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Transitive nominals in Old Avestan.


Old Avestan is widely agreed to attest a variety of adjectives and nouns that optionally or obligatorily display "verbal" government of accusative case "objects"; the same phenomenon (superficially, at least) is found also in other old Indo-Iranian and Indo-European languages such as Sanskrit, Old Persian, Germanic, Latin, and Ancient Greek. Old Avestan grammars contain only lists of forms, or cursory mentions: Reichelt (1909: 230-31) merely provides a list of forms under the heading "Der Akkusativ bei verbalen Nominibus"; Kellens and Pirart (1988-1991: vol. 2: 3-52) have detailed sections on "La syntaxe des cas," but treat all cases except the accusative; West (2011) merely notes the relevant forms, with reference to "verbal rection."

From the perspective of formal linguistics, however, the existence of such "transitive nominals" is problematic; in fact some influential models of linguistic categorization exclude the possibility. It is therefore necessary to reconsider the evidence of these old Indo-European languages, both for their bearing on formal linguistic models and for a more detailed and coherent analysis of the phenomena in individual languages.

This paper concentrates on the evidence of Old Avestan exclusively. A full comparative treatment of all the Old Indo-Iranian and Indo-European evidence is, of course, a desideratum; that can only follow, however, synchronic assessments of the distinct linguistic bodies concerned. This paper is a first step towards the latter goal. I have chosen to focus on Old Avestan for two main reasons. Firstly, the corpus is relatively limited, such that it is possible to consider every single alleged instance of a transitive nominal. Secondly, due to the nature of the Old Avestan texts and our still restricted understanding of their language, there is a high degree of disagreement over the precise inventory of transitive nominals in Old Avestan. For this reason, a detailed investigation of the phenomenon as a whole is also of distinct benefit for our understanding of the Old Avestan language and our interpretation of the texts.

In this paper, I intentionally treat Old Avestan separately from Younger Avestan. It is not only the case that Younger Avestan represents a later stage of a very closely related but nevertheless distinct dialect from the language of the Old Avestan texts, but in addition the language of the Younger Avestan texts was potentially influenced by (a possibly in some respects mistaken understanding of) the Old Avestan language. That a particular morphological category regularly displays transitivity in Younger Avestan cannot be used to support the transitivity of corresponding forms in Old Avestan as long as we cannot be sure that the former is not influenced by the latter. (1)

The broad inventory of Old Avestan nominals to which transitivity has been assigned may give the impression that almost any noun or adjective with the relevant meaning could have governed an accusative "object." However many of the forms involved are considered transitive by only one or two recent translators. No two translations agree precisely on the inventory of forms to which transitivity must be assigned; a consideration of the phenomenon as a whole, however, enables us to delimit its extent more accurately. It is hoped that, by attempting the latter, some advance may be made in understanding what is and is not a valid way of interpreting particular Gathic passages. For this paper I considered all nominals analyzed as transitive by at least one of the following translators: Bartholomae (1904, =AiWb; 1905, =B05), Humbach (1959, =H59), Insler (1975, =175), Kellens and Pirart (1988-1991, =KP88), Humbach (1991, =H91), Humbach and Faiss (2010, =HF10), West (2010, =W10; 2011, =W11); and for the Yasna Haptarjhaiti also Hintze (2007, =Hi07) and Narten (1986, =N86) (2) In my analyses of the forms I aim to avoid, as far as possible, the appearance of circularity by utilizing the majority verdict of previous scholarship (insofar as such a majority exists), rather than simply following my own preferred interpretation of the texts.

In [section] 2 I define what I mean by transitive nominals and discuss the problems with formulating such a definition. In [section] 3 I then go through all the Old Avestan evidence for transitive nominals and show that they can be subdivided into several distinct categories. Finally, in [section][section] 4-5 I discuss the consequences of my analysis and draw conclusions.


My concern in this paper is nominals, i.e., nouns or adjectives, that appear with object-like dependents in the accusative case, that is in a configuration traditionally associated with the verbal system and called "transitive." Cross-linguistically such "transitive nominals" are rare, and their existence is often ignored or explicitly excluded in theoretical linguistic definitions of "objects" and even of "nouns" and "adjectives." (3)

Non-finite verbal categories like participles and infinitives are not included under the label "transitive nominals" here: although participles, for example, regularly govern objects despite being morphologically adjectives, their ability to do this is entirely dependent on their status as (non-finite) verb forms (cf. Lowe forthcoming on this for Rgvedic Sanskrit). That is, if the verbal stem to which a participle or infinitive is formed is transitive, the participle/infinitive will be also. The transitivity of such verbal forms is cross-linguistically unremarkable since the forms are, in a sense, underlyingly verbs; in contrast it is the existence of transitive lexical nouns and adjectives that is typologically rare and worthy of further investigation. It is, admittedly, not always possible to clearly distinguish non-finite verbal categories from nonverbal derived nominal categories, and in reality non-finite verbal systems tend to consist of a variety of nominal categories that show different degrees of morphological and syntactic integration into the verbal system; in fact it will be seen below that many of the "transitive nominals" of Old Avestan do show a limited degree of morphological association with the verbal system. Nevertheless, it is usually possible to distinguish a set of core non-finite verbal categories, any transitivity of which is uncontroversially dependent on their verbal status; in Old Avestan, this includes, for example, participles in -nt- and infinitives in -diiai. It is not such categories that are of interest here. In this paper I follow the consensus of modern scholarship, wherever possible, in the analysis of a particular form as part of a nonfinite verbal category (participle or infinitive) or as an independent morphological category. (4)

Cross-linguistically, transitive adjectives are somewhat less rare than transitive nouns, being found for example in a number of Germanic languages (Vincent and Borjars 2010). This is understandable insofar as adjectives are somewhat closer to verbs on the "cline of verbality" between nouns and verbs. Many of the supposed Old Avestan transitive nominals are in fact nouns, which makes them of particular interest from a comparative linguistic perspective. (5)

Before considering the data, it is worth reviewing and clarifying precisely what we mean when we talk about transitivity and objects in the nominal domain (and more widely). For example Sleeman (1993) and Sleeman and Verheugd (1998) use the term "transitive adjective" for any adjective with a complement, but that is not what we are talking about here: only complements assigned a verbal object case are "objects." There are at least three problems involved in defining the issue at hand: transitivity itself, the multiple uses of different cases, and the different types of verbal government. Limitations of space prevent a full discussion of all these issues, but the major difficulties can be briefly illustrated.

In Old Avestan, as in many old Indo-European languages, objects are not necessarily restricted to the accusative case. Verbs of ruling, for example, take genitive objects; verbs of fearing may appear with the ablative. However, it is often difficult to determine what kind of dependent we are dealing with, complement or adjunct, especially in the case of oblique case NPs. In Modern English it is at least relatively clear which oblique case (i.e., prepositional construction) dependents are subcategorized for, since the verb in question will be ungrammatical without it. In Avestan, on the other hand, not only do we have only a limited corpus of data and no native speaker judgments on the grammaticality or otherwise of unattested constructions, but we find a considerable freedom for null or ellipsed obligatory complements.

Perhaps partly for these reasons, the assignment by previous authors of "transitivity" to nominals in Old Avestan is almost entirely restricted to those that appear to govern the accusative case. Nominals can, of course, appear with dependent nouns in other cases; most importantly, semantic "objects" usually appear in the "objective genitive," but any other case relation is possible. The problem is how to distinguish non-accusative complements from non-accusative adjuncts. For example, it would be theoretically possible to interpret the genitive often found with the noun xsa[??]ra- 'rule, power' as an "object" in the corresponding case as the object of the related finite verb. (6)

(1) yueam zauuistiianho / iso xsa[??]ramca sauuarjham (Y 28.9c)

H91: You (are) the swiftest invigorations and the power over benefits.

But there is no reason not to take this merely as an objective genitive adjunct. The same is true of other oblique cases. So, W11: 14 takes the noun zrazdaiti- 'trust' at 43.11 (2) as "verbally" governing the locative, but it might just as, if not more, easily be treated as a simple locative adjunct.

(2) sadra moi sas / masiiaesu + zrazdaitis (Y 43.11de)

W10: for trust in mortals reveals itself to me as pain and grief.

At the same time, the accusative case is not restricted to objects. (7) Accusatives of extent and accusatives of goal are not objects, but adjuncts; the expression of goal and extent can be treated as semantic rather than syntactic uses of the accusative. Even accusative dependents, then, can be adjuncts rather than object complements. Nevertheless given the relatively restricted inherent semantics of the accusative, it is generally possible to determine which we are dealing with, much more certainly than with oblique case dependents. Due to the difficulties of analyzing oblique case dependents, and since nearly all alleged "transitive nominals" in Old Avestan take the accusative case, I will not consider the possibility of transitive nominals governing non-accusative case "objects" further in this paper.

