A historical survey of the Baloch of Sistan

22 Jul

A village in Seistan region

By: Behrooz Barjasteh Delforooz

Historically, the arrival of the Baloch in Sistan is not very clear, but accord- ing to early muslim writers, the mountains southeast of Kerman were mainly inhabited by people who did not speak Persian and lived in goat-hair tents keeping flocks. In the 11th and 12th centuries, due to the invasion of Kerman by the Saljuqs, the Baloch began to migrate eastwards, beyond Makrān to Sind and Punjab in several waves. These migrations continued for the next five centuries.

On historiographic and linguistic evidence, the Baloch have probably immi- grated from the north (Spooner 1989:607). According to an early muslim geographer, Istakhri (10th century), the Baloch lived in a separate district of Kerman and in two districts of Sistan (ibid.:606). However, the first migra- tions from the Caspian area seem to have started earlier, likely in late Sasa- nian times, and to have continued in several independent waves over several centuries. Therefore, these areas, i.e. some districts in Kerman and Sistan, may have been occupied by Baloch migrants by the 8th century (Elfenbein

The Baloch in Sistan and those living southeast and southwest of them kept in touch throughout the centuries. This can be proved by the spread of heroic ballads such as those of the Čākar cycle and Mīr Hammal Jīhand which were formed mainly in the south during the last quarter of the 15th century and throughout the 16th century (ibid.:640-641) but which are also found among the Baloch in Sistan The old historical ballads of the Baloch probably go back to the 16th century and provide them with a ‘true Islamic’ genealogy (Jahani & Korn 2009:634). According to these ballads, the Baloch are of Arabic origin from Aleppo and after a seemingly imaginary period of fighting on the side of Imam Hussein against the Caliph Yazid at Karbalā, they left Karbalā and reached Sistan where they settled in the region of Rūdbār in peace under the rule of “Šams- al-Dīn” who was friendly to them. Because of the next ruler, “Badr-al-Din”, who was hostile to them, some of the Baloch went southeastward and some went southwestward (Elfenbein 1989:640).

The migrations back and forth may have continued during the next centuries because of different reasons. The last ones happened at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries from Sistan to Turkmenistan (Axenov 2006:19), as well as in Reza Shah’s time, from 1928 onwards, from Iranian Balochistan to Pakistani Balochistan. Migration also took place at different times during the 20th century from Sistan to Khorasan and Golestan provinc- es, mainly because of prolonged droughts and, in 1979 and subsequent years from Afghanistan to Iran after the Soviet invasion.

The exact size of the Baloch population in Sistan is not known since there are no statistical data according to ethnic groups, but an approximate estima- tion is possible. According to the Statistical Centre of Iran (SCI) the popula- tion of Sistan and Balochistan in 1385/2006 was 2 405 742 which is predict- ed to have increased to 2 733 205 by 1389/2010. The population of Iranian Sistan with its two cities, i.e. Zabol and Zahak according to the latest statis- tics from 2006 is shown in Table 1.1. Our estimation for the Baloch popula- tion is at least 25% of the whole population of Sistan, i.e. about 100 000. They mostly live near the Afghan border.

Table 1.1. Population of Iranian Sistan


• Zabol

Urban : 153 742

Rural : 174 593

Unsettled : 982

Total : 329 317

• Zahak

Urban : 11 401

Rural : 60 061

Unsettled : ?

Total: 71 462

• Total : 400 779

The Central Statistics Organization (CSO) of Afghanistan gives the popula- tion 148 000 for the Nimruz province in 2009, 61% of which are Baloch, i.e. about 90 000. They nowadays mostly inhabit the valley of the river Hilmand in Nimruz including five main districts, i.e. Chaharburjak, Zaranj, Kang, Chakhansur, and Khash Rod.1 The total population of the Balochi speakers is therefore likely to amount to about 200 000 both in Iranian and Afghani Sistan altogether.


1.2.1 The Balochi language

The position of Balochi among Iranian languages From a historical point of view, Balochi belongs to the so-called north- western group of Iranian languages which also includes other new Iranian languages such as Kurdish, Zazaki, Gilaki, Mazandarani, and Taleshi, whereas Persian, Lori, Bakhtiari, etc., are classified as south-western Iranian languages.2 Geographically, Balochi is now spoken in the south-eastern part of the Iranian language area. The north-western group shares some charac- teristics with each other and with the Middle Iranian language Parthian (Korn 2003:49). Korn (2005:329-330) puts Balochi, in addition to Kurdish, in a position between the north-western and the south-western Iranian lan- guages and calls them “Transitional western Iranian languages”. She further suggests more studies on the historical morphology of Balochi and the histo- ry of neighbouring Iranian languages in order to confirm this position.

