Pashto (,; / , ), sometimes spelled Pukhto or Pakhto, is an Eastern Iranian language of the Indo-European family. It is known in Persian literature as Afghani (, ). The language is natively spoken by Pashtuns (also called Pukhtuns/Pakhtuns; historically known as ethnic ''Afghans''), an ethnic group of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pashto comprises, along with Dari (alternatively known as 'Afghan Persian'), the two languages of Afghanistan with official status.Constitution of Afghanistan
''Chapter 1 The State, Article 16 (Languages) and Article 20 (Anthem)''
/ref> Pashto is also the second-largest regional language in Pakistan, mainly spoken in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the northern districts of the Balochistan province. Likewise, it is the primary language of the Pashtun diaspora around the world; the total number of Pashto-speakers is thought to be at least 40 million, (40 million) although some estimates place it as high as 60 million.

Geographic distribution

As a national language of Afghanistan, Pashto is primarily spoken in the east, south, and southwest, but also in some northern and western parts of the country. The exact number of speakers is unavailable, but different estimates show that Pashto is the mother tongue of 45–60% (50%) of the total population of Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Pashto is spoken by % of its population,http://www.pbs.gov.pk/sites/default/files/tables/POPULATION%20BY%20MOTHER%20TONGUE.pdf mainly in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northern districts of Balochistan province. Pashto-speakers are found in other major cities of Pakistan, most notably in Karachi, Sindh. Other communities of Pashto speakers are found in India, Tajikistan, and northeastern Iran (primarily in South Khorasan Province to the east of Qaen, near the Afghan border). In India most ethnic Pashtun (Pathan) peoples speak the geographically native Hindi-Urdu language instead of Pashto. However small numbers of Pashto speakers exist in India, namely the Sheen Khalai in Rajasthan, and the Pathan community in the city of Kolkata, often nicknamed the ''Kabuliwala'' ("people of Kabul"). In addition, sizable Pashtun diaspora also exist in Western Asia, especially in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The Pashtun diaspora speaks Pashto in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Qatar, Australia, Japan, Russia, New Zealand, etc.


Pashto is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan, along with Dari Persian.Modarresi, Yahya: "Iran, Afghanistan and Tadjikistan, 1911–1916." In: ''Sociolinguistics'', Vol. 3, Part. 3. Ulrich Ammon, Norbert Dittmar, Klaus J. Mattheier, Peter Trudgill (eds.). Berlin, De Gryuter: 2006. p. 1915.

/ref> Since the early 18th century, List of heads of state of Afghanistan|the monarchs of Afghanistan have been ethnic Pashtuns (except for Habibullāh Kalakāni in 1929). Persian, the literary language of the royal court, was more widely used in government institutions while the Pashtun tribes spoke Pashto as their native tongue. King Amanullah Khan began promoting Pashto during his reign (1926-1929) as a marker of ethnic identity and as a symbol of "official nationalism" leading Afghanistan to independence after the defeat of the British Empire in the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919. In the 1930s a movement began to take hold to promote Pashto as a language of government, administration, and art with the establishment of a Pashto Society ''Pashto Anjuman'' in 1931 and the inauguration of the Kabul University in 1932 as well as the formation of the Pashto Academy (Pashto ''Tolana)'' in 1937. Although officially supporting the use of Pashto, the Afghan elite regarded Persian as a "sophisticated language and a symbol of cultured upbringing".Tariq Rahman. "Pashto Language & Identity Formation in Pakistan." ''Contemporary South Asia'', July 1995, Vol 4, Issue 2, p151-20. King Zahir Shah (reigned 1933-1973) thus followed suit after his father Nadir Khan had decreed in 1933 that officials were to study and utilize both Persian and Pashto. In 1936 a royal decree of Zahir Shah formally granted to Pashto the status of an official language with full rights to usage in all aspects of government and education - despite the fact that the ethnically Pashtun royal family and bureaucrats mostly spoke Persian.Hussain, Rizwan. ''Pakistan and the emergence of Islamic militancy in Afghanistan''. Burlington, Ashgate: 2005
p. 63.
/ref> Thus Pashto became a national language, a symbol for Pashtun nationalism. The constitutional assembly reaffirmed the status of Pashto as an official language in 1964 when Afghan Persian was officially renamed to Dari. The lyrics of the national anthem of Afghanistan are in Pashto.


