KEŠAʾI DIALECT, the dialect spoken in the village of Keša, near Naṭanz, in Isfahan Province.

Keša village. Keša (endonym Kiša) is located in the Ṭarqrud district, Naṭanz Sub-province, Isfahan Province. Its geographical coordinates are lat 51°47′ N, long 33°23′ E, elev 2,430 m above sea level. Together with Ṭarq and Ṭār, Keša constitutes the three principal villages of the Ṭarqrud valley on the southern slopes of Mt. Karkas.  Situated at the upper end of the valley, Keša straddles the river Ṭarqrud longitudinally and is flanked with a long expanse of green fields and orchards. The main farm produce is grains, beans, fruits, walnuts and almonds. Irrigation water is traditionally drawn from a score of subterranean channels (kāriz; Razmārā, p. 234; SCI, 1969, p. 48).

There is little record of Keša in historical sources. A notable modern event in the life of Keša was its conversion to Babism, while the neighboring Ṭār adopted the Baha’i faith and Ṭarq remained faithful to Islam (interviews).  In 1891 Keša and its three hamlets, Livān, Liāsān, and Kusa, paid 3,092 qerāns in taxes to the central government (Houtum-Schindler, p. 104). The population of Keša has seen a marked drop from circa 1,200 souls in 1950 (Razmārā, p. 234) to 830 (202 families) in 1966, to 675 (242 families) in 2006 (SCI, 1966, 2006). The drop can be attributed to the general migration trend of young people to urban centers, as well as a long chronicle of drought (Aʿẓam-Vāqefi, I, p. 6), not to mention the departure of the Babi population of the village (interviews). There are three operative mosques and one ḥosayniya in Keša. The absence of caravanserais accords with the location of Keša off the old caravan routes.

Keša is situated 27 km southwest of Naṭanz and 5 km north of the modern Naṭanz-Isfahan highway, 350 m higher than Ṭarq in elevation.  A picturesque village belonging to the cold climate (sardsir; see Climate) with temperate summers, Keša has attracted vacationers for many years, including hikers, along the northward trails to the Karkas peak (3,895 m). More recently, the natural charm of Keša and its farms has spurred vast real state development schemes aiming to construct urban-type villas and tourist resorts.

The Kešaʾi dialect.  A Central Plateau dialect, Kešaʾi shows striking affinities with the neighboring Ṭarqi and Ṭāri, also spoken in the Ṭarqrud valley, and shares much with the dialects spoken in the other districts encircling Mt. Karkas, namely, those of Naṭanz (Naṭanzi, Ṭāmaʾi), Bādrud (Bādrudi), Čimarud (Volugerdi, Čimaʾi, Tekyaʾi, Bidhandi, Farizandi), and Barzrud (Hanjani, Yārandi, Abyānaʾi) (see Kashan ix. The Median Dialects of Kashan). The speakers of Kešaʾi call their vernacular ozmun dahâti “village language,” an endonym shared by some kindred dialects.

Sources. This study of Kešaʾi draws from the materials collected by the Russian orientalist Valentin Alekseevich Zhukovskiĭ in the 1880s, Moḥammad-Mehdi Esmāʿili (2011), and this author (unpublished) in the first decade of the 21st century. Zhukovskiĭ’s data, though heavily relying on word-for-word translation from Persian, offer lexemes and grammatical features that have been replaced by those of Persian—a testimony to a contemporary attrition of Kešaʾi.  The time dimension also helps elucidate diachronic sound changes (see Historical phonology, below). Zhukovskiĭ’s records used here remain distinct by their transcription (the use of the macron and acute diacritical marks); when necessary they are marked “Ž.”


Kešaʾi owes its survival to its virtual seclusion in the upper end of the mountainous valley to which it belongs, which lay away from the communication routes for many centuries. The communicational isolation, however, has been breached in modern times through introduction of modern education and mass media and, more recently, by construction of roads and massive real state developments. These effects as well as massive migration of the villagers to urban centers have led to a gradual language shift and marked decrease in speakers of Kešaʾi. Those speakers who remain in Keša and its farms are probably no more than 200 (author’s field notes). With a rising average age of the speakers and the shrinking domains of use to homes and local businesses, the future of Kešaʾi is not very promising for those who treasure linguistic and cultural diversity (see, inter alia, Campbell and Muntzel; Maffi).

There are various schemes to quantify the scale of language endangerment (Chrystal, pp. 19-21; Austin and Sallabank, pp. 40-43). The scheme suggested by the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat) is based on the four categories listed in Table 1, each defined for five levels of endangerment (rated 1 to 5). The endangerment levels that best approximate Kešaʾi are respectively 2, 3, 3, 3 for the four listed categories. Adding them up, with the first category (intergenerational transmission) receiving an importance factor of 2, we will arrive at 16 points; this is out of a maximum of 25, or 64 percent, which falls into the (60-80 percent) level of Severely Endangered languages.

As in many other parts of the country, linguistic assimilation is taking place with little conscious effort among the speakers to maintain their native tongue as a means to safeguard rural culture. The speakers’ perceived self-worth is not high; many feel no harm in abandoning the inherited dialect in favor of spoken Tehrani Persian, which is regarded as having greater prestige and utility. There is, however, one apparent value agreed upon by many speakers, viz., the utilization of their obscure dialect as a secret language outside of the region, especially in the urban centers to which most of the former villagers have moved. Along similar lines, my Kešaʾi informants stated that wartime “code talkers” put their dialect to use in the Iran-Iraq War as a means of clandestine communication, assuming that decryption of such messages by the enemy would be highly improbable in the due course of time.


Kešaʾi’s consonants are /b č d f g h j k l m n p q/γ r s š t v x y z ž/. The vowel inventory include /i e a u o â/, with a distribution roughly similar to spoken Persian, as well as ü and ö, of which the phonemic statuses remain questionable.  ü appear to be in free variation with /i/, as shown under Historical phonology, below. /â/ is slightly rounded [å ɔ], as is the case with many variants of colloquial Persian; this explains Zhukovskiĭ’s use of the symbol <ō> for /â/. He also occasionally employs <ā>, denoting a long /a/ [æː], as in , a short form of the past stem kard. Nevertheless, Kešaʾi exhibits no phonemic vowel length that could have been inherited from Middle Iranian.

Following the areal trait, for most Kešaʾi vowels there is a nasalized pair that may appear at the word final position. These nasalized vowels are qualified as phonemes by Pierre Lecoq (2002, pp. 22-23) for the Ṭāri dialect. Nevertheless, as Esmāʿili (p. 45) suggests, they may best be characterized as simple vowels underlain with nasal consonants, with the possibility of elision, e.g., the vocative Hása for the proper male name “Ḥasan.” The reduction of the final nasal is particularly apparent in unstressed verbal endings. As an example, the first person singular, shown in Table 3 as -õ, may assume the articulations [o], [õ], or [on], depending on the morpho-phonemic context. The following pair illustrates the process par excellence: ošon‿o ayo “I go and come” vs. ayon‿o ošo “I come and go” (Esmāʿili, p. 58).


Nouns. Kešaʾi nouns are inflected for number and definiteness: karg “hen,” karg(h)ấ “hens,” kárgi “a hen,” kargé “the hen.”  As to other Persian-type nominal clitics, Kešaʾi has incompletely adopted the eżāfa but fully resisted the accusative marker -.  Examples: kárg(e) čâk nâ‿vân “cut the throat of the fat hen”; meráš ī1 düss dōrā́ “(her) husband loves her1”; e1‿m2 yo3 raz4-de5 bedi6  “I2 saw6 him1 in3,5 the garden4.”

Pronouns. Personal pronouns are the freestanding sg. mõ/mũ, to, e, pl. hâmâ, šemâ, edi and the enclitic sg. -(e)m, -(e)d/t, -(e)š, pl. -(e)mũ, -(e)dũ, -(e)šũ.  These enclitics may act as the (1) possessive: beray-em “my brother”; (2) object: īn vačá kṓy-eš anīgīd? “this child—where are you taking him?” (inserted on the verb: dé-š-ahmǖžnūn “I will teach him”); (3) reflexive with the base xu-/xo-, e.g., xoy(e)m “myself”; (4) agent in ergative construction, as in ī́kzōr gūš-eš ōr-eš-neešnuft “his ear didn’t hear much (lit. not-much ear-his up-it-not-heard)” (see more under Transitivity and ergativity, below). 

Possession may otherwise be expressed with íne (= Pers. az ān-e) succeeded by freestanding pronouns: hérči ī́ne mún‿ā ī́ne tú‿yā  “whatever is mine, is yours.”

Deixis. The demonstratives include me and in “this”; e (Ž. ī/i) and u(n) “that”; medi and ihâ “these”; edi (Ž. īdī) and uhâ  “those.” Their distribution with respect to number, distance, animacy, and function is shown in Table 2 and the examples that follow. Note that e and edi are primarily personal pronouns (Table 3), and that Zhukovskiĭ has the hybrid form īdīn “those,” which is inanimate. Demonstrative adverbs include endi “here” (Ž. īndȳ́), ü or i “there,” ī́la “this side,” and ū́la “that side.”

Examples: Personal pronoun: ī‿m nédīyā “I haven’t seen him”; diyá ī ez hadd béivašt “her watching took too long (lit. surpassed the limit)”; mege e neynâsid? “don’t you know him?”; jōhiltáre īdī́ péyeš bévōt “the youngest of them told Father.”  Demonstrative pronoun: me béšvōt vo ṓrsō “this he said and got up”; in kia‿ya “this is a/the house”; šemâ ke in zânid “you who known this”; īdīn‿eš mú-de hṓgā  “he took these from me.”  Demonstrative adjective: me karg ossá aperā́ “this hen flies gently”; me merd kū́rā “this man is blind”; i jin ōvī́ bu “this woman was pregnant”; in karg núki tir dōrā́ “this hen has a pointed beak”; in merd ki‿a? “who is this man?”; ūn jevūn “that young man.”

Adpositions. The postposition de is chiefly ablative, as in kia-d-de “from your house,” kâde “whence”; it may as well convey abstractions: to-de atarso “I fear you.” It also accentuates the locative function in circumpositions: yo raz-de “in the garden”; düm zemī́n-da hṓaniga “she is sitting on the ground”; meyūnéʾi īdī́-de “among them”; also ǖ́de “in that place, therein.” Alternatively, the locative may be expressed by a preposition alone, e.g., yū kardolū́neš tuxmṓʾi esbḗ hā “in her nest there are white eggs.”

The comitative xo(y) (Ž. hoy) conveys the meaning “together with, in company with,” e.g., xo pey-eš “with his father,” čeqad pil-ed xo xoy-ed bârde? “how much money have you brought with you?”

Other non-Persian prepositions survived in Kešaʾi are dim “on” and jer “under.” Zhukovskiĭ’s documentation in the 1880s includes prepositions which may be forgotten today, e.g., šū́nam dīrṓt béxri “I bought (a) comb for you”; ussuxún sífta uzú seng “bones are as hard as stones”; úla ebī-š séreš bar amā  “its tip came out from its other side.” Note also (the adverb) jénī vū́ssei bémā  “a woman came forward.”


Stems. Kešaʾi verbs are based on the present, past, and perfect stems. Most past stems are “irregular” in the sense of displaying no distinctive derivational relationship with the present stem, e.g., [pres. ː past] hos- ː hot(t) “sleep.” The past stems derivable from the present stem by adding the formant -â (e.g., vâšt- ː vâštâ- “ask”) may be called “regular” to the effect that they govern the causative construction (see below), which is plentiful in Kešaʾi.  A past stem may truncate when not suffixed, e.g., xer- ː xâ(rd) “eat.”  The perfect stem is the past particle, formed from the past stem and the perfect marker -a or -e; e.g., hotta, xârda/e, vâštâ(ya), for the aforesaid verbs. The past stem also forms the infinitive when suffixed by -mun, e.g., hengâštmun “to talk (to).”