These, then, are some of the problems associated with the phenomenon of transitivity in general and with nominal transitivity in particular. To summarize, a transitive nominal will be most clear when it appears consistently with a dependent accusative, which cannot be explained as an adjunct expressing extent or goal.

One further term should be defined before we continue. By "predication" I mean here the use of a noun or adjective as the complement of a (perhaps null) copular verb in a "nominal" sentence. For example, the adjective

good is "predicated" in the sentence Henry is good. I now turn to a detailed consideration of the apparent "transitive nominals" of Old Avestan.


In all there are fifty-six instances of nominals analyzed as transitive by at least one of the translators considered in this paper, consisting of forty-two different stems of at least seventeen different morphological categories. Fifteen of these stems, however, will not be considered in detail in this paper. These are forms that were considered transitive by Bartholomae, occasionally also by H59, but that have subsequently been reinterpreted, in some cases syntactically, in others both syntactically and morphologically, such that no translation in the last fifty years has interpreted these forms as transitive nominals.

For reasons of space I give merely one example. The form arasi- at 31.5 (3) was taken as a -ti- stem 'Neid' by AiWb, governing an accusative object ma 'me'; all later translators, however, have interpreted the form as the cognate of the Vedic noun rsi- 'seer', and ma as the particle rather than the pronoun.

(3) viduiie vohu mananha / m[??]enca daidiiai yehiia ma ar[??]sis (Y 31.5b)

H91: so that (I) may learn with good thought--and note in my mind--(from Him) whose seer (I am) ...

AiWb: ... worum man mich beneidet.

I am very grateful to Elizabeth Tucker, Stanley Insler, Stephanie Jamison, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on previous versions; also to the audiences at the UCLA Indo-European Conference 2012 and AOS 2013, in particular Hans Hock, Daniel Kolligan, Alexis Manaster Ramer, Brent Vine, and Craig Melchert. This work was undertaken while in receipt of an Early Career Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Christ Church College, Oxford.

The important point here is the number and variety of nominals for which Bartholomae felt the need to assign an accusative object. Although the number of forms has been reduced by subsequent scholarship, it is by no means unlikely that the apparent freedom of nominals to govern accusative objects under Bartholomae's analysis of Old Avestan has influenced the subsequent tradition of scholarship, with the result that modern translators have felt able to assign transitivity to any nominal for which such an interpretation is possible. However, it would clearly be preferable to establish a set of rules and constraints on nominal transitivity in Old Avestan, and such is my aim here. I now move on from these spurious examples of transitive nominals to the clearest categories attested in Old Avestan, the desiderative adjectives and superlatives, before considering more problematic categories.

3.1.--Desiderative Adjectives in -sa-/-za

Perhaps the clearest example of a transitive nominal category in Old Avestan is that of desiderative adjectives. These were formed by suffixation of original *-sa- (surfacing as -sa- or -za-) to reduplicated stems, equivalent to the presumably related Vedic desiderative adjectives in -su-, and clearly related to the inherited desiderative verbal formation involving reduplication and suffixation of *-sa-. All instances of the formation in Old Avestan are transitive.

The form cixsnusd 'desirous of satisfying', to the root xsnauu 'satisfy', appears three times, at 32.8 (4), 43.15 (5), and 45.9 (6). (8) All instances clearly govern an accusative; interestingly all three forms are also nominative and predicated in their clauses with a copula (null, except where specific modal or tense properties need to be marked, such as the optative in ex. 5). (9)

(4) aesam aenanham / viuuanhuso srauui yimascit

y[??] masii[??]ng cixsnuso / ahmak[??]ng gaus ... (Y 32.8)

H91: Even Yima, the son of Vivahvan, became notorious for (one instance of) such crimes, the ox, who tried to satisfy the mortals, our (people) ...

(5) noit na pourus / dr[??]guuato xiiat cixsnuso (Y 43.15d)

H91: A man should not try to satisfy the many deceitful.

(6) t[??]m n[??] vohu / mat mananha cixsnuso

y[??] n[??] us[??]n / cor[??]t sp[??]nca asp[??]nca (Y 45.9ab)

H91: (I am) trying to satisfy Him with our good thought,

(Him) who at will produces for us both, fortune and misfortune.

The same pattern appears with the other two unambiguous examples of this category. The form mimayzo at 45.10 (7) is clearly transitive, and for all translators (except W10) is also predicated. (10) Similarly a.viuuar[??]so (to a.var 'invite') at 45.8 (8) clearly governs an accusative object, and for all translators except H91 and HF10 is predicated.

(7) t[??]m n[??] yasnais / armatois mimayzo

y[??] anm[??]ni / mazda srauui ahuro (Y 45.10ab)

H91: (I am) trying to present Him with the worship [pi.] of our right-mindedness, the Ahura who in the wind is heard (as being) the Wise One.

I75: I shall try to glorify Him for us with prayers of piety, Him, the Lord who is famed to be Wise in His soul.

(8) t[??]m n[??] staotuis / n[??]marjho a.viuuar[??]so nu zit / casmaini viiadar[??]s[??]m (Y 45.8ab)

H91: (While) trying to invite Him with the praises of our reverence, I have just now seen (Him) in (my) eye ...

KP88: Nous nous efforcons, avant l'hommage, de l'entourer de nos louanges, car chacun de nous ...

A somewhat less certain example is did[??]r[??]zo (to dar[??]z 'make firm') at 44.15 (9), which could be either of a desiderative adjective or a finite form; i.e., the only difference between this and the preceding forms is that this has a second person as its subject. H59 suggests both possibilities; I75, H91, and HF10 do not discuss but translate with a finite verb; KP88 explicitly label as finite (vol. 2: 255). Formally, there is no way to be certain, but the form clearly governs an accusative, and at the very least provides no counterevidence to the transitivity of the nominal construction.

(9) hiiat h[??]m spada / anaocanha jamaete auuais uruuatais / ya tu mazda didar[??]zo kuora aiia / kahmai vananam dada (Y 44.15c-e)

H91: When the two warring hosts will confront each other because of those rules which Thou wishest to establish, O Wise One, to which of the two (sides), to whom wilt Thou assign the victory?

Although (or perhaps because) it is one of the best examples of a transitive nominal category in Old Avestan, there is some question as to the synchronic morphological status of this "desiderative adjective" formation, and its possible synchronic association with the verbal system. Both its morphology and its syntax are sufficiently verbal that it could be analyzed as a synchronic participle (cf. in particular Tucker 1988: 111-12 n. 11). In any case, they are clearly based on the verbal desiderative stem, formed as described above. The equivalent formation in Sanskrit can also be transitive, and appears to show some integration into the verbal system. A synchronic association of some sort with the verbal system in Old Avestan too, then, seems a reasonable assumption. The other evident feature is that all these forms are nominative and predicated, a pattern that we will see even more clearly below. (11)


Indo-Iranian superlatives are one category of transitive nominal that has received significant attention in earlier literature. They have been discussed by Tichy (1995: 72-77), albeit largely in the context of Vedic and their synchronic association with the -tr- agent nouns. More recently Tucker (2009) has treated the Old Iranian formation in detail. As argued detail by Tucker, two types of -ista- formation can be distinguished in Indo-Iranian, one that patterns alongside series of positive (Caland) adjectives, e.g., vahista- 'best', razista- 'straightest/most just', bar[??]zista- 'highest', sraesta- 'most beautiful', etc., and another that seems to be based on verbal roots. Only the latter type can display transitivity, and only if the semantics of the root concerned license it (i.e., if it is a potentially transitive root).

Like the desiderative adjectives seen above, the superlative mairista- (to mar 'remember') at 29.4 (11) clearly governs an accusative, and may also be predicated. The same is true of vaedista- (to vid 'know') at 32.7 (12).

(11) mazda saxvar[??] mairisto / ya zi vauu[??]r[??]zoi pairi cioit daeuuaisca masiidisca / yaca var[??]saite aipi ciot huuo viciro ahuro /aoa n[??] anhat yaoa huuo vasat (Y 29.4)

I75: The Wise One is the first to heed His agreements with both gods and men, those which he indeed openly brought about, and those which he shall bring about in secret. He is the decisive Lord. As He shall wish it, so shall it be for us.

H91: May the Wise One, who best registers outrage, consider (what) has been perpetrated (all) around (here) by Daevas and mortals, and he may [sc. may he?] consider what will be perpetrated (by them) in future. He (is) the Ahura with judicial authority. As he may desire, so shall it be for us.

(12) yaesam tu ahura / irixtem mazda vaedisto ahi (Y 32.7c)

I75: ... and of which [sins] Thou, Wise Lord, art the One who dost best know the consequences.

H91: (and) for which [crimes] Thou, O Wise Ahura, knowest best the net assets.

