Monthly Archives: February 2011

Baloch and Baloch Culture

Baloch culture is rich, varied and deep-rooted. Balochistan held one of the earliest human settlements in the World in Mehrgarh around 7,000 – 3,000 B.C. There are plenty of evidence and artifacts concerning the richness of Balochi culture throughout centuries. Balochistan is one of the ancient inhibited land. The history goes back to around 15,000 years ago. During the last century French archaeologists discovered a new site in Balochistan at Mehergarh (Mehregan), which is believed to be the earliest civilization in the world. It pre-dates the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The site was occupied from 7,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C. and it is the earliest Neolithic site where “we have first evidence of domestication of animals and cereal cultivation – wheat and barely – and also the centre for craftsmanship as early as 7.000 B.C.There are many historical sites across Eastern Balochistan (politically part of Pakistan), Western Balochistan (politically part of Iran), and Northern Balochistan (politically part of Afghanistan). The Burn City in northern Balochistan is a unique archeological site and a prime proof of sophistication, engineering and planning. Evidence from these sites show a very clear deep rooted history of civilisation, craftsmanship and exploitation. Amir Tavakol Kambozia wrote that Cupper was first discovered in Balochistan. It was transported from Balochistan to present day Iraq by water-born vessels. The names Baloch and Balochistan appears in literatures as old as 2000 years ago.

The Baloch had a very successful methodology in irrigation and agriculture as well as in cultivation and husbandry. You can read a great deal in the history section. Despite the brutal political oppressions in Balochistan, the Balochi literature has emerged strong and vibrant. Baloch poetry is one of the most beautiful poetry and one of the oldest in the World. In Baloch culture poetry has always been combined with music. Balochi music and folklore has been passed from generation to generation as a valuable art. Baloch handicraft are world-renowned – be it Baloch carpets and rugs or embroidery. The Baloch are very hospitable, nice and friendly. They are generally intelligent, learned, well-informed, initiated, cultivated, socially accomplished and politically attentive. Culturally, they are rich and self-dependent. The deliberate deprivation is a political tool used by the central governments of Iran and Pakistan in order to ensure Balochistan and particularly the Baloch people are kept back-ward.

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Baloch Culture


Baloch Traditions

Birth of a child

The occasion of the birth of either a male or a female child was marked with much music and singing. The women folk attended the mother for seven nights and sang sipatt or nazink , literally meaning songs of praise. Food and sweets were prepared and distributed. The birth of a boy was greeted with greater rejoicing than the birth of a girl. Among some tribes no ceremonies were performed on the birth of a girl, while among other tribes usual ceremonies were performed from birth to death. They included birth, sasigan (selecting name on sixth day), burruk (circumcision), padgami (child’s beginning to walk) and salwar (wearing of trousers) etc.


Hal was giving and receiving news when one chanced to meet another. It was an obligation, and always reciprocal. A person must communicate the latest happenings which may include the prices of essential goods in a nearby market or some political events o a more serious nature. This helped in conveying the latest happening in remote areas. When travelling in groups, the hal was given by the elderly person of noble birth. This was called chehabar. To reveal or receive hal was a mark of distinction.


Mestagi was the reward for giving good news as birth of a son, news of the arrival of a lost relative or report of a victory in the battle. It was appropriate and according to the good news conveyed.


The Baloch had an open society with its unique charachteristic of equality and freedom, which is now deep-rooted. Every Baloch was expected to be active member of the tribe. He took part in discussion in diwan which was open to everyone, at the house of the Sardar or the elder. Sometimes there were separate place, diwanjah, for such getherings. Social, political and economic peoblems concerning the tribe were debated in these assemblies. Diwan literally means gathering or assembly. Diwan in it formal nature was to be participated in by the elders and elected personalities. In all informal get-togethers everybody felt his presence. This spirt had made the Baloch into a close knit tribal structure based on mutual benefit and loss.
The house of the leader, or diwanjah was the place where history, legends, ballads, drama, lyrics and tales of love were told and sung. Every one wished that he could exert himself and attract others by his knowledge and manners during such discussions.

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Baloch Culture


A Case Study of Balochi Language

Azim Shahbakhsh

By: Azim Shahbakhsh
University of London

Part 1:
1.1: History
1.2: Geography and Demography

Part 2:
2.1: Language domains
2.2: Balochi problems with development in Iran




Among the many languages spoken in the world, one is Balochi meaning “Language of Baloch”. It is spoken by the Baloch people in Balochistan. For historical reasons the language has become marginalised and even for native speakers, it has become pragmatically a second language. While Balochi is probably not on the danger list of languages facing extinction, it is essential to note that the number of languages in the world is declining at an alarming rate; for instance, Crystal (1997. 286) observes that, in 1962, Trumai, spoken in a single village on the lower Culuene River in Venezuela, was reduced by an influenza epidemic to a population of fewer than 10 speakers. In the 19th century, it was thought that there were over 1,000 Indian languages in Brazil; today, there are only 200. A quarter of the world’s languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers; half have fewer 10,000. It is likely that most of these languages will die out in the next 50 years. Although Balochi is spoken over a vast area of the world, it seems to be in danger because it is decreasingly used by its speakers in official and educational situations. This paper is concerned with the Balochi language in Iran presenting the issues from two perspectives: The first is a descriptive history of this language, its relation to its family languages, its dialects, its development as for its orthography and standardization, and demographical and geographical factors. The second is concerned with the situation of Balochi today, in terms of linguistic domains, the situation of this language in Iran as for its legalization , and a comparison with other languages . A summary of Balochi phonemes and grammar is included in an appendix as well.

