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The following is the introduction to Ishkashimi, Zebaki, and Yazghulami: An Account of Three Eranian Dialects (1920, Royal Asiatic Society, London) by Sir George A. Grierson. Below is an exact reproduction of Grierson's work except that Grierson's transliteration scheme, which was based on Greek characters, has been replaced by R. B. Shaw's, a Latin scheme that was published on p. 9 of the above mentioned work.

Read a description of the Yazghulami People at the
The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire

Read a description of the Ishkashmi People at the
The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire


1. Sir Aurel Stein, on his return in the spring of 1916 from his third Central-Asian Expedition (1913-16), made over to me a quantity of linguistic materials collected by him on the rapid journey which, in September, 1915, had carried him across the high mountain ranges west of the Pamirs, and through the chief alpine valleys drained by the uppermost Oxus. (1) These materials relate chiefly to the Iranian language spoken in that portion of the main Oxus, or Ab-i-Panja Valley, which lies between Wakhan (Waxan) and Gharan (Garan), at the great northward bend of the river, and which from its central village, takes the name of the Ishkashm. (2)
2. The principal tongues of the valleys adjoining the Pamirs, -apart form Turki, which is spoken by the Kirghiz occupying the Pamirs proper at the head-waters of the main Oxus branches and their tributaries, -are the "Ghalchah" (Galca) languages known as Wakhi, Sarikoli, (3) and Shugni (Shaw's "Shighni"). These have been illustrated in detail by Shaw in his well-known papers in JASB., xlv (1876), pt. i, pp. 139 ff. And xlvi (1877), pt. i, pp. 97 ff. Yüdgha, a dialect of Munjani, and belonging to the same group, has been briefly described by Biddulph, under the name of Yidghah, in his Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh, pp. cliv ff. The accounts of the first three have been summarized and investigated by Tomaschek in his Centralasiatishe Studien. II. Die Pamir-Dialekte (Vienna, 1880), and those of all four by Geiger on pp. 287 ff. of vol. I, ii, of the Grundriss der Iranischen Philogies. Besides the above languages, Geiger has also given a brief description of Yaghnobi, spoken beyond the Oxus in the uppermost valley of the Zarafshan River, far to the north-west of the Pamirs. According to Geiger and others, Yaghnobi also belongs to the same group, but this is denied by other Eranian scholars.
In addition to these, I have myself, with the help of the authorities of Chitral, collected specimens of several Pamir languages. For our present purpose, I may here mention that these included lists of words in, and translations into, Munjani, Yüdgha, and Zebaki
3. Sir Aurel Stein's new materials include a list of words and a story in Ishkashmi, a list of words in Wakhi, and a shorter list of words in Yazghulami. The Wakhi list forms a valuable check, and also a supplement, to the vocabulary of that language prepared by Shaw, but, as this form of speech is fairly well known, it need not detain us further here. Suffice it to say that all the Wakhi words collected by Sir Aurel Stein are included in the vocabularies appended to this work. The Ishkashmi list and story, dealing, as they do, with a language hitherto almost unknown, are more important, and will be examined with some minuteness in the following pages.
The story is a version of the Sarikoli tale which was given by Shaw on pp. 177 ff. of his first paper, and of which a translation into Shughni was given by Geiger on pp. 331 ff. of the GIP. The Ishkashmi version is a translation made from the Shughni version, and not from the original Sarikoli. It was secured by Sir Aurel Stein, together with the Lists of Words in Ishkashmi and Wakhi, in the course of his marches through the Russian portion of the Ishkashm tract, September 7-9, 1915, from Qazi Qadam Sah, Qazi of Russian Wakhan. Sir Aurel Stein describes him as an exceptionally intelligent man for linguistic and other local inquiry. As he lives at Sitkharv in Lower Wakhan, his mother tongue is Wakhi; but he spent all his youth as a talibu'l-'ilm in Ishkashm village, and spoke the language quite as fluently as Wakhi. In order to ensure accuracy, the translation was simultaneously checked by a born Ishkashmi named Daulat Qadam.
4. The River Wardoj, which is formed by the junction of two streams rising in the Hindukush, approaches, but does not join, the River Oxus near where that body of water takes its great bend to the north. One of these streams comes from the Dorah and the other from the Nuqsan Pass, both leading into Citral. The village of Sanglic lies in the valley leading to the Dora Pass, and gives the same "Sanglici" to the dialect spoken there and also in the valley leading to the Nuqsan Pass, as well as along the lower course of the combined Wardoj, where it passes into the main Badakhshan Valley. Where the two head-waters meet to form the Wardoj lies the small town of Zebak, and hence the dialect is also known as "Zebaki". The tract of Zebak is one of the most polyglot spots in this part of Asia. Not only has it its own local dialect, put Persian, Wakhi, and Shughni are all in use, and Turki is probably known to many.
Further north-east, separated from Zebak by a remarkably easy saddle forming the watershed, lies the small but relatively fertile tract of Ishkashm, the dialect of which closely resembles Zebaki. In fact, a comparison of Sir Aurel Stein's Ishkashmi with many Zebaki materials shows that the two, together with Sanglici, are all slightly varying forms of one and the same language, which we may call "Ishkashmi". Our materials for the study of Sanglici are of the scantiest, being confined to a short list of words given by Shaw as an appendix to his first paper; but even this is sufficient to show that, after allowing for differences of spelling, it is practically the same as Ishkashmi. Sir Aurel Stein, to whom I am indebted for the revision and correction of the foregoing geographical remarks, here adds:-