Preverbs. The lexical prefixes, ârder, and , may modify the meaning of the stem, e.g., xer- ː xârd- “eat” ≠ -~ “drink”; mâl- ː mâlâ- “rub” ≠ âr-~ “flee”; mer- ː mard- “die” ≠ -~ “wither”; hâ-t- ː -tâ- “give” ≠ der-~ “bite”; der-band- ː -bass- “close” ≠ -~ “shut down” (Ž., p. 74).

The preverbs occur in the following verbs as well.

âr-:  ~-ger- ː gat- “pick up,” ~-(ves)s-/hos- ː (ves)sâ- “stand up,” ~- šenow- ː šenoft- “hear”
hâ-:   ~-nig- ː čašt- “sit,” ~-čân- ː čânâ- “seat”
der-:  ~-ka- ː kat- “fall,” ~-pič- ː pit- “twist,” ~-xos- ː xoss- “throw”
-:  ~-čiš- ː čišâ- “taste,” ~-darz- ː dašt- “sow,” ~-gerd- ː gerdâ- “return,” ~-hal- ː hašt- “put,” ~-püs- ː püst- “decay,” ~-škâf- ː škoft- “bloom,” ~-št- ː -štâ- “be standing”

Affixes. The aforesaid preverbs suppress be- and precede a-, the two prefixes that differentiate the durative and non-durative aspects, respectively; be- appears in the imperative, subjunctive, preterit, and perfect; a- appears in the present and imperfect, with the possibility of vocal assimilation (see paradigms in Table 4). The durative marker assumes the (archaic) form -at only in a few vowel-initial verbs, e.g. at-ema-ø “he would come, he used to come, he was coming.”

The negative marker -/- suppresses both aspect markers, thereby removes the indicative-subjunctive and durative-perfective distinctions: na-sâj-e “you don’t/shouldn’t make,” na-pparâ-ø “it did/would not fly.” The prohibitive is marked by -, as in hâ-ma-nig-ø “don’t sit!”

Person endings are sg. 1 -õ, 2 -e, 3 -a, pl. 1 -im, 2 -id, 3 -an(d); the second singular imperative and third singular past are zero. These suffixes have no use in the transitive past, where the oblique pronouns act as the agent; see Transitivity and ergativity, below.

Transitivity and ergativity. A reduced form of split ergativity governs the past tenses of transitive verbs. Here the agent, or logical subject, is marked with the oblique (enclitic) personal pronouns. The agent may stay on the verb (Table 4) or optionally be fronted to a preceding word in the sentence. It is chiefly taken in by the direct object, regardless of their remoteness within the clause. Examples: ī́tā gǖčī́ čoke‿š1 nṓ-vondā́ “he1 sacrificed a fat calf” (lit. one calf fat-your throat-cut), mṓli tū‿š1 hoy jindahṓ xarj kárdā “he1 has spent your wealth on prostitutes,” ī1‿š2 be kaštejṓri xūyeš3 axrasnṓ “he2 used to send him1 to his3 farm,” čartṓ-d1‿em23 bédī … “when3 I2 saw your1 curls.” 

When the direct object is absent, not in the same clause, or preceded by the verb, the agent may (1) be suffixed to an indirect object, e.g., díli xūyeš1‿2-de3 xiṓlī bekā “he2 imagined in3 his1 heart,” (in quotations) ītā uimī1 hoy dǖssi xūyeš23 vōt … “a person1,3 said to his2 friend”; (2) be suffixed to an adverb, e.g. hérči‿š xōhíš kā, … “however he requested”; (3) stay on the verb: bṓrdešūnā … “they have brought …”; or (4) on the nominal component of the verb: tâx-eš-nâ “he opened [the two leaves of the door]” (the verb is tâx nâmun “to open,” with tâx < ṭāq “odd, not paired”).

Causative and passive.  The causative present stem is formed by suffixing -n- to the present stem of an intransitive verb (past stem -n-â-); as an example, vez- ː vašt- (intr.) → vazn- ː vaznâ (tr.) “run” conjugate as:

a-vez-a “he runs,”
be-vašt-ø “he ran,”
a-vazn-a “he is made to run,”
be-š-vaznâ  “he was made to run.”

A morphological passive form is marked by -i- on the present stem (past stem -i-â-), e.g., be-š-hevard “he ripped [it],” be-hvar-i-â “it was ripped.” Inflective passive, however, has given way to the Persian type analytical formation that employs the verb “become” (see below), e.g., pâra bebo “was ripped.”

The following possibilities deserve attention as well. (1) An ambitransitive verb like peč- ː paxt- “cook” may be either transitive or intransitive. (2) The set hâ-nig- ː -čašt “sit” vs. -čân- ː -čânâ “seat, set” are derived from ancient Iranian causative forms. (All these stems are of obscure origin; cf. Cheung, pp. 29-30; Rastorgueva and Èdel’man, III, pp. 305 ff.).  (3) The verbs “learn” and “teach” share the etymon *mauč: a-hmūs-ū́n “I learn,” bé-m-ehmūxt “I learned”; a-hmǖžn-ū́n “I teach,” dé-š-ahmǖžn-ūn “I teach him,” dé-m-ehmǖžnō “I taught,” dé-m-a-hmǖžnō “I used to teach.”

Copulas and stative verbs. The main copula for the present tense is a set of enclitics which are in general agreement with the verb endings (Table 3); the subjunctive stem is b- and the past stem bo(y)-. The third singular bo (past) and (subjunctive) are used as the invariable elements in the pluperfect and the perfect subjunctive, respectively, of intransitive verbs (as exemplified in Table 4). “Become” is based on the present stem b- and past stem bu(d)-, normally with the prefix be- or -, e.g., māh vōbū bū, dī́-imīyá “it was lost, it is found [now].”

The notions of existence and location can be expressed by the present stem h- or the preverb der-. Kešaʾi also employs other semantically related stative verbs which are found also in the surrounding dialects; these include (cf. Nāʾini va), ešta “to be standing/lying” (also in the Čimarud valley), axa “to be lying/sitting” (comparable forms in Meymaʾi, Qohrudi, Ardestāni, Abyānaʾi, Abuzaydābādi, Nāʾini, Anāraki; cf. Lecoq, 2002, p. 193; see also JOWŠAQĀN; KUHPĀYA; JARQUYA). Examples: yū kardolū́neš tuxmṓʾi esbḗ “in her nest there are white eggs”; heyâšev kia derõ “I will be home tomorrow night”; hayvun yo âqel “the sheep is in the sheepcote”; čerâ kenâr divâr ešta “the light is (standing) by the wall”; merd-i ke ü axa, diss-e mun‿a “the man who is (sitting) there is my friend.”

Modal verbs.  “Want” is formed by the stems pia (pres.) and piâ (past), and is conjugated with the enclitic pronouns as agents in both present and past tenses, as in a-m-pia/piâ “I want/wanted,” díli mu ūn jevū́n‿eš apeyā́ “my heart wants that young man,” vača nášpeyā bémüja “the child doesn’t want to suck.”

“Must” is expressed by the invariable apa/ape/apiâ, as in apeyā́ šōdī́ bekerīm “we must rejoice”; n-ape ü beše “you shouldn’t go there.”

“Can, may” is formed on the base š-, as in dúte hamú rāh‿eš nášū šū “the little girl cannot walk yet,” ášut “you could.” This formation however is largely forsaken in favor of an idiomatic phrase that conceptualize ability as the capability of someone’s blade to cut (an areal feature of Ṭarqrudi, also found in Naṭanzi, Meymaʾi, Ardestāni; cf. Jowšaqāni), e.g., šemâ tiq-du(n) navâna in kâr bekerid “you cannot do this job.”

Kešaʾi also employs the verb “become” in lieu of the modals: abū́ ōhǖ́ bebḗ (for Pers. mitavān āhu šod) “it is possible to become a gazelle” (Zhukovskiĭ, p. 95); negative nabö (for Pers. nabāyad, nemišavad), as in tâbassun nabö lebâš-e garm vâpiše “one shouldn’t/can’t wear warm clothes in summer.”


