HAZĀRA iv. Hazāragi dialect

The number of hazāragi speakers is approximately 1.8 million. The Afghan hazāragi varieties of Persian are essentially very close to modern tājiki, or rather of modern dari Persian, or even kāboli Persian, but their typology still has to be fully defined.




(1) Hazāragi (native azoragi/azaragi), the language of the Hazāra living in Central Afghanistan between Kabul and Herat in the province called Hazārajāt and in northeast Persia in the areas of Mašhad and Qučān (s. Bābor-nāma, tr. Beveridge, p. 207; QJ 4, 1339/1960, pp. 201-15, s.v. Hazārajāt; Edāra-ye markazi-e eḥṣāʾiya, III, pp. 1563-96, s.v. Bamyan; TAVO, s.v. Hazārajāt). This district is to be distinguished from that of Hazāra in West Pakistan (see Bazmee Ansari, in EI2 III, pp. 335-36).

The term hazāra, derived from Persian hazār (thousand) translates the Mongolian term ming (thousand), alluding to a military unit of the Mongol armies. Originally a term used by outsiders, it was later adopted as the self-designation of the Hazāra tribes. Their way of life is fairly well known although the list of their clans and other data vary from one author to another, therefore to be consulted with caution (e.g., Elphinstone, pp. 478-87; Perrin, pp. 397-99; Malleson, p. 44; Bellew, pp. 34-48; Krause, pp. 129-31; Schurmann, passim; Watkins, pp. 10-18, 181; Klimburg, pp. 129-36, etc.; Gregorian, pp. 33-35 and passim; Kakar, p. 160; Kraus, 1972, pp. 190-91 and passim; Stewart, passim; Blanc, pp. 98-110; Dupree, in EIr. I/5, pp. 497-98). The most recent and comprehensive discussions of the Hazāra can be found in Poladi and Mousavi.

The number of hazāragi speakers is approximately 1.8 million. The Afghan hazāragi varieties of Persian (see EIr. I/5, p. 510) comprise the speeches of Kāhmard, Bāmiān, Bēsud, Nāwor, the west of Ḡazni, Jāḡori, Māle-stān, Orūzgān, Gizāw, Dāy-Kondi, Panjāw, Yakāwlang, Šārestān, Laʿl-o-Sarjangal. These are essentially very close to modern tājiki (cf. Rastorgueva), or rather of modern dari Persian, or even kāboli Persian (Farhadi), but their typology still has to be fully defined. The differences are minor, but are nevertheless significant. On the whole, the main distinctive features are dental retroflexes, and the Turco-Mongolian lexical component (about 10 percent; cf. Weiers, pp. 11-24).

There may have been a Turco-Mongol population (Weiers) in the area, perhaps including Buddhists (Bāmiān), prior to the Mongol invasion. The conversion to speaking Persian by the Hazāra appears to have occurred toward the end of the 18th century (Dulling), with the exception of Mongolian speakers of the Herat region. For the following discussion, see V. A, Efimov (1965, 1997), who describes the Yakawlang-variety.

Phonology. As a group of eastern Persian varieties, Hazāra retains the voiced fricative γ and the bilabial articulation of w; has borrowed the (rare) retroflexes ṭ ḍ, e.g., buṭ “boot” (< Eng. loan words) vs. but “idol” (Pers. bot); ḍal “group”; and rarely articulates h.

Table 1. Consonants of Hazāragi.

Diphthongs are ay, aw, and ēw (< -ab/-āb/-ûw). The vocalic system is typically eastern Persian characterized by the loss of length distinction, the retention of the mid vowels, and the rounding of ā > å/o, alternating with its merger with a, or û (< -ān):

Table 2. Evolution of the Hazāragi vowel system.

Stress is dynamic and similar to that in dari (Afghan) Persian (see Farhadi, 1975, pp. 64-67) and tājiki (Rastorgueva, pp. 9-10) Persian, and not variable (as suggested by Dulling, p. 37). It generally falls on the last syllable of a nominal form, including derivative suffixes and a number of morphological markers. Typical is the insertion of epenthetic vowels in consonant clusters, e.g., pašm > póšum “wool,” and final devoicing, e.g., ḵût “self, own.”

The grammatical structure of hazāragi (see Efimov, 1965, pp. 22-83; idem, 1997; Dulling, pp. 29-41) is practically identical with that of Dari or even kāboli Persian (Farhadi, 1955; idem, 1975).

Nominal morphology: The most productive derivative marker is -i; the plural markers are -o (< -), e.g., kitob-o “books,” and animate -û (< -ān), e.g., biror-û “brothers.” The emphatic vocative marker is û and -o; the indefinite marker is -i, and the specific object marker is -(r)a. The personal pronouns are: 1st sing. ma, 2nd sing. tu; 1st plur. mû, 2nd plur. šimû; 3rd sing i “this,” u “that,” 3rd plur. yo, wo (< i-hā, u-hā); personal suffixes are: 1st sing. -um, 2nd sing. –it, 1st plur. -, 2nd plur. –, and both 3rd sing. and 3rd plur. -iš/-(i)ši, with the notable loss of number distinction. The comparative marker is -tar, e.g., kalû “big,” az u (kada) kalû-tar “bigger than that one.” Dependent adjectives and nouns follow the head noun and are connected by -i, e.g., kitob-i momut “the book of Maḥmud”; topicalized possessors precede the head noun marked by the resumptive personal suffix, e.g., Zulmay ayê-ši, lit. “Zulmay her mother.” Prepositions include, in addition to the standard Persian ones, ḵun(i) “with, by means of,” da “in” (< dar); the latter often replaces ba “to” in dative function; loaned postpositions include comitative -qati “together with” and (az) -worî “like.” Interrogatives typically function also as indefinites, e.g., kudam “which, someone.”