"The linguistic unity of the district comprising Ishkashm, Zebak, and Sanglic reflects in a striking manner the ethnic and political connexion which since early times has existed between these mountain tracts. It results itself from well-defined geographical facts. We have here an interesting illustration of the observation well known to students of geography that defiles in valley often form more important ethnic and political boundaries than watersheds, when these are crossed by relatively easy passes and routes.
"As far as local tradition and scanty historical data allow us to go back, the tract comprising the upper Wardoj Valley, which drains into the Kokca River of Badakhshan, and the tract of Ishkashm, extending from the main Oxus where it makes it great bend northward, have always formed a separate small hill chiefship or canton, distinct from Badakhshan on the west and from Wakhan, the territory of the uppermost Oxus Valley, on the east. The reason for the separation of the Zebak-Ishkashm tract is that, whereas the broad spur which descends from the Hindukush towards the Oxus at Ishkashm and divides it from the Wardoj drainage is crossed by a remarkably easy saddle, there are in the river valleys both towards Badakhshan and Wakhan narrow defiles to be passed, which form serious barriers. The same is the case northward. There the succession of gorges, known collectively as Garan, through which the Oxus tumbles in cataracts on its course to Shughnan, was for a distance of three trying marches wholly impassable until quite recent years, except on foot and even then only with serious difficulty.
"Ishkashm-Zebak as well as Wakhan were ruled as distinct chiefships usually by relatives of the Mirs of Badakhshan, being held on a kind of feudal tenure from the far more important and powerful principality of Badakhshan. This time-honoured arrangement was duly noted by Marco Polo when he passed here about 1273-4 A.D., on his way to 'Vokhan' and the "Pamier'. (1)This and other early references to the Ishkashm-Zebak tract have been discussed by me in Serindia, the detailed Report on my second Central-Asian expedition, now in the press. (2)
"At present the Zebak tract and the greatest portion of Ishkashm, being south of the Oxus, are included in the Afghan province of Badakhshan. The few Ishkashm villages north of the river are under Russian administration, belonging to the wide area known officially as the 'Pamir Division'. Ishkashm, on the right or northern bank of the Oxus, is reckoned to extend upwards to the rocky defiles above the village of Namadgut and downwards to the hamlet of Malwac, where the gorges of Garan are entered. The high glacier-crowned main range of the Hindukush forms the great natural boundary on the south, both for Ishkashm and Zebak. Westwards, the big mountain spur separating the head-waters of the Wardoj and Kokca Rivers fulfils the same function in the direction of Munjan. The exact position of the boundary in the lower Wardoj Valley, leading north-westwards into Badakhshan, cannot be indicated at present."

