AskDefine | Define Pashto

Dictionary Definition

Pashto n : an Iranian language spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan; the official language of Afghanistan [syn: Pashtu, Paxto, Afghani, Afghan]

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  1. Official language of Afghanistan.


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Extensive Definition

Pashto (پښتو‎, IPA: [pəʂ'to], also rendered as Pakhto, Pushto, Pukhto, Pashtoe, Pashtu, Pushtu, Pathani or Pushtoo and also known as Afghani) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by Pashtuns living in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some parts of India.
Native speakers of Pashto language account for 42.6% of the Afghan population and 15.42% of the Pakistani population. As defined in the Constitution, Pashto is the national and official language of Afghanistan and is used for the administration of the Afghan government throughout the country.


As a consequence of life in mountainous areas, weak socio-economic inter-relations, along with other historic and linguistic reasons, there are many dialects in Pashto language. However, as a whole, Pashto has two main dialects: soft or western dialect and hard or eastern dialect. The difference between these two dialects is in the use of some vowels and sounds.


Pashto belongs to the Aryan (Northeast) subgroup of the Indo-Aryan branch. Indo-Aryan, furthermore, belongs to the Indo-European language family.

Official status

Pashto is the national and official language of Afghanistan and is used for the administration of the government throughout the country. It is used in education, literature, office and court business, media, and in religious institutions, etc. It holds in itself a repository of the cultural and social heritage of the country.


Pashto is a S-O-V language with split ergativity. Adjectives come before nouns. Nouns and adjectives are inflected for gender (Masculine/Feminine), number (Singular/Plural) and case (Direct/Oblique). Direct case is used for subjects and direct objects in the present tense. Oblique case is used after most pre- and post-positions as well as in the past tense as the subject of transitive verbs. There is definite article, and is quite similar in pronunciation to (The) in English. There is also extensive use of the demonstratives this/that. The verb system is very intricate with the following: Simple Present, Subjunctive, Simple Past, Past Progressive, Present Perfect, and Past Perfect. In any of the past tenses (Simple Past, Past Progressive, Present Perfect and Past Perfect) Pashto is an ergative language, i.e. transitive verbs in any of the past tenses agree with the object of the sentence.



Pashto also has the diphthongs /aj/ /əj/ /aw/


The sounds /f/, /q/, /h/ are present only in loanwords. Less educated speakers tend to replace them with [p], [k] and nothing, respectively.
The retroflex lateral flap /ɺ̡/ is pronounced as retroflex approximant [ɻ] when final.


Pashto has an ancient legacy of borrowing vocabulary from neighboring languages including Vedic Sanskrit and Arabic. Invaders have left vestiges as well as Pashto has borrowed words from Ancient Greek, Arabic and Turkic, sometimes due to invasions. Modern borrowings come primarily from English.

Writing system

From the time of Islam's rise in South-Central Asia, Pashto has used a modified version of the Arabic script. The seventeenth century saw the rise of a polemic debate which also was polarized along lines of script. The heterodox Roshani movement wrote their literature mostly in the Persianate style called the Nasta'liq script. The followers of the Akhund Darweza, and the Akhund himself, who viewed themselves as defending the religion against the influence of syncretism, wrote Pashto in the Arabicized Naskh. With some individualized exceptions Naskh has been the generally used script in the modern era of Pashto, roughly corresponding with the late 19th and 20th centuries, due to its greater adaptability for typesetting. Even lithographically reproduced Pashto has been calligraphied in Naskh as a general rule, since it was adopted as standard.
Pashto has several letters which do not appear in any other Arabic script which represent the retroflex versions of the consonants /t/, /d/, /r/, /n/. The letters are written like the standard Arabic ta', dal, ra', and nun with a "pandak", "gharwandah" or also called "skarraen" attached underneath which looks like a small circle; ړ ,ډ ,ټ, and ڼ, respectively. It also has the letters ge and xin (the initial sound of which is like the German ch found in the word "ich") which look like a ra' and sin respectively with a dot above and beneath. Pashto also has the extra letters that has been added to the Arabic alphabet such as pe (پ). It has a number of additional vowel diacritics as well, though these often vary in their usage.

Pashto alphabet

The letters of the Pashto alphabet are:
ا ب پ ت ټ ث ج ځ چ څ ح خ د ډ ذ ر ړ ز ژ ږ
س ش ښ ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک ګ ل م ن ڼ ه و ى ئ ي ې ۍ

Letters specific to Pashto

These letters are specific to Pashto only. Some other languages, such as Urdu, also contain some of these letters. But, the shapes are somewhat different.
ټ، ځ، څ، ډ، ړ، ږ، ښ، ګ، ڼ

The five Yaas of Pashto

These are the five Yaas used in Pashto writing:
ی، ي، ې، ۍ، ﺉ
The last three Yaas (ې، ۍ، ﺉ) are specific to Pashto only, but the first two ones (ی، ي) are also used in writing other languages.


