Monthly Archives: November 2011

Indo-Iranian Frontier Languages.

By: Elena Bashir

Since the time of the Achaemenid Empire, the territory of present-day Pakistan has been under the cultural and linguistic influence of successive stages of the Persian language. The political history of Persian in South Asia and its spread as the language of literature and politics is traced in Alam (1998, 2003), while its role in South Asian education is discussed in Rahman (2002, pp. 121-60).

The northern and western parts of this region are now occupied by speakers of Khowar, Kalasha, and Shina (Indo-Aryan, “Dardic” languages: see DARDESTĀN ii), and recently Urdu (q.v. at, Indo-Aryan); Balochi (Western Iranian; see BALUCHISTAN iii), Pashto and Wakhi (Eastern Iranian); Brahui (q.v., Dravidian); and the isolate Burushaski (q.v.). Since Urdu became the national language of Pakistan in 1947 and increasingly functions as the country’s lingua franca, it has replaced Persian as a compulsory language in the curriculum. From the 1980s the presence of Persian in the educational system became negligible. Despite this, a significant influx of additional Perso-Arabic words has entered the lexicons of all the languages of Pakistan through Urdu. Several recent publications deal with such loanwords: Bukhari (2003) lists 1,003 words of Persian and Arabic origin common to Urdu and Khowar; Akbar (1992), a similar work, lists numerous words common to Urdu and Shina. Khattak et al. (1977), lists some 3,700 nominal forms common to Urdu, Sindhi, Pashto, Panjabi, and Balochi; of the 200 basic verbs listed there, most are not shared. The great majority of the shared words are of Perso-Arabic origin and, in addition to their nominal or adjectival function, provide the raw material for new verbs, since the primary mechanism for formation of new verbs in these languages is the combining of a nominal loan element (Perso-Arabic or English) with a native verbalizer, most frequently “be” or “do.”

Persian models have served as the stimulus for the beginnings of literary production in most of these languages, and Persian poetic forms are still highly influential in Khowar and Balochi. The contemporary Balochi poet Gul Khan Nasir wrote first in Persian and Urdu, then in Balochi, and his Balochi poetry employs the prosodic structures and poetic genres of classical Persian (Jahani, 1994-95). Persian has also been the principal vehicle for the transmission of Arabic vocabulary throughout the Islamic culture area (Perry, p. 3). The strength and influence of the Perso-Arabic and Islamic cultural heritage is the major reason for the decisions of most writers in these languages to retain the original spellings of their numerous Perso-Arabic loans, rather than to devise more phonologically based orthographies. The case of Balochi differs somewhat in this respect; a significant percentage of Perso-Arabic words are written with “balochified” spellings (Jahani, 1989, p. 159), e.g., tufān “storm” instead of ṭufān.

Persian has influenced the phonology, lexicon, and syntax of all these languages, both directly and indirectly; Khowar and Balochi, for example, show a pervasively direct influence. In turn, Khowar has been a channel of secondary transmission of Persian lexical items and grammatical features to Kalasha and Burushaski. Balochi has been the vector for secondary transfer of many Persian words into Brahui. Pashto too has functioned as a vehicle for Perso-Arabic words into languages spoken in areas where it is the regional contact language. For example, in Torwali, spoken in upper Swat (Inamullah), we find laṛaz-u “to tremble” (< Psht. laṛz-edal “id.” < Pers. larzīd-an “id.”); adōs “ritual cleansing before prayer” (< Psht. awdas “id.” [Bellew, p. 7]) Khowar retroflex sibilants and affricates: Kho. ṧéγun “liver” (cf. Pers. šugūn/šugŭn “auspicious (omen)”; Kho. niṧán “gift” (cf. Pers. nišān “sign”); Kho. daṧmán “mullah” (< Pers. dānišmand “wise”; contrast the later borrowing dúšman “enemy” from Urdu); Kho. čˊhīr “milk” (cf. Pers. šīr “id.”); Kho. čˊhoi “six” (cf. Pers. šaš, and Urdu čhe). Semantic doublets are found, e.g., xošani “festivity, marriage, happiness” (Pers. koš “happy”) and šādi “marriage” (< Ur. šādī “marriage” < Pers. šādī “festivity, marriage”). Repeated borrowing of the same element at different stages also results in doublets, e.g., we-sóoru “widow” (lit. “lacking a head”), an earlier borrowing, and be-talím “uneducated,” a recent Urdu loan. Some entire phrases have entered the spoken language, e.g., anč-e-bayād “as much as necessary”: ma brār ma-sum anč-e-bayād madát areér “My brother helped me as much as was needed.” The Persian names for days of the week are used in Khowar, as in Balochi and Brahui.

