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Pashto (پښتو), Pukhto, also rendered as Pakhto, Pushto, shtoe, Pashtu, Pushtu, Pathani or Pushtoo and also known as Afghan language is an Indo-European language spoken by Pashtuns living in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although spoken by nearly 76 million people in various countries. However, some of the Pashto literature has been observed to follow modern literary trends.

Geographic distribution

Pashto is spoken by about 45 million people in the western provinces of North-West Frontier Province, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Balochistan of Pakistan (25.4% of the total population) and by over 23 million people in the south, east, west and a some of northern provinces of Afghanistan (ca. 67% of the total population). In Pakistan, smaller, modern "transplant" communities are also found in Sindh, Karachi, Hyderabad. Other smaller communities of Pashto speakers also thrive in northeastern Iran and in India, particularly in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, where Pathan colonies were founded.

Official status

Pashto is the national language of Afghanistan and the official languages of Afghanistan (along with Dari) and is widely spoken by Pashtuns and other ethnic groups. It is not the official language in Pakistan, and is spoken by Pashtun communities in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan Province .


The northern dialect is spoken by about 6,000,000 people, and the southern dialect by about 1,500,000. The dialect of Kandahar is the most conservative with regards to phonology, retaining both the dental affricates and the retroflex fricatives, which have not merged with other phonemes.


Pashto is a Subject-Object-Verb language with split ergativity. Adjectives come before nouns. Nouns and adjectives are inflected for gender (Masculine/Feminine), number (Singular/Plural) and grammatical 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 no definite article, but instead there is 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-absolutive language, i.e. transitive verbs in any of the past tenses agree with the object of the sentence.


Pashto, being an Indo-European language, shares many cognates with other related languages. Following the advent of Islam in Afghanistan, the Pashto language has received a significant influx of loan-words from Greek, Arabic, Persian and various Turkic languages.

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 (generally in Pakistan) 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. It has a number of additional vowel diacritics as well, though these often vary in their usage.


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 ۀ و ؤ ى ئ ي ې ۍ

Gohar Nangyal Yousafzai Dept. of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Peshawar

External links

Pashto Computer Fonts