A Grammar, Phrase Book and Vocabulary of Baluchi (as Spoken in the Sultanate of Oman)

24 Sep

By: Major N.A.Collett MA FRAS

6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles and late of the Sultan’s Service
Second Edition

To Liwaa Nasib Bin Hamad Bin Salim Al Ruwaihi
Commander Sultan of Oman’s Land Forces and to
the Officers and Men of the Western Frontier Regiment
The Sultan of Oman’s Land Forces
1st Edition 1983
2nd Edition 1986
© N. A. Collett 1986
ISBN 0 9509345 1 8
Keyboarded by D. F. Harding
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Burgess & Son (Abingdon) Ltd.


The important “Course in Baluchi” of 1969, based on the Northern (Rakhshani) dialect of Western Baluchi by Barker and Mengal was and remains the best description we have of any Baluchi dialect. Even though Rakhshani is by far the most widely spoken dialect of Baluchi, it is by no means the most interesting or the most prestigious amongst native speakers, and little of the vast classical Baluchi balladry or other literature appears in it. On the other hand, the preferred dialects for classical poetry, Kechi and the Coastal variety of Western Baluchi, have not been the subject of any systematic study since the pioneering accounts of them more than a hundred years ago.
Major Collett has been dealing for some years with Baluch recruits, mainly from Pakistani Makran, to the armed forces of the Sultan of Oman, and wishing to provide a guide to their language as an aid to other officers from abroad, has written this account of it. Perforce he has based it on the Kechi dialect, and has thus provided a new description of what has hitherto been a neglected but nonetheless most important variety of Baluchi, important for its literary prestige as well as for its linguistically most conservative character.
The Kechi dialect of the phrasebook is still that used by the vast majority of Baluch recruits from Pakistan in the Omani forces, because of the policy of recruitment from the Kech Valley, but recently recruits have also been gathered from other Baluch areas of Pakistan as well. This circumstance is mirrored in the vocabulary lists, in which an occasional Pakistani form is to be found beside the Kechi form; some Coastal dialect forms, easily recognised, are also included. The vocabulary also contains many words hitherto unrecorded in Baluchi.
This work, painstaking as it is, stands well in the British Army traditions of writing accounts of languages of the Indian subcontinent. For Baluchi in particular there has been that of Major Mockler in 1877, Major Gilbertson in 1925, and now Major Collett has produced a valuable addition to the existing descriptions of Baluchi, one which deserves an honoured place amongst them.

J. Elfenbein


This account of the Kechi dialect of Baluchi is designed to fill a gap in the literature available to English speakers whose work in the Sultanate of Oman brings them into contact with speakers of Baluchi. It is aimed at those seeking to learn sufficient of the language for everyday use. It includes a grammatical description, a set of phrases designed particularly for military use, and a vocabulary listing words both from Baluchi to English, and vice versa.
Those seeking a more authoritative and comprehensive account of the language are referred to “A Course in Baluchi” by Mohammed Abd-al-Rahman Barker and Aqil Khan Mengal, published in 1969 by McGill University, Montreal. This is the standard work on the subject, though it is based on the Rakhshani dialect, which differs, in some respects considerably, from the Kechi dialect mostly used in Oman.
This work is based upon the experience of twenty months service in the Oman with Baluch troops of the Western Frontier Regiment, supplemented by subsequent research in the United Kingdom. Some of the vocabulary and idiom are, in probability, peculiar to the Sultan’s Forces, and the Baluchi represented here may be totally familiar neither to the specialist nor to the civilian inhabitant of Makran.
My grateful thanks are due to all those who assisted me in the preparation of this work; in particular to Lieutenant Colonel Peter Walton RAOC and Major William Foxton for their enthusiastic encouragement, to all the soldiers of D Company The Western Frontier Regiment, without whose help and perseverance this book would not have been possible, and especially to the following:
Naqib Zareen Noor Mohammed Shekh Baluch
Naqib Liyaqat Ali Kauda Luqman Kaudai Baluch
Raqib Wahid Bakhsh Taj Mohammed Baddani Brahui
Raqib Mohammed Ayub Mir Hayat Nausharwani Baluch
Jundy Mohammed Ali Mohammed Moosa Bajarzai Baluch
Naib Arif Imam Bakhsh Taj Mohammed Baluch Baluch
Arif Mohammed Yusuf Dawood Darzada Baluch
Raqib Ellahi Bakhsh Pasanvi Baluch
Naib Arif Abdul Hakim Mohammed Hashim Baluch
A special word of thanks is due to Professor J.H.Elfenbein, late of the University of Baluchistan in Quetta, for his enormous encouragement and patience and for the benefit his advice has been to this work.
Mistakes are, of course, the author’s own.


