LINGUIST List 12.2919

Fri Nov 23 2001

Sum: Pashto Language

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. steven donahue, Pashto

Message 1: Pashto

Date: Sun, 18 Nov 2001 21:56:47 -0500
From: steven donahue <>
Subject: Pashto

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]

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