simply different dialects of the same language. It is not known when or where the Avestan texts were originally composed. The surviving texts fall into several different categories, including liturgical texts, commentaries, and didactic poems. Most of the liturgical texts are in the form of hymns, and are addressed to various divinities. The most important of these are the five Gathas, which are attributed to Zoroaster himself. The liturgical commentaries typically accompany the hymns, and explain their meaning. The didactic poems are in verse, and typically teach moral lessons. Avestan is an Old Iranian language, and as such is a member of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It is therefore related to other Iranian languages, such as Old Persian, Middle Persian, and Modern Persian. However, the precise relationship between Avestan and other Iranian languages is not well understood, and is a matter of scholarly debate. Avestan is a difficult language to learn, due to its highly irregular grammar and obscure vocabulary. For this reason, it is not commonly studied by non-specialists. However, those interested in Zoroastrianism or Iranian languages may find it a rewarding challenge.

Language group

Iranian languages

Language locales, regions and scripts

Avestan, Iran, Avestan
Avestan, Avestan