Having long been evolved in a Persianate cultural domain, Kešaʾi lexicon naturally reveals not only an accumulation of loanwords, but also many loan translations in calqued compounds, such as deran-gar (Pers. derow-gar) “reaper, harvestman,” bo-tâyi (Pers. bu-dâda) “roasted,” toxm-e-karg (Pers. toḵm-e-morḡ) “egg,” donda-sir (Pers. zanbur-e sorx) “red wasp,” müškür (Pers. muš-e kur) “bat,” and possibly in kia-vâda (Pers. xāna-vāda) “family,” paša-gorde (Pers. xar-magas) “horse-fly,” and gâlgü-torna (Pers. segin-ḡaltān) “dung beetle, tumblebug.”  There are yet formations similar to, but not replicating, those in Persian, e.g., čal-pâ “chilopoda” (for Pers. hazār-pā “millipede”), omar-vây (lit. the wind of Omar) “whirlwind” (Pers. gerd-bād), kun-ow-banda “mole cricket” (Pers. ābdozdak), törtöra “woodpecker” (Pers. dār-kub/borr), and goltiken “hedgehog.” Moreover, one finds semantic differentiations that are absent in Persian. For instance, Persian boridan is expressed by two verbs, brin- ː brint- “cut (fabrics)” and vân- ː vânt- “chop”; for Persian bordan “to carry,” Kešaʾi tells between animate (nig- ː ni-) and inanimate (ber- ː bard-), e.g., īn vačá kṓyeš anīgī́d? “this child—where are you taking him?”; hǖyṓ áidā, aberū́n hidyṓʾi yōr “tomorrow is holiday, I will take the friend’s gifts.”


Lineage. Diachronic sound changes typified as Northwest Iranian normally occur in Kešaʾi. The proto-Indo-European palatals yield sibilants: kas “small,” zân- “know,” zâmây “son-in-law,” hezze “yesterday” (but note the Southwest form bâhi, Ž. bōqǖ “arm,” apparently via *bāʾu); esbi “white,” ešbüš “louse.” — Velars change to j: jen “woman,” janda “alive,” jin- ː jind- “hit”; numṓj “prayer,” röja fasting, vōjṓr “market,” kaštejṓr “farm,” jer “below, under,” vâj “call, voice,” vij- “pull out.” — Proto-West Iranian *θr > r, pir “son,” ovira, Ž ōvī́r “pregnant,” ar “mill,” dowro “sickle.” — *d̯u > b, bar “door,” ebi “again, other.” — *y is retained in “yoke,” ya “barley,” viâ “separate” “place,” yây “husband’s brother’s wife” (< *yād < *yātā, *yātar-).

Middle West Iranian *w- is retained as v: vahtar “better,” vây “wind,” vârun “rain,” varf “snow,” valg “leaf,” vâyum “almond,” viy “willow tree; moth,” varg “wolf,” vera “lamb,” vača “child,” vašša “hungry,” -iver- ː -ivašt- “pass”; hence bâvar “trust, belief” (Parth. wāwar), bâhâna “pretext,” bâhâr “spring,” behešt “paradise,” görâz “boar” must be New Persian loanwords.

Lenition. Weakening of Middle West Iranian postvocalic stops holds for (1) bilabials: ow “water,” šev “night,” awr cloud, ču “wood,” lev “lip,” tev “fever,” zewr “rough,” sowz “green,” low “fox,” qawq “partridge,” aivūneʾī́ (of or related to Abyāna) (but not in âbembâr “cistern,” a concept foreign to the region); (2) coronals: kia “house,” kâya “game,” mâya “female,” čōvúr “veil,” biâr “awake,” ruva, Ž. rǖva “intestine,” röxâna “river,” viâ “separate,” sây “hundred,” di, Ž. dǖ “smoke,” zi “quickly,” šuvi “dale,” naxo “chickpea,” kuhi “squash,” uimī́(n) (Zefraʾi aimí) “person” (< ādami?), - “give birth,” esbi “white.” Due to inclusiveness of the rule, exceptions such as mâdiun “mare” and pud “weft” should be taken as loanwords. 