1.2.2 Balochi dialects

Axenov (2006: 21-22) gives a brief history of the scientific dialect divisions suggested for Balochi from 1889 to 2003. Here we are going to mention the latest and the most scholarly accepted divisions and subdivisions of the Ba- lochi language (see Map 1.2). The three main dialects of Balochi are West- ern (or Rakhshani), Southern (or Makrani), and Eastern Balochi (Barker & Mengal 1969:I:xxv; Carleton & Carleton 1987:9; Jahani 2001:59, 2003:117; Jahani & Korn 2009:636). Elfenbein (1966) divides Balochi into six major dialects on the basis of pho- nology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. Later, he repeats the same dialect description with the correction of Loṭūnī to Lāšārī as the name of one of these dialects (Elfenbein 1989:636-637). The six dialects from north to south are:

1) Raxšānī with its three subdialects: a) Sarhaddī (including Balochi of Sistan = BS and Balochi of Turkmenistan = BT); b) Panǰgūrī; c)
2) Sarāwānī
3) Lāšārī
4) Kēchī
5) Coastal dialects
6) Eastern Hill Balochi
Jahani and Korn (2009:637) consider Sarāwānī and Panǰgūrī as transitional dialects between Western and Southern Balochi in Iran and Pakistan, respec- tively.

The Balochi of Sistan (BS) which the corpus data for this thesis are in, can be classified as belonging to the Sarhaddī subdialect of the Raxšānī or West- ern group of Balochi dialects.

1.2.3 The number of Balochi speakers

Due to the lack of appropriate census data, the exact number of speakers of Balochi is unknown. Estimations which are now twenty years old were made by Jahani (1989:93) and Elfenbein (1990/I:1). These give between 4.5 and 4.8, and 3.5 million Balochi speakers, respectively. Considering all limita-tions for such an approximate calculation, this number should have increased by up to 7 to 10 millions by 2010.

The Balochi speaking area covers a vast territory stretching north to south from Mari in Turkmenistan to the Gulf States and west to east from the south-eastern part of Iran to the lower Indus. The main areas where the Baloch live are in the Province of Sistan and Balochistan in Iran, the Prov- ince of Balochistan in Pakistan, and the Provinces of Nimruz and Hilmand in Afghanistan as well as in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. In each of the above mentioned countries, Balochi is under the influence of local languages and the national language of that country.

1.3 Previous research on the Balochi of Sistan

Studies of Balochi are numerous and date back to the nineteenth century, but almost all of these early studies are on Balochi dialects in Pakistan. For this study, we just review previous works on BS and BT since we consider them as closely related subdialects of Rakhshani. I. I. Zarubin published two col- lections of folktales, Beludžskie skazki, from BT in 1932 and 1949. The tran- scribed stories are followed by a Russian translation. In 1963 Josef Elfenbein published A Vocabulary of Marw Baluchi which contains all the words oc- curring in the published Marw texts including those of Zarubin’s texts.

Elfenbein’s work ‘Report on a Linguistic Mission to Helmand and Nīmrūz’ in 1979 drew attention to the Balochi dialect in Afghan Sistan. After that, two works dedicated to this dialect were published in 1980 and 1989, respec- tively. The first one is Baluchi by Tetsuo Nawata with short texts and a brief description of the phonology and morphology, and the second one is Aus dem Leben eines jungen Balutschen von ihm selbst erzählt by Georg Buddruss (1988) with an oral text (a life story) told by a young Baloch from Afghani Sistan plus a grammatical sketch and a glossary. During the recent decade two other articles were published in 2003 and 2009 on BS. Both of them, i.e. ‘Some Thoughts and Material on Balochi in Afghanistan’ and ‘Code-Copying in the Balochi language of Sistan’ were written by Lutz Rzehak. Rzehak and Naruyi edited Balochi Gālband: Balochi-Pashto-Dari- English Dictionary written by Abdul Rahman Pahwal and published it as new edition in 2007. This dictionary is based on the Balochi dialect in Af- ghani Sistan. There are also a number of books and articles on the Baloch ethnicity in Afghanistan (see Afghanistan Bibliography, pp. 23-24)3.

