Yaghnobi language

Yaghnobi[4] is an Eastern Iranian language spoken in the upper valley of the Yaghnob River in the Zarafshan area of Tajikistan by the Yaghnobi people. It is considered to be a direct descendant of Sogdian and has often been called Neo-Sogdian in academic literature.[5] There are some 12,500 Yaghnobi speakers, divided into several communities. The principal group lives in the Zafarobod area. There are also resettlers in the Yaghnob Valley. Some communities live in the villages of Zumand and Kůkteppa and in Dushanbe or its vicinity.

yaɣnobī́ zivók, йағнобӣ зивок
Native toTajikistan
Regionoriginally from Yaghnob Valley, in 1970s relocated to Zafarobod, in 1990s some speakers returned to Yaghnob
EthnicityYaghnobi people
Native speakers
12,000 (2004)[1]
Early form
  • Eastern Yaghnobi
  • Western Yaghnobi
Cyrillic script
Latin script
Perso-Arabic script
Language codes
ISO 639-3yai
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Yaghnobi-speaking areas and enclaves of Yaghnobi-speakers among a Tajik majority

Most Yaghnobi speakers are bilingual in Tajik. Yaghnobi is mostly used for daily family communication, and Tajik is used by Yaghnobi-speakers for business and formal transactions. A single Russian ethnographer was told by nearby Tajiks, long hostile to the Yaghnobis, who were late to adopt Islam, that the Yaghnobis used their language as a "secret" mode of communication to confuse the Tajiks. The account led to the belief by some, especially those reliant solely on Russian sources, that Yaghnobi or some derivative of it was used as a code for nefarious purposes.[6]

There are two main dialects: a western and an eastern one. They differ primarily in phonetics. For example, historical corresponds to t in the western dialects and s in the eastern: metmes 'day' from Sogdian mēθ myθ. Western ay corresponds to Eastern e: wayšweš 'grass' from Sogdian wayš or wēš wyš. The early Sogdian group θr (later ṣ̌) is reflected as sar in the east but tir in the west: saráytiráy 'three' from Sogdian θrē/θray or ṣ̌ē/ṣ̌ay δry. There are also some differences in verbal endings and the lexicon. In between the two main dialects is a transitional dialect that shares some features of both other dialects.