The Pashto language is an Indo-European language stemming through the Iranian branch of the language family. It is also known as Afghani. Historically, the Pashto language is associated with the indigenous people who live in the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan. The earliest Pashto work is thought to date back to the eighth century, with the Pata Khazana manuscript. However, this manuscript has still not been authenticated by any scholarly body, and certain linguists consider the work to be a forgery due to the anachronisms in the script.
Since the 18th century, the kings of the country of Afghanistan were ethnic Pashtun people, and most of them spoke both Pashto and Persian. The Persian was considered to be the literary language of the court, and was used in official documents and spoken by the richer or more influential members of the court, while the Pashto language was spoken more commonly.
Amanullah Khan, the ruler of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929, spoke Pashto as a second language, but promoted the language heavily as one to strengthen national identity. Later, in the 1930s, a language movement began, to promote the Pashto language to be the official language of the government over Persian. In 1936, the Pashto language was granted the same official status as Persian.
Despite this strengthening the national pride towards the language, Persian was still seen by the upper echelons of Afghan culture as being an indicator for wealth and sophistication. These days, the Pashto language is considered to be one that is a symbol for Afghan nationalism, with even the lyrics of the national anthem being in the Pashto language instead of the Persian, or Dari, language.
The Pashto language is associated historically with the country of Afghanistan, where it is an official language, but it is also spoken in Pakistan and Iran. It is also an official language in Pakistan, though primarily only in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, along with the Dari or Persian language. In Iran, the Pashto speakers live majoritively in the Northeast, in South Khorasan Province, and in Tajikistan.
There are around 50 to 60 million speakers of the Pashto language around the world, with the vast majority of those people living in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S., although there are also communities of Pashto speakers living in the U.K., Thailand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Canada, Qatar, Russia, Japan and Australia.
The Pashto language takes the sentence form of Subject Object Verb, with adjectives present in the sentence being placed before nouns. There are only two genders, the feminine and the masculine, in the Pashto language, with no neutral or common gender.
A significant portion of the vocabulary for this language comes from other Eastern Iranian languages, such as Avestan, Ossetic and Pamir. Likewise, the Pashto language has given words also to these languages in return, as there are many words that are only present in the Pashto language itself, and have no discernable root from other languages. After the 7th century, other languages also had an influence on the Pashto language, such as Arabic, Persian, and Hindu languages. These days, the primary influences are English, French and German.
The alphabet for the Pashto language is a modified form of the Persian alphabet, but conversely called the Pashto alphabet. The Pashto alphabet in turn is derived from the Arabic alphabet, and has additional letters to incorporate the specific sounds of the Pashto language. There are 45 letters in total in the alphabet, with 4 diacritic marks.
Why Learn The Pashto Language?
There have been many difficult times for the country of Afghanistan, yet it keeps a rich and complex culture. There are many religious sites, and festivals, and despite the rebuilding process from war, there are many beautiful places to visit. Afghanistan is a country that has seen more than its share of trials in the past century. Learning the Pashto language could also help modern historians to understand the conflicts that have arisen there.