Pashto Language – The Main Pashto Dialects

Language is the only medium to convey emotions; every language is essential, especially for native speakers. But unfortunately, hundreds of languages have lost their place in the world because they needed to be more challenging to learn or needed a proper writing system. But here we’ll talk about a language with many native speakers and one of the most critical languages in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pashto is the language of the Pashtun people, previously called Afghans. The Pashto language is one of Pakistan and Afghanistan’s most widely spoken languages. Afghanistan is a Pashto language country. It has a wide variety of dialects, with two main dialects; Northern Pashto and Southern Pashto.

Pashto language might sound complicated when you don’t know anything about it, but it’s pretty easy to learn and has many beautiful words with meanings that will amaze you.

Pashto is an Indo-European language believed to belong to the East Iranian Subgroup of languages. The language is closely similar to the other languages of the Pamir Badakhshan region of Northeast Afghanistan region.

Pashtun people are considered to be the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are also known as Afghans. As an important province of Pakistan, KPK and its primary language, Pashto, has their importance.

Let’s begin with this article to explore some interesting facts about the Pashto language.

Origin and History of the Pashto Language

Pashto is an Indo-European language in southern and eastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Pashto is the official language of Afghanistan; the other is Dari Persian.

If we look back at the history and origin of this language, we will only be able to find a little about it. That is because the ancient origin or roots of the Pashtun culture are unclear. Although there is much evidence regarding this language in the few remains of Pashtun history and the oral stories of Pashtun people, officials think the truth is still yet to be unveiled.

Pashtun and Afghans are called members of the same ethnic and cultural group; sometimes, these terms are synonyms. So the language spoken by both nations or groups is also the same: Pashto.

Do You Know Who’s A Pashtun? The perfect definition of Pashtun is a person who speaks Pashto as the first language and follows the code of Pashtunwali.

Pashto, a part of the Eastern Iranian language subgroup, is a widely spoken living language in two important countries of Asia. As it belongs to the Iranian language group, the Pashto language is also related to Kurdish and Persian.

It’s believed that the ancestor of all these languages was such a widely spoken language that it covered almost all Central Asia and the Middle East. The ancestral language was famous from present-day Egypt to Western China. But this discussion is still under debate by many famous linguists.

Modern Pashto is somewhat different from the ancient form of the language. It has undergone many changes and is believed to have started 2500 years ago. The first written records of the Pashto language are believed to be from the 16th century.

The Pashto language is thought to have originated from what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, linguists have different opinions about its exact place of origin. Some believe it might have been created in northern India, while others believe it originated in southern Central Asia.

Provincial Language of Pakistan

Pashto is the regional language of Pakistan and is also spoken in some parts of India and Afghanistan. 

According to a Census of 1998, the most spoken primary languages in Pakistan are Punjabi, Sindhi, Saraiki, Urdu, and Pashto. Pashto, one of these languages, is the most dominant language in the KPK province of Pakistan.

Almost 15% of the Pakistani population speaks Pashto as their first language. The language is spoken mainly in the Northwestern province of Pakistan, KPK. However, the northern districts of Baluchistan province also have many native speakers of the Pashto language.

Alternative Names of Pashto

Pashto is known by names such as Pakhto, Pukhtu, Pushtu, and Paxto. In Afghanistan, it’s referred to as the Aghan or Afghani language.

The Pashto language is the regional language of Pakistan. 

Pashto is spoken as a first language by about 15.42% of Pakistan’s 225.2 million people, but it’s not given any official status.

Pashto is taught in many schools in Pakistan, but the literacy rates for this subject are pretty low. So instead, even Pashtun kids are educated in Urdu, Pakistan’s National Language.

Overall, approximately 40 million people worldwide speak Pashto language as a first language.

Structure of Pashto Language

The structure of Pashto is similar to other Iranian languages. For example, the Pashto alphabet has almost 44 letters to write different words.

The Pashto language uses 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet and shares three letters with Urdu and Persian. Although Pashto has many loanwords from the Persian language, it still contains more vowels than Arabic and Persian. Therefore, the Pashto language contains more letters representing vowel sounds than contained in the Perso-Arabic script.

Pashto’s literary tradition is extensive and has a vast folk literature, including stories, music, and short poems composed basically by women about their daily lives.

Pashto is written with a modified Perso-Arabic script with many additional letters representing consonants specific to Pashto.

The spelling system of Pashto was standardized in the 18th century; until then, the representation of these consonants varied. Pashto was given the status of the national language of Afghanistan in 1936. At that time, the writing system underwent many changes that stayed until now.

Pashto Language Dialects

Pashto has two main dialects: Northern and Southern. The distinction between them is linguistic and geographical, as the two are spoken in different regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Southern dialect is spoken in southern and western Afghanistan, including Kandahar, southern KPK, and northern Baluchistan (specifically in Quetta). At the same time, north Pashto is specific to eastern Afghanistan, central, northern, and east KPK. The northern dialect is also spoken in Peshawar, Pakistan.

There are some differences in the Pashto dialects. However, the morphological differences between these dialects are very few and not too important to be noted.