Grammatical influences on Khowar include subordinate clauses introduced by ki, the eẓāfa construction, and a spreading use of the Persian (animate) plural marker -ān. Direct case plurals in -án (< Pers.), originally used with Persian words denoting animate beings, e.g., buzurg-án “elders,” are spreading to native words, e.g., Ḍaq-án “boys,” replacing the older, unmarked direct plural. Relative clauses employing ki ( /q/ (> /k/), e.g., Hunza Burushaski (HB) aqmaq “bloom of youth; drunkenness” (Berger, III, p. 20; cf. Kho. aqmaq/aḥmaq “fool”; also > Kal. hakmák “fool,” /qh/, e.g., HB qharáp “bad” (Berger, III, p. 353; /x/, e.g., Kho. ambóx “much” /ph/, e.g., YB phiryát “request, plea” (cf. Ur. faryād “id.”). Epenthetic consonants develop, e.g., YB ambrōz “kind of pear” (Lorimer, 1962, p. 14), Kho. ambróz “id.” Ur. šalγam “id.”); Kho. ṧoṧp “type of halwa” and Wakhi ṧuṧp “id.” (cf. Tajik Pers. šošp “id.”). The main native Wakhi subordination marker is tsə (pre-verbal)/tsəy (clause-final). However, Wakhi has also borrowed Tajik Persian ki, which, like tsə, introduces a wide range of subordinate clauses, including relative clauses, various adverbial clauses, and complements of verbs of cognition. For example, yem xun-i ha-yá halg-ev-en RC[kumd-ar ki sak-e ҳi δegit δetk] “This house belongs to the people [to whom we have given our daughter]” (Bashir, forthcoming).
Pashto too has incorporated a large number of Perso-Arabic borrowings, the earlier of which have undergone change of palatal sibilants to retroflex and palatal affricates to dental: e.g., duṧmán “enemy” (Pers. dušman “id”); doJák “hell” (cf. Parthian dōžak “id.”); tsarx “circle” (Pers. čarḵ- “id.”); dzigár “liver” (Pers. jigar “id.”). Later loanwords retain the palatals, e.g., jism “body” (Pers./Ur. jism “id.”; Elfenbein, pp. 757-58). Some borrowed elements have been morphologically verbalized with the indigenous infinitive ending -edal, e.g., šarmedal “to blush, be modest, etc.” (< Pers. šarm “bashfulness, modesty, shame” [Steingass, p. 742]). However, Pashto has adopted fewer Perso-Urdu grammatical features than other languages of the area. For example, it forms its relative clauses using the Pashto conjunction če, rather than the Persian/Urdu ki. The gender assignment of Arabic words reaching Pashto through Persian and/or Urdu has been restructured according to the dominant Pashto pattern, in which consonant-final nouns are masculine and vowel-final nouns are feminine. Thus e.g. zanjīr “chain” is feminine in Urdu, but dzandzir “id.” is masculine in Pashto; darwāza “door” is masculine in Urdu, but darwaza “id.” is feminine in Pashto; ḥālat “condition” is feminine in Urdu, but masculine in Pashto; iżāfa “increase” is masculine in Urdu, but feminine in Pashto.

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