Part 1:
1.1: History

Balochi is an Iranian language. Iranian languages form a branch of the vast Indo-European family. Linguists believe the ancestral language, proto-Indo-European (PIE), was spoken around 6000 years ago, probably somewhere in western Asia or eastern Europe (Abolghassemi, 1994,5). Over time, PIE split up into several regional varieties. One of these languages, which are called Proto-Indo-Iranian, was spoken about 5000 years ago, and the best guess is that this was spoken in the east and northeast of the Caspian Sea. Then this language itself split up. One large group of people migrated toward India, where their speech eventually gave rise to the Indo-Aryan languages of India, such as the ancient Vedic and Sanskrit and the New Hindi-Urdu and Bengali. Another group migrated southward into the Iranian plateau. These people appear in history for the first time about 1000 BC, when they are mentioned in Assyrian sources (ibid. p.17).
The Old Iranian language is divided into three periods, first one them started from 1000 BC to 732Ad / 331 BC. This period is called Old Iranian; the important languages of this period are as follows: Old Persian, Medic, Avesta, and Old Saka. The second period started from 331 BC. This period is called Middle Iranian such as Pahlavi, Sogdian, middle Saka, Balkhi. The last period started from 31 HG and continues until today. Among the important languages of this period are New Persian, Pashto, Kurdish, and Balochi. These are relevant to as new Iranian languages.
There is no document of old and middle Balochi. We can only speak about New Balochi because there is much evidence of it available. Some scientists believe that New Balochi rooted from old and Middle Balochi, but no traces of those periods remain. The Balochi language is a northwestern Iranian language, in the same category as Kurdish, Taleshi, Gilaki, Iranian central dialects, Parachi, and Ormuri languages.
Linguists believe that Balochi has a wide variety of dialects. According to Elfenbein (1968,10) Balochi consists of two main groups of dialects: Eastern dialects and Western. These two main dialects are devisable into six smaller dialects as Eastern Hill, Coastal, Rakhshani, Lashari, and Kechi. The socioeconomic division of Iranian Balochistan into a northern versus central and southern part corresponds to the main Bloch dialect divisions within Iran, namely that between the northern (Rakhshani) versus the southern (Makkorani) dialects. There are, however, as noted both by Elfenbein, (1968 pp.19-20, 23) and Spooner, (1967) some dialects, which have their own very distinct features and do not readily fit into one of the two groups mentioned above. One such dialect is that of Sarawani. No Balochi dialect has been standardized, because, it is not used in education and because of racial biases which exist among different Baloch tribes. However, in Germany, Italy, and Sweden, academics are trying to standardize one of the dialects of that language which seems to be an important language in the Middle East.
The script, which is generally used in Balochi, is derived from Arabic script. The Arabic script spread with Islam, and has generally remained fairly uniform, even when has in been used for languages belonging to totally different families, for example, Semitic, Turkish and Indo-European languages, such as Farsi, Pashto, Urdu, Kurdish, and Balochi. Balochi has a very short tradition of writing. Most works written in the 19th and early 20th centuries are by Englishmen in Roman scripts. The orthography used nowadays by the Baloch people is based on the Arabic script with Persian-Urdu conventions. There is no standard written language, and no fixed alphabets. Depending on which dialect you wish to write, the Persian and the Urdu version of the Arabic script is used. The Arabic loan words in Balochi are generally spelled in accordance with their spelling in Arabic. This leads to over representation of consonant phonemes. Vowel phonemes are, on the contrary, not fully represented because there are no symbols to show short vowels. Nowadays some linguist are trying to standardize Balochi orthography, they suggest that it is better to use Roman script in Balochi, because the Roman script is able to show all phonemes correctly whereas the Arabic script is not able to show short vowels; Roman script is able to show short vowels. However, since Baloch are Moslem, it is hard for them to apply the Roman script. In other words, Baloch prefer to use Arabic script, because it is the script of the Quran. In addition, since Baloch have no authority, they cannot legalize there own preferred script.

1.2: Geography and Demography

The Baloch are a people divided between several different countries. Nowadays Balochi is spoken in the southeastern part of Iranian linguistic area. Today Balochi is spoken in southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran, southern Afghanistan, the Gulf States and Turkmenistan. There are also communities of Baloch people in East Africa and India, as well as several countries in the West; e.g. Great Britain and the USA. It is hard to estimate the total number of speakers of Balochi, especially since central governments such as Iranian government and Pakestanian regime do not generally stress ethnic identity in census reports. According to Jahani statistics available estimate that at least five to eight million Baloch speak the language (2000, 11). The majority live in Pakistan and Iran. It is impossible to obtain exact statistics of Baloch living in Iran. In 1998 Britannica Book of the Year the figure for Balochi speakers in Iran is given at 1 420 000. (Britannica Book of the Year 1998,772) In view of the difficulties of gathering exact statistics in a remote region like Balochistan, where rural life still predominates, and of the general tendency for a central government not to overestimate the size of minority groups, a figure of slightly more than 1.5 million Baloch in Iran probably comes close to the truth. There are also a certain number of persons who identify as Baloch, but without being able to speak Balochi.
Geographically, Iranian Balochistan is divided into the northern Sarhadd area, the central/southern parts comprising the Iranshahr-Bampur region, the Sarawan district, the Makkoran Mountains down almost to the coast, and a southern strip along the coast of the Sea of Oman.
Economically this region is also divided into mainly pastoralism in the Sarhadd, where agricultural production specializes in dates and fruit, as well as pastoralism in the central/southern areas, and fishing combined with some agriculture on the coast. In the north where nomadism is the traditional basis of economy the social organization is tribal.
Some of the major tribes in this area are the Regi, Mirbalochzahi, Somalzahi (shahbakhsh), yarmohammadzhi (shahnawazi), and Naruyi. In the central and southern parts of Iranian Balochistan, the social structure is also to a certain degree tribal, though some of the agricultural population belong to low status tribes or are non-tribal gulam “slaves”. With the introduction of education and a certain degree of urbanization in Iranian Balochistan, it is but natural that age-old socioeconomic structures are likely to undergo considerable change, a process already underway to a certain extent.

