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IRANIAN LANGUAGES

YAZGULAMI


 

The Yazgulami language belongs to the northern group of the Pamir languages which form a part of the Eastern-Iranian languages group of the Indo-European family of languages. In addition to the Yazgulami language, the other Shughni-Roshani languages -- the Shughni, the Roshani, the Bartangi, the Oroshori and the Khufi languages from the West-Pamirs and the Sarikoli language from China -- belong to the group. It is probable that the Vandzh language, once spoken in the River Vandzh valley, but now extinct, also belonged to the same linguistic group.

The Yazgulami valley is almost inaccessible. The valley can only be approached at the point where the Yazgulami joins the Pyandzh. Because of their seclusion, the Europeans did not know anything about the Yazgulamis for a long time. The language was first recorded in a book by a Russian traveller G. Arandarenko (1889). The book contains 34 Yazgulami words, recorded in Darvaz and Karategin in 1882. A systematic recording of the Yazgulami language did not begin until the 20th century. In 1916 a French linguist, R. Gauthiot, took part in an expedition to the Pamirs. As a result, he published his "Notes sur le yazggoulami, dialecte iraniren des Confins du Pamir" (1916), the first ever treatment of the Yazgulami language. In this book R. Gauthiot attempts to establish the generic connection of the Yazgulami language with other Iranian languages. A number of other noted linguists for instance -- A. Grierson, W. Lenz, H. Sköld and I. Zarubin -- have also studied the language.

The Yazgulami language consists of two dialects, one of these is spoken higher in the mountains, the other lower. The differences are not significant and are limited to the vocabulary. Differences in the vocabulary are also detectable between the languages used in different villages in the lower mountains. The Vandzh language, a close relation to Yazgulami, has become extinct now. Other languages spoken in the Pamirs differ greatly from the Yazgulami language. The disparities are the largest in the vocabulary.

In 1954 the Yazgulamis from the high mountains were resettled to the Vakhsh valley, where they live dispersed among the Tadzhiks, Uzbeks, Russians and other ethnic groups. About 20 % of the Yazgulami people were forcibly resettled. The whole project was reputedly launched in order to improve the living conditions of the people. Since 1959 the population of the Yazgulami is on an increase again, although the number of villages has diminished by half. Ancient villages in the upper valley are empty, but people are gradually making their return (for example, to the villages of Zaich and Dzhamak).

In the vocabulary of the Yazgulami language the Tadzhik influence can be seen. Tadzhik has been the language of communication and the written language for all the small ethnic groups in the Pamirs for a long time. In the Soviet period, its importance increased: it is the language of schools.

Through Tadzhik loans from other languages (Arabic, Russian) have entered the Yazgulami language. Some direct loans from Russian are also noticeable. The number of Turkic words is small, and they are mostly connected with everyday life. In academic literature a special "secret" code only known to and used by the Yazgulamis is noted.

 

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