However, the critical differences between the Pashto varieties are phonological; the conversion rules are simple.

In terms of their differences, the most notable one would be their pronunciation. For example, the Southern dialect uses the sound ‘g’ while the Northern dialect uses ‘kh.’ Another difference is that the former uses ‘ae’ and ‘oe’ while the latter uses ‘e’ and ‘o’. There are also some variations in vocabulary usage.

The written style of Pashto is quite different from that of English. In general, Pashto uses many more suffixes and prefixes than English does. That can make the language seem very complicated to those unfamiliar with it. However, once you get familiar with it, it is pretty simple.

Writing Style

The Pashto writing styles are based on the Perso-Arabic alphabet, and like the rest of the Perso-Arabic scripts, Pashto is written and read from right to left. There are no distinct capital letters in the Pashto language.

Let’s get more detail about the writing style of the Pashto language.

Perso-Arabic Script

Pashto is written in the Perso-Arabic script. That is the same script that is used for composing Persian and Urdu. The alphabet consists of 44 letters, most of which are derived from Arabic.

The Perso-Arabic script is written and read from right to left. There is no concept of capital letters in the Pashto language. In addition, there are no plurals or articles in Pashto.

Pashto is rich in vowels as compared to other Perso-Arabic languages. It has four short vowel sounds eliminated in writing and five long vowels.

Pashto is spoken in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and several other countries. It is the regional language of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the official language of Afghanistan.

Where is Pashto Spoken in The World?

Overall, Pashto has more than 30 million native speakers worldwide. Wherever there are Pashtuns, there’s the Pashto language. Of these 30 million people, 16-17 million Pashto language speakers live in Pakistan and 8-9 million in Afghanistan.

Some other communities of the Pashto language are also found in India called Hindko speakers. Pashtun or Pathans in India are residents of the country and have an ethnic Pashtun ancestry. The population of Pathan descent in India ranges somewhere between 3.2 million to 3.5 million.

Some Pashtun diaspora communities are also found in the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and North America.

Pashto is the official language of Afghanistan, along with Dari Persian. It is also one of the 70 widely spoken languages of Pakistan. It is the second-largest regional language spoken in the country after Punjabi.

Pashto Language Significance

Pashto is an essential language in the region where it is spoken. It’s the official language of Afghanistan and is also one of the regional languages recognized by the Pakistani constitution. According to Ethnologue, Pashto is expressed as a first language by approximately 35 million people, which makes it the 40th most widely spoken language in the world.

Pashto has been the official language of Afghanistan for centuries. The Afghan royal family and many other elites traditionally spoke Persian. Still, Pashto was always the language of the Pashtun people, who comprise much of the Afghan population.

In recent years, many reforms have been made to promote Pashto as the national language of Afghanistan.

Pashto is also spoken in Pakistan, where it is one of the regional languages recognized by the constitution. According to Ethnologue, there are approximately 15 million Pashto speakers in Pakistan. Pashto is mainly spoken in the northwestern provinces of Pakistan. However, it’s also spoken in urban areas such as Karachi and Lahore.

Pashto is a member of the Iranian language family closely related to Persian. However, over the centuries, Pashto has been heavily influenced by Arabic and Turkic languages. The earliest known written examples of Pashto are from the 16th century.

Interesting Facts about The Pashto Language

You must’ve heard the language from any Pashtun living nearby your neighborhood, but have you ever read some interesting facts about the Pashto language? Let’s take a quick look at the facts about this language.

1.     Pashto is the regional language of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

2.     Pashto is also spoken in Afghanistan, Iran, and India.

3. Pashto’s two main dialects: are Northern Pashto and Southern Pashto.

4.     The word ‘Pashto’ itself is of unknown origin.

5.     There are nearly twice as many Pashto speakers worldwide as there are Dutch speakers.

6.     There are approximately 35 million speakers of Pashto worldwide.

7.     The Pashto language has a rich tradition of oral literature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Pashto derived from Persian?

No, Pashto is not derived from Persian. The two languages are from different language families. Pashto is part of the Indo-Iranian language family, while Persian is part of the Indo-European family.

Native speakers of the Pashto language can learn Dari and Farsi, but Dari speakers can’t have a good command of the Pashto language.

Who is the founder of the Pashto language?

There is no founder of the Pashto language; the origin of this language is unknown, and it has been debated for many years. The language has evolved.

Is Pashto an ancient language?

Pashto is not an ancient language, but it is one of the oldest living languages in the world. It is believed to have originated some 2500 years ago.

Where is Pashto spoken in Pakistan?

Pashto is spoken in many parts of Pakistan, but most speakers live in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is also expressed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and some northern districts of Balochistan.

Is Pashto a popular language?

Yes, Pashto is a popular language. In Pakistan, it is estimated that around 25 million people speak Pashto as their first language. However, this number is declining due to the increasing use of English and other languages in education and government. In Afghanistan, Pashto is the national language of the country. It is also spoken in Iran, Tajikistan, and several other countries.

Pashto is an important language in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has a rich history and is spoken by millions of people around the world. Despite declining popularity, Pashto remains integral to Pakistani and Afghan culture.