Part 2:
2.1: Language domains

One of the ways that we can see how healthy or strong a language is, is to look at where in society the language is used. So if a language is used at home, at work, in education, in business, in administration, in religion, in entertainment and in the mass media, then that language has a usage in many social domains that shows that it will continue to thrive as a language. Conversely, if we find, for instance, that elderly members of family only use a language at home, and for all other purposes a second language is used, then we can conclude that the language is weak and may even die out within a generation.
The Balochi language, which is spoken over such a vast territory, has different levels of use. In central Balochistan, it is used in almost all domains, whereas in the cities a second language-Persian- is used in a lot of areas, educational and media domains, and Balochi exists mainly as the language of home and local community. At present, it is partly lack of education that is ensuring the strength of Balochi because there are a large number of Baloch who are uneducated and have little to do with business, offices or literary activities, and thus have few domains where second language would be used. But it is good neither for the Baloch people nor the long-term health of their language. In situations of contact with major trades and official languages, people will tend towards bilingualism. In the religious domain, Balochi is used for devotional exposition in many communities, but the language of sacred text and worship is Arabic.
Woodard (1989.pp.359-360) observes that studies of minority languages have shown that for bilingual speakers where topic/domain determines which language they talk, the minority language is showing signs of weakness and decline, but where the language to speak on a particular occasion is chosen according to the participants in the exchange the minority language is not showing signs of shift to the other language. So, for example, if a Baloch feels compelled to write letters in Persian to other Bloch’s, this is a sign of retrenchment of Balochi. But if a Baloch writes letters in Persian to non-Baloch, but in Balochi to Balochs, this is a type of bilingual performance that is not a sign of language weakening.
This presents a challenge to the Baloch community, since trade, television, newspapers, and education will increasingly be a factor in the lives of more and more Baloch, bringing ever more domains in which they function in languages other than Balochi. The way to meet this challenge is clearly to extend the use of Balochi to as many of these domains as possible, and perhaps the single most powerful instrument in achieving this is mother tongue education, since mother tongue education would be a means of extending Balochi usage to many academic domains. Even if mother tongue education did not extend through the entire school curriculum, the effect of literacy and use of mother tongue in formal situations would increase greatly its domain of use.
Mother tongue education has traditionally been seen as the great hope for reversing language shift, so much so that Fishman has warned against seeing it “as a way of reviving a language unless active home use of the language is also established”(1996.p.368). So, for example, in Ireland Gaelic is taught at school and used in many government contexts, but it is still not widely used in the home or community. As a result mother tongue education cannot be expected to revive the language on its own. But Balochi is very widely spoken in the home and society. What is needed for Balochi is not so much increased use in the home, but increased use out of the home, especially in formal situations. Thus, it is hoped that with mother tongue education and literacy. Baloch will increasingly write letters, post signs, notices and bulletins, read newspapers and magazines in Balochi, as well as doing business and government administration in it.

2.2: Balochi problems with development in Iran
Minority languages often suffer from certain political restrictions, which limit their development. A suitable example to illustrate this issue is the situation of the Kurdish language in Iran, Iraq, and certain other countries. The constitution of Persia (Iran) enacted in 1906, which was powerful during the reign of the Pahlavi monarchy, had no mention about language whatsoever. (Iran, pp.51-76) . The language policy prevalent between 1925 and 1979 was, however, that of strict uniformity. There was to be one nation with one language, namely Persian. Other Iranian languages spoken within the borders of Iran were regarded as local dialects of Persian. Under such circumstances there was, of course, no provision made by the government for mother tongue education or even cultural activities or publication in the minority language.

According to the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, chapter 1, article 15, in addition to the official language Persian, “the use of the local and ethnic languages in the press and mass media is allowed. The teaching of the ethnic literature in the schools, together with Persian language instruction is also permitted”. (Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran, 1979, pp.8-10). This means that it is in principle permitted to publish books and newspapers in Balochi, but at present there is no such publication-taking place in Iran. When it comes to teaching Balochi literature in the school, there is of course no provision being made for such a subject due to the almost total lack of Balochi literature. As for radio programmers, the situation is different, and Radio Zahedan has daily broadcasts in Balochi. In fact, these broadcasts date back at least to the 1960s, thus to the time of the Pahlavi monarchy. Although the government propagandizes that it tries to help the improvement of the Balochi language and other minority languages, it has not gone further than propagation. The fact is that it has remained as a written act and not an executed article.

All the limitations that were made by Iranian governments show that the government and Iranian nationalists are worried about the fact that the Balochi language can become a symbol of the Baloch people’s national identity. A very clear example of this is seen in the history of the Basque (euskera), and the attitude towards it by the Spanish government under Franco, from 1937 until the mid 1950s. The teaching of the language in schools was forbidden, as was its use in the media, church ceremonies, and all public places. Books in the language were publicly burnt. Basque names were no longer allowed in baptism, and all names in the language on official documents were translated into Spanish. Inscriptions on public buildings and tombstones were removed. By the early 1960s, official policy changed. Nowadays Basque is permitted in all linguistic, cultural, and political activities (Crystal, 1997.34). But the Iranian authorities appear to have learned lessons from the situation in Spain, particularly that the success of the Basque language was seen to be linked with the nationalist aspirations of the Basque people, a situation they were keen to avoid in Iran. Consequently, they are going to so pressurize the Balochs that this minority cannot ask for separation. However, this reaction is not beneficial for the Iranian government because if a culture and its people are suppressed, it will change into a dangerous nationalism, and this is why some Baloch literate are acting secretly to develop their language and culture.

