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Phonology

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Chapter Summary

The Avestan alphabet consists of 16 vowel signs and 37 consonant signs. The alphabet is written from right to left, and the letters are not usually conjoined, but rather are written separately. The Avestan writing system also makes use of an interpunct: the dot (.). The vowels found in the text of the Avesta have direct correlates in the proto-language, or else are the products of specific phonetic developments. The distinct graphic values of the semivowels according to their position in the word necessarily reflect distinct pronunciations. Nasals found in Avestan may be either etymological or may have emerged from particular sound changes. In virtue of this characteristic, Avestan is classified as a satəm language (as opposed to the languages referred to as centum, such as Latin or Greek, which exhibit distinct velar and labiovelar series, and in which the palatal series has been subsumed under the velar series).

Keywords: Avestan alphabet; nasals; phonology; semivowels; vowels

10.1163/9789004257771_003
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