In Pakistan, Pashto is the first language of % of its population (as of 1998), mainly in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northern districts of Balochistan province. It is also spoken in parts of Mianwali and Attock districts of the Punjab province, areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and in Islamabad, as well as by Pashtuns who live in different cities throughout the country. Modern Pashto-speaking communities are found in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh.
, thefridaytimes
Urdu and English are the two official languages of Pakistan. Pashto has no official status at the federal level. On a provincial level, Pashto is the regional language of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and north Balochistan. The primary medium of education in government schools in Pakistan is Urdu. The lack of importance given to Pashto and neglect has caused growing resentment amongst Pashtuns, who also complain that Pashto is often neglected officially . It is noted that Pashto is not taught well in schools in Pakistan. Moreover, in government schools material is not provided for in the Pashto dialect of that locality. Students are unable to fully comprehend educational material in Urdu. Professor Tariq Rahman states:


Some linguists have argued that Pashto is descended from Avestan or a variety very similar to it. However, the position that Pashto is a direct descendant of Avestan is not agreed upon. What scholars agree on is the fact that Pashto is an Eastern Iranian language sharing characteristics with Eastern Middle Iranian languages such as Bactrian, Khwarezmian and Sogdian. Strabo, who lived between 64 BC and 24 CE, explains that the tribes inhabiting the lands west of the Indus River were part of Ariana. This was around the time when the area inhabited by the Pashtuns was governed by the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. From the 3rd century CE onward, they are mostly referred to by the name ''Afghan'' (''Abgan''). Abdul Hai Habibi believe that the earliest modern Pashto work dates back to Amir Kror Suri of the early Ghurid period in the 8th century, and they use the writings found in Pata Khazana. Pə́ṭa Xazāná (پټه خزانه) is a Pashto manuscript claimed to be written by Mohammad Hotak under the patronage of the Pashtun emperor Hussain Hotak in Kandahar; containing an anthology of Pashto poets. However, its authenticity is disputed by scholars such as David Neil MacKenzie and Lucia Serena Loi.Lucia Serena Loi: ''Il tesoro nascosto degli Afghani''. Il Cavaliere azzurro, Bologna 1987, p. 33 From the 16th century, Pashto poetry become very popular among the Pashtuns. Some of those who wrote in Pashto are Bayazid Pir Roshan (a major inventor of the Pashto alphabet), Khushal Khan Khattak, Rahman Baba, Nazo Tokhi, and Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the modern state of Afghanistan or the Durrani Empire. In modern times, noticing the incursion of Persian and Arabic vocabulary, there is a strong desire to "purify" Pashto by restoring its old vocabulary.


Pashto is a subject–object–verb (SOV) language with split ergativity. Adjectives come before nouns. Nouns and adjectives are inflected for two genders (masc./fem.), two numbers (sing./plur.), and four cases (direct, oblique, ablative and vocative). There is also an inflection for the subjunctive mood. The verb system is very intricate with the following tenses: present, simple past, past progressive, present perfect, and past perfect. The possessor precedes the possessed in the genitive construction. The verb generally agrees with the subject in both transitive and intransitive sentences. An exception occurs when a completed action is reported in any of the past tenses (simple past, past progressive, present perfect, or past perfect). In such cases, the verb agrees with the subject if it is intransitive, but if it is transitive, it agrees with the object, therefore Pashto shows a partly ergative behaviour. Unlike most other Indo-Iranian languages, Pashto uses all three types of adpositions – prepositions, postpositions, and circumpositions.




* Phonemes that have been borrowed, thus non-native to Pashto, are color coded. The phonemes and tend to be replaced by and respectively. * is voiced back-alveolar retroflex flap. MacKenzie states: "In distinction, from the alveolar trill r and from the dental (or alveolar) lateral l, it is basically a retroflexed lateral flap." * The retroflex fricatives and palatal fricatives represent dialectally different pronunciations of the same sound, not separate phonemes. In particular, the retroflex fricatives, which represent the original pronunciation of these sounds, are preserved in the South Western dialects (especially the prestige dialect of Kandahar), while they are pronounced as palatal fricatives in the North Western dialects. Other dialects merge the retroflexes with other existing sounds: The South Eastern dialects merge them with the postalveolar fricatives , while the North Eastern dialects merge them with the velar phonemes in an asymmetric pattern, pronouncing them as . Furthermore, according to Henderson (1983), the voiced palatal fricative actually occurs generally in the Wardak Province, and is merged into elsewhere in the North Western dialects. It is also pronounced as sometimes in Bati Kot according to the findings of D.W Coyle. * The velars followed by the close back rounded vowel assimilate into the labialized velars . * Voiceless stops are all unaspirated, like Romance languages, and Austronesian languages; they have slightly aspirated allophones prevocalically in a stressed syllable.


