Rushani dialect

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rixū̊n ziv
Native to Afghanistan, Tajikistan
Native speakers
unknown (18,000 cited 1990)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog rush1239[2]

Rushani is a dialect of Shughnani (also referred to as Shughni) . It is a dialect primarily spoken in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It belongs to the Pamiri language group. Those within the community are all either bi- or tri-lingual in the languages of their surrounding communities, namely in: Russian and Tajik.

General information[edit]

Rushani is an Indo-European language. Although the Rushani dialect is endangered, there are roughly 25,000 native speakers of Rushani worldwide. It is estimated that about 7,000 Rushani speakers live in Afghanistan. In addition, there are about 18,000 speakers of the Rushani dialect living in various villages in Tajikistan. Some claim that Rushani is one of five dialects that make us a single language, the other dialects being: Shughni, Bartangi, Roshorvi and Khufi.[3] Majority of those who speak Rushani are from West Pamir. These individuals have a long documented history of being multilingual.[3] Rushani is a spoken language only. No written material exists in this particular dialect.[4]

Genetic affiliation[edit]

Rushani is a dialect and member of the Shughni and Pamiri languages. The Roshan area is located in the Northern part of the Shighnan district. This district is in the North-Eastern province of Afghanistan. Roshan consists of six villages, five of which are located on the bank of the river Panj, which meets at the border of Tajikistan.[3] Most of those who speak Rushani belong to the Ismaili branch of Shi'a Islam.[3]

Language use[edit]

Rushani, like its Shughni counterpart, is only spoken in unofficial settings. This includes, mostly the activities within the private sphere of one's life, such as the home, with their family and neighbors, etc. Thus, the vitality of this particular language is very high. All of the children within the community learn Rushani as their first language and rely heavily on it until they enroll in school. It is only then that the official language of the country (like Tajik is for Tajikistan) becomes a embedded into one's life.[3]

Writing system[edit]

As previously mentioned, the Rushani dialect is not written. Rather, it is the Tajik language and alphabet the people are taught. Therefore, those who speak Rushani have no systematic linguistic archive.[4]


Rushani is unusual in having a transitive case – a so-called double-oblique clause structure – in the past tense. That is, in the past tense,[5] the agent and object of a transitive verb are both marked, while the subject of an intransitive verb is not. In the present tense, the object of the transitive verb is marked, the other two roles are not – that is, a typical nominative–accusative alignment.[6] See transitive case for examples.


  1. ^ Shughni at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Rushani". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Muller, K. 2010: Language in Community-Oriented and Contact-Oriented Domains: The Case of the Shughni of Tajakistan. SIL International.
  4. ^ a b Dodykhudoeva, L. 2007: Revitalization of minority languages: comparative dictionary of key cultural terms in the languages and dialects of the Shugni-Rushani group. London: SOAS.
  5. ^ or perhaps perfective aspect
  6. ^ J.R. Payne, 'Language Universals and Language Types', in Collinge, ed. 1990. An Encyclopedia of Language. Routledge. From Payne, 1980.

External links[edit]

  • Rushani [1] at the Endangered Languages Project


  • Zarubin, I.I.. Bartangskie i rushanskie teksty i slovar. Moskva : Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1937.
  • Payne, John, "Pamir languages" in Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, ed. Schmitt (1989), 417–444.
  • Payne, John. "The decay of ergativity in Pamir languages." Lingua 51:147-186.