Nuristani languages

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Linguistic classification: Indo-European
Glottolog: nuri1243[1]

The Nuristani languages (Pashto: نورستاني‎ ; Urdu: نورستانی‎ ; Hindi: नूरिस्तानी, nurestāni) are one of the three groups within the Indo-Iranian language family, alongside the much larger Indo-Aryan and Iranian groups.[2][3][4] They have approximately 130,000 speakers primarily in eastern Afghanistan The region inhabited by the Nuristanis is located in the southern Hindukush mountains, and is drained by Alingar River in the west, Pech River in the center, and Landay Sin River and Kunar River in the east.

Many Nuristani languages are subject–object–verb (SOV), like most of the other Indo-Iranian languages adjacent to them, but distinct from the Dardic Kashmiri language for the apparent verb-second word order which is also notably used in most Germanic languages including Old English. The Nuristani languages were often confused with each other before concluding a third branch in Indo-Iranian, and also accounting many Burushaski loanwords present in Dardic.


Nuristani languages are generally regarded as an independent group, as one of the three sub-groups of Indo-Iranian, following the studies of Georg Morgenstierne (1973, 1975). However, sometimes it is classified in the Dardic languages branch of the Indo-Iranian language family, while another theory characterized it as originally Iranian, but greatly influenced by the nearby Dardic languages.

The languages are spoken by tribal peoples in an extremely is one that has never been subject to any real central authority in modern times. This area is located along the northeastern border of Afghanistan and adjacent portions of the northwest of present-day. These languages have not received the attention Western linguists like to give them. Considering the very small number of peoples estimated to speak them, they must be considered endangered languages.

There are five Nuristani languages, each spoken in several dialects. Major dialects include Kata-vari, Kamviri, and Vai-ala. Most of the Nuristanis in Pakistan speak Kamviri. These are influenced by, and sometimes classified as, Dardic languages; but this is more of a geographical classification than a linguistic one.

The Norwegian linguist Georg Morgenstierne wrote that Nuristan of Afghanistan is the area of the greatest linguistic diversity in the world. More than other languages are spoken here. These include Wakhi, and Pashto. Since many of these languages have no written form, they are usually written in an ad hoc Arabic alphabet.

Many Nuristani people now speak other languages, such as Dari and Pashto--two official languages of Afghanistan.


  • Decker, Kendall D. (1992) Languages of Chitral. Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, 5. Islamabad: National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University and Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  • Grjunberg, A. L. (1971): K dialektologii dardskich jazykov (glangali i zemiaki). Indijskaja i iranskaja filologija: Voprosy dialektologii. Moscow.
  • Morgenstierne, Georg (1926) Report on a Linguistic Mission to Afghanistan. Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning, Serie C I-2. Oslo. ISBN 0-923891-09-9
  • Jettmar, Karl (1985) Religions of the Hindu Kush ISBN 0-85668-163-6
  • J. P. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth, Thames and Hudson, 1989.
  • James P. Mallory & Douglas Q. Adams, "Indo-Iranian Languages", Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997.
  • Strand, Richard F. "NURESTÂNI LANGUAGES" in Encyclopædia Iranica


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Nuristani". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ SIL Ethnologue [1]
  3. ^ Morgenstierne, G. Irano-Dardica. Wiesbaden 1973; Morgenstierne, G. Die Stellung der Kafirsprachen. In Irano-Dardica, 327-343. Wiesbaden, Reichert 1975
  4. ^ Strand, Richard F. (1973) "Notes on the Nûristânî and Dardic Languages." Journal of the American Oriental Society, 93.3: 297-305.

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