The same form vaedista- appears also at 46.19 (13), where it is the complement of sas 'you appear'; this form is less certainly transitive, due to the ambiguity of the possible object ta, which could be accusative or instrumental. All translators except Humbach follow the transitive interpretation.

(13) tacit moi sqs / tuu[??]m mazda vaedisto (Y 46.19e)

I75: Even these things, it has seemed to me, Thou dost best know, Wise One.

H91: through that very (person), Thou appearest to me (to be) the best provider, O Wise One.

The last unambiguously transitive superlative is aibi.bairist[??]m at 51.1 (14), which differs somewhat from the other superlatives insofar as it is neuter, rather than masculine. All translators except B05 agree it is transitive; in contrast to the unambiguously predicated forms above, however, most interpret it as syntactically attributive, but Tucker (2009: 516) states that it is predicated like the other transitive superlatives. There is one further difference between this superlative and the others: the presence of the preverb-preposition aibi. This raises the possibility, unnecessary though it may be, that the transitivity of this form is attributable not (or not only) to the superlative formation itself, but to the presence of the preverb. (12)

(14) vohu xsaor[??]m vairim / bag[??]m aibi.bairist[??]m

+ vidis[??]mnai izacit / asa antar[??] caraiti (Y 51.1 ab)

H91: The desirable good power, (which is) an excellent bringer of wealth to him who is liberal with abundance whatsoever, is exchanged between (God and men), with truth.

Tucker (2009): The good power (is) to be chosen, the best at bringing good fortune.

There is one other superlative to which transitivity has been attributed in Old Avestan, z[??]uuistiianjho at 28.9 (15). This is taken by AiWb and KP88 as governing the accusative iso; in contrast H59, H91, HF10, I75, W10, and Tucker (2009: 517) consider it intransitive. Although for Tucker (2009: 513) this is a "verbal" superlative, and so could in principle be transitive, she follows Hoffmann (1969: 258) in relating it to the intransitive verbal stem seen, e.g., in Ved. javate 'rush'. Morphologically the form differs slightly from the regular superlative formation, showing an extended suffix in -iia-, which is found also in Ved., e.g., yavisth(y)a- 'youngest', although the latter is a very clearly non-verbal superlative. If the transitive interpretation is followed, the form must also be predicated, but if the possible object is interpreted rather as a nominative, the superlative is syntactically attributive. (13)

(15) yuz[??]m z[??]uuistiianho / iso xsaoremca sauuanham (Y 28.9c)

H91: You (are) the swiftest invigorations and the power over benefits.

KP88: C'est vous qui accelerez le mieux les vigueurs et l'emprise sur les opulences."

A highly significant form is zrazdista- (to zraz-da 'trust, put faith in') at 53.7 (16), unambiguously a "verbal" superlative, which, given the meaning of the root and transitive syntax of comparable finite forms, might be expected to be transitive. However, although the verse is highly problematic and subject to widely differing interpretations, it is at least agreed that zrazdista- is intransitive. Interestingly, the equivalent form in YAv., zrazdat[??]ma-, is transitive (17). (14)

(16) yauuat azus + zrazdisto bunoi haxtiia (Y 53.7b)

H91: The most faithful one will yoke (his) penis at the bottom of the (female) thighs.

I75: Namely, that there be the most faithful fervor (by you), while your legs are on the ground.

(17) yaora naro ... as[??]m hand zrazdat[??]ma (Yt. 13.25)

... where the men are most faithful to Truth, (my transl.)

There is, however, a clear difference between zrazdista- at 53.7 and the unambiguously transitive superlatives of Old Avestan (and YAv. zrazdatama-): the latter are all predicated, whereas zrazdista- is not. This suggests that the transitivity of the verbal -ista- superlatives cannot be attributed purely to their morphology, but must be at least partially dependent on their syntactic employment. That is, we are in a position to hypothesize that, although verbal superlatives in -ista- differ from other morphological categories in having the potential for transitivity, that potential is only manifest when the forms are predicated in their clauses. The same could also be true of the desiderative adjectives discussed above, since no non-predicated forms are attested.

The fact that transitive superlatives in -istha- are found in Vedic may appear to suggest a common inheritance, but Tucker (2009: 524) argues that the two are not necessarily related: in Vedic the formation functions as the superlative for the potentially transitive agent nouns in -tr-, whereas in Avestan there is no such relation, the "verbal" superlatives patterning rather with finite verbal stems, particularly clearly in Younger Avestan where considerably more transitive superlatives are found, but also in Old Avestan. While the formation of superlatives in -ista- to verbal stems goes back to Indo-Iranian, given the corresponding Vedic evidence, and possibly even to Proto-Indo-European on the basis of an apparent equation between Av. bairista- and Greek [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; 'mightiest', Tucker (2009: 524) suggests that, if the transitivity of Av. bairista- is an innovation vis-a-vis Greek, then the ability to govern an object could have developed in Old Iranian alongside the reinterpretation of the suffix as potentially deverbative, and separately from Vedic. (15) She notes that some "verbal" type superlatives which have undergone semantic developments and seem isolated but old are all intransitive, even when they are built to transitive roots (Ved. jyestha- 'oldest, mightiest' to jya 'rob, oppress' [later 'be old'], rabhistha- 'most impetuous' to rabh 'grasp', Av. huuoistato hauu 'impel').

In conclusion, it is unarguable that a set of superlative forms in Old Avestan display transitivity; this set, morphologically formed to verbal roots, could have been treated as a marginally verbal formation, built to verbal tense-aspect stems. That such a reinterpretation had occurred by the stage of YAv. seems clear, but it is not clear that it need have occurred already in Old Avestan. As with the desiderative adjectives, all the clearly transitive forms involved are or can be interpreted as predicated in their clauses; here, notably, one non-predicated superlative which we would otherwise expect to display transitivity actually does not, strongly suggesting the influence of syntax on the ability of forms in this category to govern accusative objects.

3.3--Three more isolated forms

The form damis at 31.7 (18) is interpreted as transitive by AiWb, H59,I75, and W11, but as intransitive by KP88 and H91. The same form occurs also at 45.7 (19); here again B05, H59, I75, and W11 take as transitive, while KP88 and H91 take the apparent accusative objects as instrumentals. HF10 take the forms as transitive, but suggest that they could be .s-aorist of dam 'build, establish' (PIE *[demh.sub.2]), in contrast to the traditional analysis as nominal derivatives in -mi- from da 'create, establish'.

(18) huuo xraoba damis as[??]m / ya daraiiat vahist[??]m mano (Y 31.7b)

I75: He created truth in accordance with this very intention, by reason of which He has (also) upheld the very best thinking.

H91: (as) creator He (conceived) truth with (that) intellect. (By means of the spirit) with which one upholds best thought ...

(19) taca xsaora / mazda damis ahuro (Y 45.7e)

I75: these things, too, did the Wise Lord create by reason of His rule.

H91: Through that very power the Wise Ahura (is) creative.

The same form governs an objective genitive at 44.4. Significantly, none of the non-nominative (non-predicated) forms of dqmi- display accusative government; the at 51.10 and the at 31.8 govern objective genitives, while the at 43.5 and the at 34.10 have no dependents. This pattern is therefore similar to that seen with the superlative above: only predicated forms of the category can be transitive.

dami- is one of only two Avestan examples of a relatively rare morphological category, slightly more common in Indo-Aryan; the formation has been recently discussed by Sims-Williams and Tucker (2005: 599-600). The only other OAv. form is the noun bumi- 'earth' (e.g., Y 37.1); forms found in Vedic include rasmi- 'ray', bhumi-'earth', urmi- 'wave' (cf. YAv. varemi-), adjj. jami- 'related', tuvi-kurmi- 'moving strongly'. Sims-Williams and Tucker (2005: 595-600) argue that a further stem may survive, remodelled, in Skt. svamin- 'master', deriving this noun from su 'impel' contra the usual derivation from the pronominal adjective sva- 'own' (EWA 11:797). Sims-Williams and Tucker suggest that the primary nominal -mi-stem may have had a connection to the superlative, based on the correspondence between Av. dami- : RV dhestha- and *svami- : Av. huuoistata-', this would perhaps go some way to explaining the transitivity, but otherwise is a relatively tenuous equation, even if their etymology of svamin- is correct. Note that the only one of these forms possibly related to a transitive root, besides dami-, is the supposed *svami-; therefore the fact that no other -mi- stems, in Vedic or Avestan, displays transitivity does not in itself argue against an inherited transitivity of this formation.

Two further forms follow precisely the patterns established above, except that they are both hapax legomena in Old Avestan. The form caxraiio at Y 34.7 (20) is widely agreed to govern a double accusative in the sense 'make X (into) Y', but Skjaervo (2002: 52 n. 73) takes it with only a single accusative in the sense 'make X'; either way, it falls under our definition of transitive. This form is of a stem caxri-, a reduplicated -i-stem agent noun from kar 'make'. There are some difficulties with the line, and two other nominals in the same passage have also, less unanimously, been argued to be transitive (cf. 33 and sub 40 below), but the analysis of caxraiid is fairly clear. Once again, the form is predicated.