My Zebaki materials were prepared at Citral by Khan Sahib Abdul Hakim Khan. As will be seen from the following pages, there are a few points of difference in pronunciation between it and Ishkashmi, but the two are closely related dialects of the same language. Even the few differences that do apparently exist would probably be still fewer if the spelling of the Zebaki specimens had been as consistent throughout as has been that employed by Sir Aurel Stein for Ishkashmi
To the east of Zebak lies the hill tract for Munjan, the language of which is Munjani. We have already seen that the Sanglic Valley leads south, over the Dorah Pass, into Citral. Having crossed the pass we come into the Leotkuh (commonly called Lutkho) Valley, belonging to Citral. Here the language is Yüdgha, the only one the Pamir languages-apart from Wakhi, which is spoken by the large Wakhi colony of Northern Hunza territory (Guhyal)-that has crossed the Hindukush to the south. It is a dialect of Munjani. We thus see that Ishkashmi is bounded on the west and south by Munjani and its dialect Yüdgha.
5. Sir Aurel Stein adds:-
"The Ishkashmi country has to its east the uppermost Oxus Valley, or Wakhan, and to its north Shughnan. The narrow gorges of Gharan, separating Ishkashm from Shughnan, afford room for only a very scanty population, and this, having been directly dependent, politically as well as economically, on Badakhshan, speaks Persian, though also acquainted with Shughni. To the east of Wakhi and Shughni, Sarikoli is spoken in the Chinese portion of the Pamir territory. North of Shughnan lies Roshan, ruled usually be relatives of the old chiefs of Shughnan. Its language is Roshani, a dialect of Shughni. North, again, of Roshan lies Darwaz, now administered from Bukhara, of which the language is Tajiki, lying beyond the purview of this work; but between Roshan and Vanj tract of Darwaz lies the long, narrow valley of Yazghulam (called 'Yazdum' in local speech), now also under Bukhara regime."
Its language, Yazghulami, is separated from Ishkasmi by Roshani and Shughni and so far as the list of words collected by Sir Aurel Stein shows, has little in common with it. The inhabitants of Yazghulam are difficult of approach, and have long been on bad terms with their more powerful neighbours of Roshan and Darwaz. The latter used to look upon them as robbers and semi-infidels (Kafirs), a result probably of the long-continued feuds between the chiefs of these territories, which enabled the Yazghyulamis to prey impartially on the people of either side as occasion afforded. The use of the term "Kafir" does not imply any connexion with the Kafirs who inhabit the country south of the Hindukush, and linguistic evidence lends no sanction to such a theory. On the contrary, the Yazghulami language clearly belongs to the Ghalca group, and is nearly related to Shughni, with which some of the most commonly used words agree, rather than with Wakhi or Ishkashmi. (1)
6. As regards the relationship of Ishkashmi to the other Galca languages, it can be said definitely that it agrees more closely with Munjani and Yudgha than with Wakhi, Shughni, or Sarikoli. It would take up too much space to work this out at length, but a perusal of the Vocabulary, in which the corresponding words in all the cognate languages are given, will show this; and those who may find such a comparison laborious will see the connexion plainly brought before their eyes in the comparative tables of pronouns in § § 53 ff.
7. As the materials brought home by Sir Aurel Stein do not pretend to be in any way complete, I have in the following pages supplemented them, so far as I could, from my own Zebaki materials. I have, throughout, carefully distinguished the two sources, so that there will nowhere be any difficulty in recognizing what rests on his authority and what on mine. The Zebaki materials suffer under the disadvantage of not having been recorded by a trained philologist. There are hence numerous inconsequences in the spelling, especially in the representation of the vowels, so that a certain reserve must be exercised in assuming the exact sound of any Zebaki word.
8 In regard to the general character of the Pamir languages, attention has been called by previous writers to the remarkable way in which ancient words have been preserved almost unchanged. Such words cannot be what in India are called "tatsamas", for the languages have no literatures to account for their artificial survival or resuscitation in modern times. Examples are: W. türt, a ford, compared with Skr. tirtha-; Mj. asti, a bone, compared with Skr. asthi-; Yd. kshira, milk, but Prs. shir, compared with Av. khshira-, Skr. ksira-; Yd. trushna, thirsty, but Prs. tis, thirst, compared with Av. tarshna-, Skr. trsna-. In Ish. we have an, other, as compared with Skr. anya-; az, I, compared with Av. azem; urk, a wolf, but Sh. wurj, Yd. wurgh, compared with Av. vehrka-, Skr. vrka; tras,, fear, compared with Skr. trasa-;; and others, including the interesting word remuz, the sun. The origin of the last is obscure till we wee the Zb. form of the same word, which is ormozd, and which preserves the O. Prs. a(h)uramazdah- almost letter for letter. In other Eranian languages the word appears only in the name of the town Hormizd, vulgo "Hormuz". The identification of the sun with Ahuramazda finds a parallel in Yz., which preserves Av. mithra- in mith, a day.
The same peculiarity is observable in the neighbouring Dardic languages spoken south of the Hindukush, where, for example, we have Khowar ashru,, but Prs. ars, a tear, compared with Av. asru-, Skr. ashru-; drokhum, silver (1), but Prs. dirham or diram, compared with Greek dhrakhmé; Kalasha, kakawak, Skr. krkavaku, a cock, and others.
9.The following contractions for language-names are used in this work:-

