Guidance on Language Use

1.1.2 xšāyathiya xšāyathiyānām 

𐏐𐎧𐏁𐎠𐎹𐎰𐎡𐎹𐏐𐎧𐏁𐎠𐎹𐎰𐎡𐎹𐎠𐎴𐎠𐎶 𐏐


[adam] xšāyathiya xšāyathiyānām

Translation: king of kings


This expression is a case for a gentive form. While “xšāyathiya” is in nominative, indicating a close association with its subject “adam”, the plural noun “xšāyathiyānām” appears in genitive case. Up to this point we have gotten familiar with declensions of a predicate which is always equivalent in nature and form to its corresponding subject. As “adam” is in nominative case as the subject of the sentence, the “xšāyathiya” follows suit in nominative declension, whereas “xšāyathiyānām” to the contrary is declining in its own independent fashion. 

Guidance 1.6 the predicate of a sentence declines in the same manner as its subject 

The relationship of “xšāyathiyānām” with “xšāyathiya” is a curious one. In “xšāyathiyānām” which is comprised of “xšāyathiyā” + “nām”, the former component “xšāyathiyā” is in plural form – playing the role of “kings” in the the overall meaning of “king of kings”. The translation is speculative unless we take for granted that the addition of “nām” to the construct “xšāyathiyā” creates a genitive case – the very argument we are advancing here and we will prove later. In the next few chapters we will deal with constructions that are much more evidently indicative of a genitive case, such as “xšāyathiya dahyunām” for the meaning “king of countries”.

The examination of “xšāyathiya xšāyathiyānām” provides two sets of data. The first set of data relates to the formation of a plural form for a given noun. If we assume the noun “xšāyathiya” to be a type A noun – leaving the question of gender, number and all other details aside – we can deduce that the plural form of a type A noun is formulated by elongating the final sound of a to ā. 

Guidance 1.7 the plural form of a type A noun is formulated by transition of its final a to an elongated ā 

Where this association of a type A noun with its plural form takes shape of a genitive relation, the plural form undergoes a final modification for which the construction “nām” is affixed to its corresponding terminal part: “xšāyathiya xšāyathiyānām”  

Guidance 1.8 the genitive form of a type A noun is produced by addition of nām to the terminal component of the generally latter member of the relation

In a genitive relation, it is generally the latter member that is declined. If we take a possessive case as one of the most commonly recognised forms of genitive, it is evident that the latter noun in a possessive case plays the role of the posessor in such a relation: “jacket of John” in which John possesses the jacket. When such a construction as “jacket of John” declines in English taking form as “John’s jacket” it is John’s final ending that is modified and not the “jacket” which remains unchanged. The simple conclusion is that in a genitive relation, it is the possessor that declines. Accordingly in “king of kings” it is the latter that “plays the role” of the possessor – although it is not a possessor in this case – and the former “king” remains unchanged. Now, the question is, if the genitive relation here is not in the form of possession, what other forms of genitive do exist that are capable of describing syntactical nature of “xšāyathiya xšāyathiyānām”. 

The primary question that ought to be advanced in examination of a gentive relation is that what word describes the relation of the whole with the part? In “jacket of John” the latter member of the relation “John” is the whole whereas the “jacket” is a part of that whole. The words to take into consideration while dealing with that principal question of the relationship between the whole and the part are the following: “possesses”, “is the source of”, “includes” or whether the whole is “the origin of” the part. In short, we have the following questions to advance when dealing with a genitive case: 

  1. Does the whole possesses the part?
  2. Is the whole the source of the part?
  3. Does the whole include the part?
  4. Is the whole the origin of the part?

Now, let us ask ourselves the same set of questions when dealing with the relation of “xšāyathiya xšāyathiyānām” for the meaning “king of kings”. Questions are reconstructed as the following: 

  1. Do the “kings” possess the “king”?
  2. Is the “kings” the source of the “king”?
  3. Does the “kings” include the “king”?
  4. Is the “kings” the origin of the “king”? 

Deliberation on these questions renders the following set of results: the “kings” certainly do not possess the “king” therefore the relation of “xšāyathiya xšāyathiyānām” is not of a possessive genitive kind. In the second case, the “kings” could be well understood as the source of the “king” if “kings” here are meant to be those preceding Darius rather than his contemporaries. This is called a “partitive genitive” relation. Therefore, by alternating semantics of a genitive construction, the syntactic analysis of it renders varied results. This becomes evident when we advance towards the third question, in which adoption of a logical approach bears the following conclusion that the “kings” does in fact include the “king” if we define the “kings” in semantics of the relation to be the set of those rulers contemporary to the reign of Darius I. This relation is also called a “partitive genitive” but one of a different kind than the previous case. A short examination of the fourth question makes it clear that the “kings” in not the origin of the “king”. 

The two different kinds of partitive genitive stand apart when they are examined in the context of the nature of partitive relationship between the whole and the part. The question is whether the said relation is of quantitative nature or one of a qualitative kind. In the second question we witnessed that the “kings” was the source of “king” if by “kings” we intended those rulers the preceded Darius’ reign. In quality, the “king” is one among many “kings” preceding him, but in quantity, he certainly is not one of the deceased “kings”. In case of the third question, the “kings” referring to the rulers contemporary to Darius I includes the “king” in quantity and quality, therefore, the partitive relation is of a more comprehensive kind.


Bachenheimer, Avi Old Persian: Dictionary, Glossary and Concordance, Birdwood 2019

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