In Pashto, most of the native elements of the lexicon are related to other Eastern Iranian languages. As noted by Josef Elfenbein, "Loanwords have been traced in Pashto as far back as the third century B.C., and include words from Greek and probably Old Persian". For instance, Georg Morgenstierne notes the Pashto word مېچن mečә́n i.e. ''a hand-mill'' as being derived from the Ancient Greek word μηχανή ēkhanḗi.e. a device. Post-7th century borrowings came primarily from Persian language and Hindi-Urdu, with Arabic words being borrowed through Persian, but sometimes directly. Modern speech borrows words from English, French, and German. However, a remarkably large number of words are unique to Pashto. Here is an exemplary list of Pure Pashto and borrowings:

Classical vocabulary

There a lot of old vocabulary that have been replaced by borrowings e.g
hronewith تخت rom Persian Or the wor
/nowiki>.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="agānagí">يګانګي agānagí">يګانګي_[yagānagí
/nowiki>meaning_"uniqueness"_used_by_[[Pir_Roshan.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="agānagí
/nowiki>">agānagí">يګانګي [yagānagí
/nowiki>meaning "uniqueness" used by [[Pir Roshan">Pir Roshan Bayazid. Such classical vocabulary is being reintroduced to modern Pashto. Some words also survive in dialects like ناوې پلاز [the bride-room]. Example from Khayr-al-Bayān: Transliteration: ... be-yagānagə́i, be-kararə́i wi aw pə badxwə́i kx̌e wi pə gunāhā́n Translation: " ... without singularity/uniqueness, without calmness and by bad-attitude are on sin ."

Writing system

Pashto employs the Pashto alphabet, a modified form of the Perso-Arabic alphabet or Arabic script. In the 16th century, Bayazid Pir Roshan introduced 13 new letters to the Pashto alphabet. The alphabet was further modified over the years. The Pashto alphabet consists of 45 to 46 letters and 4 diacritic marks.In the Latin transliteration, stress is represented by the following markers over vowels: ә́, á, ā́, ú, ó, í and é. The following table gives the letters' isolated forms, along with the Latin equivalents ot officially recognisedand typical IPA values:


Pashto dialects are divided into two varieties, the "soft" southern variety ''Paṣ̌tō'', and the "hard" northern variety ''Pax̌tō'' (Pakhtu). Each variety is further divided into a number of dialects. The southern dialect of Wanetsi is the most distinctive Pashto dialect.1. Southern variety :*''Durrani'' or Kandahar dialect (or ''South Western'' dialect) :*''Kakar'' dialect (or ''South Eastern'' dialect) :*''Shirani'' dialect :*''Mandokhel'' dialect :*''Marwat-Bettani'' dialect :*Southern Karlani group Central_Dialects:_Wazirwola_and_Banunchi.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Central Pashto">Central Dialects: Wazirwola and Banunchi">Central Pashto">Central Dialects: Wazirwola and Banunchi::*''Khattak'' dialect ::*''Wazirwola'' dialect :::*''Dawarwola'' dialect :::*''Masidwola'' dialect ::*''Banuchi'' dialect 2. Northern variety :*''Central Ghilji'' dialect (or ''North Western'' dialect) ::*''Wardak'' dialect :*''Yusufzai'' or Yusapzai dialect (or ''North Eastern'' dialect) :*Northern Karlani group ::*''Taniwola'' dialect ::*''Mangal tribe'' dialect ::*''Khosti'' dialect ::*''Zadran'' dialect ::*''Bangash-Orakzai-Turi-Zazi- dialect ::*''Afridi'' dialect ::*''Khogyani'' dialect 3. Waṇetsi Dialect

Literary Pashto

Standard Pashto or Literary Pashto is the standardized variety of Pashto which serves as a literary register of Pashto , and is based on the North Western dialect, spoken in the central Ghilji region, including the Afghan capital Kabul and some surrounding region. Literary Pashto's vocabulary, however, also derives from Southern Pashto. This dialect of Pashto has been chosen as standard because it is generally understandable. Standard Pashto is the literary variety of Pashto used in Afghan media. Literary Pashto has been developed by Radio Television Afghanistan and Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan in Kabul. It has adopted neologisms to coin new terms from already existing words or phrases and introduce them into the Pashto lexicon. Educated Standard Pashto is learned in the curriculum that is taught in the primary schools in the country. It is used for written and formal spoken purposes, and in the domains of media and government. There has also been an effort to adopt a written form based on Latin script, but the effort of adapting a Roman alphabet has not gained official support.


