The Iranian programme will consist of the following courses:

Time schedule

Timeslot 1 (9.30 - 11.00) 
D. Durkin-Meisterernst:
Introduction to Old and Middle Iranian

Timeslot 2 (11.30 - 13.00)
D. Durkin-Meisterernst:

Timeslot 3 (14.00 - 15.30)
Preparation time

Timeslot 4: (16.00 - 17.30)
A. de Jong:
Introduction to Zoroastrianism

Timeslot 3 is left open for allowing the students to do their homework and to visit the Library of the Kern Institute, which will be open during these hours. It is of course also possible to choose one of the courses of the Indo-European or Semitic programme.

Introduction to Old and Middle Iranian (9.30 - 11.00)

Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst (Berlin)     

This course will introduce the Old and Middle Iranian languages against the Indo-European background and looking forward to the Iranian languages presently spoken. The Old Iranian languages Avestan and Old Persian will be presented alongside the great range of Middle Iranian languages to demonstrate the unity and diversity within the Iranian family.  

Descriptions of the languages can be found in Rüdiger Schmitt (ed.), Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, Wiesbaden 1989 (containing descriptions in English, French and German) and Alan S. Kaye (ed.), Morphologies of Asia and Africa, vol. 2, 2007 and in the volumes of Osnovy iranskogo jazykoznanija (in Russian) and in I.M. Oranskij, Vvedenie v iranskuju filologiju, Moskva 1988 (Russian) and French 2000.

See also Rüdiger Schmitt, Die iranischen Sprachen in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Wiesbaden 2000 and the relevant articles in the Encyclopaedia Iranica.  

On the archaeological background of the Indo-Iranians see Elena E. Kuz'mina, The Origin of the Indo-Iranians (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series), Leiden 2007.

The first week will be devoted to overviews of:

  • the distribution of the Old and Middle Iranian languages, referring also to the distribution of Modern Iranian;
  • the discovery and decipherment of the monuments in these languages and the writing systems used;
  • phonology;
  • morphology;
  • syntax. 

The second week will be devoted to comparative descriptions of:

  • Avestan;
  • Old Persian (and Middle Persian [but see the separate course on Pahlavi]);
  • Khotanese and Tumshuq Saka;
  • Sogdian (and Khwarezmian);
  • Parthian and Bactrian.

    Course materials will be supplied.

Time schedule

Pahlavi (11.30 - 13.00)

Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst  (Berlin)  

This course will give an introduction to the Middle Persian language of the Sasanian inscriptions and administrative documents and to the very rich and variegated Zoroastrian literature of the Sasanian and post-Sasanian periods. 

The first week will be devoted to the history, writing system, the phonology, morphology and syntax of Zoroastrian Middle Persian making reference to Manichaean Middle Persian as necessary.  

The second week will be devoted to reading a small anthology of Pahlavi texts with the aim of getting to know a wide range of text types from the earliest to the latest periods of attestation. The example texts will include passages from Sasanian inscriptions, narrative texts, texts containing religious prescriptions and teachings, a zand text (translating and commenting on an Avestan text), as well as legal and school texts.    


  • Cf. the relevant articles in the Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  • C. Salemann, in Wilhelm Geiger (ed.), Grundriss der iranischen Philologie I, 1, 249-332, Strassburg 1901 (in German) and the English translation by L. Bogdanov, Bombay 1930.
  • O. Hansen, Mittelpersisches Lesebuch, Berlin 1963.
  • V.S. Rastorgueva, Srednepersidskij jazyk, Moskva 1966 and together with E.K. Molčanova in Osnovy iranskogo jazykoznanija, Sredneiranskie jazyki, 6-146, Moskva 1981.
  • C. Brunner, A syntax of Western Middle Iranian, New York 1977.
  • H.S. Nyberg, A Manual of Pahlavi I: Texts, 1964; II: Glossary, 1974.
  • D.N. MacKenzie, Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, London 1971 and reprints.
  • Surveys of Zoroastrian literature are J.C. Tavadia, Die mittelpersische Sprache und Literatur der Zarathustrier, Leipzig 1956 and C.G. Cereti, La letterature Pahlavi, Milano 2001.
  Course materials will be supplied.

Time schedule

Introduction to Zoroastrianism (16.00 - 17.30)

Albert de Jong (Leiden)

Zoroastrianism is one of the few religions of the ancient world to have survived to the present day. Its history spans three millennia, ranging from Bronze Age Central Asia to the modern metropolises of Mumbai and Tehran. Knowledge of this religion is indispensable for anyone who wishes to work on Iranian languages, culture and history, and it is also highly useful for scholars and students with a more general interest in Indo-European studies.

The role played by Zoroastrian data in the reconstruction of Indo-European religion and mythology is fairly limited, because many scholars were/are convinced that Zoroastrianism owes its origin to a radical break in the inherited religious tradition. This break is associated with the activities of Zarathushtra, widely (but certainly not universally) seen as the religion’s founder (or “prophet”).

There has always been a very influential scholarly tradition that uses the comparative evidence from Vedic literature and religion – Zoroastrianism’s twin sister – to question this interpretation of Zoroastrian history, but scholars working from either perspective frequently seem to inhabit parallel universes, rather than debating the core issues.

This Introduction to Zoroastrianism will combine introductory surveys in Zoroastrian history, literature, religious ideas, and rituals, with more in-depth discussion of the methods and assumptions underlying historical interpretations of evidence for Zoroastrianism.

Apart from focusing on “what” we know, we have to invest in finding out “how” we know this and how we can make the fragmentary evidence for this religion speak to issues of wider interest, including that of the comparative study of Indo-European religion and mythology.

No philological skills are required for this course.

Time schedule