SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies


Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

This course is an introduction to Avestan, the language of the earliest sacred texts of the Zoroastrians. It is designed to provide students with a clear understanding of the basic principles of the Avestan language in a way that enables them to translate simple Avestan texts and to analyse their grammar. Students who complete the course successfully will be able to handle simple primary sources of the Zoroastrian religion in the original Avestan and to assess critically translations made by various scholars.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • parse Avestan words correctly following a standard pattern consistently
  • understand the principles of the Avestan script and transliterate, in Roman characters, text written in Avestan script
  • translate a simple Avestan text into English
  • comment on grammatical and interpretive features of Avestan words and phrases
  • use the most important grammars and dictionaries of Avestan
  • demonstrate a basic understanding of Avestan literature


Two hours of classes per week over 22 weeks. The course is based on lessons covering basic grammar. Students are required to submit weekly written work for correction and prepare texts for reading in class.

Method of assessment

Two term tests (each 10%) and one three-hour written examination in May/June (80%).

Suggested reading

  • Hoffmann, K.: "Avestan language" in E. Yarshater (ed.), Encyclopaedia Iranica III (1989) 47-62
  • Jackson, A. V. W.: An Avestan Grammar in Comparison with Sanskrit. Part 1: Phonology, Inflection, Word-Formation. With an Introduction on the Avesta. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1892
  • Kellens, J.: "Avesta" in E. Yarshater (ed.), Encyclopaedia Iranica III (1989) 35-44
  • Reichelt, H.: Avesta Reader. Texts, Notes, Glossary and Index. Strassburg, 1911


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules