This illustration focuses on the variety of Pashayi (also, Pashai) spoken in the Dara-i-Nur valley of Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan (approximately, N 34.682 E 70.581); the ISO 639-3 code for this variety is psi. According to Lewis (Reference Lewis2009) there are 54,400 speakers of this variety, and about 216,000 speakers of all Pashayi dialects. The most comprehensive published study of Pashayi to date is Morgernstierne's two-volume grammar (Morgenstierne Reference Morgenstierne1973, Reference Morgenstierne1944), which is helpfully summarized in Bashir (Reference Bashir, Cardona and Jain2003).
The present work is based primarily on the phonemic analysis produced as a prerequisite to an alphabet by the first author, who is a native speaker of Pashayi. It has also benefited from an independent phonemic analysis performed for the creation of a different orthography, by the Pashai Language Committee (Yun, Pashai Language Committee & Sadiq Reference Yun2006). The speaker in the recordings – also the first author – is in his early fifties. He was raised in the lower part of the Dara-i-Nur Valley, and has lived in Kabul (a non-Pashayi-speaking city) for about 30 years. The recordings represent a fairly careful speech register.
The example words above are transcribed phonetically. Here and subsequently in the article, vowel length is transcribed phonetically, and pitch is not transcribed at all. Although there is reason to believe that there is a contrastive vowel length distinction in Pashayi (see the ‘Vowels’ section below), such a claim must await a full description of the prosodic system of the language. Transcription of a voiced release to some consonants ([ᵉ]) follows the recording. It should be noted, however, that this release occurs only variably.
The orthographic transcription in the word lists uses the orthography of the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan (see section ‘Orthographic versions’ below). All consonants are represented in word-initial position, save the three that do not occur in word-initial position, namely [ɽ], [ɳ], and [h].
The bilabial approximant is variously produced as [w], [v], or an intermediate sonorant labial, transcribed below as . The alveolar trill is generally realized as [ɾ] intervocalically, as in [wɑɾekʰ] ‘to cry’, or ‘apple’ and ‘to wink’ in the list above. The retroflex flap /ɽ/ is variably realized as the retroflex approximant [ɻ] in word-final position. Phonemically voiceless plosives are variably realized as voiced intervocalically; in the transcribed passage below, a phonemically voiceless stop that is phonetically fully voiced is indicated with a diacritic (e.g. [pɑaɽaiː]). Vowel-initial words are consistently realized in our data with an initial glottal stop at intonational boundaries.
There is dialectal variation in the realization of /ʒ/ among dialects of Pashayi: the Dara-i-Nur dialect frequently has /j/ where the Kapisa and the Laghman dialects have /ʒ/. For example, the Pashayi pronunciation of ‘louse’ in Dara-i Noor is [juː], while in Kapisa and Laghman it is [ʒuː].
Contra Morgenstierne (Reference Morgenstierne1973), who includes /f/ in the phonemic inventory, we have included /f/ only as a marginal case. This segment is present only in loanwords, and is not always maintained as /f/. For instance, in the transcribed passage, the last instance of the loanword [mʊsɑfer] ‘traveler’ (originally Arabic, borrowed via Dari or Pashtu), the /f/ is pronounced as [p]: [mʊsɑpeɾ-iː]. Similarly [q] is a marginal sound in Pashayi, produced by certain speakers in loanwords, but by others replaced with [x].
Pashayi has a six-vowel system. There is length distinction that appears to be phonemic; see the minimal and similar pairs in the text below. All of the vowels except [a] have long counterparts.Footnote 1 In the absence of a full prosodic analysis of Pashayi, however, we cannot rule out the possibility that vowel length is determined by some lexical prosodic factor, and is not in itself contrastive. Phonetic length is also influenced by non-lexical prosodic factors; for instance the word transcribed [denaː] in the text below is pronounced [dena] in isolation. In the transcribed text below, this effect has not been factored out.
Anticipatory nasalization of vowels is present to some extent on all vowels, but is particularly salient on [ɑ]. Nasalization seems to be stronger when the vowel precedes [ɳ], see the pronunciations of ‘wooden chest’ with ‘nest’ or ‘boy’ in the list of consonant examples above. Strong nasalization preceding (and even following) [ɳ] is also evident in the word [ɳː] ‘egg’. Further research is needed to identify the factors affecting this variation.
The vowel quality of corresponding short and long vowels is generally very similar, with the exception of the short counterpart of [uː], which is perceptually and acoustically less peripheral than its long counterpart. Accordingly, this vowel is transcribed [ʊ]. The locations of the vowels on the above chart is a schematic representation of acoustic measurements of F1 and F2, measured at the midpoint of the vowel.
Transcription of recorded passage
The recorded passage is a Pashayi translation of ‘The North Wind and the Sun’, the story typically used in IPA illustrations.
dewɑseː ij dewɑs ˈɑːɣan ɑw sʊɾeje mandʒa dɑwɑje ɡeː kʊtiː bu takɽɑ ɑw zoɾawaɾ as ‖ je denaː iː mʊsɑfeɾiː keɾɑnaji puli geː mandʒanɑ veɽi tɑw kewi ɑjk meɡen | aɾkiɡeː mʊsɑfeɾ madʒbuɾ kegen ɡeː veɽɑj paaɽɑj ɬabəl ɡedi sime tekɽɑ ɑw qawi as | awal wɑːɣani buziɑd koʃaʃ kɑɡen magaɾ aɾkɑːw ɡeɑːɣan pake ɡik mʊsɑfeɾiː lɑːɡe dʒɑ ne paaɾɑje tɑw kegen | wɑːɣan buː wao ɡʊdɑz bik lembᵉjiː sʊɾiː ɡɑɾmiɑː buː kɑmen neːɡen mʊsɑpeɾiː βeɽɑ tɑw kewɑ pɑaɽaiː dʊɾajɑɽ keɡen ‖ ʔɑːxeɾiː wɑːɣan madʒbʊɾ bik eqɾɑɾ keɡen ɡeː sʊɾeːs zʊɾe bʊ ʃi
The orthographic representation of the story and of the example words presented above is based on the first author's orthography, which was devised under the auspices of the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan.
Another orthography is being used in literacy education in Dara-i-Nur, by the Pashayi Language Committee; this orthography is also illustrated here.