Postvocalic *g is retained (e.g. tegars “hail,” reg “vain,” rig “sand”), but *γ is lost in dörü “lie,” di “buttermilk,” “blade,” “yoke,” qolâ “crow,” čündár “beetroot.” Consequently, roγan, Ž. rǖxün, “ghee” and šalγam “turnip” expose themselves as loanwords in Kešaʾi—a supposition confirmed by that fact that these words are pronounced typically without the uvular fricative in other Ṭarqrudi dialects.

Clusters. *ƙt > št (cf. Pers. st) in râšt “right, true” (for Pers. rāst) and past stems vašt- “run” and vošt- “find, search” (with present stems vez- and viz, respectively). An original *šN is reduced in čem “eye,” čehmá “source,” pōiná “heel,” eynâs- “recognize” (< OIr. *xšnā-sa-), but survives in tašna “thirsty,” šnov- ː šenoft- “hear,” ešmâr- “count”; note also pajm “wool” (< *pašma-, √pas < *peƙ). An important isogloss that identifies Kešaʾi as a Non-Perside dialect is *sč > š in paš “back, then,” for Pers. pas (< Old Pers. pasā); cf. Parth., Kurd., Bal. paš, Av. pasca (< *pos(-ko-)).

The dialect also tends to reduce x and f before r and t. *xr has various outcomes: hrin- “buy” (< *xrī-), sir “red” (< *suxra-), tal “bitter” (< *taxra-), but čarx “wheel” (< *čaxra-), xörüs “rooster.” — Initial *fr- > h(r) in heyâ, Ž. hüyā “tomorrow,” hrâš- ː herât- “sell”; hrasn- (Ž. xrasn-) “send” (< *frēst-ēn-; cf. Stilo, p. 98), and the preverb -, while medial *fr persists in nefrin “curse” and varf “snow.” — *xt > t governs dot “daughter” and dot- “milk” and other past stems derived from an Indo-European root ending in ƙ; an exception is paxt- “cook.” Note also -hmūxt “learn” (pres. -hmūs-, causative -hmǖžn-), from the exclusively Iranian root *mauč (Cheung, p. 270). — *ft shows varied outcomes: in past stems, it is reduced in hot- “sleep,” rot- “sweep,” der-kat- “fall down,” berbat “he wept,” but remains in šenoft- “hear,” -škoft- “unsewn”; note also the areal form oxdow “sun,” in accord with maxdow “moonlight.”

Other consonantal changes. Random developments include occasional *x > h, as in hoša “bunch,” hiš “plow,” hargiš “rabbit,” contractions in tim “seed” and pek “sledgehammer,” and a favoritism for the nasal in asm “horse,” kâmsorâ “caravansary,” and uzmūn “tongue”; the latter has parallels in other dialects around Mt. Karkas, and certain Talysh and Kurdish dialects.

Vowels.  The two stages of the fronting of an original back vowel (*u > ü > i) are evident in the data obtained in the 1880s by Zhukovskiĭ vs. the current ones: ri, Ž. rǖ “day”; di, Ž. dǖ “smoke”; pir, Ž. pǖr “son,” heyâ, Ž. hüyā “tomorrow,” awri, Ž. avrǖ “eyebrow,” ampiâ, Ž. ampüyṓ “I wanted.” The late data further reveals that the process of fronting remains incomplete, in müš “mouse,” ü/i “there,” ešbüš/ešbiš, Ž ešpíš “louse” (< Old Iranian *tswiša-), but is concluded in nir “light,” pik “hollow,” kih “mountain,” bif  “owl,” libiâ “bean,” xârsi “mother-in-law,” oris “bride,” âmi “paternal uncle.”  This development has led to the homonymies dir “late” (<dēr) vs. “far” (< dūr), and šir “salty” (cf. Parth. šwryn, šōrēn) vs. “milk” (cf. Parth. šyft, šift, Mid. Pers. šīr) vs. “lion” (cf. Parth. šrg, Mid. Pers. šagr, šēr). Note also the raising of the old majhul vowel: miš “ewe” (< mēš).