In the history of the world, languages have always come and gone, but in the present time there are some factors which have never existed previously, and which threaten many of the world’s languages in a way they have never been threatened before. The first is that, with the growing world population and with ever increasing mobility, there are getting to be very few people who have had no contact with speakers of other languages, and the vast majority of people have regular contact with speakers of other languages. The second is that the spread and use of electronic media and communications are growing exponentially. At times it appears that Balochi, spoken largely by semi-nomadic shepherds or rural farmers and fishermen in the huge open expanses of Balochistan, would be unaffected by the developments in urban business and leisure communications. But it is necessary to note that among the Baloch in Iran within a single generation storytelling has been replaced by radio, then by television, then video, then satellite as a means of family entertainment. In other words, a language will not develop, according to Crystal (1998. 82) unless it is used by mass media, and also he adds that, “When we investigate why so many nations have in recent years made English an official language or chosen it as their chief foreign language in school, one of the most important reasons is that, always educational- in the broadest sense”(ibid.101). As a result, the application of a language in education is also very important in the development of that language.


As I have tried to show in the previous section, the Balochi language is one of the new Iranian languages used in Iran and has different dialects. However, due to current restricting laws, which have not allowed the Balochi language to be used in education and official contexts, this language has not developed, and the Baloch people have to use Persian, which is their second language as the official language. Practically, the Balochi language is going to be their second language. To develop this language, the laws should be changed so that it can be used in education, and mass media. Meanwhile, to standardize this language, one of its dialects should be given prior and prominent salience.

Although a great many restrictions have been imposed on this language. It has been the center of a lot of research in countries other than Iran. For instance, in Pakistan, Italy, Sweden, and Germany, academics work on it and there are even some departments giving degrees on research about the Balochi language. Hence, while in Iran this language is ignored, elsewhere there exits great interest in it. This is an unsettling situation which must change. The fear is that, Blochi will otherwise join that growing list of languages, which have died and now exist only as museum pieces.


Abolghassemi, M, 1994, A history of the Persian language, Tehran.
Britannica Book of the Year_1998, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc, Chicago 1998.
Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, transl. From Persian by Hamid . Alggar, Berkeley1980.
Crystal, D, 1997,The Cambridge encyclopedia of language, Cambridge University Press 1997.
————-, 1998, English As A Global language, Cambridge University Press 1998.
Elfenbein, 1968, The Balochi Language, A Dialectology with Texts, London.
Farrell, T, 1990 Basic Balochi ,Naples. Institute of Oriental Studies
Fishman, J, 1989, Language and Ethnicity in Minority Sociolinguistic Perspective, Clevedon-Philadelphia.
Iran, 1969, Published by the Ministry of Information, Tehran.
Jahani,C, 1989, Standardization And Orthography in the Balochi Language, Uppsala.
Language in Society-Eight Sociolinguistic Essays on Balochi2000,ed by Carina Jahani , Uppsala.
Mahmoodzahi,M, 1998 Comparative study between Balochi and Old Iranian Languages, Tehran.
Spooner, B, Notes on the Baluchi Spoken in Persian Baluchisa,pp.51-71in,Iran Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies,5(1967).
Woolard,K, Language Convergence and Language Death as Social Processes , pp.355-367 in Investigating obsolescence: Studies in Language Contraction and Death , N.Dorian, Cambridge 1989.



1. Survey articles

Josef ELFENBEIN 1989: “Baluchistan III: Baluchi language and literature”. In:
Encyclopædia Iranica 3, pp. 633-644
––– 1989a: “Balōčī.” In: Rüdiger SCHMITT (ed.): Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum.
Wiesbaden: Reichert, pp. 350-362
Carina JAHANI 2001: “Balochi.” In: Jane GARRY, Carl RUBINO (eds.): Facts About
the World’s Languages: An Encyclopedia of the World’s Major Languages, Past
and Present. New York / Dublin, pp. 59-64

2. Sources unspecific for dialect
Mumtaz AHMAD 1985: Baluchi Glossary. A Baluchi-English Glossary:
Elementary Level. Kensington/Maryland
Josef ELFENBEIN 1990: An Anthology of Classical and Modern Balochi
Literature. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2 vol.
transcription of (in most cases) previously published texts2 with translations,2 the 2nd vol. is a
T, D
George A. GRIERSON 1921: “Balōčī.” In: Linguistic Survey of India X:
Specimens of Languages of the Eranian Family. Calcutta, p. 327-451
grammar; texts (in Arabic script) from various dialects of Pakistan, partly with translation or
G, T
Carina JAHANI, Agnes KORN (eds.) 2003: The Baloch and Their Neighbours:
Ethnic and Linguistic Contact in Balochistan in Historical and Modern
Times. Wiesbaden: Reichert
G, T

3. Sources for individual dialect (groups)
3.1 Eastern dialects:
Mansel Longworth DAMES 1881: A Sketch of the Northern Balochi Language,
containing a grammar, vocabulary and specimens of the language [Extra
number of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal I/1880]. Calcutta
G, T, D
––– 1891: A Text Book of the Balochi Language, consisting of Miscellaneous
Stories, Legends, Poems, and a Balochi-English Vocabulary. Lahore
T, D
––– 1907: Popular Poetry of the Baloches. London, 2 vol.
epic poetry, with translation
T, D
George W. GILBERTSON 1923: The Balochi Language. A Grammar and
Manual. Hertford: Stephen Austin & Sons
––– 1925: English-Balochi Colloquial Dictionary. Hertford, 2 vol. D
Thomas J. L. MAYER 1910: English-Biluchi Dictionary. Calcutta D
1 D: dictionary / glossary, G: grammar, T: collection of texts
2 Elfenbein, as he himself says, “corrects” the originals.
Agnes Korn July 2008

3.2 Southern dialects:
Josef ELFENBEIN 1983: A Baluchi Miscellany of Erotica and Poetry: Codex
Oriental Additional 24048 of the British Library. Naples: Istituto
Universitario Orientale
tales and poetry transcribed from the oldest extant Balochi manuscript (ca. 1820),3 with photos
of the manuscript, translation and glossary
T, D
SAYAD HASHMI 2000: Sayad Ganj. The First Balochi Dictionary. Karachi:
Balochi Academy

