BARTANGĪ, a member of the Šuḡnī (q.v.) group or Šuḡnī-Rōšānī group of the East Iranian Pamir lan­guages. The other members are: Šuḡnī, Bajūī, Rōšānī, Ḵūfī, Orōšōrī, and Sariqōlī [qq.v.]. Bartangī is spoken in the Gorno-Badakhshanskaya Avtonomnaya Oblast’ of Soviet Tajikistan in the middle part of the Bartang valley (i.e., Bār-tāng “upper defile,” cf. Edel’man, 1975, p. 44), which joins the Panj (Oxus) valley from the east and was formerly one of the poorest and most inac­cessible parts of the Pamirs. The number of Bartangī speakers was reported in 1932 to be 2,000 (Zarubin, 1937, p. 4). The two dialects of Bartangī, which differ in minor details (Sokolova, 1960, p. 1), are Basidī and Siponǰī. (For the name Siponǰ see Dodykhudoev, 1976, p. 143.) The names of the other villages in Bartang are given in Karamkhudoev, 1973, p. 9, and Edel’man, 1975, p. 50. In the upper part of the Bartang valley Orōšōrī is spoken. Bartangī has no written literature, the language of the schools and the mass media being Tajiki or Russian.

Bartangī was unknown to Iranists until 1914. The first material was collected by R. Gauthiot and I. I. Zarubin (cf. the latter’s report, 1918). Gauthiot (1916, p. 64) referred to his new findings not as Bartangī but as “parlers rochânis occidentaux.” This was criticized by Sköld (1936, p. 14). For further details of the history of research on the Šuḡnī group see Lentz, 1933, pp. 25ff., and Sokolova and Gryunberg, 1962.

The first text in Bartangī, a specimen of folk poetry, was published by Zarubin in 1924. The text corpus available now is still limited: Zarubin, 1937 (poetry; one prose text in Bartangī and Rōšanī); Sokolova, 1953 (a text with versions in Šuḡnī, Rōšānī, Ḵūfī, and Bar­tangī); Sokolova, 1960 (twelve texts with a copious glossary, a list of morphemes, and a Russian-Bartangī index). Comparative word lists are in Sköld, 1936. Some Bartangī words are also to be found in Andreev’s monumental ethnographical work (1953-58) and in stray references in Soviet works on other Pamir languages. The most detailed descriptive grammar of Bartangī is by Karamkhudoev (1973, after some preparatory articles). It is written in an adapted Cyrillic script. It contains also conversational sentences and other text material.

Some of the salient characteristics of Bartangī are mentioned or discussed in works dealing with East Iranian or the Pamir languages and in important annotated bibliographies (e.g., Morgenstierne, 1958; Livshits, 1962; Sokolova, 1966; Pakhalina, 1969, 1975; Redard, 1970; Dodykhudoev, 1971-72; Oranskiĭ, 1975, 1979; Edel’man and Rastorgueva, 1975; Edel’man and Efimov, 1978).

Within the Šuḡnī group, Bartangī is most closely related to Orōšōrī. Some of the main differences are: Bartangī : Orōšōrī tu “you” (2nd sing.); the mor­pheme of ordinal numbers, Bartangī -um : Orōšōrī -ēm; the plural morpheme, Bartangī -ēn (*-ānām) : Orōšōrī -īf (*-ēv< *-aibiš); absence of the ergative construction in Orōšōrī, etc. (cf. Edel’man, 1976, p. 89). Bartangī is separated from Rōšānī by some differences of grammar and vocabulary (cf. Sokolova, 1960, pp. 4ff.). On the whole, however, Bartangī is nearer to Rōšānī than to Šuḡnī, especially with regard to the vowel system; cf., e.g., Šuḡnī čīd, Rōšānī čod,Bartangī čōd (< *kata-) “house.” For other correspondences see Sokolova, 1953, pp. 130ff.

The vowel phonemes of Bartangī are: i, ī, ē, ö, a, ā, o, u, ū (on their phonetic realization see Sokolova, 1953, pp. 128ff.). Mid-rounded ö (phonetically long) is peculiar to Bartangī and Orōšōrī. The system of conso­nants is the same for the whole Šuḡnī group: plosives (p, b, t, d, k, g, q); affricates (c = ts, j = dz, č, ǰ); fricatives (f, v, θ, δ, , γ̌, x, γ, h); sibilants (s, z, š, ž); sonants (w, y, m, n, r, l; w sometimes has an allophone ß: Sokolova, 1953, p. 158).

The diachronic details of the phonetic development in the Šuḡnī group are intricate. The history of the vocalism has been analyzed by Sokolova, 1967. Morgenstierne (1973a, p. 108) has shown that the original distinction between Old Iranian final -ă and can still be traced in the Šuḡnī group. Umlaut caused by ī, ā has become functionally relevant in morphophonemics, where other vowel alternations also occur, e.g., čöd “house,” plur. čadē/ĕn (cf.Morgenstierne, 1928, p. 37). Diachronic study of the consonants (the most systemat­ic work is by Edel’man, 1980) reveals differences within the Šuḡnī group mainly regarding the representation of old -š- and of old r + consonant, e.g., Šuḡnī zinaγ̌,Rōšānī zinaw,Bartangī zināw (*snušā-) “daughter-­in-law”; Šuḡnī pēҳc-, Bartangī pāws- (< *pṛsa-) “to ask”; Šuḡnī mūd,Bartangī and Rōšānī mūg (mūḍ < *mṛta-) “died.” (For the development of old rt, ṛt,cf. Dodykhudoev, 1964; Morgenstierne, 1970, p. 338; Edel’man, 1963). A considerable part of the vocabulary of the Šuḡnī group is of unknown or uncertain origin. Collections of etymologies are found, e.g., in Sokolova, 1967, but the most recent etymological standard work is that by Morgenstierne, 1974.

In their morphology the members of the Šuḡnī group differ in minor details only. The function of the old cases has been taken over by prepositions and postpositions. Case-differentiated forms are restricted to the pro­nouns. For details see Payne, 1980, p. 162. The demon­strative pronouns are marked for three degrees of distance and go back to old *ima-,*aita-,and *awa­- (Morgenstierne, 1942, p. 258). The derivation of some of the personal pronouns, e.g., Bartangī tamāˊs(š) “you” (2nd plur.) is problematic (cf. Edel’man, 1971; Pakha­lina, 1975a; Kuiper, IIJ 18, 1976, p. 99). Nouns have the plural allomorphs -ēn, -yōn, -gōn, -ārj, -ōrǰ (of doubtful origin: Pakhalina, 1975, p. 232). Adjectives have special feminine forms, e.g., Bartangī röšt,fem. rāšt “red.” The vigesimal system is used in counting (Edel’man, 1975b).

The verbal system is based on two stems: the present stem (from the Old Iranian present) and the past stem (derived from the old participle in -ta).The personal endings of the present tense are: 1. -um,2. -i/zero,3. -t/d in the singular and 1. -an, 2. -at/af,3. -an in the plural. In the past tenses intransitive verbs have gender and number agreement in Bartangī (sāw- “to go,” niθ- “to sit”), as shown in Chart 1.

The internal vowel alternations arise as a result of umlauting, e.g., sud “went” < *cyuta-, sad < *cyutā.The perfect goes back to the participle in *-taka,fem. *-tačī (with ī-umlaut). The pluperfect, different from Rōšānī, is formed analytically from the perfect and the past of “to be,” e.g., wīṇč vud “had seen.” In the past tenses person and number agreement is marked by moving clitic particles (see Payne, 1980, p. 165). Various verbal nouns occur: infinitive in -ōw; participles in -īn; -ōč,fem. -ēc; -ön,fem. -ān; -öǰ,fem. -ēj, e.g. nivišöǰ “intending to write.” An analytical passive is formed with the auxiliary “go,” e.g., čöd wiröҳčak sud “the house was built” (Karamkhudoev, 1973, p. 174).

The syntax of the Šuḡnī group needs much further investigation. Only in Bartangī and Rōšānī are there remnants of an optional ergative construction for pronominal agents in transitive past tenses, e.g., Bartangī āz-um (or ergatively: mun-um) tār kitōb vuǰ “I have brought you a book” (cf. Payne, 1980). More widespread than in Rōšānī is the tendency in Bartangī to use az as direct object marker, e.g., mun-um az tā wīnt “I saw you” (Payne, 1980, p. 163). In the order of words the defining part precedes the defined, e.g., Bartangī pōdҳō puc “king’s son,” xušrūy γāc “beautiful girl,” mun vōrǰ “my horse.” For more information on syntax see Sokolova, 1966, p. 389, and Edel’man, 1974.

It is a matter of controversy whether Bartangī should be called a “dialect” or a “language” (Edel’man, 1976, p. 85, and 1980a, pp. 139ff.). If “dialect” is used in a sociolinguistic sense with the meaning “unwritten or of little cultural prestige,” the term would be appropriate for Bartangī. Moreover, as speakers of Bartangī, Orōšōrī, Rōšānī, and Šuḡnī can understand each other, one may say that they speak “regional dialects.” On the other hand, “dialect” also seems justified from a historical point of view (Lentz, 1933, p. 14).

Synchronically, the question “dialect of which language?” poses ethnic problems, as no generally recognized standard form exists. Even speakers of the most closely related Orōšōrī would never accept that they speak a “dialect” of Bartangī, and the reverse also holds true. (For the native classification see Sköld, 1936, p. 14.) It is accordingly preferable to call Bartangī, Orōšōrī, Rōšānī, and Šuḡnī “languages” and members of a genetically closely related “language group” (for this term cf., e.g., Heger, 1976) corresponding to the Russian expression “yazykovaya gruppa.”



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Idem, “Sovre­mennoe sostoyanie izucheniya pamirskikh yazy­kov,” ibid., 1964, pp. 128-32.

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(G. Buddruss)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: December 15, 1988

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