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The Dialects of Velātru and Gachsar: The Upper Karaj Valley in the Caspian-Persian Transition Zone


South-central Alborz is a language transition zone bounded by Persian, Māzandarāni, Central Caspian and Tatic language groups. In the lofty valleys of this area, separated from Tehran by a mountain chain, rest villages with vanishing dialects that show various degrees of affinity with the neighbouring languages. The two dialects studied here, namely Velātruyi and Gachsari, belong to two different language groups, despite their geographical proximity on the upper Karaj valley. This study is founded on the texts collected by the late Ann Lambton in 1936, and conducts an areal, historical, and synchronic study of these dialects and attempts to provide an accurate translation of the texts, which are reproduced here together with glossaries.

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1 Lambton, A. K. S., Three Persian Dialects (London, 1938). This article was written in her memory.

2 Idem, p. 82, fn 1.

3 Rastorgueva, V. S. and Èdel'man, D. I., “Prikaspijskie jazyki”, in Osnovy iranskogo jazykoznanija. Novoiranskie jazyki, zapadnaja gruppa, prikaspijskie jazyki, (ed.) Rastorgueva, V. S. (Moscow, 1982), pp. 447554.

4 Lecoq, P., “Les dialectes caspiens et les dialectes du nord-ouest de l'Iran”, in Compendium Iranicarum Lingicarum, ed. Shmitt, R. (Wiesbaden, 1989), pp. 296312.

5 Unpublished; the author would like to express his thanks to Dr Stilo for sharing his article prior to publication.

6 Lambton, Three Persian Dialects, p. 81.

7 On the dialect of Yush, see Tāhbāz, S., Yuš (Tehran, 1963).

8 Lit. “shade”, the toponym appears on Persian maps as Nesām and Nesā’.

9 Lambton, Three Persian Dialects, p. 81.

10 Malek Vāliz/Fāliz on Persian maps.

11 To this region belongs Āhār village, a glossary of which dialect appear in Karimān, H., Qasrān (2 vols., Tehran, 2006).

12 This region belong to Tehran Province, not very far south of its border with Māzandarān Province.

13 Sources: Kandelus (in Kojur district): ‛A. Jahāngiri, Kandelus (Tehran, 1988); Yush: Tāhbāz, Yuš; Āmol: E. Mahjuri, Farhang-e māzandarāni (Sāri, 1977); Ferrim: M. Sotuda, “Lahja-ye ‛Aliābād-e Ferim”, Farhang-e Irān-zamin, X (1962), pp. 437–470; Espivard (southwest of Sāri): author's unpublished documentation; Sāri: Yoshie, S., Sāri Dialect (Tokyo, 1996); Hazārjarib: M. Shākeri, “Guyeš-e Sayyedkheyl”, (M.A. thesis, University of Tehran, 1997).

14 From Humand, N., Pažuheš-i dar zabān-e tabari (Āmol, 1990).

15 Sources: Maz., i.e. common Māzandarāni: H. Borjian, “Two Mazandarani Texts from the Nineteenth Century”, Studia Iranica, XXXVII (2008), pp. 7–50; idem, “Mazandarani: A Typological Survey”, in Studies in the Typology of the Iranian Languages (Munich, forthcoming); Kalārdashti: H. Borjian, “Kalārestāq ii. The Dialect”, Encyclopaedia Iranica, XV/4 (New York, 2010b), pp. 370–373 (available online at; Shahmirzādi: A. Christensen, Contribution à la dialectologie iranienne II. Dialects de la région Sèmnān: sourkhéī, lāsguerdī, sängesärī, et chämerzådī (Copenhagen, 1935), pp. 18f; Aftari: H. Borjian, “The Komisenian Dialect of Aftar”, Archiv Orientální, LXXVI (2008), pp. 379–416.

16 From Table 2a, below.

17 < *mauxta-; Rastorgueva and Èdel'man, “Prikaspijskie jazyki”, p. 487.

18 Likely to be secondary rather than of the early SW development found in OP čaša-.

19 A word of obscure origin; the etymology proposed by Rastorgueva and Èdel'man, as a creature who goes (ši) to the roof (bām), is untenable.

20 See §2.1.2–3 on the morphemes -a and -e marking (in)definitness.

21 Rastorgueva and Èdel'man, “Prikaspijskie jazyki” (pp. 501, 541), list mardan (“people”) as the plural form of mard “man” and Lecoq repeats the same (Lecoq, “Les dialectes caspiens et les dialectes du nord-ouest de l'Iran”, in Compendium Iranicarum Lingicarum, (ed.) R. Shmitt (Wiesbaden, 1989), pp. 296–312). Both reference-works also assume pul-(h)ā (Lecoq)/ pulå (Rastorgueva and Èdel'man, loc. cit.) as a plural form, probably referring to the accusative form pulo in veni pul-o hɔde (V.8).

22 This term is coined by Donald Stilo.

23 Cf. Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (p. 548), which treats this as a postpositional phrase.

24 Also in texts I.2, II.1,3, IV.4,5, V.6,8,10–11.

25 Cf. Gachsari §G2.2, below.

26 In Kopari.

27 Both Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (“Prikaspijskie jazyki”, in Osnovy, p. 509, Table 20) and Lecoq (“Les dialectes caspiens”) list in this position , the enclitic pronoun (see §2.5).

28 H. Borjian, “Personal and Reflexive Pronouns in Mazandarani”, Orientalia II, Yerevan, 2004, pp. 7–13.

29 Stilo (in his unpublished article; see fn 4) treats the Velātruyi xaš (together with Khatirābādi xāš and general Maz. še) as invariable.

