Guidance on Language Use

1.1.1 adam darayavaush xshayathiya vazraka 

𐏐 𐎠𐎭𐎶𐏐𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁𐏐𐎧𐏁𐎠𐎹𐎰𐎡𐎹𐏐𐎺𐏀𐎼𐎣𐏐

adam darayavaush [adam] xshayathiya vazraka

Translation: I [am] Darius, [I am] a great king


I: subject

[am]: verb

Darius: predicate

verb is omitted:

I = Darius 

I = a great king

hence, with addition of the verb we would have the following:

I [am] Darius = Darius I [am]

[I am] a great king = A great king [I am]

Discussion: both ‘I’ and the predicate ‘Darius’ are in nominative in the first sentence. In the second, ’I’ and the predicate ‘a great king’ ought to be in nominative as well. The verb ‘to be’ can be thought of as an equal sign. The verb ‘to be’ can be omitted and in some instances is in fact omitted in present tense.    

Guidance 1.1 the verb ‘to be’ is sometimes omitted in present tense

Guidance 1.2 the verb ‘to be’ and its subject can be both left out in present tense, forming predicate nominative or predicate adjective complements

Gudiance 1.3 the verb ‘to be’ is never omitted in a negative sentence and in the presence of the adverb ‘not’

Examples for 1.1

In three categories of sentences – or in particular – linguistic structures, the verb “to be” is left out. The most commonly attested form of exclusion occurs in statements of authority. These are first-hand declarations of Achaemenids’ heads of state that appear at the outset of inscriptions, where they begin to describe their prerogative of reign, declaring name and identity. We call these categories of expression statements of authority. In 1.1.1 we witnessed a clear example of this category of omissions where Darius I asserted: adam darayavaush failing to mention an anticipated conjugation of the verb ‘to be’ in first person singular of present tense ‘amiy’. A reconstruction of what the completed sentence would have looked like woule be “adam darayavaush amiy” translated as “I am Darius”.

The second and the third categories of omissions both appear in unique instances. The former is represented in DB1-10 where Darius states his placement in the sequence of Achaemenid rulers. He is conspicuously the 9th Achaemenid king of the dynasty. He announces this as “adam navama” translated literally as “I the ninth”. A reconstruction of the sentence with inclusion of first person singular in present tense ‘to be’ would have appeared as “adam navama amiy” for the meaning “I am the ninth”.

The third category of omission as noted previously is attested only once in DSk-4. Here Darius exclaims ‘manā auramazdā, auramazdāha adam’ with the literal meaning of “mine Auramazda and I Auramazda’s”. In ‘auramazdāha adam’ it is the verb ‘to be’ in first person singular of present tense that is left out. A reconstructed form of this sentence would have appeared as “auramazdāha adam amiy” or alternatively as “adam auramazdāha amiy” for the meaning “I am Auramazda’s”.   

Examples for 1.3

This appears in three separate occasions and four sentences, the first of which is in DB1-52 “adam naiy bardiya amiy hya kuraush puça” for the meaning “I am not Smerdis who [is-was] son of Cyrus”. Note that although ‘to be’ always accompanies its first person singular subject in a negative sentence, this may not be true in the case of third person singular, particularly when the corresponding clause or clauses are in a positive context “who [is-was] son of Cyrus”.

This re-appears again in DNb-7 where Darius asserts “mitha naiy daushtā amiy” for the meaning “to wickedness, I am not a friend”. In the same inscription, amiy shows up again in lines 12 and 13 in both instances in the context of negative sentences, consecutively. In line 12 we read “martiyam draujanam naiy daushtā amiy” for the meaning “to the deceitful person, [I] am not a friend” and in 13 as “naiy manauvish amiy” translated as “[I] am not reckless”.