The Baluch have their home in Pakistan’s westernmost Province of Baluchistan, the Iranian Province of Baluchestan wa Sistan, the southern part of Afghanistan and in the south of the Turkmen SSR of the USSR. This enormous area is, due to low rainfall, mostly barren, and as a result a great number of Baluch have long emigrated and sought employment abroad, particularly in the Persian Gulf littoral. A considerable number have lived for generations in Oman. The size of the Baluch population is estimated at about four million, and, though it is the subject of much controversy, has never been determined due to the lack of an accurate census and the difficulty of distinguishing between different ethnic and linguistic groups. In 1981 it was estimated that the Baluch population of Pakistan was 2,500,000, of whom 700,000 lived in Karachi. About a further 1,000,000 Baluch live in Iran.
The country inhabited by the Baluch varies considerably in character, including the cultivated plains of the Punjab border and the Quetta area, the mountains of the Kalat highlands and Afghanistan, the rugged hill country of Makran and eastern Iran, and the level desert of the north west tip of Pakistan. It is one of the poorest and least developed regions of the world. Cultivation is confined to the plains, a few spots on the coastal strip and in the mountains, and to oases like Panjgur. Everywhere it is limited severely by the scarcity of water. Mineral and other resources remain undeveloped except for the natural gas field at Sui in the far north east of the country. Economic under-development is matched by political and social backward- ness.
The Baluch have lived in their present homes probably for over a thousand years, having migrated from the west, probably from the southern Caspian region, commencing the movement in about 600 AD. Evidence exists of their settlement in what is now Pakistan by about 800 AD, but it is likely that the tribes moved only gradually, by many stages, and independently of each other. There is evidence of both advances and retreats along the way. Some tribes seem to have crossed the Indus at some stage, then returned to Baluchistan at a later date. The areas at present occupied were settled by the 14th century. Stable government first appeared in 1660 AD when the sardar Mir Ahmed Khan I, founder of the confederacy of Brahui tribes and nominally a vassal of the rulers of Afghanistan, established his authority around Kalat. His successors gradually asserted control over a wider area, and the most important of them, Mir Nasir Khan I (reigned 1749-1795 AD), shook off the last vestiges of Afghan authority and established the independence of the Kalat Khanate. However, even in Nasir Khan’s day central control of the peripheral Baluch areas was nominal and subject to frequent dispute, and later the relations between the central government and the dependent rulers and tribal chiefs degenerated into open warfare. The 19th century saw a gradual growth of British influence, and although Kalat was never incorporated into the British Indian Empire, it enjoyed only a nominal independence by the last quarter of the century. A British Agent was resident at the Khan’s court, and the Khanate gave up some rights and lands around Quetta to the Empire. The Khans continued to rule the areas of Sarawan, Jahlawan, Las Bela, Kharan and Makran, with varying degrees of direct British interference, until British withdrawal in 1947. At its formation the Khan acceded to the state of Pakistan following a good deal of pressure from the new Pakistan government, and the Khanate ceased to exist as an independent entity in 1948.
Baluch society remains conservative and tribal, though in Makran a stratified system based upon social class exists. In Pakistan, outside the government-controlled towns (Quetta, Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur and a few others) Pakistani law is weakly applied, and local jurisdiction, regularised in British days, remains paramount. At the lower levels of society there exists a fairly large group of non-Baluch artisans and families whose ancestors were slaves, including a good many of African stock.
All Baluch are Muslims of the Sunni sect, though in some places, particularly in Makran, adherents exist of the Zigri sect, which is held to be heretical by other Muslims. Violent persecution of Zigris has occurred even in the last twenty years. Some remnants of older beliefs remain. Men and women held to have magical or prophetic skills exist alongside Islamic mullahs, and the belief in jins (spirits) and the practice of magic are widespread.
The majority of the Baluch serving in the Oman come from the Baluchi-speaking tribes of Makran, many from the central Kech valley, some from the Panjgur area and others from the coast, where the Sultan of Oman possessed the port of Gwadar until 1958. Also found are a few soldiers from Brahui tribes, mostly Brahui speakers from the large Brahui area stretching south from Kalat to Khuzdar and Bela. The Brahui language is genetically unrelated to Baluchi, though it contains a large number of Baluchi loan words due to the mixing of the peoples over the last millenium. Despite their large common vocabulary, both languages are not mutually intelligible. Several dialects of Baluchi (which is an Indo-European language related to Persian) are to be heard in the Oman, but the major dialect is that of the Kech area, which includes Turbat.