The most recent work dedicated to BT, which is closely related to BS, is a Ph.D. thesis, The Balochi Language of Turkmenistan: A corpus-based grammatical description. It was written by Serge Axenov and defended in 2007 at Uppsala University. This work is the most complete analysis of the morphology and syntax of BT so far. In addition to the above mentioned works, there are a small number of other works on ethnography of the Baloch in Turkmenistan, and the phonology and morphology of BT (see Axenov 2006:25f).

It can be seen that the works on BS are few and that no discourse study has been conducted on this dialect or any other dialect of Balochi.

1.4 Purpose of the study

A considerable amount of research has been done on Balochi syntax, pho-nology and morphology, but, as stated in the previous section, no research has been undertaken on Balochi discourse structure.

This work can therefore be considered as the first one which focuses on some discourse features ofBalochi oral narrative texts. First, the term ‘discourse’ refers to a broad area of human life, and has received various interpretations for scholars working in different disciplines such as sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, computa- tional linguistics, etc. A linguistic approach to ‘discourse analysis’ is taken in this study. Secondly, like any other language, Balochi, on the one hand, uses linguistic devices to produce patterns in communication and, on the other hand, these patterns have correlations with the circumstances in which they occur, which are only explainable at the discourse level rather than at the grammatical level. In other words, we are going to see how speakers of BS convey meaning in their speeches, and how the addressees understand meaning from the uttered speeches. This work deals with various discourse features, such as constituent order, grounding and information flow, cohesion, represented speech and referenti- ality realized by linguistic means in the sentence structures found in BS nar- ratives. The present study is based on a corpus of 25 oral narrative texts listed in §1.6. Appendix 2 contains ten of these texts with glossing and trans- lation. Among the significant features of these oral texts (or spoken dis- courses) we can mention are modifications to cater to the audience, sponta- neous talking and face-to-face encounters, etc., which usually leads to ex- tralinguistic signals such as gesticulation, and rhythm and intonation in speech.

As stated above, this is the first study of discourse structure in Balochi. As a consequence, this work is introductory and it follows the approach to dis-course analysis proposed by Dooley and Levinsohn (2001).

1.5 Theoretical remarks

Whereas syntactic analysis tries to determine what are the properties of well- formed sentences, discourse analysis investigates what are the properties that make for well-formed texts in a language. Hence, the alternative name for discourse analysis is text linguistics. This type of research is concerned with the structure of texts and deduces its explanations for this structure from within natural texts produced by native speakers. These can be oral or writ- ten texts. According to de Beaugrande and Dressler (1981:3-10) a text is defined as a communicative occurrence which meets seven standards of tex- tuality. These are cohesion, coherence, intentionality, acceptability, informa- tivity, situationality, and intertextuality.

There are many approaches to discourse analysis and most approaches focus on a particular aspect of text formation. The approach to text linguistics or discourse analysis taken in this work is based on Dooley and Levinsohn’s Analyzing Discourse: A manual of basic concepts (2001) (henceforth D&L). Instead of applying a narrow aspect of text linguistics they take an eclectic and practical approach to discourse research. Their work demonstrates a methodology for investigating the following aspects of text composition: coherence, cohesion, thematic groupings and thematic discontinuities, the activation status of discourse referents, the discourse-pragmatic structuring of sentences (e.g. topic and focus), foreground and background information, signalling relations between propositions, and the tracking of participant reference. Their approach has been developed over many years and has been successfully applied by field linguists to languages where little or no dis- course research has been undertaken.

According to Levinsohn (2007:2-4), text linguistics has three basic key con- cepts that motivate the analysis of texts:

1. Choice implies meaning.
2. There is a difference between semantic meaning and pragmatic ef fects.
3. There are default versus marked phenomena.
The first concept is one of the basic principles of a functional approach to text linguistics, which stipulates that any author has the option of expressing the same concept in more than one way which cannot be considered as just stylistic variations. The second principle is about the difference between semantic meaning of expressions in a given language and the pragmatic ef- fects of expressions in relation to their user. Semantics is the property of expressions in a given language: what does expression X mean? It is the inherent or natural meaning of the expression. Pragmatics is meaning in rela- tion to the user of the expression: what does the speaker mean by X? The third concept is about the contrastive use of default and marked constituents in clauses and sentences. A marked form is a non-basic or less natural form.
An unmarked form is a basic, default form. Markedness can apply in differ- ent linguistic domains, such as the phonological, morphological, syntactic, or semantic domains. At the discourse level explanations are sought for the use of marked features at this level.

