BRAHUI (Brāhūī, Brāhōī), the name of a tribal group living principally in Pakistani Baluchistan and of a Dravidian language spoken mainly by Brahui tribesmen.

1. Ethnography and history of the Brahuis

Habitat. The map in the Linguistic Survey of India showing distribution of Brahui tribesmen (X, facing p. 327) is still largely valid today for Pakistan (but not the map showing Dravidian languages, IV, facing p. 277). The main area of habitation lies in a narrow corridor stretching from just south of Quetta through Nushki, Kalat, and Khuzdar to Las Bela. The town of Kalat divides the region into a northern part, Sarawan, and a southern part, Jahlawan, reflected in the main tribal divisions of the Brahuis: the Sarawani and Jahlawani tribes. This corridor is only slightly more than 100 miles wide (from ca. 65° to 67° east longitude). There are also numbers of partly settled Brahuis living along the Helmand river in Afghanistan, from Čahār Borjak eastward through Šōrāwak to Nushki, as well as seminomadic Brahuis in Persia, now almost entirely in Sīstān but with a few settled farther south near Ḵāš. G. P. Tate mentions the presence there of about 2,000 Brahuis, but their number has now much diminished, principally through assimilation with neighboring Baluch. A small number of Brahuis are also settled in Soviet Turkmenistan, mainly in the Marv oasis; most of their forebears emigrated with the Baluch from India and Afghanistan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the early part of this century substantial numbers of Brahuis have lived semipermanently as casual laborers in Karachi and other large towns in Sind, such as Hyderabad, Sukkur, Shikarpur, and Larkana.

In the past hundred years there has been a fundamental change in most traditional forms of Brahui life. As “long-distance cattle-herders” in 1880 no fewer than 80 percent of these tribesmen were tent-dwelling nomads; fewer than 20 percent were described as settled. In 1975 the proportions were almost exactly the reverse, and Brahui settlement in large towns has been increas­ing ever more rapidly, especially since 1947. Ethnically the Brahuis have tended to become even more closely identified with the Baluch, a process that has been continuing since at least the 16th century and probably for much longer (see below).

Numbers. All census returns since 1911 (analyzed by Sir Denys Bray in 1914; the 1931 returns were also discussed by him; see below) have been characterized by confusion between those designated Brahui tribesmen and those claiming Brahui as their mother tongue, which has led to constant overestimates of the latter and underestimates of the former in later Pakistani census returns (up to 1961, the last year in which census data on mother tongue were provided; see Emeneau, 1962). It has been customary among Brahuis for many centuries to describe themselves as Baluch, especially to out­siders, regardless of the language they habitually use. As Brahui tribal affiliations have always been rather loose, it is easy to see how misleading official figures are likely to be. Many Brahuis are “bilaterally bilingual” (in Emeneau’s felicitous phrase), as large numbers of them have two mother tongues, Brahui and Baluchi. There is also some evidence that more than a few tribes have changed their language, sometimes more than once. The estimates in Table 11 and Table 12 are based on 1931 and 1961 census figures and should be treated with reserve. As for the number of Brahui speakers, it is to be noted first that at least 30 percent of Brahui tribesmen speak no Brahui at all and second that at least 80 percent of Brahui speakers are bilingual or trilingual (“multilater­ally multilingual”).

Tribal life (cf. Bray, 1913). The traditional migration routes for the 20 percent of Brahuis who are still nomads have long been fixed. In Pakistan the northern tribes summer in Sarawan and winter in Kacchi; the southern tribes summer in Jahlawan and winter in Sind. During the summer months there is still a large influx of Brahuis into the countryside around Kalat and Quetta. In Afghanistan Brahuis often live the year round in Šōrāwak, though many migrate to Kacchi as well; others winter in Rūdbār on the lower Helmand. Each tribe maintains its separate identity during the mi­gration; grouping is traditional, as is the arrangement of quarters upon arrival. There is no formal leadership structure on the march; each smaller group looks after itself. Even in winter the vast majority of dwellings are tents or huts made from leaves of the dwarf palm; only the rich live in houses.

Three factors have been especially important in curtailing Brahui nomadism. The first is the steady encroachment of government since the first treaty of Mastung between Kalat state and the government of India, negotiated by Sir Robert Sandeman in 1876, which led to the occupation of Quetta by the British and establishment of “law and order” in British Balu­chistan. The second is the development of large government-sponsored irrigation projects in the Quetta-Kalat district, especially since 1940, which makes it possible to cultivate land that had previously been stony desert. Third is the absorption of Brahuis into the rapidly growing towns of Sibi, Quetta, Nushki, and Las Bela, as well as into the larger cities of Sind.

However important these changes may appear on the surface, the basic tribal structure of Brahui society remains largely unaltered. In this connection, it is important to note that the term “Brahui tribe” has always meant more a political entity than an ethnic one; the Brahui tribe is essentially a loosely knit grouping of families bound only by mutual interests relating to such matters as grazing rights, cattle ownership, and blood ties—of which the last is the least important. The basic criteria of Brahui tribal affiliation are patrilineal descent and political allegiance: As not one of the present-day Brahui tribes possesses a coherent genealogy (indeed, none can be traced, even in legend, earlier than the 16th century), it seems likely that most, if not all, of these tribes have been formed comparatively recently through traditional processes of tribal splitting and affiliation of alien groups, processes that are still continuing.

Each tribe is said to have been founded by one man, its eponymous ancestor. He was either the leader of a breakaway faction after a quarrel or the head of an affiliated “client” tribe. Fission is almost always caused by disputes over cattle ownership, women, or inheritance.

The organizational structure within a Brahui tribe has always consisted of informal leadership at the lowest levels. A “section leader” (kamāšā “greybeard”) is chosen by consensus of the leading males; above him is the “clan leader” (ṭakkarī, leader of a ṭakkar) chosen more formally by consensus of the kamāšās. The tribal chief, or sardār, is a formal officer, usually but not always hereditary. As in similar arrangements among the Baluch, all leaders, if they are not too extravagant, are obeyed in all routine matters and very often in others too—in stark contrast to Pathan tribal leader­ship, for example. Order among Brahui tribes is pre­served by means of informal relations among sardārs. Brahui tribes have only rarely fought one another, in strong contrast to the Baluch, whose history of constant intertribal warfare until quite recently is the subject of most of their classical balladry. Within a Brahui tribe, however, the situation is very different: Relatively small disputes can, and often do, produce schisms, thus giving rise to new tribes.

The sardār’s power is rooted in his relationships with lower-level leaders and whatever powers of patronage he may have. Lower-level leaders themselves do not depend for power on cohorts of followers or supporters; rather, they seek to obtain influence with their chief. All in all, the internal power structure of a Brahui tribe is ordinarily invisible. There is no formal structure to relate the various leaders, and in all routine matters they are virtually autonomous within their zones of com­petence. Important disputes go to a jirga (assembly) of notables, and settlement is by consensus, without any formal arrangements at all. Even the convening of a jirga is quite informal. Formerly šāhī jirgas (grand assemblies) were convened by the khan of Kalat on important occasions, but this practice has been discon­tinued since the abolition of the Khanate in 1948. Traditionally compliance with the decisions of a jirga has been compulsory by tribal custom (riwāj), and powers of forcible compulsion are very limited. It is the force of “public opinion” that matters.

History. (For a fuller discussion see Elfenbein, 1987.) The first certain appearance of the Brahuis in history is in 17th-century Mughal notices on the Khanate of Kalat. Their previous history is still entirely a matter of speculation, in the absence of even a trace of genuine Brahui traditions. The few early Brahui traditions known are merely echoes of Baluch traditional history, and none is preserved in the Brahui language in the form of ballads or anything else. There is no evidence for any early association of the Brahuis and the Baluch before their encounter in the highlands of Kalat in the 13th century or perhaps a bit earlier (but see below). Brahui traditions said to be preserved in Baluch historical ballads earlier than the 19th century nowhere mention the name Brahui or that of any known Brahui tribe. Speculation about Brahui history must therefore be based on linguistic evidence alone, namely the fact that Brahui is a Dravidian language.