Pashto-speakers have long had a tradition of oral literature, including proverbs, stories, and poems. Written Pashto literature saw a rise in development in the 17th century mostly due to poets like Khushal Khan Khattak (1613–1689), who, along with Rahman Baba (1650–1715), is widely regarded as among the greatest Pashto poets. From the time of Ahmad Shah Durrani (1722–1772), Pashto has been the language of the court. The first Pashto teaching text was written during the period of Ahmad Shah Durrani by Pir Mohammad Kakar with the title of ''Maʿrifat al-Afghānī'' ("The Knowledge of Afghani ashto). After that, the first grammar book of Pashto verbs was written in 1805 under the title of ''Riyāż al-Maḥabbah'' ("Training in Affection") through the patronage of Nawab Mahabat Khan, son of Hafiz Rahmat Khan, chief of the Barech. Nawabullah Yar Khan, another son of Hafiz Rahmat Khan, in 1808 wrote a book of Pashto words entitled ''ʿAjāyib al-Lughāt'' ("Wonders of Languages").

Poetry example

An excerpt from the ''Kalām'' of Rahman Baba: IPA: ə raˈmɑn pə ˈxpəl.a gram jəm t͡ʃe maˈjan jəmbr /> ͡ʃe d̪ɑ nor ʈoˈpən me boˈli gram pə t͡sə Transliteration: Zə Rahmā́n pə xpə́la gram yəm če mayán yəm
Če dā nor ṭopə́n me bolí gram pə tsə Translation: "I Rahman, myself am guilty that I am a lover,
On what does this other universe call me guilty."


''See:'' Pashto also has a rich heritage of proverbs (Pashto ''matalúna'', sg. ''matál''). An example of a proverb: Transliteration: O''bә́ pə ḍāng nə beléẓ̌i'' Translation: "One cannot divide water by itting it witha pole."


Greeting phrases


List of colors: List of colors borrowed from neighbouring languages: * نارنجي ''nārәnjí'' - orange Persian.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Persian language">Persian">Persian language">Persian/small> * ګلابي ''gulābí'' - pink Hindustani,_originally_Persian.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Hindustani language">Hindustani, originally Persian">Hindustani language">Hindustani, originally Persian/small> * نيلي ''nilí'' - indigo Persian.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Persian language">Persian">Persian language">Persian/small>

Times of the day

Names of the Month

Pashtuns followed the Vikrami Calendar, as mentioned by Yousuf Khan Jazab:




* * Georg Morgenstierne (1926) ''Report on a Linguistic Mission to Afghanistan''. Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning, Serie C I-2. Oslo. * Daniel G. Hallberg (1992) ''Pashto, Waneci, Ormuri (Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, 4)''. National Institute of Pakistani Studies, 176 pp. . * Herbert Penzl ''A Grammar of Pashto: A Descriptive Study of the Dialect of Kandahar, Afghanistan'', * Herbert Penzl ''A Reader of Pashto'',

Further reading

*Morgenstierne, Georg. "The Place of Pashto among the Iranic Languages and the Problem of the Constitution of Pashtun Linguistic and Ethnic Unity." Paṣto Quarterly 1.4 (1978): 43-55.

External links

Pashto Dictionary with Phonetic Keyboard & Auto-Suggestion

Pashto Phonetic Keyboard

Pashto Language & Identity Formation in Pakistan

Indo-Aryan identity of Pashto
* Henry George Raverty
''A Dictionary of the Puk'hto, Pus'hto, or Language of the Afghans''
Second edition, with considerable additions. London: Williams and Norgate, 1867. * D. N. MacKenzie
"A Standard Pashto"
Freeware Online Pashto Dictionaries

Origins of Pashto

Resources for the Study of the Pashto Language
{{DEFAULTSORT:Pashto Language Category:Iranian languages Category:Eastern Iranian languages Category:Languages of Afghanistan Category:Languages of Balochistan, Pakistan Category:Languages of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Category:Languages of Pakistan Category:Subject–object–verb languages Category:Fusional languages Category:Articles containing video clips