(20) kuora toi ar[??]dra mazda / yoi vaqh[??]us va[??]dana mananho s[??]nghus ra[??]xana asp[??]ncit / sadracit caxraiio us[??]uru (Y 34.7ab)

H91: Where (are) those zestful ones, O Wise One, who, knowing the bequests (and) legacies of good thought, turn any misfortune and distress into pleasure.

Skjaervo (2002): Where are those heavenly arbiters, O Mazda, who by the possession of good thought, ever and again make the "statements"/censures(?); "(These) * pittances (are) non-life-giving indeed, grievous indeed!"

Morphologically this formation is marginal in Avestan, but is relatively well attested in Vedic. caxri- even has an exact cognate in Vedic, cakri-, which in one passage (RV 6.24.5) takes a double accusative and in others appears with a single object. The reduplication is highly suggestive of verbal morphology, but the precise diachronic and synchronic morphological associations of the formation are difficult. Grestenberger (2013: 289) associates the formation synchronically with the perfect, but states that the diachronic origins of the formation must lie elsewhere, in an as yet unidentifiable category. In synchronic terms, Grestenberger (p. 279) interprets this category in Vedic as patterning "with deverbal participles and so-called 'mixed nominalizations' of the English ACC-ing type," but not so integrated into the verbal system as the participles proper, and implies that the same is true in Avestan. (16) How Grestenberger understands the precise grammatical status of such a category is unclear, and even if the category was synchronically associated with the non-finite verbal system in Proto-Indo-Iranian, its highly restricted distribution in Avestan suggests it was no longer productive and therefore cannot be considered synchronically part of the non-finite verbal system.

Beside caxri-, the only possible, and very uncertain, example of this category in Old Avestan is manarois at 48.10, which represents the genitive of an original *mamri-. Most translations of the form are based on a derivation from the transitive root mar 'remember' (AiWb 'Verkundigung, Botschaft', H91 'reciter', HF10 'believer', W10 'of observance'); however I75, N86, and KP88 derive the form from the intransitive mar 'die' (I75 'from murdering', KP88 comparing Skt. amamri- 'immortal'). (17) Due to this question mark over its formation, manarois is perhaps of little value, but it is, at least, both not transitive and not predicated. If this form is to be associated with mar 'remember', as most assume, then we may again be dealing with an example of a potentially transitive category that does not surface as transitive when it is not predicated, precisely parallel to zrazdista- above.

The other form to be considered here is manaodri at 44.5 (21), feminine of the agent noun *manotar-, from man 'think'. Once again, the form is predicated, and it is unambiguously transitive.

(21) ya manaodris / cazdotjhuuant[??]m ar[??]dahiia (Y 44.5e)

H91: ... which remind a responsible (person) of (his dutiful) purpose.

Outside Old Avestan there is considerable support for the ability of agent nouns in -tar- to govern accusative objects. The Vedic evidence is well known and has been treated in detail by Benveniste (1948: 11-18) and Tichy (1995: 82-83, 333-40, 362-71). Likewise there are a number of transitive -tar- nouns in Younger Avestan. In Old Avestan, on the other hand, the regular syntax for the -tar- agent noun is for ordinary nominal (genitive) government. This is found with all other forms that have dependents, including hamaestar- 'remover, expeller' (48.12), which is transitive in YAv.

Genitive government is, however, an equally well-attested syntactic possibility for -tar-agent nouns in Indo-Iranian. The contrast between ordinary genitive government and "verbal" accusative government was attributed to a contrast in accentuation by Benveniste (1948: 11), who noted the Rgvedic minimal pair data vasu (RV 6.23.3, accusative object) 'giving wealth' vs. data vasunam (RV 8.51.5) 'giver of wealth'. Although this pattern does not hold absolutely, the fact remains that we may in Avestan see the reflexes of two accentually and syntactically distinct formations, which cannot be distinguished on the basis of form alone because accentuation, or at least the marking of it, has been lost. Nevertheless, manaodri fits perfectly the pattern for transitive nominals established above, and contrasts in at least one significant way with all the other (genitive governing) -tar- nouns in Old Avestan: its suffix is attached not to a root, but to a verbal stem (i.e., manao- not man, cf. EWA II: 310 and Tichy 1995: 40-41). Once again the form has a precise Sanskrit cognate, manotar-, suggesting that the formation is inherited (manotar-, however, is never transitive).

The formation of -tar- agent nouns from verbal stems is paralleled by several other forms in Vedic, but the form is unique for Avestan. It could be a historical relic, with neither its morphology nor its syntax reflecting synchronic Old Avestan rules. But if we are prepared to accept its morphological derivation from a verbal stem as synchronically viable, it would be possible to analyze manaodri as a unique example of a category of "verbal" -tar- noun, alongside the regular non-verbal type, somewhat parallel to the "verbal" superlative category discussed above, and sharing with it its potential for transitivity when predicated.

Furthermore, it is probable that the accusative object of manaori is not its only complement: the genitive araoahiia 'of purpose' is also dependent on the agent noun. As with caxri- above, this form is not merely transitive, but specifically retains the complex argument structure of the verbal base from which it is derived. These two forms, then, show that we are not simply dealing with an ability of some nominals to govern accusative objects, but with the ability of some nominals to display the argument structure of a corresponding finite verbal form, something that most commonly involves government of a single accusative object, but can also involve, e.g., a double accusative or an accusative plus genitive construction.

3.4.--Root nouns

Root nouns represent a unique problem among the collection of possibly transitive nominals in Old Avestan. Although the number of forms to which transitivity has been assigned is greater than that of any category considered so far, none of the forms involved is anywhere near so unambiguous. In Vedic the presence or absence of an accent is largely sufficient to distinguish separate words from compounds. But in Avestan it can be impossible to know when we are necessarily dealing with government of an accusative object rather than compounding, since the writing system utilized the same symbol for dividing words as for dividing elements of compounds.

For example, v[??]r[??]orem.ja 'slaying obstacles' at 44.16 (22) could either be a compound in which the first member appears in inflected form or two separate words, in which case the root noun would be governing an accusative. (18)

(22) k[??] v[??]r[??]or[??]m(.)ja / oba poi s[??]ngha yoi h[??]nti (Y 44.16b)

H91: Who (is) a resistance-breaker (able) to protect (those) who exist, by Thy proclamation?

The same problem affects also, for example, ahum.bis 'world/existence healer' (44.2, 44.16, cf. Kellens 1974: 53-54) and a few other probable compounds. Most potentially transitive root nouns in Old Avestan can be analyzed as compounded with their "object," because their "object" directly precedes the form; all others can be interpreted as intransitive. All such "compounds" would necessarily involve inflected first members, such that in no instance can we be entirely confident of the correct analysis.

The form cag[??]do at 51.20 (23) is a compounded root noun cag[??]-da- 'extending support' (H91) to the root da 'create, establish'. (19) The form clearly governs the preceding word, but as with v[??]r[??]or[??]m.ja, it cannot be proven that we are not dealing with a compound. Precisely the same problem affects another possible compound to the same root noun, rama. da at 47.3 (24). (20)

(23) yaz[??]mnanho namanha / mazda raf[??]r[??]m(.)cag[??]do (Y 51.20c)

H91: ... worshipping (them) in reverence to the Wise One who extends support.

(24) y[??] ahmai gam /[??]r[??]itim h[??]m.tasat

at hoi vastrai / rama(.)da armaitim (Y 47.3bc)

H91: [You] who fashioned for him the joy-providing cow and also right-mindedness, (thereby) establishing peace for her pasture.

A considerably more problematic form is b[??]r[??]dubiid at 53.6, dat./ of a root noun beret- 'bringing, offering'. (21) B05, Humbach (1952/1957: 28 n. 28), I75, and W10 assume the form is compounded with the preceding word: vaiiu.b[??]r[??]dubiid, meaning approximately 'cry woe'. (22) In contrast H59/H91/HF10 and Kellens (1974: 137-39) interpret b[??]r[??]t- here as governing the following word.

(25) vaiiu(.)b[??]r[??]dubiio dus.xv ar[??]o[??]m / nasat xvaorem (Y 53.6d)

I75 : Foul food shall be for these, as they cry "woe, " in that happiness has been lost ...

H91: (on its way) through the air comfort goes away from those who offer foul food.

If this form must be interpreted as governing the following noun, then it (along with the following form) is one of the only clear examples of a root noun governing an accusative object, rather than potentially being compounded with it. On the other hand, this passage is highly problematic, and the correct interpretation of the form in question is entirely uncertain. Although the evidence is necessarily unclear, it is possible to argue on the basis of this data for the inability of root nouns to govern accusative objects (except in compound), which would then support the analysis preferred by I75, according to which b[??]r[??]t- here is not transitive.

