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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pronunciation [paʂˈto], [paçˈto], [paxˈto]
Spoken in Afghanistan: east, south, southwest and some parts of north and northwest; Pakistan: northwestern provinces (North-West Frontier Province, northern Balochistan,[1] and some parts of Northern Areas); some parts of northeastern Iran; and the rest of Pashtun diaspora
Region South-Central Asia
Total speakers approx. 35.5[2] to 41[3] million
Ranking 33[4]
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Naskh (Arabic alphabet)[5][6][7]
Official status
Official language in  Afghanistan (official)
 Pakistan (provincial)
Regulated by Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ps
ISO 639-2 pus
ISO 639-3 variously:
pus – Pashto (generic)
pst – Central Pashto
pbu – Northern Pashto
pbt – Southern Pashto
Geographic distribution of Pashto (purple) and other Iranian languages

Pashto (Naskh: پښتو - [paʂˈto]; also transliterated Pakhto, Pushto, Pukhto, Pashtu, or Pushtu), also known as Afghani,[8][9] and Pathani, is an Indo-European language spoken primarily in Afghanistan and western Pakistan.[10] Pashto belongs to the Eastern Iranian[11] branch of the Indo-Iranian language family. The number of Pashto speakers is estimated to be about 40 million.[citation needed] The Constitution of Afghanistan declares that Pashto is an official and national language of the country.[12]


Geographic distribution

In Afghanistan, Pashto is primarily spoken in the east, south and southwest, but also in some northern and northwestern parts as a result of recent relocation. No exact numbers are available, but according to "A survey of the Afghan people - Afghanistan in 2006",[13] Pashto is the first language of 40% of the population, while additional 28% also speak the language (combined 68%). The CIA World Factbook 2009 estimates that 35% of the population speak Pashto as their first language.[14] According to an older, but scholarly, estimate by the Encyclopaedia Iranica, Pashto is the native language of 50 to 55 percent of the population, and spoken by less than 10 percent as a second language.[15]

In Pakistan, Pashto is spoken by about 15% of the total population (approx. 25.6 million people)[16] in the provinces of the NWFP, FATA, and Balochistan, as well as parts of Mianwali and Attock districts of Punjab province. Modern Pashto-speaking communities are also found in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh. With an estimated 4 million ethnic Pashtuns, Karachi hosts one of the largest Pashtun populations in the world.

Other communities of Pashto speakers are found in northeastern Iran, primarily in South Khorasan Province to the east of Qaen, near the Afghan border,[17] and in Tajikistan.[18] There are also Pashtun communities in the southwestern part of Jammu & Kashmir as well as Uttar Pradesh in India.[19][20][21]

Sizable Pashto-speaking communities also exist in the Middle East, especially in the United Arab Emirates[22] and Saudi Arabia, as well as in the United States, particularly California, and in the United Kingdom,[23] Thailand, Canada and Australia.

Official status

In Afghanistan, Pashto is promoted as the first state language, and the Constitution of Afghanistan states that the Afghan National Anthem "shall be in Pashto".[24] Pashto is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan that are used for the administration of the government throughout the country. Pashto is also used in education, literature, office and court business, media, and in religious institutions, etc. It is a repository of the cultural and social heritage of the country. In Pakistan, Pashto is not an official language, but it is one of the provincial languages spoken by the Pashtuns living in Pakistan, in the Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan.


Pashto is an S-O-V language with split ergativity. Adjectives come before nouns. Nouns and adjectives are inflected for two genders (masc./fem.),[25] two numbers (sing./plur.), and four cases (direct, oblique I, oblique II and vocative). The verb system is very intricate with the following tenses: present, subjunctive, simple past, past progressive, present perfect and past perfect. In any of the past tenses (simple past, past progressive, present perfect and past perfect), Pashto is an ergative language; i.e., transitive verbs in any of the past tenses agree with the object of the sentence.


A Pashto-Norwegian dictionary


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ə o
Open a ɑ

Pashto also has the diphthongs /ai/, /əi/, /ɑw/, /aw/.


Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ
Plosive p b t̪ d̪ ʈ ɖ k ɡ q ʔ
Affricate t͡s d͡z t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Fricative f s z ʂ ʐ ʃ ʒ ç ʝ x ɣ h
Approximant l j w
Rhotic r ɺ̢

The phonemes /q/, /f/ tend to be replaced by [k], [p].