The most common theory is that the Brahuis took part in the original Dravidian invasions of India from the northwest in the 3rd millennium b.c. but split off from the main body and remained in Sarawan and Jahlawan, where they have lived since before 2000 b.c. without contact with their Dravidian relations; yet the notion that they preserved their identity for millennia only to be suddenly overwhelmed by the Baluch invaders less than 800 years ago suffers from a certain intrinsic incredibility and calls for reexamination. Physically the Brahuis are quite indistinguishable from their Jaṭ and Baluch neighbors; they present the same varieties of types. This issue was dubbed the “Brahui problem” by Bray in 1934; recent discussions are to be found in works by M. Emeneau (1962), M. Andronov (1964), and J. Elfenbein (1983a). In the light of more recent evidence a hypothesis first suggested by Jules Bloch in 1924 seems more acceptable: The Brahuis are more likely to be relatively recent immigrants to their present homeland in Pakistan from the western Deccan. In perhaps the 7th century loose congeries of nomadic groups began to split off from their nearest neighbors, the northwest Kuṛukh and Malto Dravidians, and to migrate northwestward. (It should be noted that until the 8th century both the Kuṛukh and the Malto lived much farther west than they do now.) For the Brahuis migration was not en masse but rather in small groups, in waves, over several centuries. These groups could be either quite uncoordinated or centrally led. Those that wandered northward for several centuries across Gujarat, Kathiawar, and Sind reached the Hyderabad area in some strength before the 10th century and were never more than an ad hoc assemblage of nomads, associated more by common interests than by common origin. Conversion to Islam could have taken place at about that time in Sind. After further migration northwestward, the Brahuis perforce came into contact with Jaṭs, who had been present in Sind since the 5th century; from the Jaṭs they would have taken their present name Brāhūī/Brāhōī.

Though of uncertain origin, Brāhūī is certainly not an old name and is most unlikely to be Dravidian (for a different view see Andronov, 1969). Its most likely etymology is from Brāhō, a Siraiki (Jaṭki) form of Ebrāhīm, which underscores the Muslim character of the Brahuis vis-à-vis their Hindu Jaṭ neighbors. Brāhōī is simply an adjective formed from Brāhō (probably by the Baluch), “the Brāhō people,” a political name for a loose collection of tribally organized Muslim nomads with no center living among the Jaṭs in west central Sind and speaking mainly a form of northwest Dravidian (see further below).

Early references by Arab geographers and his­torians to the languages and peoples of East Makran and Sind (e.g. Eṣṭaḵrī, 340/951, and Maqdesī 375/985, as well as in the Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, 372/982, tr. Minorsky) are to be treated with greatest reserve. Maqdesī’s characterization (p. 471) of the language of the Qofṣ and Balūṣ (the Kūč and Balūč of the Šāh-nāma) as “incomprehensible and like Sindhi” is almost certainly a reference to the Siraiki (“Jaṭki”) language, lingua franca in Makran at least since the 5th century (for a more detailed discussion of these matters see Elfenbein, 1987, pp. 228-89). The characterization of the inhabitants of Bannajbūr (probably modern Panjgūr), also uniquely in Maqdesī, as qawm al-ḡoṭm (see Bosworth, op. cit., p. 11) is also most unlikely to be a specific reference to any particular people or tribe. It is wise to bear in mind that, “it is . . . dangerous to consider [Maqdesī] as an expert on any languages of South­eastern Persia outside those familiar to the normal bilingual Arabo-Persian scholar” (Bosworth, ibid.) and to realize that the grounds are far too shaky for drawing any conclusions whatever based on such information (as did Markwart, Provincial Capitals, p. 75, and later by Minorsky, Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, p. 374, that the Kūfič/Kūč/Qofṣ may have been Brahuis; see also Elfen­bein, 1987, pp. 228ff.) The association of the Qofṣ with the Brahuis is a modern invention built on the corresponding close association of the Brahuis with the Balōč since the 16th century (see also Bosworth, ibid., pp. 12-13).

Probably the Brahuis had reached the highlands of Kalat by the 6th/12th century or a bit earlier, spreading north and south from there (and much later into Afghanistan and Persia), having assimilated many other nomadic tribal groups on their way and having shed others.

From the time of Akbar (963-1014/1556-1605) Mughal interest in the west had been increasing, and governors were appointed as new territories were brought under Mughal control; the governor at Qandahār controlled a large province that included much of the territory to the south of it. Under Shah Jahān (1037-­68/1628-57) Mughal expansionism reached its high point, causing the emergence for the first time in history of a strong, well-organized polity, the “Brahui Confed­eracy,” or Khanate of Kalat. The pressures on tra­ditional Brahui customs, in particular related to migra­tory routes and grazing lands, that had perhaps been building up for centuries since the earliest Baluch incursions, became insupportable to the Brahuis as well as to their Baluch and Dehwar allies, when Mughal government and law were added to them. From the very beginning the power of the khanate was based on a complex system of alliances and patronage among the leading Brahui tribes (Qambarāṇī, Mīrwāṛī, and Il-­tazay), the Rind and Lāšārī Baluch, and the Dehwārī cultivators.

The first ruler of the Brahui Confederacy, the Mīrwāṛī Mīr Aḥmad Khan I (ca. 1070-1107/1660-95; dates according to personal information from Yūsuf Gičkī, former secretary to the former Khan of Kalat; Khan, 1975, gives 1666-95, which according to Gičkī is a printing error) was strong enough to capture Mastung, Quetta (Šāl Koṭ), and Pishin from the Mughal governor of Afghanistan, and virtual autonomy quickly followed. Expansion of territory and consolidation of hegemony continued, especially under Mīr ʿAbd-Allāh Khan (r. 1125-47/1713-34; Khan, 1975; Baloch), who was able to include within his bound­aries Kacchi in upper Sind, as well as Dera Ghazi Khan and most of the territory to the west across Makran and into Persia. The first skirmishes with the Persians under Nāder Shah Afšār took place in 1152/1739, when Persian suzerainty over the confederacy was formally acknowledged and the heir to the throne, Naṣīr Khan, sent as hostage to Isfahan. After the assassination of Nāder Shah and the emergence of an independent Afghan kingdom under Aḥmad Shah Abdalī (Dorrānī), Naṣīr was released to become the new ruler of the Kalat khanate, as Naṣīr Khan I, known to later historians as “the great.” Under his rule, 1162-1210/1749-95 (Gičkī), the confederacy reached its apogee, extending its rule to Las Bela and Karachi, as well as to Dozdāb (now Zāhedān), Ḵāš, Bampūr, and Qaṣr-e Qand in Persian Baluchistan. Nominally subject to Kabul, the Kalat state was in effect independent. But from the beginning of the 19th century a decline set in, and under Maḥmūd Khan I (1210-1236/1795-1821; Gičkī; Khan, 1975, has 1749-1817, which cannot be correct) much territory was lost to the Persian Qajars and to the Afghan Shah Šojāʿ. After the first British-Afghan War of 1838-42, internal disorders in the Khanate of Kalat compelled its ruler to accept a treaty with the British (in 1854); continued weakness and internal disorders, coupled with the advent of the British “forward policy,” led to the 1876 Treaty of Mastung, negotiated by Sir Robert Sandeman, in which Kalat state became a protected state of the Indian empire. The Kalat-Persian frontier, first established in 1871-72 and revised in 1895-96 (Khan, 1975), was fixed as the boundary between India and Iran. But Kalat state continued its juridically separate existence until 1948, when it was incorporated by military force into Pakistan; the last khan, Mīr Yār, was deposed. Together with former British Baluchistan, it now forms the province of Baluchistan in Pakistan; its former territory in Persia was incorporated into the Persian province of Balūčestān wa Sīstān after 1314/1896. Over the years there has been continuing friction with all central governments, in both Persia and Pakistan, and on two occasions in Pakistan (1958 and 1973) open rebellion has had to be forcibly suppressed (see I. Baloch, 1987, chaps. 6-7).

The complex structure of rule in the Brahui Confeder­acy, to some extent mirroring as it did that of a Baluch or Brahui tribe, permitted no direct action by the ruling khan on his individual subjects: He could act only through the hierarchy of his subrulers, in a kind of “federal” system operating entirely through consensus; he could force nothing and nobody. Except for a small personal bodyguard, his army consisted entirely of feudatories, whose loyalty was not to him but to their own sardārs. The system depended for its effectiveness on the capabilities and personalities of the khan and his immediate court; in the hands of a very able man like Naṣīr Khan I it was very effective indeed. But in the hands of his much less able successors it began to fall apart, the center becoming weaker and weaker as individual sardārs asserted their personal power in the 19th century and later. The advent of Pakistan, with the reestablishment of a strong central authority, was seen as a threat to the status and privileges of the sardārs. A vote of the sardārs assembled in a šāhī jirga was required to take the khanate into Pakistan legally, but in several such jirgas assembled for the purpose in 1946-47 the consensus was always strongly against incorporation into Pakistan; military force settled the matter in 1948 with the half-hearted consent of the khan, whose principal legal adviser and personal friend of long standing was M. A. Jinnah (see I. Baloch, 1987, ap­pendices II and III).