3.2.1 Karachi
Tim FARRELL 1990: Basic Balochi. An Introductory Course. Naples: Istituto
Universitario Orientale
––– 2003: “Linguistic Influences on the Balochi spoken in Karachi.” In:
JAHANI/KORN, pp. 169-210
discussion of some points of grammar, with 2 short sample texts with translation and analysis
G, T

3.2.2 Oman
Nigel A. COLLETT 1983: A Grammar, Phrase Book and Vocabulary of
Baluchi. Abingdon

3.3. Western dialects
3.3.1 Turkmenistan
Serge AXENOV 2006: The Balochi Language of Turkmenistan [Studia Iranica
Upsaliensia 10]. Uppsala: Uppsala University
grammar4 with some pages of folk tales (with translation and glossary)
G, T
Josef ELFENBEIN 1963: A Vocabulary of Marw Baluchi. Naples
(glossary for ZARUBIN 1932, 1949 etc.)
Ivan I. ZARUBIN 1932: Beludžskie skazki I. Leningrad: Nauka
––– 1949: Beludžskie skazki II. Moscow/Leningrad: Nauka
folk tales, with Russian translation

3.3.2 Afghanistan
Georg BUDDRUSS 1988: Aus dem Leben eines jungen Balutschen, von ihm
selbst erzählt. Stuttgart: Steiner
transcription of an autobiographical narrative, with German translation and glossary
T, G, D
Tetsuo NAWATA 1981: Baluchi [Asian and African Grammatical Manuals
17b]. Tokyo
Behrooz BARJASTEH DELFOROOZ 2004: “Two pastoral Balochi love
songs.” In: Orientalia Suecana LIII, pp. 49-61
with translation and glossary

3.3.3 Pakistan
Muhammad A. BARKER / Aqil Khan MENGAL 1969: A Course in Baluchi.
Montreal, 2 vol.
with some texts and comprehensive glossary
G, D, T
Carina JAHANI 1997: “Byā o baloč – the Cry of a Baloch Nationalist.” In:
Orientalia Suecana 45-46 [1996-7])
poem by Gul Xan Nasir, with translation and commentary
3 Elfenbein “corrects” the original, so one should check the photos of the pages before quoting.
4 Axenov’s grammatical analyses are not always those that some other people would apply.
Agnes Korn July 2008

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Balochi Language Teaching


Balohi Language Profile

Number of Speakers: Seven million

Key Dialects: The Baluchi language divides into two main dialects:

Eastern Baluchi and Western Baluchi. Within the Western dialect are three further key sub-dialects, Rakhshani and Sarawani (spoken in northern areas) and Makrani (spoken in the south). The Western dialect is the primary dialect and is used in literary Baluchi. Some scholars differentiate a third dialect, Southern Baluchi. However, most linguists agree that Southern Baluchi does not constitute a third dialectal division and is, on the other hand, subsumed under the Western dialect.

Geographical Center: Province of Balochistan, Pakistan

Baluchi (also spelled Balochi) is the principle language of Balochistan, a province of Pakistan. It is not, however, a national language nor does it have official status. It is spoken in a number of other regions including Iran, Afghanistan, India, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and East Africa. Baluchi is classified as an Iranian language of the Indo-European language family. It is closely related to Kurdish and Persian (Farsi). Other related languages include Pashto, Dari, Tajik, and Ossetian.

Baluchi is an Indo-European language classified as a member of the Northwestern branch of the Western Iranian group of the Indo-Iranian language family.

The Eastern and Western dialects of Baluchi are sufficiently distinct, yet for the most part mutually intelligible. The Western dialect is strongly influenced by Persian, although the two languages are not intelligible. The dialect has both considerably borrowed from and influenced a number of neighboring languages including Persian, Arabic, Pashto, and Turkmen. Western Baluchi is much less linguistically homogeneous than Eastern Baluchi, as there are three distinct sub-dialects within the Western dialect (Rakhshani, Sarawani, and Makrani) and no further notable subdivisions concerning the Eastern variant. Eastern Baluchi has also borrowed from and influenced nearby languages such as Sindhi and Pashto, although to a lesser degree than the Western dialects.

Prior to the 19th century, Baluchi was an unwritten language. The British introduced Baluchi in written form during the 19th century with a Roman script. In the late 19th century, a substantial sect of scholars adopted the Naskh or Arabic script, thus dividing the language community. Today, there is no standard orthography. In Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, Baluchi is written using the Arabic/Urdu orthography. The Roman script is widely employed by Baluchi speakers outside these countries.

The phonology of Baluchi is characterized by a phoneme inventory consisting of eight vowels, three diphthongs, and twenty-five consonants. Among the vowels, a long/short distinction exists and is contrastive in the language. The use of retroflex articulations (gestures involving the tongue tip raised or curled towards the back of the mouth) is a characteristic property of the Baluchi sound system and is likely to have been influenced by the languages of India, especially Urdu and Sindhi.

The word order of Baluchi, like many other Indo-Iranian languages, is SOV. The verbal system of the language is comprised of two voices (active and passive), four moods (indicative, interrogative, imperative, and subjunctive), two tenses (past and present/future – nb. morphologically, there is no formal distinction between present and future forms in all verb forms with the singular exception of the copula ‘to be’), and two aspects (perfect, imperfect/continuative). Verbs agree with their subjects in person and number. Complex or so-called “light” verb constructions are productive in the language. In this construction, a nominal, adjectival, or verbal element is followed by an auxiliary verb such as ‘come’, ‘become’, ‘do’, etc. In this way, the number of independent/monomorphemic verb forms in the language is reduced somewhat.