The retroflex lateral flap /ɺ̢/ (//) is pronounced as retroflex approximant [ɻ] when final.

The retroflex fricatives /ʂ/, /ʐ/ that are preserved in southern dialects are replaced by palatal fricatives [ç], [ʝ] in west-central dialects, velars [x], [ɣ] in northern dialects, and postalveolars [ʃ], [ʒ] in southeastern dialects.[26]

The velars /k/, /ɡ/, /x/, /ɣ/ followed by the close back rounded vowel /u/ assimilate into the labialized velars [kʷ], [ɡʷ], [xʷ], [ɣʷ].


In Pashto, most of the native elements of the lexicon are related to other Eastern Iranian languages; those words can be easily compared to those known from Avestan, Ossetic and Pamir languages. However, a remarkably large number of words is special to Pashto.[27] Post 7th century borrowings came primarily from Arabic. Modern borrowings come from Persian[28] and Urdu (in Pakistan) with the modern educated speech borrowing words from English,[29] French,[29] and German.[29]

Writing system

Pashto employs the Pashto alphabet, a modified form of the Arabic alphabet with extra letters added for Pashto-specific sounds. As of the 17th century Pashto has been primarily written in the Naskh Arabic script, rather than the Nasta'liq script used for neighboring Persian and Urdu languages. The Pashto alphabet consists of 44 letters, and 4 diacritic marks. The following table gives the letters' isolated forms, along with IPA values for the letters' typical sounds:

/ɑ, ʔ/


/ɺ̢, ɻ/

/ʐ, ʝ, ɡ/
/ʂ, ç, x/
/w, u, o/
/h, a, ə/
/j, i/
/ai, j/

Pashto is written from right to left.


As a consequence of life in areas of rugged terrain, there are many dialects of Pashto language. The two main dialects are soft or southern dialect and hard or northern dialect. The dividing line passes through Paktika. One of the primary features of the dialects is the difference in the pronunciation of these seven phonemes (all sounds in IPA):

Southern Abdali (Kandahar, Zabul): [ʂ] [ʐ] [t͡s] [d͡z] [ʒ] [ɑ] [u]
Southeastern (in Quetta): [ʃ] [ʒ] [t͡s] [d͡z] [ʒ] [ɑ] [u]
Central Waneci (Harnai, Sinjawi): [ʂ] [ʐ] [t͡ʃ]/[t͡s] [d͡ʒ]/[d͡z] [z]/[ʒ] [ɑ] [u]
Central Marwat (in Laki): [ʃ] [ʒ] [t͡ʃ] [d͡ʒ] [ʒ] [ɑ] [u]
Central Khattak (in Karak): [ʃ] [ʒ] [t͡s] [z]/[t͡s] [ʒ] [o] [u]
Central Banucei (in Banu): [ʃ] [ʒ] [s] [z]/[s] [ʒ] [o] [i]
Central Wazirwola (in Waziristan): [ɕ]/[ʃ] [ʑ]/[ʒ] [t͡s] [d͡z]/[t͡s] [ʑ]/[ʒ] [o]/[u] [i]
Central Khostwola (in Khost): [ç] [ɡ] [t͡s] [d͡z]/[t͡s] [ʒ] [o] [i]
Central Dzadran (in Dzadran, Paktia): [ç] [ʝ] [t͡s] [d͡z]/[t͡s] [ʒ] [o] [i]
Central Afridi (in Tirah, Jamrud): [x] [ɡ] [t͡s] [z]/[t͡s] [d͡ʒ] [o] [u]
Northwestern (in Ghazni, Logar): [ç] [ɡ] [t͡s] [d͡z] [ʒ] [ɑ] [u]
Northwestern Wardak (Wardak): [ç] [ʝ] [t͡s] [d͡z] [ʒ] [ɒ] [u]
Northwestern (Central Ghilzai): [ç] [ʝ] [s] [z] [ʒ] [ɑ] [u]
Northern (in Nangarhar, Kabul): [x] [ɡ] [t͡s] [z] [ʒ] [ɑ] [u]
Northeastern (Yusufzai, Peshawar): [x] [ɡ] [s] [z] [d͡ʒ] [ɑ] [u]

The differences between the southern dialects and the northern dialects are primarily phonological and there are simple conversion rules. The morphological differences between them are very few and unimportant. However, the east-central dialects are lexicologically different and very varied. The southern dialect of Kandahar is the most conservative with regards to phonology, retaining the retroflex fricatives and the alveolar affricates, which have not merged with other phonemes. The Pashto alphabet reflects the southern dialect. Certain dialects show many archaic features, some of which are discarded by the literary language.

