Iranian Group The third and last group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily consists of the Iranian languages, spoken by about 95 million people, mainly in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Central Asia. Historically, the oldest Iranian forms of which there are any records are Avestan and Old Persian, both highly inflected languages. Old Persian has survived in cuneiform inscriptions from the time of the Achaemenid kings, who ruled ancient Persia during the 6th to 4th cent. B.C. Avestan is the language in which was composed the Avesta, or sacred text of the Zoroastrian religion. The Avesta probably dates from about the 7th to the 5th cent. B.C., but apparently was handed down orally and was not recorded in writing until much later. Avestan is still in use today as the liturgical language of the Zoroastrian faith. The Middle Iranian period, dating from the 3d cent. B.C. to the 9th or 10th cent. A.D., is characterized by considerable grammatical simplification, as in the reduced inflection of the noun and verb. Among the languages surviving in written records
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