Notes on pronunciation

The letters and marks used to transcribe Baluchi into a Roman alphabet are given below. Examples of English equivalents and explanations are given to aid pronunciation. Letters annotated with a + are pronounced as in normal English usage.
Letter English Equivalent/Explanation
Short Vowels a as in the a of above
i as in the i of sit
u as in the u of put
Long Vowels ā as in the a of last
e as in the a of fate
ī as in the i of machine
o as in the o of boat
ū as in the oo of soon
Dipthongs ay as in the i of island, with the i pronounced short
āy as in the i of island, with the I pronounced long
aw as in the ou of scrounge, with the ou pronounced short
Consonants b +
ch as in the ch of chip
ḍ not as in the English pronunciation, but with the tongue pressed forward against the top teeth pronounced similarly to d but with the tongue curled up back on to the ridge of the palate
f +
g +
gh as in the Arabic letter ghayn. It has no English approximation
h +
j +
k +
kh as in the Celtic ch of loch
l +
m +
n +
p +
r as in the rolled Scottish r
ṛ has no English approximation, and is pronounced with the tongue curled up back on to the ridge of the palate. It is best approximated by substituting the letter ḍ
s +
sh as in the sh of ship
ṭ not as in the English pronunciation, but with the tongue pressed forward against the top teeth pronounced similarly to t, but with the tongue curled up back on to the ridge of the palate
w +
y +
z +
zh as in the z of azure

Notes on the Vocabulary

The following abbreviations are used in the vocabulary:
(a) Adjective
(adv) Adverb
(c) Conjunction
(d) Demonstrative Adjective
(i) Interjection
(n) Noun
(part) Particle
(post) Postposition
(prep) Preposition
(pro) Pronoun
(v) Verb
The verbal noun and past root are shown for each verb (for example: “rawag, shut – to go”). The past roots of complex verbs are not given (for example: “koshish kanag – to try”), and will be found by referring to the auxiliary verb (in the example just given this will be “kanag, kut – to do”).
The pronunciation of some sounds varies, and below are listed some letters whose sounds may be confused. The alternative should be checked if a word is not found in the vocabulary.
“h” is often omitted, and if a word beginning with a vowel is not found the word should be checked under “h”.
“i” can be heard as a short “e”.
“kh” can be heard as “k”.
“p” can be heard as “f” or vice versa.
“r” [should have a dot below] can be heard as “d” [should have a dot below].
“u” can be heard as “o”.

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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in Balochi Language Teaching


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