These four instances that testify to the veracity of Guidance 1.3 further highlight another pattern of language use in Old Persian. Predicate always falls in between “naiy” and its variation of “to be” in first person singular – amiy. See the following:

naiy bardiya amiy DB1-52

naiy daushta amiy DNb-7

naiy daushtā amiy DNb-12

naiy manauvish amiy DNb-13

Gudiance 1.4 predicate always falls in between “naiy” and its variation of “to be” – first person singular “amiy”

Also note that such a close association between the adverb “not” and “to be” also exists in New Persian where “to be” in positive sentences is often shortened or omitted whereas in negative sentences it is bound to appear in completed form. For instance as “āsemān ābi ast” could be shortened to “āsemān ābi-e” such an abbreviation is never permitted in a negative sentence. That is for example, “āseman sabz nist” cannot be shortened to “āsemān sabz n-e” or “āsemān sabz ni-e”. Therefore “not” does always come into sight alongside its complete variation of “to be” form: “ni-astam, ni-astiy, ni-ast, ni-asty, ni-astid, ni-astand”.

It is also evident that the pronoun subject of “I” in sentences of the kind is simply left out in some occasions, as is in “naiy daushtā amiy” and “naiy manauvish amiy”.

Guidance 1.5 in a negative sentence, when first person singular “amiy” appears, the subject “I” is most often left out

The question of “adam” for the meaning “I” and its omission in a sentence is a curious one. Out of 53 instances where “amiy” is attested in inscriptions of Old Persian, only in three cases, the pronoun “adam” accompanies its form of “to be”. These three instances are the following:

adam dārayavaush

adam navama

auramazdāha adam

This brings us to an inquiry into the reasons for inclusion or exclusion of “amiy” in the presence of “adam”. This distinction is often strikingly intriguing. Look at the following:

adam dārayavaush xšāyathiya DB1-1

adam xšāyathiya amiy DB1-12

Various forms of explanation for the usage and functionality of the verb “to be” has been suggested in past – including its copular and non-copular functions. This is also highlighted in the case of Indo-European languages. On the other hand, we rely on a simple method – in the case of Old Persian – that is capable of giving away desirable results. In all three cases where “amiy” is left out, the predicate has no agency in the functionality of the verb. In “adam dārayavaush” Darius has no agency in selection of his name, therefore “amiy” is left out.  This is also valid in the case of “adam navama”. The predicat has had no impact on the assumption that before him, there appeared to be eight rulers from the Achaemenid dynasty. Darius also asserts the same notion of pre-ordained love in “auramazdāha adam” – an extreme case of devotion and piety that stresses on pre-determined selection of his being by Auramazda for bringing about order and discipline into the world.

In contrast, in all cases where “adam” is reflected alongside “amiy” – which comprises almost all instances attested in inscriptions – there is no doubt that the predicate has an evident agency in operation of the verb….

Discussions around Guidance 1.2

A subordinate clause is a clause that has no independent meaning of its own, but it yet includes  a subject and its predicate. In 1.1.1 “xshayathiya vazraka” has no definitive meaning of its own, but in spite of that fact, it does not satisfy formulaic standards of a subordinate clause. It fails to show forth a verb phrase, neither a subject and therefore only provides a simple phrase consisting of two words “xashayathiya” and “vazraka”. Despite the possibility of reconstructing the phrase in form of a clause such as “[adam] xshayathiya vazraka [amiy]” there is a better solution to syntactical analysis of the phrase. “xshayathiya vazraka” could be considered to be a predicate nominative complement.     

A complement is a linguistic expression that contributes to the generation of a predicate’s meaning. This is particularly true in the case of relational verbs such as “to be”, “to seem” and “to look”. There are two types of complements, object complements and subject complements. “xshayathiya vazraka” is logically of the latter kind for its declension in the sentence is conspicusouly in nominative case and not in accusative. Subject complements on their own are of two kinds – predicate adjectives and predicate nominatives. A predicate adjective case happens where a single adjective or more complement the meaning of a subject. In spite of the fact that “vazraka” is an adjective, “xshayathiya” is certainly a noun. On the other hand, predicate nominative complements describes certain features of the subject – always with inclusion of either a noun or a pronoun.


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

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