It is important to note that the Brahui Confederacy was from the start dominated by the Baluch; The khan (always from the Aḥmadzay clan of the Qambarāṇī Brahuis) styled himself ḵān-e balōč, and the language used in his household was always Baluchi—­though, of course, the language of written communi­cation was Persian.

Tribes. The tribes now making up the “Brahui nation” are twenty-seven in number; eight of them “nuclear” and nineteen “peripheral.” The list in Table 13 is based on the official list of Mīr Aḥmad Yār, the last khan of Kalat. It is to be noted that at the height of the confederacy in the 18th century the traditional list included only fifteen tribes (the eight “nuclear” tribes and nos. 10-12, 14-17). All tribes now have members living in the large towns. The largest of the “peripheral” tribes is the Mengal. This tribe and nos. 9, 10, and 15 comprise more than 80 percent of the population of this group.

2. Language

The best summary of the history of Brahui language studies is by Emeneau (1962a, pp. 1-6). The first notice of the language by a European was by H. Pottinger (1816) and the first description by R. Leech (1838). The early descriptions, inadequate as they were, necessarily formed the basis of E. Trumpp’s study (1880), the first scientific study of the language; its greatest merit was the establishment of the Dravidian basis of Brahui, dismissing doubts raised by R. Caldwell (1856, 1875), though the latter was still not entirely convinced (1913). The foundations of modern Brahui studies were finally reliably laid by Bray in the first of his publications on the language (1909; see also 1913, 1934, and 1939). Bray, who is justly called the father of Brahui studies, rendered the work of his predecessors obsolete by the quality of his own, and nearly all studies of the language since 1910 have been based on his grammar and dictionary. (Exceptions are Morgenstierne, 1932; Emeneau 1937, 1959, 1961, 1962a, 1962b, 1963, 1970, 1971; and Elfenbein 1982, 1983, 1983b, all of which were based on new material.)

Native writing in Brahui has been scanty, as might be expected. The “unique Br ms.” men­tioned by C. Masson in 1843 is probably the Toḥfat al-ʿajāʾeb (Gift of wonders), later edited by Mullah Nābōjān and published in Lahore in 1916, said to be originally in 1,275 couplets; it was translated into Brahui from Persian by Malekdād Ḡaršīn, a Pathan mullah from Qandahār living at the court of Naṣīr Khan I in the years 1163-84/1750-70. It deals with Islamic religious observances, but as the original manu­script upon which the publication is based is now said to be lost, nothing definite can be concluded about its authenticity. The language of Nābōjān’s work is mod­ern Brahui written in an Urdu-style script (see below), which he changed from the doubtless Pashto style of the original.

The main source of printed books in Brahui is the very recently founded (1966) Brahui Academy in Quetta. Under its energetic Secretary, ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Brāhūʾī, in 1984 it had some fifteen books and reprints in Brahui to its credit, continuing a tradition begun during the Islamic revival in India in the latter half of the 19th century; one of the principal aims of that movement was a revival of Islamic studies in the local languages of India. The first representative of this movement in Brahui was Mawlānā Fāżel Moḥammad Khan “Dar­ḵānī,” from a village near Sukkur in Sind. Educated at a Deoband school, he and his most important pupil, Nābōjān (see above) produced a modest corpus of writing in Brahui, effectively for the first time; they used the Urdu script and its writing conventions, with the addition of a character for /lh/, a lām surmounted by 3 dots. Sukkur rapidly became the center of a “Brahui movement.” In the early years of the present century in which almost all writing was of a religious-revivalist character. The movement languished, however, until the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, when a new group of enthusiasts, the Brāhūī Jamāʿāt, was es­tablished in Mastung near Quetta; its magazine Īlum (Brother) is still current—the sole survivor of several such ventures—under its editor, Nūr-Moḥammad Parwāna. The Brahui “cultural capital” is now at Quetta.