Particles, conjunctions, modals, and adverbials. These include atê/arê “yes”; ammo, liken, wali “but”; balki “however”; šayti “perhaps”; bayti “it is necessary”; i(n)ji “here,” ûnji “there”; oli “now,” wuḵt-a “then.” These are also marked by distinctive initial stress.

Verb morphology. The imperfective marker is mi- (assimilated variants m-, mu-, m-, -), e.g., mi-zan-um “I hit, I am hitting”; the subjunctive and imperative marker is bi- (with similar assimilation); the negation is na-, e.g., na-mi-zad-um “I was not hitting.” These usually attract stress.

The personal endings are: 1st sing. -um, 2nd sing. -i; 1st plur. -i(m), 2nd plur. -i(t/n); 3rd sing. and plur. -a, with loss of number distinction in the third person, similar to the personal suffix, and with incipient merger of the 1st singular and plural endings. The tense, mood, and aspect system is typically quite different from western Persian. The basic tense system is threefold: present-future, past, and remote (pluperfect). New modal paradigms developed in addition to the subjunctives: (1) The non-seen/mirative that originates in the resultative-stative perfect (e.g., zad-ēm < zada am), which has largely lost its non-modal use; (2) the potential, or assumptive, which is marked by the invariant ḵot (< ḵāh-ad “it is wanted, intended”) combined with the indicate and subjunctive forms. Moreover, all past and remote forms have developed imperfective forms marked by mi-. There are doubts about several of the less commonly found, or recorded, forms, in particular those with ḵot (e.g., Dulling, pp. 35-36). However, the systematic arrangement of all forms according to their morphological, as well as semantic, function, shows that those forms fit well within the overall pattern. The system may tentatively be shown as follows (as suggested by Windfuhr; all forms are 1st sing), leaving out complex compound forms such as zada ḵot mu-buda baš-um as shown in Table 3.

In the assumptive, the distinction appears to be not between present versus past, but indefinite versus definite. Also, similar to all Persian varieties, the imperfective forms in mi- and past perfect forms, such as mi-zad-um, zadabud-um, are used in irreal conditional clauses and wishes, e.g., kaški zimi qulba kadagi mu-but “If the field would only be/have been plowed!” Modal verbs, such as tan- “can,” are constructed with the perfect participle, e.g., ma bû-r-um, da čaman rasid-a ḵot tanist-um “I shall go, and may be able to get to Čaman.”

Participial nominalization are typical, both with the perfect participle, e.g., kad-a “(having) done” and with the derived participle with passive meaning, kad-ag-i “having been done,” e.g., zimin-i qulba kada-ya “The field is ploughed,” zamin-i qulba (na-)šuda-ra mi-ngar-um “I am looking at a plowed/unplowed field,” imrûz [u ḵondagi] tikror mu-kun-a "Today he repeats (reading) what he had read.” The gerundive, e.g., kad-an-i “to be done,” is likewise productive, e.g., yak čiz, ki uftadani baš-a, ma u-ra qad-dist-ḵu girift-um, tulḡa kad-um “One object, that was about to fall, I grabbed, and held it.” The clitic -ku/-ḵu topicalizes parts of speech, -di the predicate; e.g., i-yši raft, ma-ḵu da ḵona mand-um “He himself left; I, though, I stayed.”

Lexicon. As indicated, the most striking feature of this dialect is its lexicon that includes many notable items of uncertain origin. G. K. Dulling (pp. 14) considers “the present dialect to consist of three strata: (1) pre-Mongol Persian, with its own substratum; (2) the Mongolian language; and (3) modern tājiki, which preserves in it elements of (1) and (2).” He is probably right when he asserts (p. 12) that: “Although these dialects are essentially forms of modern Tajik [more properly modern Dari; C.M.K.], they are nevertheless lexically distinctive enough to merit their local special name of ‘Hazāragi’” (discussion on pp. 47-99). Examples of the vocabulary are: Turkic ata “father,” kaṭa “big, large,” qara “black”; Mongolian: bêri “bride,” alaḡa “palm (of hand),” qulaḡay “thief” (Efimov, 1965, pp. 22-23)

Text sample from the beginning of a song; text and transcription follow Askar Mousavi (p. 86):

doš raft-um pal-iši sob na-bud, nim šew bud.

yak maḵ-ak istad-um, u mah-qačar-ak dar ḵew bud.

nagah bedar šod-ak pir ḵosur madar au.

"Last night I went to her side, it was not morning then, but the middle of the night./I took a little kiss, and the moon-browed one was asleep./Suddenly awoke her old mother-in-law.”

See also AFGHANISTAN iv and v.



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Jean Charles Blanc, L’Afghanistan et ses populations, Brussels, 1976.

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Klaus Ferdinand, Preliminary Notes on Hazara Culture, The Danish Scientific Mission to Afghanistan 1953-55, Copenhagen, 1959.

Mo-ḥammad ʿEvaz Nabizāda Kārgar, Lahjahā-ye morawwaj-e mardom-e Hazāra: dai zengi, behsud wa jāḡori, Kabul, 1986 [microfiche, Library of Congress, 1990].

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Askar Mousavi, The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic and Political Study, Surrey, 1998, pp. 81-88. Hassan Poladi, The Hazaras, Stockton, Calif., 1989, pp. 80-114.

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Michael Weiers, Die Sprache der Moghol der Provinz Herat in Afghanistan (Sprachmaterial, Grammatik, Wortliste), Opladen, 1972.

(Charles M. Kieffer)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 20, 2012

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Vol. XII, Fasc. 1, pp. 90-93