Examples of intransitive sentence forms using the verb "to go" "tləl":
Command (you masculine-singular):
  • khawanze/shawanze (ښوونځى) ta dza! or khawanze/shawanze ta lāṛ ša!
  • School to go - Go to school!
Command (you masculine-plural):
  • khawanze/shawanze ta lāṛ šəy!
  • Go to school!
Simple Present:
  • zə khawanze/shawanze ta dzəm.
  • I school to go - I go to school.
  • zə ğwāṛəm če khawanze/shawanze ta lāṛ šəm.
  • I want that to school go (Masculine-I-verb form) - I want to go to school.
Present Perfect:
  • zə khawanze/shawanze ta tləlay yəm.
  • I school to gone (Masculine verb form) am - I have gone to school.
Simple Past:
  • zə khawanze/shawanze ta wəlāṛəm.
  • I school to went - I went to school.
Past Perfect:
  • zə khawanze/shawanze ta tləlay wəm.
  • I school to gone (Masculine verb form) was - I had gone to school.
Past Progressive:
  • zə khawanze/shawanze ta makh kay talay um"
  • I school to was going - I was going to school or I used to go to school
Examples of transative sentence forms using the verb "to eat" "xwaṛəl":
Command (You singular):
  • Panir wəxora!
  • cheese eat - Eat the cheese!
  • Panir məxora!
  • cheese no-eat - Don't eat the cheese!
Command (You plural):
  • Panir wəxorəy!
  • cheese eat - Eat the cheese!
  • Panir məxorəy!
  • cheese no-eat - Don't eat the cheese!
Simple Present:
  • zə panir xorəm.
  • I cheese eat - I eat cheese.
  • zə ğwāṛəm če panir wəxorəm.
  • I want that cheese eat (I-verb form) - I want to eat cheese.
Present Perfect: ما پنېر خوړلی دی
  • mā panir xoṛəlay day.
  • me (I-oblique) cheese eaten (masculine-singular verb form) is - I have eaten cheese.
Simple Past:
  • mā panir wəxoṛə.
  • me (I-oblique) cheese ate - I ate cheese
Past Perfect:
  • mā panir xoṛəlay wo.
  • me (I-oblique) cheese eaten (masculine-singular verb form) was - I had eaten cheese.
Past Progressive:
  • mā panir xoṛə.
  • me (I oblique) cheese was eating (masculine-singular verb form) - I was eating cheese or I used to eat cheese.
Questions Stā num tsə day your name what is - what is your name


  • Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum
  • Morgenstierne, Georg (1926) Report on a Linguistic Mission to Afghanistan. Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning, Serie C I-2. Oslo. ISBN 0-923891-09-9
Pashto in Amharic: ፐሽቶ
Pashto in Arabic: لغة بشتونية
Pashto in Asturian: Pashtu
Pashto in Breton: Pachtoueg
Pashto in Bulgarian: Пущунски език
Pashto in Catalan: Paixtu
Pashto in Chuvash: Пушту
Pashto in Welsh: Pashto
Pashto in Danish: Pashto
Pashto in German: Paschtunische Sprache
Pashto in Estonian: Puštu keel
Pashto in Spanish: Idioma pashto
Pashto in Esperanto: Paŝtoa lingvo
Pashto in Persian: پشتو
Pashto in French: Pachto
Pashto in Irish: Paistis
Pashto in Korean: 파슈토어
Pashto in Armenian: Փուշթու
Pashto in Hindi: पश्तो
Pashto in Indonesian: Bahasa Pashtun
Pashto in Icelandic: Pashto
Pashto in Italian: Lingua pashtu
Pashto in Georgian: პუშტუ
Pashto in Kurdish: Paştûnî
Pashto in Ligurian: Lengua Pashtu
Pashto in Malay (macrolanguage): Bahasa Pashto
Pashto in Dutch: Pasjtoe
Pashto in Japanese: パシュトー語
Pashto in Norwegian: Pashto
Pashto in Norwegian Nynorsk: Pasjto
Pashto in Pushto: پښتو
Pashto in Polish: Język paszto
Pashto in Portuguese: Língua pachto
Pashto in Russian: Пушту
Pashto in Slovak: Paštčina
Pashto in Finnish: Paštun kieli
Pashto in Swedish: Pashto
Pashto in Tamil: பாஷ்தூ மொழி
Pashto in Thai: ภาษาพาชตู
Pashto in Tajik: Забони пушту
Pashto in Turkish: Peştuca
Pashto in Ukrainian: Пушту
Pashto in Urdu: پشتو
Pashto in Dimli: Peştuki
Pashto in Chinese: 普什图语
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