The form frado from frad 'promote' at 34.14 (26) shows some syntactic parallels with b[??]r[??]t-. Most translators consider it transitive, like b[??]r[??]t- governing a following accusative. In contrast KP88 make a governing compound of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] type with the following word, similar, therefore, to the clear governing compound fradat.gaeo[??]m 'promoting the herds' (33.11). Moreover I75 assumes that the form here governs a different object from all other translators, namely the accusative at the start of the verse; the supposed accusative following the root noun he takes rather as an instrumental. Were we then to follow the usual interpretation of the first accusative in the line (i.e., as an object of the preceding finite verb), but Insler's interpretation of the final word of the line, we could avoid taking frado here as anything other than a simple, intransitive, root noun; that is, I suggest a translation such as "(you grant) your good insight, Ahura, of/in accordance with (your) intellect that promotes through truth, throughout the community."

(26) tat zi mazda vairim / astuuaite ustanai data vanh[??]us siioana mananho / yoi zi g[??]us v[??]r[??]z[??]n[??] aziia xsmakam hucistim ahura / xrat[??]us asa frado(.)v[??]r[??]z[??]na (Y 34.14)

H91: You, indeed, O Wise One, grant this desirable (possession) to corporeal life for the action of good thought, as You are in the community of the fertile cow (and You grant) Your good insight, O Ahura, in accordance with the intellect which promotes communities through truth.

I75 : For that prize, desirable for the body and breath, Wise One, has been established (for those) who, through their action stemming from good thinking, indeed exist in the community of the fertile cow, as they further the good understanding of your will with truth, Lord, throughout the (whole) community.

The other occurrence of frado, at 46.12 (27), is parallel to rama.da- and cage-da- above: the apparent accusative object directly precedes, such that the sequence can easily be analyzed as a compound. KP88 in fact follow the compound interpretation; all others assume two separate words, with accusative government by the root noun.

(27) hiiat us asa / naptiiaesu nafsuca turahiia [uz]j[??]n / friianahiia aojiiaesu armatois / gaeoa(.)frado Obaxsanha (Y 46.12a-c)

H91: When He rises with truth among the reputable kindred and descendents of Tura the son of Friya, (who was) promoting with zeal the herds of right-mindedness ...

The final root noun to consider is yaozda at 48.5 (28), like cag[??]do a compounded root noun to da 'create, establish'; this form is usually interpreted as an adjective 'purifying' with accusative object zqo[??]m 'birth', but I75 takes it rather as an intransitive noun 'vitalization'; Skjaervo (2002: 405) interprets it as transitive, but with a different object; KP88 do not translate the form but raise the possibility that it could be finite. There is no necessity to take this form as transitive, and so it cannot be used as positive evidence for the ability of root nouns to govern the accusative, and if we reject the latter possibility, as suggested above, we can in fact rule out the widespread interpretation of this form as transitive.

(28) yaozda masiiai / aipi zq[??]m vahista gauudi v[??]r[??]ziiatam / tam n[??] xv ar[??]oii fsuiio (Y 48.5cd)

H91: Let the best (insight), which purifies birth also for mankind, be applied to the cow. Thou breedest her for food for us.

I75: Men, let the best vitalization for the cow be brought to realization on earth, in order to breed her for our food, (reading masya and aipi.zqo[??]m)

Skjaervo (2002: 405): You make mortal women (ritually) pure after birth, (reading masiia)

Altogether then, the evidence that root nouns could govern accusative objects in Old Avestan is particularly unclear. It is by no means impossible in a number of instances; in fact, were we to include forms of the type v[??]r[??]orem.jan-, ahum.bis-, etc., there could be at least nine examples of transitive root nouns in Old Avestan, more than any other morphological category. On the other hand, it is possible to interpret every possible example another way, such that it would not be unjustified to deny altogether that OAv. root nouns had the ability to govern accusative objects.

3.5.--Other problematic forms

There are a number of forms to which transitivity has been attributed by some translators, but by no means so unanimously as many of the forms seen above, and which are also relatively isolated and show no clear patterning that might help to explain their supposed transitivity.

The adjective haro at 44.2 (29) is widely interpreted as transitive. (23) The only exception to this is KP88, who do not take it as transitive partly because they are unwilling to commit to an interpretation of irixt[??]m; further, H91 suggests an alternative interpretation, in which the apparent object of hara- is actually the object of an implied verb. The same form occurs also at 31.13 (30), where again most but not all authorities take it as transitive: here it is I75 and W10 who reject the transitive interpretation.

(29) huuo zi asa / spento irixt[??]m vispobiio haro mainiiu / + ahum.bis uruuaoo mazda (Y 44.2de)

H91 : That One, indeed, prosperous through truth, (is) recording with (His) spirit the net assets for all (people), the healer of existence, the ally, (Thou) O Wise One.

H91 (alternative): irixt[??]m [sc. paitisat]: ... will reactivate the net assets.

KP88: Car, grace a l'Harmonie, le benefique ... pour tous, lui, le guerisseur de l'existence, le compagnon qui surveille avec fougue, o Mazda.

(30) ta casm[??]ng obisra haro / aibi asa [aibi]vaenahi vispa (Y 31.13c)

I75: Regarding with clarity of vision, Thou dost look upon all these things with truth.

H91: Perceiving that with the gleam of Thine eye, Thou seest all (things) through truth.

The adjective viciro (to ci 'notice') is transitive at 46.5 (31) for I75 and KP88; but AiWb, H59/H91/HF10, and W10 all take it as intransitive, inferring a finite verb from the previous clause. The same form at 29.4 (ex. 11, s.v. mairista-) clearly has no object.

(31) rasna juuas / ye asauua dr[??]guuant[??]m viciro has / tat fro xv aetauue mruiiat (Y 46.5cd)

H91: (if such) a truthful one, living in rectitude (and) having judicial authority, (were to take in such) a deceitful (person), he should tell the fact to (his own) family.

I75: (But) if a truthful man, living in accordance with this directive, discerns that man to be deceitful, he should declare it to his own family.

KP88: Le fidele qui, parce qu'il vit ... et qu'il sait distinguer le partisan de la Tromperie de celui de l'Harmonie ...

Only one other stem in -ra- appears with an accusative "object" in Old Avestan, sadra-, discussed below where it is argued that the accusative is not, in fact, an object. Most forms in -ra- are thoroughly adjectival, e.g., suxra- 'clear', ciora- 'bright', ugra- 'fierce', dangra-'prudent, clever', etc., but, were -ra- a regularly transitive formation, we might perhaps expect transitivity in angra- 'harmful', guzra- 'secret' (48.3, guz 'hide'), and raf[??]ra- 'support/supporter' (28.1). It can hardly be claimed that the adjectival formation in -ra- is regularly transitive in Old Avestan. There are three possible forms, two of which (vicira- and sadra-) are also unambiguously intransitive in at least one of their occurrences. All of the forms involved have been interpreted as intransitive by at least one recent authority. There is no clear pattern to the supposedly transitive forms: they are not all predicated, for example, nor do they clearly represent a "verbal" -ra- formation in opposition to the usual intransitive adjectival formation.

One of only two arguably transitive nominals in the Yasna Haptanhaiti, + manaiia at 35.9, is analyzed as governing the preceding accusative noun by AiWb, N86, Hi07, and W11, but not by H91 or HF10. KP88 discuss the possibility, Kellens considering it "monstrueux" but unavoidable, Pirart attempting to take the accusative with the verb (as H91).

(32) ima at ux[??]a vaca ahura mazda as[??]m + manaiia vahehiia frauuaocama (Y 35.9a)

H91: With a better devotion, O Wise Ahura, we wish to proclaim (as) truth these statements (and) words.

Hi07: ... with very good concentration on Truth.

Besides the interpretation preferred by Humbach and Pirart, it might be possible, following our discussion of transitive root nouns, to interpret the sequence as[??]m + manaiia as a compound with inflected first member, i.e., + as[??]m.manaiia. If neither of these possibilities be admitted, the form is entirely isolated, and one sympathizes with Kellens' assessment.

The difficult form va[??]d[??]na at 34.7 (33) has been interpreted in various ways. For AiWb it was a perfect participle; I75 and H59 took it as of an abstract noun 'possession' governing an objective genitive; H91 also consider this possible but prefer to take it as a nominative agent noun 'knowing, knower' governing an accusative. HF10 return to the instr. sg. abstract noun 'knowledge', but retain the verbal government; similarly W11: 13-14, who however takes it to vid 'find' ("by acquiring"). KP88 indicate parallels at 32.7, 32.11 as support for taking the instrumental as semantically governing the accusatives here, but they take the accusatives as syntactically dependent on caxri-. Cf. also the other discussions of this passage (20, and sub 40).

