Pamir Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pamir Languages


a group of related languages belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. The Pamir languages include the Shughni-Roshani language group, which comprises the closely related Shughni-Bajuvi, Ro-shani-Khufi, Bartangi-Oroshori, and Sarikoli subgroups and the Yazgulami, Ishkashmi, and Wakhi languages. Some scholars also include the Munji language.

The Pamir languages, with the exception of Yazgulami and Munji, are spoken both in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast of the Tadzhik SSR and in the adjacent regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the People’s Republic of China. Yazgulami is spoken only in the USSR, and Munji is confined to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Shughni-Roshani languages have approximately 40,000 speakers, and Wakhi approximately 20,000. All of the Pamir languages are unwritten. The literary language of the Pamiri is Tadzhik in the USSR, Farsi-Dari in Afghanistan, Urdu in Pakistan, and Uighur in China. The various Pamir languages are mutually unintelligible.

The Pamir languages share certain features that set them off from other Iranian languages. Phonetic features in all but the Ishkashmi and Munji languages include the interdentals [θ] and [δ] and the back fricatives [x] and [δ]. Morphological similarity exists in the pronoun and verb systems, and there are many common features in the vocabulary.

The most distinctive Pamir language is Wakhi, which has a special reflex of the Old Iranian back vowels [u] and [ü] and the diphthong [au] along with a special reflex of the front vowels [i] and [i] and the diphthong [ai]. Wakhi more systematically retains the Old Iranian voiceless obstruents [p], [t], and [k] and the consonant groups [tr], [dr], [rt], [rd], [rs], and [rz]—a special reflex of the Old Iranian group that included, for example, [sp]. Wakhi morphology is notable for the presence of Indo-Aryan pronominal forms.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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