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Summary Details

Query:   Pashto Language
Author:  Steven Donahue
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   General Linguistics

Language Family:   Pashto

Summary:   Below is a summary of what I have gathered about the Pashto Language.
Steven Donahue

(1) The Pashtuns are an Indo-European people genetically related to the
Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria. Pashto belongs to the
Indo-European family of languages and is thus distantly related to English.
Despite the fact that Pashto is written in a variant of Arabic script,
and has many loan words, particularly from the Qu'ran, it is not related
to that language group. A now famous Arabic loan word is ''Taliban''
meaning students. English words seemingly derived from Sanskrit such as ''star'',
''God'' and ''speck'' ('storey', 'Kwaday' 'spek', respectively in Pashto)
still show an historical echo between English and Pashto.
(2) Dr. Habibullah Tegey, Senior Editor of the Pashto Services for the Voice
of America.told me, '' Pashto is what is called in language typology an 'ergative
language'. Typical Ergative languages, such as Basque or the aboriginal
Australian, have the verb agree with the subject in present tense; Pashtu is
ergative only in past tense, where the verb agrees with the object.''
Pashto is the best example of non-typical ergativity. Basque is the best
example of typical ergativity.''
(3) Dr. Taylor Roberts, an expert on Pashto ''clitics'' (pronominal clitics are
weak pronouns)said, ''Pashtu is a formidable language that would take a second
language learner some time to tune into past tense constructions
involving two pronouns, when certain verbs would be problematic.'' For
example, ' My father is sending you back to the cave I was in yesterday'
could be mis-interpreted, ' Your father is sending me back to the cave I
was in yesterday.'''*
(4) Concerning Pashto dialects, Dr. Tegey says, '' Generally speaking there
are three dialects: Western, Eastern, and the Central dialect of Kabul
formerly used by Kabul Radio, which is the de facto standard.'' Since
Pashto lacks a ''V'' sound, speakers of it will pronounce many English
words with ''V'' by substituting a ''W''. For example, ''Very'' might be
pronounced as 'Wary'.
(5) At the present time, not a single program exists in the United States
for teaching Pashto to English speakers. However, The University of
Pennsylvania now definitely will offer a Pilot Pashto course
in Spring semester, 2002. The course ( SARS 291/591), Intensive Beginning
Pashto,will be directed by Dr. Benedicte Santry, and will be a 2 semester-unit (
accelerated ) elementary course, offering a year's worth of instruction in one
semester. It will meet 2 hours daily four days a week. Professor Schiffman
is overseeing the course 215 898 5825

For Further Information:

1. Taylor Roberts home page with Pashtu materials:
2. Books and cassettes for learning Pashto have been prepared by the
Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC:

* [ Adapted From p. 182 A Reference Grammar of Pashto. Habibullah [Tegey,
Barbara Robson. Center for Applied Linguistics. Washington, D.C. 1996]

LL Issue: 12.2919
Date Posted: 23-Nov-2001
Original Query: Read original query


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