This paper aims to investigate the usage and frequency of what we refer to as K-suffixes in Classical New Persian of the ninth to thirteenth centuries, Contemporary Written Persian of the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, and Contemporary Spoken Persian. It shows that K-suffixes are most likely to be the reflexes of earlier evaluative morphemes, traditionally called “diminutives,” and are characterized by a high degree of multifunctionality. While evaluative functions continue to dominate in the Classical New Persian works, they have largely been lost in contemporary spoken Persian, and the suffix is now systematically used to express definiteness. The development of the K-suffix as a definiteness marker in contemporary colloquial Persian appears to be innovative, and is mainly dependent on genre, speaker, and speech situation.
Data for Classical New Persian is taken from critical editions of works from the ninth to thirteenth centuries. The data for Contemporary Written Persian comes from comprehensive books of fiction from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, and for Contemporary Spoken Persian from an extensive corpus of spoken Persian narratives and a questionnaire answered by fifteen speakers. The results suggest that evaluative morphology can develop into definiteness marking, with the development passing through a stage of combination with a deictic marker.
This paper concludes that the development of definiteness marking can proceed down a new pathway that is different from the one normally assumed for demonstrative-based definite marking, though the endpoint may be similar. The study contributes the second detailed documentation of this process for any Iranian language, and one of the few well-documented cases of a non-demonstrative origin of definiteness marking worldwide.