(33) kuora toi ar[??]dra mazda / yoi vanh[??]us va[??]dana mananho s[??]nghus ra[??]xe[??]a aspancit / sadracit caxraiio us[??]uru (Y 34.7ab)

H91: Where (are) those zestful ones, O Wise One, who, knowing the bequests (and) legacies of good thought, turn any misfortune and distress into pleasure.

I75: ... through their possession of good thinking ...

HF10: ... by knowledge of the bequests and legacies of good thought ...

KP88: ... par la faculte de la divine Pensee a ...

No other nouns / adjectives in -na- show any sign of verbal government in Old Avestan, even semantically appropriate nouns like auuarana 'invitations' (30.2), varana- 'choice' (45.1,2). There seems no strong reason to take this form as anything other than intransitive.

3.6.--"Infinitival" nouns

In this section I consider a few transitive nominals that pattern together in distinction from the forms discussed above. As with categories such as the desiderative adjectives, there is relative unanimity as to the transitivity of the forms involved, but in contrast to all other unambiguously transitive nominals the forms considered here show no clear verbal morphology and no correlation with predication. Instead, the forms involved are oblique cases of abstract nouns which are morphologically similar to infinitival formations.

This is the case, most clearly, with three abstract nouns in -ti-. The instrumental noun apaiieiti (apa-iiam 'take away') at 32.11 (34) is widely interpreted as transitive (di-transitive for W11). The only exception is KP88, who take the supposed object as qualifying the object of the main clause and the instrumental with the main verb.

(34) taecit ma mor[??]nd[??]n jiiotum / yoi + dr[??]guuanto + mazbis cikoit[??]r[??]s an v hisca + anhauuasca / apaiieiti raex[??]nanho va[??]dem (Y 32.1 lab)

H91: Those indeed spoil life, (those) deceitful who boast about (their so-called) great (activities), (those alleged) ladies and gentlemen, (who bo[a]st) of robbing (people) of the disposition of (their) inheritance.

KP88: en me faisant obstacle, moi qui suis vaeda du raexanah, ils me corrompent quant a la subsistance, les (mauvais) maitres et maitresses qui, partisans de la Tromperie ...

Another possible form is istois (to is 'seek') at 51.18 (35), treated as transitive by H59, H91, and HF10, as well as Hintze (1994: 23). Here the interpretation revolves not around istois but its supposed object, xv ar[??]na. This is a form of, or very closely related to, the highly important religious term xv ar[??]nah-, the original meaning of which has been widely discussed. (24) The question is whether the form here is an accusative plural of the abstract noun xv ardnah-, in which case the only obvious governor is istois, or whether it can be interpreted as a nominative of a possessive derivative. The latter interpretation is followed by AiWb, I75 and W10. KP88 interpret the form as accusative, but qualifying cisti-, so it need not be governed by istois.

(35) tam cistim d[??]jamaspo / huuo.guuo istois xv ar[??]na asa v[??]r[??]nte tat xsaor[??]m / mananho + vanh[??]us vido (Y 51.18ab)

H91: Jamaspa Hvoguva (chooses) that insight, (which consists) in the quest for glory, with truth he chooses that power (which consists) in the possession of good thought.

Hintze (1994: 23): aufgrund des Strebens nach dem xvaranah-

I75 : Glorious Jamaspa Haugva (has displayed) this understanding of his power.

There is some comparative support for isti- governing the accusative: the Sanskrit cognate isti- does so, e.g., at RV 6.70.4 (36), while in YAv. isti- is also found governing an accusative object (Yy 60.4). (25)

(36) te id vipra ilate sumnam istaye (RV 6.70.4d)

Those priests praise to obtain favour.

Moreover xvaranah- appears in the collective (accusative) plural twice in the Yasts (Yt. 10.27, 14.36), while there is no other support for a nominative possessive formation. The weight of evidence, then, appears to support the transitive interpretation.

One of only two alleged transitive adjectives to occur not in the Gathas but in the Yasna Haptanhaiti, raiti (to ra 'give') at 40.4 (37) is almost universally accepted as governing an accusative. The only uncertainty as to the transitivity of this form comes from KP88: they do not translate the supposed object, nor the preceding word, but translate raiti intransitively "... par generosite." Other instances of raid- are all intransitive, including the occurrence only a few verses previously (Y 40.1).

(37) aoa v[??] uta xiiama mazda ahura asauuano ar[??]siia ist[??]m raiti (Y 40.4b)

H91: Thus may we be in your favour, O Wise Ahura, (we) the truthful (ones), with enthusiastic bestowal of what is desired.

The evidence for transitive abstract nouns in -ti- is relatively meager given how common these stems are in Old Avestan. There are only three instances where accusative government is possible, compared with between fifty and sixty -ti- stems in the Old Avestan texts. Were -ti- nouns regularly capable of transitivity, we might expect to find accusative objects with many other nouns, such as cisti- 'insight' (e.g., 30.9), pairi.mati- 'contempt, disregard, disrespect' (32.3), darsti- 'sight' (33.6), h[??]m.parsti- 'consultation, counsel' (33.6), frasasti-'praise' (38.2), jiti- 'gains' (38.5), uti- 'favour' (40.4, according to H91/HF10), ask[??]iti-'attachment, following' (44.17; cf. H91 ad loc.), vidaiti-'distribution' (47.6). A few transitive -ti- stems are found in YAv., but they are of little value for explaining the OAv. distribution. Moreover, there is no reason to suppose that simply because some transitive (and, of course, intransitive) infinitives reflect oblique case forms of -ti- stem nouns, non-infinitival -ti- stem nouns are therefore likely to be transitive, since the transitivity of infinitives is a consequence of their verbal status, not necessarily their morphological origin. An analogical explanation is most likely: the clear morphological origin of transitive infinitives derived from -ti- stems facilitated the occasional analogical assignation of accusative objects to the synchronically separate, nominal, category of abstract nouns in -ti-. (26)

A similar explanation might be invoked account for the dative fradaoai. d) at 31.16 and 45.9, based on the root frad 'prosper' (Hoffmann 1969: 262-69; Kellens 1984: 57, 113; Sims-Williams 2009: 279). The form was taken as an infinitive by AiWb, but since Benveniste (1935: 44-45) it has been treated as a noun. All translators take the form at 45.9 (38) as transitive, but the form at 31.16 (39) is slightly less clear.

(38) mazda xsaora / + var[??]zi + na diiat ahuro pasus vir[??]ng / ahmak[??]ng fradaoai.a (Y 45.9cd)

H91 : May the Ahura, wise through (His) power, place us in freshness so as to promote our cattle and men.

(39) per[??]sa auuat ya[??]a huuo / y[??] hudanus + d[??]manahiia xsa[??] soiorahiia va daxii[??]sus va / asa frada[??]ai asp[??]r[??]zata (Y 31.16ab)

H91: That I ask (Thee), how such a generous person (will be available) who strives to promote, with truth, one's power over house, district and country.

KP88: Je (te) demande aussi comment est le genereux qui aspire a l'emprise (rituelle) de la maison, du territoire ou du pays pour (les) faire prosperer par l'Harmonie ...

As can be seen from H91's translation, the form at 31.16 is usually taken as dependent on the finite verb asp[??]r[??]zata 'strive (to)' and governing the accusative in the preceding line. KP88 on the other hand interpret the form as syntactically more independent, with the verb governing the accusative and fradaoai essentially intransitive, the object of the 'furtherance' implicit from the preceding genitives. The only objection to KP88's interpretation is that the verb spar[??]z 'strive', like its Sanskrit cognate sprh, tends to take a dative rather than accusative. It would equally be possible, however, to take the dative as dependent on the verb and governing the genitives, with the accusative not an object but an accusative of respect, e.g., "who strives for the furtherance of (one's) house, district or country in regard to / with respect to (their) power."

If we then consider frada[??]ai.a at 45.9, more widely accepted as transitive, it can be argued that even here the apparent verbal government is an illusion. The accusatives could be taken as secondary objects of the finite verb in the preceding line, giving a translation such as "May the Ahura ... establish us in freshness, (establish) our cattle and men for prosperity." The usual assumption that frada[??]ai.a here must govern pasus vir[??]ng ahmak[??]ng is based on other passages in which forms off rad govern semantically equivalent words like gae[??]a- (cf. 27). But there is no reason why Zarathustra could not be playing with the conventional phrase here: frada[??]ai.a would still implicitly govern the accusatives; syntactic government in other passages does not necessarily imply the same here.