Notable phonological and lexicological differences

Kandahar Quetta Harnai[30] Bannu Wana Khost Tirah Wardak Kabul Peshawar Translation
Paṣ̌to Pašto Paṣ̌to Pāšte Pāšte Pāx̌te Pāxto Pax̌to Pəxto Puxto Pashto
war war war tāmbə tāmbə, wār dāṛā, wār wār, tāmbə war war war door
pṣ̌a pša ṣ̌pa, γədəi pšā pšā px̌ā pxā px̌a pxa xpa foot
lmar lmar mer myerə stərgā γormə, myerə stərgā myerə stərgā myer, myerə stərga nmar nmar nwar sun
halək halək čora weṛkā weṛkai weṛkai woṛkai halək halək halək boy
nǰiləi nǰiləi čuwara weṛkye ǰəlkiye ǰəlkiye woṛkye, ǰəlkiye ǰiləi ǰilkəi ǰine girl
yaw yaw yo ye yo ye yo yaw yaw yaw one
calor calor čalor sāler cālwer cāler cālwor calor calor salor four
pinjə pinjə pinǰə/pinjə pinzə pinzə pinjə pinzə pinjə pinzə pinzə five
špaẓ̌ špaž špoẓ̌ špež špež špeg špeg špaγ̌ špag špag six
cok cok čok sek cek cek cok cok cok sok who
muẓ̌ muž muṣ̌ miž miž mig mu muγ̌ mung mung we
zmā zmā zmā emo emo emo emo zmâ zəmā zəmā my
stā stā stā eto eto eto eto stâ stā stā your
ḍer, zyāt ḍer, zyāt caṭ pirā, zyot pirā, zyot ḍer, zyot ḍer, zyot ḍer, zyât ḍer, zyāt ḍer, zyāt very, many
ẓ̌ ləž ẓ̌ ləški ləški ləg ləg ləγ̌ ləg ləg little, less
čṣ̌əl čšəl γwətəl čšəl, γṛāpāwəl čšəl cəx̌əl cəxəl cəx̌əl ckəl/čixəl skəl to drink
ho ho ho ey ey ey ey ho ho ao yes
yəm yəm yəm yəm yəm yəm yəm I am
jəm jəm ǰəm, druməm drimə, sə drimə, cə drimə, cə cəm, druməm jəm zəm zəm I go
žəba žəba zbə žəbā žəbā žəbā ǰəba žəba žəba ǰəba tongue, language
kor kor kor ker ker ker kolə kor kor kor home
bega bega bega vega vega vega vega bega bega bega evening
sta sta sta štā štā stā štā sta šta šta it exists
yiẓ̌ yiž yirz yiž yiž yig yig yiγ̌ yig yig bear
plār plār pyār plor plor plor plor plâr plār plār father
Kandahar Quetta Harnai Bannu Wana Khost Tirah Wardak Kabul Peshawar Translation

