Three Things To Know About Pashto

[ 0 ] January 6, 2016 |

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

Pashto translationPashto, also called Pashtu and formerly known as Afghani, is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan, the other being Dari. It is also a regional language in Pakistan, though it doesn’t have the official status there that English and Urdu have. Worldwide, between 40 and 60 million people speak Pashto, and around 40 to 60% of the population of Afghanistan speak it as their native language.

Unfortunately, many Americans are not aware that Arabic is not an official language in Afghanistan, and continue to group many Central Asian and Middle Eastern countries together, giving them one culture and one language. In an effort to shed some light on this area of the world, here are three important things to know about the Pashto language:

1. Pashto wasn’t always an official language of Afghanistan

Though the kings of Afghanistan, dating back to the 18th century, have been Pashtuns (the ethnic group that speaks Pashto) except for one, the language of the royal court was always Persian. Pashto was the language of the Pashtun tribes, up until 1919 when King Amanullah Khan began to promote the Pashto language as an important part of Afghan identity. By the 1930s, a movement had begun with the goal of making Pashto the official language of the Afghan government. Pashto became an official language in 1936, and this was further asserted as such in 1964.

2. The Pashto writing system is based on the Arabic script

Just like Persian and Sindhi, a language native to Pakistan and India, Pashto uses Naskh for printing, which is a style of calligraphy used mainly for writing in Arabic. It was adopted by these other languages and modified according to their needs. The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters, whereas the Pashto alphabet has 44, meaning that some letters had to be invented in order for the Arabic script to work for writing and printing in Pashto. Along with these 44 letters, there are 4 different diacritic marks, though they aren’t used very often unless needed in order to distinguish two words that would otherwise look the same.

3. There are many dialects of Pashto

In total, there are around 21 different dialects of Pashto, all of which fit more or less into two categories: the southern variety of dialects and the northern variety, also called soft and hard varieties. Besides these categories, there are also standard varieties depending on the region, with Literary or Standard High Pashto being the standard dialect used across Afghanistan in the media and taught in schools. Southern Pashto is the regional standard for southern varieties, with Northern Pashto filling the same role for the northern varieties. Peshawari or Northeastern Pashto is the standard in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Of all these standard varieties, the differences are usually just phonological with a handful of spelling differences.

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Category: Foreign Language