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Afghan,language belonging to the Iranian group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. See Indo-IranianIndo-Iranian,
subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages, spoken by more than a billion people, chiefly in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (see The Indo-European Family of Languages, table).
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(also Pashtu, Pushtu, Pushto, Afghan), the language of the Afghans and one of the two official languages of Afghanistan. Pashto is also spoken in northwestern and western Pakistan. Of the approximately 20 million speakers of Pashto, about half live in Pakistan. Pashto belongs to the Iranian group (East Iranian branch) of the Indo-European language family. There are two groups of dialects: the southwestern, or Kandahar, group, and the northeastern, or Peshawar, group.
The distinctive phonetic features of Pashto are its wealth of consonants—including retroflex and ovular consonants and the pharyngeal h —and its paucity of vowels, which may be long or short. Stress is mobile and retains archaic features. The noun has direct and oblique case forms, masculine and feminine genders, and two numbers. The verb has the categories of person, number, tense (the future tense is expressed analytically), gender (expressed only in the third person of the past tense), aspect, mood, transitivity-intransitivity, and voice. The syntax of Pashto is marked by the ergative construction and numerous analytical formations. The vocabulary has many Iranian elements as well as borrowings from Arabic, Indian, Turkic, Mongolian, and the Western European languages. Although the first examples of the written language date to the 13th century, many texts, such as the poetry of Kror, evidently originated earlier. Pashto uses the Arab-Persian alphabet.
REFERENCESDvoriankov, N. A. Iazyk pushtu. Moscow, 1960. (With bibliography.)
Kalinina, Z. M. Ocherki po leksikologii sovremennogo literaturnogo pushtu. Moscow, 1972.
Aslanov, M. G. Afgansko-russkii slovar’. Moscow, 1966.
Lorimer, D. L. R. Pashtu: Syntax of Colloquial Pashtu, part 1. Oxford, 1915.
Penzl, H. A Grammar of Pashto. Washington, D.C., 1955.
Morgenstierne, G. An Etymological Vocabulary of Pashto. Oslo, 1927.
V. N. TOPOROV