The Nuristani languages

Almuth Degener

in Indo-Iranian Languages and Peoples

Published by British Academy

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780197262856
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191753961 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Nuristani languages

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In the context of the problems connected with the early migrations of the Indo-Iranian peoples and the entry of the Indo-Aryans into India, the question of where and when the ancestors of the later Iranians separated from the Indo-Aryans is particularly interesting. This problem is connected with that of the relationship between Iranian, Indo-Aryan, and the third Indo-Iranian group of languages, the Nuristani languages, formerly called Kafiri languages. The Nuristani languages are spoken almost entirely within the confines of the area of northeast Afghanistan known as Nuristan. There is no doubt that the Nuristani languages belong to the Aryan group of Indo-European languages, their nearest relatives being the Iranian and the Indian languages. However, there has never been unanimity about the exact position of the Nuristani languages in relation to these two well-known branches of the Aryan family. There are three possible hypotheses, each of which has found supporters: (i) the Nuristani languages are part of the Iranian family, but separated at a very early stage from the main stream of Iranian languages; (ii) they are part of the Indo-Aryan family, but separated from Indo-Aryan in pre-Vedic times; and (iii) they are neither Indian nor Iranian but represent a third branch of the Aryan family. This chapter attempts to evaluate each of these hypotheses critically.

Keywords: Indo-Iranian peoples; Indo-Aryans; Kafiri languages; Afghanistan; Nuristani languages; Nuristan

Chapter.  6635 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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