Pamiri Languages

The Pamiri languages, which make up a sizeable and diverse group of Eastern Iranian languages united by geography and contact rather than common descent, are spoken today in an areal continuum in the high-mountain region where the national borders of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China meet. The Pamir Plateau, sometimes known as the “Roof of the World”, is surrounded by steep riverine valleys which are home to diverse but related peoples who increasingly self-identify as Pamiri. The Pamiri domain also extends south into the adjoining Hindu Kush mountain range. In all there are some dozen valleys, each with several villages where a distinct Pamiri language or dialect is spoken, and local identities are often strong. The total number of Pamiri people may surpass 100,000, with most living in Tajikistan’s Badakhshan province. Within just the last few decades, increasing outmigration from the region and new patterns of global mobility have resulted in a small but growing Pamiri community in New York City. Most Pamiris are highly multilingual, speaking at least one Pamiri language natively as well as the national language and a language of wider communicationfor those in Tajikistan, Shughni is a lingua franca.

The Pamiri Languages Project encompasses research and education efforts around the region’s endangered languages, particularly those with speakers in the New York area. ELA is working with a Pamiri community now several hundred strong, including many who speak Shughni and smaller numbers who speak Rushani and Bartangi. For nearly a decade, led by native speaker and senior researcher Husniya Khujamyorova, ELA has been building up and sharing a subtantial corpus of old and new materials on Wakhi, and new work resulting from 2018 fieldwork is now focusing on Ishkashimi, one of the least documented and most highly endangered of all Pamiri varieties.

NEW: Check out our Pamiri storybooks for children are also available, with two stories each in five Pamiri languages spoken today in Tajikistan: Bartangi, Ishkashimi, Rushani, Shughni, and Wakhi. The easiest way to obtain copies is by purchasing from Amazon. These sales help us give the books away below cost to Pamiri communities in Tajikistan.

Whether you are a speaker yourself, a partial speaker, or know someone who might be, we are always looking for more resources on lesser-known Pamiri languages. Please get in touch!