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ University of Texas in Austin - Ethnolinguistic Groups in Afghanistan... , Link
  2. ^ 15.42% Pakistan (166,036,895 * 15.42% = 25,602,889) + 35% Afghanistan (28150000 * 35% = 9,852,500) = approx. 35.5 million
  3. ^ 15.42% Pakistan (166,036,895 * 15.42% = 25,602,889) + 55% Afghanistan (28150000 * 55% = 15,482,500) = approx. 41 million
  4. ^ "Languages Spoken by More Than 10 Million People". Microsoft Encarta 2006. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 03 Jan. 2008. Link.
  9. ^ "afghan." WordNet 3.0. Princeton University. 03 Jan. 2008. Word Net Link
  10. ^ UCLA Language Materials Project: Language Profile
  11. ^ Nicholas Sims-Williams, "Eastern Iranian Languages", Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, available at, Link
  12. ^ Constitution of Afghanistan (2004) in Pashto and Dari (English translation), Article 16.
  13. ^ "A survey of the Afghan people - Afghanistan in 2006", The Asia Foundation, technical assistance by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS; India) and Afghan Center for Socio-economic and Opinion Research (ACSOR), Kabul, 2006, PDF
  14. ^ CIA Factbook 2009; "Afghanistan - People"
  15. ^ Ch. M. Kieffer, "AFGHANISTAN v. Languages", Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, available at, Link
  16. ^ Government of Pakistan: Population by Mother Tongue
  17. ^ Languages of Iran, ethnologue report
  18. ^ "Pashto, Southern: a language of Afghanistan", Ethnologue, accessed 6 June 2009
  19. ^ Walter R Lawrence, Imperial Gazetteer of India. Provincial Series, pg 36-37, Link
  20. ^ "Study of the Pathan Communities in four States of India". Khyber. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  21. ^ "Phonemic Inventory of Pashto" (PDF). CRULP. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  22. ^ ethnologue report for Languages of United Arab Emirates
  23. ^ ethnologue report for Languages of United Kingdom
  24. ^ Constitution of Afghanistan (2004) in Pashto and Dari (English translation), Article 20.
  25. ^ Emeneau, M. B. (1962) "Bilingualism and Structural Borrowing" Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 106(5): pp. 430-442, p. 441
  26. ^ Michael M.T. Henderson, Four Varieties of Pashto
  27. ^ G. Morgenstierne, "'AFGHANISTAN vi. Paṧtō'", Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, available at, Link
  28. ^ Vladimir Kushev. "Areal Lexical Contacts of the Afghan (Pashto) Language (Based on the Texts of the XVI-XVIII Centuries)". Iran and the Caucasus (Brill) 1: 159–166. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  29. ^ a b c Herbert Penzl (January -March 1961). "Western Loanwords in Modern Pashto". Journal of the American Oriental Society 81 (1): 43–52. 
  30. ^ Hallberg, Daniel G. 1992. Pashto, Waneci, Ormuri. Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, 4.


  • Schmidt, Rüdiger (ed.) (1989). Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum. Wiesbaden: Reichert. ISBN 3-88226-413-6. 
  • Gusain, Lakhan (2008??) " A Grammar of Pashto". Ann Arbor, MI: Northside Publishers. ISBN ??
  • Georg Morgenstierne (1926) Report on a Linguistic Mission to Afghanistan. Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning, Serie C I-2. Oslo. ISBN 0-923891-09-9
  • Herbert Penzl A Grammar of Pashto A Descriptive Study of the Dialect of Kandahar, Afghanistan ISBN 0923891722
  • Herbert Penzl A Reader of Pashto ISBN 0923891714

External links

Pashto language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Pashto proverbs article)

From Wikiquote

  • The enemy brands it as a language of hell, To heaven I will go with Pashto. ( Ameer Hamza Khan Shinwari)
    • Ameer Hamza Khan Shinwari the father of modern Ghazal in Pashto, is considered one of the greatest Pashtun poets that ever lived. Click here for more [1]
  • don't give me your alms, just save me from your dogs
    • Sta da khaira may tobah da, kho da spie de rana kurray ka.
  • First yourself, then the universe
    • Awal zaan resto jahan
  • The carvan is moving on but the dog is still barking.
    • Karwaan theregi aw Spi ghapi
      • Events have moved on yet some people still keep talking about the past.
  • When I die, let it be in this way that everyone knows grief, not like a scorpion or a snake whose death brings all relief. Khushal Khan Khattak

External links

Pashto proverbs

Simple English

Pashto (Naskh: پښتو‎ IPA: [pəʂ'to]), also rendered as Pakhto, Pushto and also known as Afghani[4][5]) is an Indo-Eropean language spoken by Pashtun living in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Native speakers of Pashto account for 56% of the Afghanistan population and 17% of the Pakistan population. As defined in the Constitution, Pashto is the national and official language of Afghanistan and is used for the administration of the Afghan government throughout the country, while in Pakistan, it is acknowledged as a provincial (state-level) language for the State of Khaibar Pakhtunkhwa.


As a consequence of Strong socio-economic inter-relations, along with other historic and linguistic reasons, there are many dialects in Pashto language. However, as a whole, Pashto has two main dialects: western dialect and eastern dialect. The difference between these two dialects is in the use of sounds.


Pashto belongs to the Eastern Bakterian branch of the Indo-European languages family.

Official status

Pashto is the national and official language of Afghanistan and a provincial language of Khaibar Pakhtunkhwa state of Pakistan; and is used for the administration of the government throughout the country. It is used in education, literature, office and court business, media, and in religious institutions, etc. It holds in itself a repository of the cultural and social heritage of the country.


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