There is, then, no necessary reason to interpret either of these occurrences as transitive. As noted by Benveniste (1935: 45), Younger Avestan forms of frada[??]ai consistently govern the genitive, which might support the same for OAv. The form is discussed, largely in relation to its etymology, by Sims-Williams (2009), whose etymological connection of the form to the Bactrian preposition [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (expressing indirect objects / beneficiaries) implies that Middle Iranian could ultimately reflect a transitive use of the form, but the connection is too remote for this to have any bearing on the Old Avestan data. Only one other Old Avestan -oa- noun has any appearance of transitivity; this will be discussed below and its transitivity reinterpreted. (27)

3.7.--Three final forms

There are three final forms to consider, which pattern together in distinction from all the forms considered above. I have discussed these forms in detail in Lowe (2013a), so I will only briefly repeat the data here. The first is sadra- at 45.7 (40).

(40) am[??]r[??]taiti / +asaono uruua aeso utaiiuta / ya n[??]ras sadra dr[??]guuato taca xsa[??]ra / mazda damis ahuro (Y 45.7c-e)

H91: The soul of (that) Truthful One (is) vigorous in immortality (and) in stability, which which [sic] distresses the deceitful men. Through that very power the Wise Ahura (is) creative.

The same form appears in two other passages, where it is not transitive (34.7, cf. examples 20 and 33, and 43.11, example 2 above). Second is the form duuae[??]a, occurring at 32.16 and 48.9 (41), in identical half lines.

(41) kada vaeda / yezi cahiia xsaiia[??]a mazda asa / yehiia ma ai[??]iscit duuae[??]a (Y 48.9ab)

H91: When shall I know whether You have control over some (danger), through truth, O Wise One, the fear of which scares me.

W10: ... whose danger is a threat.

Following the majority of scholarship and taking ma as the pronoun here, it is notable that duuae[??]a and sadra- pattern together in showing no clear verbal morphology, in being predicated, and, most interestingly, in having accusative "objects" that are experiencers. In relation to this final point, it is possible to connect a third form, maeni- at 44.19 (42), which is not generally treated as transitive, but which appears in a verse with a problematic accusative.

(42) ka t[??]m ahiia / +maenis anhat +pauruiie vlduua auuam / ya im anhat ap[??]ma (Y 44.19de)

H91: What chastisement for that will befall him in (his) primal (existence)? (This I ask Thee) knowing that (chastisement) which will befall him (as) final.

KP88: de qui (lui) viendra le premier chatiment ...? (reading ka.t[??]m.ahiia = *kat[??]mahiia 'of which (of many /two)').

175: What shall be the first punishment for such a person? I know the final one which shall befall him.

In Lowe 2013a I argue that what connects these three forms is the fact that their dependent accusatives all have the thematic role of "experiencer" in relation to the noun. I will briefly summarize those arguments in [section] 4.


In this section I have considered every reasonably possible transitive nominal in the Old Avestan corpus. The forms show a variety of properties and possibilities of analysis. The desiderative adjectives and superlatives represent the only consistently transitive categories attested multiple times; in contrast it is at least possible to reject the claims of transitivity for several categories and forms, namely root nouns, -ra- stems, +manaiia, vaedena-, and frada[??]ai(.a). In the next section I develop some of the major observations that can be drawn from this data.


The forms considered above can be subdivided into four groups on the basis of their syntactic and morphological properties. First, we have the desiderative adjectives, superlatives, caxri-, manao[??]ri-, and dami-: these categories and forms are all unambiguously transitive only when predicated and intransitive otherwise, and all (except dami-) show clear morphological patterning with the verbal system. Secondly, we see a variety of less certainly transitive forms, which show no clear patterning and may be best interpreted as intransitive: the root nouns, hara-, vicira-, +manaiia, vaedena, and frada[??]di(.a). Thirdly, the clearly transitive oblique case nouns in -ti- appear to show sporadic transitivization of otherwise intransitive categories, by analogy with morphologically similar infinitives. Finally, we see three forms that pattern together in taking accusative experiencers as apparent "objects."

The most interesting observations to come from this study are the importance of nominative (subject) predication in Old Avestan nominal transitivity and, in the light of comparative evidence, the identification of three nouns with accusative experiencers. In the following sections I explore these observations in turn.


There is a clear correlation between transitivity of nominals and nominative (subject) predication in the Old Avestan corpus, apparent in the most unambiguously transitive nominal categories. The only clearly transitive category that is not regularly predicated is the abstract noun in -ti-, which as I have argued is to be explained rather by analogy with the verbal system. Besides those, all clearly transitive nominals are predicated; in the case of the superlatives, and possibly caxri- and dami-, there is even positive evidence that non-predicated forms of these potentially transitive nominal categories may have been unable to display transitivity.

This correlation between predication and nominal transitivity is not unique to Old Avestan. It appears also in early Latin and Sanskrit, where the majority of apparently transitive nominals are predicated. The transitive nouns of Central Guerrero Nahuatl are obligatorily predicated (Amith and Smith-Stark 1994: 344-49); transitive "stative" adjectives in Korean can only be predicated (on this construction see, e.g., Kim 2000, but also Park 2002). Even in English a descriptively similar pattern appears: adjectives can take dependents only when predicated or predicative, but not when attributive (the man (is) near the door vs. *the near the door man).

It is beyond the scope of this paper to provide a formal linguistic account of the effect of predication on otherwise intransitive nominals (but see Lowe 2013b for this). In descriptive terms, predicated nominative nouns and adjectives are somewhat more "verbal" than non-predicated nominals, in that they carry the main predication of the clause, a role usually associated with finite verbs, and in that the nominative case can be thought of as the most verbal case. On the view that the distinction between nominal and verbal, or nouns and verbs, is a cline rather than an absolute, predicated nominals can be considered somewhat further from purely nominal, and somewhat closer to purely verbal. In a similar vein, Hopper and Thompson (1980: 280-81) discuss the relation between backgrounding and lower transitivity, which implies a corresponding relation between foregrounding (e.g., predication) and higher transitivity.

At the same time, there is a clear morphological restriction on the correlation between predication and transitivity. It is not the case that any nominal category can display transitivity when predicated; for example it is never found with the very common -i-stem or -manstem nouns, nor many other categories. As noted, it is largely restricted to categories that show clear morphological patterning with the verbal system. We could conclude that in Old Avestan, certain categories of nominal that are morphologically already somewhat "verbal," or somewhat further from purely nominal and correspondingly closer to fully verbal on the cline of verbality, could display the further verbal feature of transitivity when appearing in the "verbal" syntactic context of predication, but that otherwise, nominal transitivity is excluded (which means we must deny the supposed transitivity of, e.g., the root nouns, etc., discussed above).

4.2--Accusative experiencers

The three forms mentioned under [section]3.7 all share the feature that their accusative dependents can be analyzed as experiencers. In Lowe (2013a) I show that parallels can be found in several old Indo-European languages for this phenomenon, in particular in Old Persian, Gothic, and Old High German. I argue that this can be explained as an inherited construction: the semantic range of the Proto-Indo-European accusative case included the marking of experiencers (beside, e.g., the well-established marking of goal and extent). The accusatives appearing with the forms mentioned under [section]3.7 then have a very different origin from the other accusatives treated in this paper. That there was also a synchronic difference is clear from the fact that sadra- is only optionally transitive, and none of the three forms is part of systematically transitive categories, unlike the forms treated in [section][section] 3.1-3.3.


There are two positions that could be taken in regard to transitive adjectives in Old Avestan. The first is simply to accept the partially systematic, partially sporadic transitivity of nominals in Old Avestan, and to seek to understand and translate the texts entirely contextually, basing one's interpretation of a particular noun or adjective as transitive or intransitive on one's overall interpretation of the clause in which it appears.

The alternative is to attempt to explain the phenomenon of nominal transitivity on principled linguistic grounds, seeking to determine the synchronic reasons for and limits of the phenomenon. I hope to have shown that the Old Avestan data is amenable to such a treatment. In particular, multiple valid linguistic explanations for nominal transitivity converge in the clearest cases: the desiderative adjectives, superlatives, caxri-, and manao[??]ri- all show synchronic associations with the verbal system and appear consistently in a syntactic context which appears to license nominal transitivity, i.e., predication. A few other forms show clear analogical associations with a transitive verbal category, infinitives, while yet a few other forms can be explained by an inherited use of the accusative to mark experiencer adjuncts. In contrast these explanations do not cover many less unanimously accepted instances of alleged transitive nominals, such that it is preferable to interpret these forms as non-transitive.


AiWb = Bartholomae 1904

B05 = Bartholomae 1905

EWA = Mayrhofer 1986-2001

HF10 = Humbach and Faiss 2010

Hi07 = Hintze 2007

H59 = Humbach 1959

H91 = Humbach 1991

175 = Insler 1975

KP88 = Kellens and Pirart 1988

LIV = Rix et al. 2001

N86 = Narten 1986

W10 = West 2010

Wll = West 2011


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John J. Lowe

University of Oxford

(1.) For an example of a syntactic development between Old and Younger Avestan in respect of potentially transitive nominals, see Tucker 2009 on formations in -ista-, discussed further below.