Five cases are attested: nominative, accusative, dative, oblique, and vocative. Linguists, however, disagree on the status of the Baluchi case-marking system. Although in most circumstances, the assignment of case mirrors that of a Nominative-Accusative language (subjects of both transitive and intransitive verbs surface in the
nominative case), in the past tense, case marking is more akin to that of an Ergative language. In this way, Baluchi patterns with other Iranian languages that show a tense-related Nominative-Ergative split in their case-marking system (e.g. Pamir (Payne 1980) and Kurdish (Bynon 1980)). More specifically, the nominative case may mark the subject of any intransitive verb in any tense. Likewise, subjects of transitive verbs in the present/future tense show up in the nominative form. However, in the past tense, the subject of a transitive verb must be marked with the oblique case and not the nominative. In other words, an Ergative-like case-marking pattern is found exclusively in the past tense. Furthermore, transitive verbs in the past tense agree only with objects and not with their subjects, as is typically the case. Most dialects of Baluchi, however, are on the way towards abolishing the ergative construction. The varieties of Baluchi spoken in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, for instance, have neutralized this distinction already.

Gender and definiteness are not grammatically encoded in the morphology. Prepositions, postpositions, and circumpositions (adpositional-like morphemes that appear both pre-nominally and post-nominally) are all attested, another distinguishing grammatical property of the language. Dialects influenced by Persian tend to favor the use of prepositions over postpositions, while those dialects in direct contact with Indian languages prefer postpositions. At present, the use of postpositions is more prevalent than the use of prepositions.

Among the countries in which Baluchi is spoken (Pakistan, Iran,Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and the Arab Gulf states), it is neither considered an official language nor (for the most part) taught in the country’s educational system. In 1989, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave permission for the use of Baluchi (among other languages) in primary education in Balochistan. Despite this move, Baluchi language education has encountered numerous difficulties.
There is a severe lack of teachers; many parents object to Baluchi instruction, demanding their children learn more practical languages like English, Urdu, and Persian; and there is pressure from outside language groups seeking to have their languages taught instead. In this way, education in Baluchi is effectively education in a second language. The language is thus principally one of the home and the local community. At present, courses in Baluchi language and literature are offered at the Balochistan University in Quetta, the provincial capital. There are also several Baluchi language publications in Pakistan, the two most prominent being Balochi
(published in Quetta) and Labzank (published in Karachi), in addition to several newspapers. Additionally, there is a Baluchi Academy that publishes literary works in Baluchi and supports the work of literary organizations. The Academy, however, receives limited government funding. As a consequence, the creation, maintenance, and enforcement of a single standardized language for all Baluchi people has proven problematic. Literacy rates are quite low across the board (roughly 1-5% of Baluchi are literate in the written language (Western Baluchi)). The media, however, plays a significant role in the standardization of the language and the intelligibility of Baluchi among speakers of different dialects.Radio Zahedan broadcasts a daily Baluchi language program from the capital of the Sistan-va-Balochistan province, Zahedan.

The Baluchi language is said to have its origins in a lost language related to those of the Parthian and Median civilizations, sometime between 200 B.C. and 700 A.D. Baluchi historical scholars have concluded that Baluchi’s ancestor was neither Parthian nor middle Persian, but rather a lost language that shared a number of
properties with both. In this regard, Baluchi has no real affinity with the languages of the Indian subcontinent and is quite distinct from other Iranian languages of the Indo-European language family Baluchi was used solely as an oral language up until the 19th century. Prior to this time, it was generally regarded as a dialect
of Persian and there was no tradition of using it in writing. Prior to 1947, Persian and English were used as official languages in Balochistan. In 1947, the independent Khanate of Balochistan announced Baluchi as an official and national language. However, in 1948 with the incorporation of Balochistan into the newly created Pakistan, Baluchi was replaced by Urdu as the national language. Today, Baluchi is spoken in several different countries, but neither enjoys official status nor is used in the education systems of the countries in which it is spoken.

Barker, Mohammed Abd-al-Rahman and Aqil Khan Mengal. 1969. A Course in Baluchi. Montreal: McGill University.

Bynon, T. 1980. From Passive to Ergative in Kurdish Via the Ergative Construction. In E.C. Tsugott, R. Labrum, and S. Shephard (eds.),
Papers from the 4th International Conference on Historical Linguistics, 151-161. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Collett, Major N.A. 1983. A Grammar, Phrase Book, and Vocabulary of Baluchi. Great Britain: Burgess and Son (Abingdon) Ltd.

Farrell, T. 1995. Fading Ergativity? A Study of Ergativity in Balochi. In D.C. Bennet (ed.), Subject, Voice, and Ergativity:
Selected Essays, 218-243. London: School of Oriental and African Studies.

Gilbertson, Major George Waters. 1923. The Balochi Language. A Grammar and Manual. Hertford: Stephen Austin and Sons Ltd.

Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (Editor). 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth Edition. Dallas: SIL International.

Jahani, Carina. 2000. Language in Society – Eight Sociolinguistic Essays on Balochi. Universitatis Upsaliensis (Uppsala University).

Khan, Naseer. 1984. The Grammar of Balochi Language. Balochi Acadamy Quetta.

Payne, J.R. 1980. The Decay of Ergativity in Pamir Languages. Lingua 51: 147-186.

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Balochi Language


Ethnologue report for Balochi language

Balochi, Western
A language of Balochistan Pakistan
ISO 639-3: bgn
Population1,116,000 in Pakistan (1998). Population total all countries:
Region Northwestern Balochistan Province. Also spoken in Afghanistan, Iran,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan.
Alternate names Baluchi, Baloci, Baluci
Dialects Rakhshani (Raxshani), Sarawani. Strongly influenced by Fars, but not intelligible with Farsi.
ClassificationIndo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Northwestern,
Language development Literacy rate in first language: 1% to 5%. Literacy rate in second language: 5% to 15%. Urdu script; Arabic script in
Afghanistan. Newspapers. Radio programs. Bible portions: 1984.
Comments Balochi is the official spelling in Pakistan. It has a small body
of literature. Muslim (Sunni).