30 Apparently the old past stem perɛs- (< *est-) is diachronically independent of the present stem. Yet, as the two stems sound alike, the past stem formant -i- is added.

31 See also the footnote in Text I.6.

32 Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (pp. 525f) assume dar to be another form of the preverb da-; however, dar- is the present stem of the existential verb (§3.6.2).

33 -r- is an epenthesis.

34 See also §3.1.

35 Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (in Osnovy, p. 529) lists more or less similar forms in Table 23, yet distribute the forms much differently among the three types of personal endings. This difference is due to the fact that the authors of Osnovy accept Lambton's translation uncritically.

36 Cf. the following set in Lecoq (“Les dialectes caspiens”): 1st sg. -mma, 2nd sg. -(n)i, 3rd sg. -(n)e, 3rd pl. -inna.

37 -u, in baiyu “he saw” (IV.6), is out of place in this set.

38 Cf. Kalārdashti -(i)mi.

39 H. Borjian, “Šenāsa-ye fe‛l dar Māzandarāni-e šarqi [Personal endings in Eastern Māzandarāni verbs]”, Guyeš-šenāsi, III (2005), pp. 13–19.

40 This is not a subjunctive form with the preverb dar-, as is analyzed by Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (“Prikaspijskie jazyki”, in Osnovy, pp. 526, 540).

41 Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (op. cit., p. 547) list vɛse as a postposition.

42 Cf. bal “flame”, balæm “ash ascending from fire” in Nesāb-e tabari, apud H. Borjian, “Nesāb-e Tabari Revisited: A Mazandarani Glossary from the Nineteenth Century”, Acta Orientalia LXIII, (2010), pp. 39–62.

43 For Lamb. xūb akɛtɛmi, cited as such by Rastorgueva and Èdel'man, op. cit., pp. 504, 548.

44 If this is a toponym, it should be read as Xaråbé γabexʌna; cf. Γalγɔle čɛšma (I.7).

45 xu ba-kat-in-ima (causative form: “the sleep made me fall”?) “I fell asleep”? Or xū bakaté nima “I didn't fall asleep”? Lambton has xūb bakatinima “we fall asleep”.

46 For benɔitima.

47 Lambton “we drank tea” is repeated by Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (p. 550), leading to the misinterpretation of the verb form throughout the chapter.

48 Probably šīvaŋg hokɛrda.

49 For dɔru zana.

50 For čarxɛt u.

51 For tɔri ke šū.

52 The copula -and “they are” is Persian. See §3.6.1.

53 A copulative form.

54 -i seems extraneous.

55 Following Lambton, Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (“Prikaspijskie jazyki”, in Osnovy, p. 520) read this word as da kɛrda, assuming da is a postposition.

56 tɛmum?

57 Should read hɔdi (subjunctive) instead of hɔde “give!”

58 For luxta kɛrdana.

59 For sɛvɔra kɛrdɛna. Cf. sɛvɔr hɔkɛrdɛna (V.16).

60 -i is extraneous.

61 Lambton “let's go”; this is adopted by Rastorgueva and Èdel'man, “Prikaspijskie jazyki”, in Osnovy, pp. 526, 540.

62 Lit. “come, we go”. Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (p. 540) interpret šūmi (“we (will) go, we are going”) as subjunctive.

63 Lambton: “I don't know where I shall sleep”.

64 Lambton: “he bought”. See Glossary, s.v. xar-.

65 mard-i xɛna?

66 For amɔi dɛ ta.

67 Lambton: “kind of hawk”.

68 From the eastern Māzandarāni materials collected by the author; cf. Pers. kalak “brazier”.

69 See the footnote in the text.

70 The initial /y/ as an integral part of the stem cannot be substantiated from the available conjugated forms, all of which carry the modal prefix be-. The assumption is due to comparison with some other Māzandarāni dialects. However, Rastorgueva and Èdel'man (“Prikaspijskie jazyki”, in Osnovy, p. 522) takes /y/ as an epenthesis not only in Velātruyi but in Māzandarāni in general.

71 Markaz-e āmār-e Irān, Saršomāri-e ‛omumi-e nofus o maskan 1365. Farhang-e ābādihā-ye kešvar. Šahrestān-e Karaj, (Tehran, 1989).

72 Stilo (unpublished paper).

73 H. Borjian, “Tabarica II: Some Mazandarani verbs”, Iran and the Caucasus, XII (2008b), pp. 73–82.

74 Cf. Velātruyi §2.3.2.

75 The latter verb unites Gachsari with Tāleqāni and Kalārdashti, as noted by Stilo (unpublished article).

76 H. Borjian, “Tabarica II”.

77 The nasal element signifying duration might have been absorbed into the stem that ends in /r/; see H. Borjian, “Šenāsa-ye fe‛l”, opcit.

78 Proposed by Lambton.

79 Cf. Āmoli, Deylami, Komisenian dialects varde, Pers. vartej/vartij/vertij/vardij, etc., valaj/valač/velaj, etc., belderčin). See M. Mokri, Farhang-e nāmhā-ye parandagān dar lahjahā-ye gharb-e Irān (3rd ed., Tehran, 1982), pp. 107f; H. A‛lam, s.v. “Belderčīn”, in Enc. Iranica (

80 Lambton: “snow and rain”.

81 Velātruyi words are unmarked. Other dialects are abbreviated as Gch. = Gachsari, Kpr. = Kopari, Mrg. = Margevālisi, Nsr. = Nesāri, Nsn. = Neseni, Shp. = Shāhpoli, Vrg. = Vārangarudi.

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