Vol. 1 (2024)
Papers and essays

The ezāfe-like construction in Old Iranian: A reassessment

Simone Gentile
University of Rome La Sapienza

Published 2024-04-09


  • relative clauses,
  • Iranian languages,
  • relative pronouns,
  • copula


This paper addresses the origins of the (proto-)ezāfe in Old Iranian, challenging traditional analyses that have classified the ‘ezāfe’-like structures in Avestan and Old Persian as adjectival formations. This hypothesis is primarily based on the case agreement between the relative pronoun and the head noun. This paper presents
an alternative interpretation, proposing that these constructions should be viewed as relative clauses (RCs) with omitted copulas. From this perspective, the omission of the copula triggers the so-called attractio relativi, a phenomenon observed in various Indo-European languages, thus challenging prior claims. The idea that
RCs may have served as precursors to the Persian ezāfe and potentially contributed to the formation of definite articles in some Middle Eastern Iranian languages remains compelling. However, in earlier stages, these structures are best understood as reduced RCs, lacking an explicit copula.