Also spoken in:
Language name Balochi, Western
Population200,000 in Afghanistan (1979).
Region Along Helmand River and Zaranj area, in the southwest desert region.
Alternate names Baluchi, Baluci, Baloci
Dialects Rakhshani (Raxshani).
Language development Literacy rate in first language: 5% to 10%. Literacy
rate in second language: 15% to 25%.
Comments Largely nomadic. Muslim (Sunni).

Language name Balochi, Western
Population451,000 in Iran (1986).
Region Northern Sistan va Baluchistan Province. Half are settled in cities and villages, half are nomadic.
Alternate names Baluchi, Baluci, Baloci
Dialects Rakhshani (Raxshani), Sarawani.
Language use Few speak Farsi.
Comments Distinct from Eastern and Southern Balochi. Ethnic group:
Yarahmadza. Muslim (Sunni and Shi’a).

Language name Balochi, Western
Population28,000 in Turkmenistan (1993).
Alternate names Baloci, Baluchi, Baluci
Language useTurkmen is used as the literary language in Turkmenistan.
Comments Distinct from Eastern and Southern Balochi. Muslim.

Entries from the SIL Bibliography about this language:
Academic Publications
Farrell, Timothy. 1989. A study of ergativity in Balochi.
Farrell, Timothy. 1995. “Fading ergativity? A study of ergativity in Balochi.”

Hallberg, Daniel G. 1992. Pashto, Waneci, Ormuri.
Sabir, A. Razzak. 2003. “Language contact in Balochistan (with special reference to Balochi and Brahui).”
Vernacular Publications
Buni kitaab. 1987.

Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World,


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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Balochi Language Profile


