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Parthisch biaspān, altarmenisch despan, altgeorgisch diaspani und Verwandtes

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The article deals with Old Armenian despan 'messenger, envoy', its Old Georgian correspondence diaspani, their Iranian background and further loan correspondences in Syriac and Arabic. After showing the research history, a new modified Iranian etymology is proposed. Being ultimately based on Old Iranian *dvi-aspāna- 'having two horses', all the loans are shown to be taken over either from its well documented Parthian successor biaspān ( > Syriac) or from its undocumented Middle Persian successor *diaspān ( > Armenian, Georgian, and Arabic from Armenian). This implies a new reading of the Parthian form in its Parthian and Middle Persian literary contexts. In a further step the meanings of most of the records of the loans are investigated in their literary contexts by quoting and interpreting these contexts considering the social status of the messenger, the question whether horses are used by him, and whether he is remarkably fast on his way, as all these semantic aspects are involved in the etymology. Whereas the meanings 'messenger' or 'envoy with a high social status' are clearly dominating in the Parthian and Armenian records, the use of horses are mentioned only occasionally, and what is even less involved is fastness. In Old Georgian, however, the semantic range of the meanings is clearly wider. We also find the meanings 'messenger' or 'envoy with a high social status', but especially the usage of horses is more often expressed, leading to the finding that in some cases diaspani may simply designate the horse of the envoy and not the riding person, and in one case it even seems to designate the litter or the chariot in which the envoy is travelling. For this in Armenian the related loan despak is used, which is also known from Syriac and Talmudic Aramaic, but is not known from Georgian. There is only one Middle Iranian record that has survived, viz. Parthian biaspak in Middle Persian context. The Syriac loan stems from Parthian, whereas the Armenian and Aramaic records are based on the again undocumented Middle Persian *diaspak. Concerning the meaning, mainly the question is discussed whether a litter or a chariot is meant in the literary contexts, which are also given and interpreted. Finally, a similar New Persian form is added. Although it is already known from Firdausi's Šāhnāme, it nevertheless has to be considered a new creation in late Middle or early New Persian time, not going back to the aforementioned Middle or even Old Iranian forms.

Affiliations: 1: Universität Bern


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