(2.) Twentieth-century translations that have not been taken into account include Smith 1929, Duchesne-Guillemin 1948, 1952, Lommel 1971, and Humbach and Ichaporia 1994.

(3.) For example, "objects" are often defined as elements that can complement verbs and prepositions, but not nouns and adjectives. Compare, for example, Jackendoff 1977: 31, Bresnan and Kanerva 1989: 25, Bresnan and Moshi 1990: 166-67, and Bresnan 2001: 100, 120.

(4.) It should be noted that historically there has been particular difficulty in delimiting the category of infinitives from event nouns in Old Avestan; cf. Benveniste 1935, Kellens 1984, 1994, and on the same issue in Rgvedic Sanskrit now Keydana 2013.

(5.) Cf. the discussion in Lowe 2013a.

(6.) In the glosses to the passages cited in this paper, I generally give the translation of H91 wherever there is no great disagreement as to the relevant word or phrase. This is done merely for consistency and implies no particular adherence to H91's interpretation of the verses in question, or the Old Avestan texts as a whole, over any other. Where there are relevant differences between translators, multiple glosses are given.

(7.) Cf. Hettrich 2007: 9-10 on the uses of the accusative in the Rgveda, which differs little from Old Avestan in this respect.

(8.) Although translated as if conatives by H91, these forms are really desideratives and better translated 'wanting/desiring to ...', as for example by I75. On the meaning of these and similar formations in Indo-Iranian see Tichy 2006: 319-22.

(9.) Most translators, H59,I75, H91, HF10, W10, and also Ito (1980: 178), interpret the form at 32.8 as predicated; KP88 translate the form as if attributive, but do not finish translating the line.

(10.) On the root and etymology of this form see H91 ad loc. and I75 : 250.

(11.) The form isanam at 32.12 is problematic. AiWb took this as an -n- stem isan- 'nachstrebend' to aes 'seek', governing an accusative. H59:I75, and KP88 took as of a noun isar/n- with no verbal government, restored as *isnam, for KP88 *isnaam (which improves the meter). H91 took rather as gen.p1. of a desiderative adjective isa, governing drujem (even though this interpretation makes the meter worse). H91 suggested that it could alternatively be an of a perfect participle to aes, and governing not druj[??]m but xsa[??]trem, HF10 take it as a haplologized perfect participle governing druj[??]m, Ito (1989: 43, 49 n. 12) translates "power-strengthening wickedness," taking the form as of an adjective isana-; W11: 21 explicitly notes as a transitive nominal "of those desirous (of) wrong," but without providing a morphological analysis.

(10) yais + gr[??]hma asat varata / karapa xsa[??]r[??]mca isanam druj[??]m (Y 32.12c)

H91: (and) under whose influence the Karapan prefers Grahma practices and the power of those who approach deceit, to truth.

H91 alternative: and deceit who has sought the power.

I75: and because of whom the rich Karpan chose the rule of tyrants ...

Given its problematic morphological and syntactic analysis, isanam is of relatively little value for our purposes. As is clear from the translation of I75, it is possible to interpret it as intransitive. Moreover it is perhaps easier, for metrical reasons, to interpret it as a non-desiderative nominal stem of some kind, or indeed as a perfect participle, than as a further example of the desiderative adjective formation. Overall, then, it cannot be used as either positive or negative evidence regarding the transitivity or intransitivity of any of the nominal or verbal categories with which it could be associated, and a link with the desiderative adjectives is not particularly likely.

(12.) In Rgvedic Sanskrit a considerable proportion of apparently transitive nominals are compounded with pre-verbs, suggesting that preverbs may play a role in licensing nominal transitivity in that language. No such pattern appears in the Old Avestan data, however.

(13.) Insler (p.c.) notes that the position of the caesura and the common collocation of iso and xsa[??]r[??]m make a close syntactic connection between z[??]uuistiianho and iso unlikely.

(14.) As discussed by Tucker (2009: 520 n. 23), zrazdista- must be an innovation in OAv. replacing inherited zrazdat[??]ma-, since YAv. and Ved. correspond in attesting the formation in *-dhatama-.

(15.) Cf. also Garcia Ramon 2010: 82-86 on bairista- and related forms and Rau 2011 on the Proto-Indo-European history and origin of the superlative.

(16.) For Grestenberger the potential transitivity of the formation in both Vedic and Avestan is taken as key evidence of its verbal association, but the distribution of transitive and non-transitive forms is not investigated.

(17.) In contrast Skjaervo (2002: 52 n. 72) suggests an analysis *mam-ri- and a relation to Greek [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'blame'.

(18.) Humbach (1954/1961: 63) argued for the separation of v[??]r[??]rm.ja and similar forms into two separate words, but this argument was not maintained in subsequent work.

(19.) The form caguua at 46.2 appears to govern the same accusative object as the form here: raf[??]r[??]m. caguua, too, has been analyzed as a transitive nominal (an adjective in this case), e.g., by KP88 (vol. 2: 240) and W11: 21.

However, although it is not recognized as such by Kellens (1984: 424-27) or Hoffmann and Forssman (2004: 238-39), there is no reason not to analyze the form as an unreduplicated perfect participle, in which case its transitivity is unremarkable. I follow this interpretation, and so do not consider caguua in this paper. In any case, AiWb did not interpret the form as transitive; nor did Kellens (1974: 214), who analyzed it rather as an epithet of the supposed object raf[??]r[??]m. On the etymology of these forms see Benveniste (1934: 180-85), who discusses the Iranian evidence for a root cag, which he glosses 'accorder, assurer, offrir'. For a possible PIE connection cf. LIV: 342 s.v. *kagh-/kagh '(ein)fassen'. They give only some traces of a present in Sabellian and Welsh and some nominal forms in Latin and Old High German, and refer to Turner 1966: 4561, 4775 for an Indo-Aryan root *cagh 'to strive after'; however they make no mention of the Avestan forms. Cheung (2007: 31-32) lists a root *cak/g 'strike, hit', with which he connects some of the Middle Iranian forms and Semitic loanwords that Benveniste (1934) connected with these Avestan forms; however, Cheung makes no mention of the Avestan forms under this root or any other, and semantically such a connection seems unlikely.

(20.) Humbach (1954/1961: 63-64; 1957: 74 n. 12; H59) argued for the separation of rama.da at 47.3 into two words, particularly on the grounds that the final d of the first element means that it must be inflected, and on the grounds that vastrai should be taken with da alone; for H59, then, da- here is a root noun governing an accusative. Kellens (1974: 220), on the other hand, suggests that there is no need, under the root noun analysis, to assume two separate words, and indeed H91 and HF10 restore the compound, following therefore the original analysis of AiWb. In contrast I75, KP88, and W10 take da here rather as a finite verb, in which case it is of no relevance to our topic.

(21.) On the u, probably epenthetic, see Kellens 1974: 137-39.

(22.) For Skjaervo (2002: 54, 57) this is a compound of the same form, but meaning rather "driving through the intermediate space."

(23.) I assume hara- reflects a stem in -ra- to a root ha 'watch' found also in the form hisat. following for example H91 (vol. 2: 148-49). AiWb analyzed hara- rather as an -a-stem adjective to a verb har 'watch'; likewise more recently Schwartz (1998: 181-82 n. 6). Its morphological analysis is not strictly relevant to its syntax, however.

(24.) For example Gnoli 1963, 1984, 1990, 1996; Skjaervp 1983; Jacobs 1987; Hintze 1994: 15-33; Lubotsky 1998.

(25.) For Keydana (2013: 358) istaye is synchronically an infinitive when it governs an accusative (and in other contexts), though there also exists a homophonous dative case form of an abstract noun isti-, which is never transitive.

(26.) Compare Keydana's (2013: 259-63) account of the aberrant Rgvedic "infinitives" gantoh and yajathaya, although I do not share his assumption that any noun with a dependent accusative must necessarily be an infinitive (cf. Lowe 2013a).

(27.) Some support for frada[??]ai(.a) as transitive might be found in the apparent verbal government of Rgvedic yajathaya, for example in the phrase yajathaya devan 'for the worship (of) the gods'. This form has recently been discussed by Keydana (2013: 261-63), who accepts the accusative government and, on that basis, interprets yajathaya as synchronically an infinitive (Keydana does not mention fradaoi(.a)). However, there is no need to treat yajathaya as transitive, devan can reflect the "short" genitive plural seen in devan janma 'race of the gods' (Sgall 1958: 185), while the other accusative dependent allegedly found to this form, martan 'mortals' at RV 10.12.1a, can be interpreted as an object of the superordinate verb form krnvan 'making', leaving yajathaya intransitive: devo yan martan yajathaya krnvan "when the god, who creates men for the sacrifice ..." There is therefore no need to interpret either the Avestan or Sanskrit form as transitive, or to assume any historical transitivity for this *-tha- formation.
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Author:Lowe, John J.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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