Introduction to Balochi Language

Balochi is spoken in south-western Pakistan, south-eastern Iran, southern Afghanistan, the Gulf States and Turkmenistan. There are also communities of Baloch in East Africa and India, as well as in several countries of the West, e.g. Great Britain and the USA. It is very hard to estimate the total number of speakers of Balochi, especially since central governments do not generally stress ethnic identity in census reports, but statistics available give at hand that at least between five and eight million Baloch speak the language. Linguistically Balochi belongs to the western group of the Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages, and is closely related to Kurdish and Persian.
The main dialect split is that between eastern, southern and western dialects. Eastern Balochi dialects are spoken in border areas to Indian languages in Punjab, Sind, and the north eastern parts of Pakistani Balochistan, and are heavily influenced by Indian languages, e.g. Sindhi and Lahnda. Southern Balochi is spoken in the southern areas of the Balochi speaking parts of Iran and Pakistan, including Karachi, as well as in the Gulf States. Western Balochi is spoken in the northern Balochi speaking area in Iran and Pakistan (except in the north east), in Afghanistan and in Turkmenistan.
The Balochi language is a north-west Iranian language but is nowadays spoken in the south eastern corner of the Iranian linguistic area. According to the epic tradition of the Baloch themselves, they are of Arabic origin and migrated from Aleppo in Syria after the battle of Karbala, where, despite being mainly Sunni Muslims, they fought on the side of the Shi’a Muslim imam and martyr Hussein. Even if these legends must be seriously questioned they may at least carry some truth in them. It is possible that the original home of the Baloch was somewhere in the central Caspian region, and that they then migrated south-eastwards under pressure from Turkic peoples invading the Iranian plateau from Central Asia. It is also possible that tribes and groups of various ethnic origin, including Indo-European, Semitic, Dravidic, Turkic, and others have been incorporated into the very heterogeneous ethnic group known as the Baloch.
The Balochi language has long been regarded as a dialect of Persian, and has not until recently been used as a written language. Balochi possesses, however, a rich oral literature of both poetry and prose. As a written language Balochi can be divided into two periods, the colonial period with British rule in India, and the period after the Independence of Pakistan. During the first period most of the existing written literature was produced as a result of British influence. The literature of this time on and in Balochi consists of grammar books and collections of oral poetry and tales, compiled in order to provide samples of the language and to make it possible for British military and civil officials to learn Balochi.
With the withdrawal of the British and the Independence of Pakistan in 1947, the Baloch themselved became increasingly concerned with the development of their language. Baloch poets, who had previously composed in Persian and Urdu started to write poetry in their mother tongue. Literary circles were founded and publication of magazines and books in Balochi got underway. This use of Balochi as a written language has mainly been limited to Pakistan, where Quetta and Karachi soon developed into the two main centres of Balochi literary activities. In Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and the Gulf States Balochi is still basically an oral language, despite sporadic attempts at writing and publication.
Balochi, thus, has a very short tradition of writing. The works written in the 19th and early 20th centuries by Englishmen are in Roman script. The orthography used today by the Baloch in Pakistan is based on the Arabic script with Persian-Urdu conventions. There is no standard written language, and therefore no fixed alphabet. Depending on which dialect is written the number of letters in a proposed alphabet may vary. The complete Arabic alphabet has, however, been adopted for Persian/Urdu and thereby also for Balochi, and Arabic loanwords in Balochi are generally spelled in accordance with their spelling in Arabic. This leads to overrepresentation of consonant phonemes. Vowel phonemes are, on the contrary, not fully represented.
Balochi was more widely spoken in the 19th and early 20th centuries than nowadays. Especially in Punjab and Sind there are today many people who recognize themselves as Baloch but speak Indian languages. There are also Baloch both in the Gulf States and in East Africa who have switched over from speaking Balochi to speaking (and writing) Arabic and Swahili respectively. On the other hand, several Brahui tribes, both in Iran and Pakistan have switched over from speaking Brahui to speaking Balochi.
Education in the Balochi speaking areas is invariably in a second language, namely in Urdu/English (Pakistan), Persian (Iran and Afghanistan – if there is any education at all in present-day Afghanistan), Arabic (the Gulf States) and Turkmen/Russian (Turkmenistan). This means that Balochi is used only in certain language domains, and by most of its speakers only as a spoken, not as a written language. It also happens that e.g. Baloch from Iran use Persian among themselves for discussing subjects such as science or politics, which are taught in school or acquired through reading books in Persian and other languages. Balochi is thus a language mainly of the home and the local community. In education, administration, and in urban areas, often also at work, other languages are used.
Baloch are also to be found in the Iranian diaspora after the Islamic Revolution. Thus, a limited number of mainly well educated Baloch live in several European countries, the USA, Canada and other countries where Iranians have taken refuge.
Balochi is surrounded by languages belonging to at least five language families. In the Balochi mainland it meets other Iranian languages, Persian (Farsi and Dari) in the west and north-west, and Pashto in the north and north-east, as well as Indian languages, e.g. Punjabi, Lahnda and Sindhi in the north-east and east. All these languages belong to the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European languages. In the Gulf States Balochi stands in contact with Arabic (Semitic) and in East Africa with Bantu languages (e.g. Swahili). In the central parts of Pakistani Balochistan the Dravidian language Brahui has lived in symbiosis with and been dominated by Balochi for centuries, and in Turkmenistan Balochi meets the Turkic language Turkmen. In the diaspora in Europe and North America, Balochi meets new languages, mainly of the Indo-European family.
Balochi is not an official language, i.e. not a language of education and/or administration in any of the countries where it is spoken. Efforts to preserve and promote the language are therefore mainly initiatives taken by individuals lacking the authority that official decisions would have been invested with. This can easily be seen e.g. in the lack of a standard written norm for the language.
However, a number of educated Baloch, mainly in Pakistan, have since the 1950s actively attempted to preserve their language, creating a literature in it, and promoting it as a literary vehicle and in the area of education. Quetta and Karachi are the main centres of these activities. There is a Balochi Academy in Quetta, founded in 1961, receiving some financial support from the Government. Its most important literary activities are publication of books, mainly in Balochi, and arranging literary meetings. There are also other “Academies”, publishing houses and individuals active in these fields. A number of periodicals have been published in Balochi for a shorter or longer period of time. Some of the Baloch in the diaspora are also concerned with the preservation and promotion of Balochi, publishing magazines and arranging literacy classes, cultural evenings etc.
There have been some attempts at starting primary education in Balochi. In 1991 a state programme for mother tongue education in the Province of Balochistan, Pakistan, was established, but it did not carry on for long, neither did it result in any official decision on matters of language standardization. Private initiatives have also been taken to teach Balochi, especially in the main Baloch residential area of Karachi, Lyari. It is also possible to study Balochi for an M. A. degree at the University of Balochistan, Quetta.
The issue of a Latin based script for Balochi was very fervently discussed among young Baloch intellectuals especially in the 1960s and early 1970s. There was also a considerable number of neologisms coined during this period for new phenomena in society and to replace loanwords.
In the present volume different aspects of the Balochi language and its role in society are treated. Josef Elfenbein describes a self-lived process of trying to work out a Latin based script for Balochi in the 1960s and 70s. The issue of script is also addressed by Serge Axenov, who describes the different scripts that have been used for Balochi in Turkmenistan. Vyacheslav Moshkalo, too, describes the role of the Baloch and their language in the Turkmen society. The role of the Baloch in another border area, namely East Africa, is the topic of Abdulaziz Lodhi’s article. The issue of mother tongue education in Balochi is treated by Tim Farrell and Eunice Tan, and Carina Jahani also touches on this question when she describes language attitudes and language maintenance among the Baloch in Sweden. As for Jan Muhammad Dashti, his contribution is an analysis of the relation between Balochi poetry and society from the beginning of the literary movement up to 1985.
Each writer has been free to use his or her own preferred system of transcription. Some homogenisation has, however, been carried out. Thus, Baloch, Balochi, and Balochistan are the spellings that have been adopted, rather than Baluch, Baluchi and Baluchistan. The system for references and bibliographical data has also been unified. A common bibliography was preferred, since several references occur in more than one of the articles, and would have had to be repeated if each article was to be accompanied by its own bibliography. Baloch authors are placed in the bibliography according to their first name. Thus, for example, ‘Atā Shād is placed according to ‘Atā, not according to Shād. Geographical names are written without diacritics throughout the book. Several of these have an established spelling in English, and for the sake of consistency it was decided to omit all diacritics on geographical names. On proper names of persons who normally employ the Arabic script (i.e. not persons from Turkmenistan and East Africa), on the other hand, diacritics are used to indicate the correct spelling of these names in the Arabic script. Exceptions are names of persons well known in Europe, e.g. Bhutto, which are spelled according to the English convention. Also in references to books or articles written in English the name of the author is written in accordance with the spelling used by the person himself.
The aim of the present work is by no means to give a total picture of the status of the Balochi language in the different countries where it is spoken. There is, for example, no reference to Balochi in the Gulf States or in Afghanistan, mainly due to the limited character of the symposium of which this work is the result. Field research, especially of a sociolinguistic character is furthermore a very sensitive issue in all the countries where Balochi is spoken.
On the other hand, the articles all treat subjects that have hardly been studied, let alone described up to the present. This volume wants to shed some light on how a minority group, like the Baloch, try to preserve and promote their language and culture within the framework of the states where they live. This has not always been an easy task, and although it is only in Pakistan that one can actually talk about the existence of a written Balochi language and literature, Baloch in other countries, too, inspired both by the literary movement in Pakistan and by cultural and ethnic movements among other minorities in their neighbourhood, e.g. the Kurds, are eager to see the development of a standard written Balochi language and the creation of a corpus of written Balochi literature.

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Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Balochi Language

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