Roberts (2009:51) says that D&L assume that the way a text is linguistically organized reflects how the discourse content is stored as a mental representat- ion in the mind. They also take into account that a discourse occurs in a con- text. Other things that go into the hearers’ mental representation of a discourse are their prior knowledge of the way things happen in the real world and their expectations of what the speaker means. In addition, such knowledge and ex- pectations will be based heavily on culture-specific experience.

The dimensions of discourse structure we cover in this study include:
• discourse-pragmatic structuring of sentences
• foreground and background information and highlighting
• deixis in discourse
• logical relations between propositions
• the reporting of conversation
• participant reference and activation status of discourse referents

It is important to mention that for the main research topic of this dissertation Roberts’ (2009) application of D&L’s methodology to Persian is consulted. We apply this same methodology in this study of discourse structures in our Balochi text corpus.

1.6 Material

The language data used for this work are oral narratives. These narratives include folktales, fables, parables, real-based stories, and religious stories.
They are all third person narratives. The data were recorded during 2000 to 2005 in Sistan and transcribed phonemically into a Latin script presented in Tables 1.3 and 1.4. All the language examples in the dissertation are given in this phonological transcription. More than a hundred stories, ethnographic texts, classical and modern poetry, epics and common speech on various topics were recorded and transcribed. Out of this material, 25 oral texts have been used as linguistic data for the dissertation. The data are presented in the book in such a way as to make the corpus accessible also to researchers to other fields of linguistics than text linguistics and Iranian languages. Poetic texts were not included in the present study because of the peculiarities of the poetic language.

The data were recorded from several male informants aged between 40 to 60. They are from both Iranian and Afghan Sistan although the informants from Afghan Sistan are in the majority as they still continue the tradition of storytelling. All the informants were aware that their speech was recorded for an investigation of the Balochi language and folklore, and that the texts might be published later. Only one of the informants had an academic educa- tion and the others were either illiterate or had a traditional religious educa- tion, which means that they could read and write basic religious texts.

1.7 Layout of the study

Structurally this work is organized into eight chapters, a bibliography and two appendices. The present chapter, chapter one, is devoted to a brief ac- count of the classification of the Balochi language within the family of Irani- an languages, different approaches to dialect division of Balochi, previous research on BS, purpose, method and material used in the study. In the intro duction a short historical survey of the Baloch of Sistan as well as infor-mation about their settlements in the Sistan area are also given.
Chapter two introduces the reader to the discourse-pragmatic structuring of sentences in BS. In this chapter, concepts such as sentence articulation, left- dislocated elements, right-dislocated elements, and order of constituents in the clause in BS are discussed and exemplified. The discourse functions of these various marked constructions are also discussed. Chapter three shows how different syntactic devices can distinguish foreground and background information in BS oral texts. In this chapter some devices which are used in BS narratives for highlighting are also illustrated. Chapter four examines the deixis of time and place and how the concept of proximal and distal deixis applies across a range of deictic elements. In proximal deixis the report of the event is in some way near to the deictic centre of the event and in distal deixis the report of the event is distant to the deictic centre of the event.
Chapter five examines some basic connectives and how they link proposi- tions in the discourse context. Chapter six deals with represented speech. It is found that as well as direct and indirect reported speech, some examples of semi-direct speech occur in BS texts. Semi-direct speech has properties of both direct and indirect speech. Chapter seven illustrates how different par- ticipants are introduced into a discourse and how their activation status is signalled throughout the discourse. The three activation states discussed are active, accessible and inactive. An important analysis in this chapter is find- ing out what is the participant reference tracking strategy employed in BS discourse. Finally, the last chapter of the study presents conclusions from the presentation and discussions in the previous chapters.



2. Historically, Iranian Languages are divided into three periods: Old (before Alexander’s
invasion), Middle (after Alexander until the Arab invasion), and New (after the Arab invasion
until now).

3. [Retrieved 29
July 2010]

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Balochistan


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s