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The linguistic difference between the 7th-century Middle Persian (MP) and 10th-century Early New Persian (ENP) is certainly smaller, in many ways, than the one between 10th century ENP and 21st-century modern New Persian (NP).
The distinction between Middle and New Persian is due as much to convention, to extra-linguistic factors such as the historical break mentioned, and to changes connected to this break such as the shift of script (from Pahlavi to Arabic), as to linguistic differences.
The ENP texts written in Arabic script originate from all over historical Iran, in the earliest phase (late 9th to 10th centuries) with a clear preponderance of northeast Iranian regions (Khorasan).
EJP documents were written in, or have been found in, such diverse areas as Egypt, Palestine, southwest Iran (Ahvāz;), Central Iran (Zefra), Afghanistan, western China (Dandan Öilïq), and South India.
) and probably date to the 11th century; the even smaller corpus of Christian NP texts are mostly from Central Asia (Bulayıq), from about the same time.
Both varieties, typically, come from borderlands of (historical) Iran, where religious minorities could thrive longer than in the Islamicized heartlands of Iran.
There is no clear linguistic break, either, between Early New Persian and later stages of Persian.
The definition of ENP followed here corresponds to the one implicitly given by Lazard (1963, pp.
The few extant Manichean NP texts are from northeast Iran (the region of Samarkand?Hardly any ENP works written in Arabic script have come down to us in the form of an autograph, i.e., a manuscript written by the author himself.The oldest surviving ENP manuscript in Arabic script, the , was copied in 1056, probably 80-90 years after it was written down.The other main varieties known today include the ENP used by Persian-speaking Jews (called “Early Judaeo-Persian,” EJP), Manicheans, Christians, and Zoroastrians (called “Manichean,” “Christian,” and “Zoroastrian NP,” respectively).
Each of these varieties represents one religious tradition, visible both from the script used for writing it (Hebrew, Manichean, Syriac, Pahlavi/Avestan) and from the contents of the scriptures.
Each text of each variety of ENP betrays dialectal features from the region where it was found or written, or from where the author originated.