The Evolution of the Nuristâni Languages

Comparative linguistics provides the major clues to the origin of the speakers of the Nuristâni languages, because historical and archaeological evidence are mostly absent. The evolutionary schema of the Nuristâni languages was first correctly discerned by Georg Morgenstierne on the basis of his linguistic fieldwork during the early 20th century A.D; see especially Morgenstierne 1945a.

Within the Indo-European linguistic family the Nuristâni languages form a sub-group of the Indo-Irânian group, alongside the Irânian and Indo-Âryan (IA) sub-groups. The evolution of the Nuristâni languages, reconstructed internally and through comparison with other languages (e.g., Turner 1966), shows six linguistic phases, each including several steps.

Hypothetical projections of the locations of ancient linguistic communities during each linguistic phase appear in the accompanying illustrative maps. Locations in these maps are based broadly on contemporary archaeological research, aligned with the likely topological relationships of the reconstructed languages. In the absence of historical data, the maps are meant to be suggestive rather than definitive. Place the cursor over each map for more information.

Abbreviations of language and dialect names appear here, along with the conventions of linguistic transcription used below. Linguistic forms cited below are color-coded for language according to the colors in the Table of Languages.

The six phases in the phonological and lexical development of the Nuristani languages are:

[Transcription updated 10 September 2010]