Ar. = Arabic Sg. = Sanglici
Av. = Avesta. Skr. =Sanskrit.
Ish. = Ishkasmi S. = Sarikoli
Mj. = Mujani. W. = Wakhi.
O. Prs. = Old Persian Yd. = Yüdgha.
Phl. = Pahlavi Yn. = Yaghnobi
Prs. = Persian Yz. = Yazghulami
R. = Roshani Zb. = Zebaki.
Sh. = Shugni

1. For a brief account of the journey, see sir Aurel Stein's preliminary report, "A Third Journey of the Exploration in Central Asia," in the Geographical Journal, 1916, xlvii, pp. 210 ff.
2. Sir Aurel Stein informs me that the proper pronunciation of "Ishkashm" is "Ishkashm", with a final m-vowel. The Language is "Ishkashmi", in which the m is a consonant.
3. As used by Shaw, Geiger, and others, this name is spelt "Sariqoli", or its equivalent, but Sir Aurel Stein informs me that this is wrong. He says, "I think 'Sarikoli; is the more correct spelling. The etymology (Turki) may be doubtful, but I certainly always heard the o short, and the k just like an ordinary Indian k. I made repeated enquiries into the name, and found that it has a much wider application among the Kirghiz than is usually supposed. For the name, cf. My Ancient Khotan, i, p. 23, note.
1. This was quite correctly recognized by Sire Henry Yule in his comments on the record of the great Venetian traveller; see The Book of Ser Marco Polo, 3rd ed., pp. 170 ff.
2. Cf. Stein, Serindia, i, pp. 61 ff.
1. e.g., Yz. mith, Sh. meth, but Ish. roz, W. rawar, a day; Yz. mast mast, Sh. mest, but Ish. ma, W. mui, the moon; Yz. khvor, Sh. kher, but Ish. remuz, W. ir, the sun. Since this was written, a much fuller account of Yazghulami, from the pen of the late M. R. Gauthiot, has appeared in vol. viii (1916), pp. 239 ff. of the Journal Asiatique. It altogether confirms the above remarks. As Sir Aurel Stein's materials were collected independently, I have retained them in the present work. I take this opportunity of expressing my great regret on receiving, simultaneously with the number of the Journal Asiatique that contained his article, the news of the untimely death of this valued scholar-explorer. It is an irreparable loss to Eranian studies.
1. Sire Aurel Stein writes about this word, "the term drakhma is found in the Prakrit of the Kharosthi documents of the 3rd-4th century A.D., which I discovered at ancient sites of the Taklamakan and Lop deserts, and of which Professor Rapson, together with MM. Senart and Boyer, s preparing an edition."

This page was posted at the Tajikistan Update by David Straub on July 10, 1999