Classic Iranian Languages: Balochi

  August 02, 2021   Read time 3 min
Classic Iranian Languages: Balochi
Balochi (Bal.) is spoken in south-western Pakistan, in the province of Balochistan as well as by smaller populations in Punjab and Sindh, and by a large number of people in Karachi.

It is also spoken in south-eastern Iran, in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan, and by Baloch who have settled in the north-eastern provinces of Khorasan and Golestan. It is furthermore spoken by smaller communities in Afghanistan (particularly in the province of Nimruz), in the Gulf States (especially in Oman and the United Arab Emirates), in the Marw I Mari region in Turkmenistan, in India, East Africa, and nowadays also by a considerable number of Baloch in North America, Europe and Australia.

It is difficult to estimate the total number of Balochi speakers. Central authorities readily underestimate ethnic minorities, while members of ethnicities sometimes do the opposite. Censuses generally ignore the bi- or multilingual situation of most speakers. Moreover, large numbers of those who identify as Baloch do not speak the language any more, particularly in the areas bordering Indian languages in Punjab and Sindh, on the one hand, and in Khorasan and Golestan, on the other hand, as well as in East Africa and in the Gulf States. In contrast, Balochi has been retained quite well in Turkmenistan due to the adherence to a traditional rural lifestyle and the generally low level of education. The total number of speakers of Balochi has been estimated as being between 5-8 million (Jahani 2001: 59), but might also be somewhat higher than that.

From a historical point of view, Balochi is classed as a North-Western Iranian languages, although it is spoken in the south-eastern corner of the Iranian linguistic area today. It is likely that the original habitat of the Baloch was in the north-western part of the Iranian linguistic area, and that they migrated south-eastwards under pressure from the Arabic and Turkic invasions of the Iranian plateau (from mid-seventh century AD onwards). It also appears that tribes and groups of various ethnic origins, including Indo-European, Semitic, Dravidic, Turkic, Bantu and others, have been incorporated into the very heterogeneous ethnic group today known as the Baloch. On the other hand, the Balochi epic tradition provides them with a 'true Islamic' genealogy, according to which they are of Arabic origin and migrated from Aleppo in Syria after the battle of Karbala, where, despite the fact that the majority of the Baloch today are Sunni Muslims, the epic tradition has it that they fought on the side of the Shi'ite Imam Hussein against his enemy, the Umayyad caliph Yazid.

Balochi is surrounded by languages belonging to at least five language families. In the Balochi mainland it stands in contact with other Iranian languages, Persian (Farsi and Dari) in the west and north-west, and Pashto in the north and north-east, as wel1 as with Indic languages: Urdu, Panjabi, Lahnda and Sindhi in the north-east and east. In the Gulf States, Balochi is spoken alongside Arabic, and in East Africa with languages such as Swahili. In the central parts of Pakistani Balochistan, the Dravidian language Brahui has lived in symbiosis with Balochi for centuries, and in Turkmenistan, Balochi is in contact with Turkmen (a Turkic language). In the diaspora, Balochi is meeting new languages, mainly of the Indo-European family. It is only natural that Balochi has been infl uenced by al1 these languages, some of which are official languages and languages of education in the various states where the Baloch live.

Write your comment