Jun 11, 2012

Dardic & Nuristani languages

  • Description
  • List of languages
Though Dardic and Nuristani languages are considered by the majority of linguists as two separate groups of languages, they are very close in structure and in vocabulary, and can be described together. Moreover, they have common origin and they are both spoken in one mountainous region in the Gindukush mountains.
In fact, Dardic and Nuristani languages originate back to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family. Nowadays their speakers, mainly peasants in Northern Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, make about 4 million people (Dardic) and 150 thousand people (Nuristani). As it is usual with mountainous tongues, it is hard to distinguish between separate languages and dialects of one. Practically every little village, has the speech of its own. The lack of scientific material about both groups makes the research even harder, but still linguists managed to name exact languages within the groups: at all there are about 15 Dardic tongues and five or six Nuristani languages.
In phonetics it is very hard to select any characteristic features of the group - for example, vowels are very variable, and little common can be found. This proves that the very name "Dardic group" or "Nuristani group" is to some extent just nominal; the long history of development of different languages led to great varieties of sounds among languages. However, we can say that Dardic languages in general widely use aspirated consonants, sometimes cerebral, palatal and labiovelar sounds. An interesting peculiarity is the presence of tone oppositions in several Dardic languages, such as Gavar, Dameli, Shina. Nuristani lacks aspiration, but uses extensive cerebral consonants instead.
Both groups have from 2 to 4 noun cases, which are frequently composed with numerous postpositions (or more rarely prepositions). Two genders (masculine and feminine), and two numbers (singular and plural) are in use, by the way, plural is formed mainly by agglutinative formants, though most cases have normal endings. Interesting that both Nuristani and Dardic have definite / indefinite articles before nouns; nouns are also divided to animate and inanimate. 
Nuristani and Dardic people count in twenties, except the Kashmiri language which adopted the count in tens. There is no special in this if we remember that Celtic and Italic languages also used to count in 20s. This was probably normal for Proto-Indo-European as well. The same can be said about Dardic & Nuristani pronouns - personal pronouns exist only for the 1st and the 2nd person, and the 3rd one is expressed by demonstrative pronouns, just like in Baltic, Slavic, Greek and many other Indo-European languages.

Verbs generate both analytic and inflectional forms, thre trend to losing inflections is seen in the eastern regions, where verbs have already lost the category of person (Torwali, Mayan). However, everywhere verbs still use numbers and genders. Dardic languages Khowar and Kalasha preserved the augment prefix, which existed in Vedic and Ancient Greek languages.
Most languages use Persian and Arabic scripts for writing; the original system of writing exists only in Kashmiri (one of Indic alphabets). Many languages have no writing at all: this is explained by the fact that the majority of their speakers are illiterate peasants. 


Gawar (Gawar-Bati)
Glangali (Nangalami)
Pashai (West and East)

No comments:

Post a Comment