The linguistic situation in most Brahui tribes is perhaps unparalleled elsewhere: Most Brahui speakers (ca. two-thirds, or 275,000) are bilaterally bilingual in Brahui and Baluchi, the latter being a genetically unrelated Iranian language. Nevertheless, the two languages are never mixed consciously by such speakers, for whom the choice of language to be used is an important social and psychological decision, the criteria for which could perhaps form a model for the study of sociological aspects of bilingualism. Roughly speaking, the linguistic situation for bilaterally bilingual Brahui/Baluch speakers is as follows: Literacy in either language is virtually nonexistent; what literacy exists in Pakistan is in Urdu, and that does not exceed 15 percent. In Persia and Afghanistan knowledge of Urdu is very scanty, but a small number can read Persian, as can some of the older generation in Pakistan. In speaking, traditional Brahui matters between social equals are discussed in Brahui. Informally, an inferior speaks to a superior in Brahui, a superior to an inferior in Baluchi; equals use either language indifferently, but in formal situations, Baluchi is used on both sides. In Pakistan official matters are discussed in Urdu, the language used to almost all outsiders: Perhaps half of Brahui tribesmen (ca. 300,000) know some Urdu. (In Persia and Afghanistan, Persian is used to outsiders, Baluchi to others.) In Pakistan, inside a family, an elder son speaks to his father in Baluchi, a younger son in Brahui; a father speaks to his son in Brahui if the mother is a Brahui, in Baluchi if the mother is a Baluch; a husband speaks to his wife in her own language, but a wife speaks to her husband in Baluchi. The language used between brothers and sisters depends on the language of the mother in a polygamous society. In general it shows respect to use Baluchi and familiarity or disrespect to use Brahui; except for Brahui-language enthusiasts, who use it on all occasions.

Linguistic position of Brahui. The connection of Brahui with the North Dravidian languages seems now well established. The principal isoglosses are 1. the treatment of Proto-Dravidian *k- (Burrow, 1943); 2. the formation of the -o- future in verbs (Zvelebil, 1977); 3. the interrogative pronoun Dravidian *-/e- (Emeneau, 1962a, pp. 62ff.).

Sketch of the Brahui Language. The following material is essentially taken from Bray (1909), as modified and extended by Emeneau (1937) and Elfenbein (1982, 1983)

Phonology. The phonemic system of Brahui is in all important respects identical with that of Baluchi, with the addition of the fricatives and the voiceless lateral lh.

Vowel phonemes:

short /a i u/    
long ī ū e o/
diphthongs /ay aw/      

Phonetic realization:

/a/ = [a], final [æ]; /i/ varies from [ı] to [ɛ], /u/ from [ω] to [ǫ];

/ā/ = [a:], /ī/ = [i: ], /ū/ = [u:];

/e/ = [ẹ: ], as center it varies from [į:] to [ε:] (Bray: ē); /o/ = [ọ:] as center [ ų:] to [ɔ:] (Bray: ō);

/ay/ varies from [a: ı] to [æ: ı], /aw/ from [a:ω] to [æ:ω].

Consonant phonemes:

stops p, b t, d ṭ, ḍ   č, ǰ k, g
fricatives f         x, ḡ
sibilants   s, z   š, ž    
sonants m n (ṇ)      
  w l, lh, r   y (ʾ), h

(Notes: is a free allophone of ; lh is a voiceless lateral; h alternates in all positions with the glottal stop ʾ.)

Dialects. Brahui is essentially without important dialectal variation. Perhaps worth noting is the treatment of /h/, which distinguishes northern (Sarawan) from southern (Jahlawan) speakers: Among the latter /h/ tends to be pronounced as an aspirate in all positions, whereas among the former it is often weakened to a glottal stop or dropped. Kalat pronunciation, a kind of standard, tends to keep the aspirated pronunciation.

Morphology. The main distinction is between “nominal” words and “verbal” words.

Nominal morphology. Endings (Table 14) are mainly added in agglutinative style to all bases alike; there are some exceptions caused by phoneme conjunction, mostly predictable (see Bray, pp. 36-45). The nominative plural is anomalous, the plural sign being really -te-, to which the singular endings are added, with elision only in the genitive plural. Historical details are not very clear, but it seems likely that a Dravidian origin can be assigned to most of the endings. (On the nominative plural -k see Zvelebil, 1970, 1977.)