A peculiar development in Kešaʾi is the keeping of *ā before nasals, atypical in other dialects of Ṭarqrud or elsewhere in the Central Plateau, where *ā is raised to u; examples are zâmây, Ž. zōmṓi “son-in-law,” jânaver “living creature,” röxâna, Ž. rōxōná “river,” zân-, Ž. zōn- “know,” vân- ː vund-, Ž. vōn- ː vōnt “chop,” râm- ː râmâ- Ž. rōm-  “drive,” while counterexamples are as numerous, e.g., ōlmūn “aspiration.” On the other hand, irregular raising of other vowels is found in mun “maund,” mūr/mōr “snake” (the latter is also found in Ardestāni, Gabri, Kelāsuri, Keringāni).


Peter Austin and Julia Sallabank, eds., Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages, Cambridge, 2011.

Ḥosayn Aʿẓam-Vāqefi, Mirāṯ-e farhangi-e Naṭanz, 4 vols., Tehran, 2000-07.

Habib Borjian, “Median Succumbs to Persian after Three Millennia of Coexistence: Language Shift in the Central Iranian Plateau,” Journal of Persianate Societies 2/1, pp. 62-87.

Lyle Campbell and Martha Muntzel, “The Structural Consequences of Language Death,” in Nancy C. Dorian, ed., Investigating Obsolescence: Studies in Language Contraction and Death, Cambridge, 1989, pp. 181-96.

Johnny Cheung, Etymological Dictionary of the Iranian Verb, Leiden and Boston, 2007.

David Crystal, Language Death, Cambridge, 2000.

[ELCat] Catalogue of Endangered Languages,

Moḥammad-Mehdi Esmāʿili, Ganjina-ye guyešhā-ye irāni. Ostān-e Eṣfahān I, Tehran, 2011.

Moḥammad Ḥasandust, Farhang-e taṭbiqi-mowżuʿi-e zabānhā o guyešhā-ye irāni-e now, Tehran, 2010.

Albert Houtum-Schindler, Eastern Persian Irak, London, 1897.

Karl Krahnke, “Linguistic Relationships in Central Iran,” doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, 1976.

Pierre Lecoq, “Les dialects du centre de l’Iran,” in Rüdiger Schmitt, ed., Compendium linguarum iranicarum, Wiesbaden, 1989, pp. 313-26.

Idem, Recherches sur les dialectes kermaniens (Iran central), Acta Iranica 39, Leuven, 2002.

Luisa Maffi, ed., On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment, Washington, D.C., 2001.

Loṭfallāh Mofaḵḵam-Pāyān, Farhang-e ābādihā-ye Irān, Tehran, 1960, p. 376.

V. S. Rastorgueva and D. I. Èdel’man, Ètimologicheskiĭ slovar’ iranskikh yazykov, vols. 1-3, Moscow, 2000-07.

Ḥosayn-ʿAli Razmārā, Farhang-e joḡrāfiāʾi-e Irān III, Tehran, 1950.

[SCI] Statistical Center of Iran (Markaz-e āmār-e Irān), Farhang-e ābādihā-ye kešvar  VII. Ostān-e Eṣfahān, Tehran, 1969.

Idem, National Census, decennial 1956-2011 for Isfahan Province. 

Rüdiger Schmitt, ed., Compendium linguarum iranicarum, Wiesbaden, 1989.

Donald Stilo, “Isfahan xxi. Provincial Dialects,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica XIV, New York, 2008, pp. 93-112.

Paul Tedesco, “Dialektologie der westiranischen Turfantexte,” Le Monde oriental 15, 1921, pp. 184-257.

Valentin A. Zhukovskiĭ, Materialy dlya izucheniya persidskikh’ narechiĭ I. Dialekty polosy goroda Kashana: Vonishun’, Kokhrud’, Keshè, Zèfrè (Materials for studying Iranian dialects I. The dialects around the city of Kashan: Vānišān, Qohrud, Keša, Zefra), St. Petersburg, 1888.


(Habib Borjian)

Originally Published: September 11, 2015

Last Updated: September 11, 2015

Cite this entry:

Habib Borjian, “KEŠAʾI DIALECT,” Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2015, available at (accessed on 11 September 2015).