Adjectives are in the main treated like nouns, but there are some additional morphological details, as well as a host of syntactical points (Bray, pp. 61-69).

Most of the pronouns (Table 14) have reasonably convincing Dravidian etymologies, especially the reflexive and the interrogative, and there appears to be a phonological isogloss with North Dravidian in the demonstratives der, de. There are also a large number of other pronouns in addition to those listed below (Bray, pp. 89-115). On a possible origin of the k- in the 1st sing. see Emeneau (forthcoming).

There is also an enclitic third-person pronoun, suffixed both to nouns and to verbs. Suffixed to nouns it denotes a possessive, to verbs a direct or indirect object (Bray, p. 78). Although suffixed pronouns also exist for the first and second persons, they are much less commonly used (see Elfenbein, 1982, pp. 91-95, Bray, pp. 79-81).

Demonstrative pronouns have a threefold deixis, using , dād “this, hic”; o, od “that, iste”; and e, ed “that, ille”. Their declension is slightly irregular (, dānā, dāde, etc.; plur. dāfk, dāftā, etc.; e, enā, edel, eṛān, etc.; plur. efk, eftā, etc.; Bray, p. 84).

Reflexive pronouns are ten- “self” (tenā, tene, etc.; Bray, pp. 81ff.).

Interrogative pronouns are der, de “who?” (der/de, dinnā, dere, derān, etc.) and ant “what?” (ant, antanā, ante, etc.).

Numerals. Brahui has indigenous forms for the cardinals “1-3,” and the ordinals “2nd” and “3rd” (beside forms borrowed from Baluchi); the numerals from “4” onwards are borrowed from Baluchi; “1st” has been borrowed from Persian: asiṭ “1,” iraṭ “2,” musiṭ “3”; awalīko “1st,” iraṭṭimīko “2nd,” musiṭṭimīko “3rd,” etc. with suffix -imīko. Dravidian etymologies have been proposed for 1, 2, and 3. The use of loanwords for numerals beyond the first few is charac­teristic of north Dravidian: Kuṛukh and Malto have borrowed from Indo-Aryan.

On adverbs, prepositions, postpositions, conjunctions, and interjections see Bray, pp. 203-33.

Verbal morphology. The morphology of the verb is much more complex than that of the nouns and only a bare summary is possible here (see Bray, pp. 116-202). Two oppositions dominate the system: perfective/imperfective and affirmative/negative. The negative conjugation appears to be formed from the affirmative by means of a system of infixes, while the imperfective aspect is formed from the perfective by the use of prefixed and suffixed -a- (not prefixed to negative imperfect forms, nor suffixed to endings with a final vowel).

Beside the affirmative present imperfects, with which it is semantically equivalent, a present continuative of the imperfective aspect, formed ultimately on an Indo-Aryan model but taking its morphology and syntax from Baluchi, is in increasing use. It is formed, as in Baluchi, by adjoining the copula (present or past) to the locative I case of the verbal noun: ī tixingatī-ut (= ī atixiwa) “I am putting” (lit. “I am in [the act of] putting”), cf. Baluchi man er-kanagā-un; these forms never prefix a-, as in Baluchi. For a contrasting and much simpler description of the complex verbal system of Brahui than Bray’s see Emeneau, 1962a, pp. 21-22.

Examples of conjugation are given in Table 15 and Table 15 (Continued): 1. The copula (for the various stems of this verb see Bray, pp. 150-53); 2. regular conjugation, stem tix- “to put, place.” Other forms include: the verbal noun tixing “act of putting” (the copula has the verbal noun anning); active participle: tixisāo/tixisāū “putting, having put”; noun of obligation tixoī “obliged to put.”

There is passive stem: tixing-ing-, and a causative stem: tix-if-. On the “neuter” verb, see Bray, pp. 172-79.

Indo-Iranian influences on Brahui. As might be expected, Brahui has been profoundly influenced by the languages of the neighbors among whom the tribesmen have been living, at the oldest level by Indo-Aryan (Sindhi-Siraiki “Jaṭki”). This early influence is most obvious in the Brahui lexicon but does not seem to have penetrated much deeper. The really deep influence on Brahui has been that of Baluchi, extending as it does not only to the Brahui lexicon but also to the phonology, many morphological aspects, and especially the syntax (see Emeneau, 1959; and especially Elfenbein, 1982, 1983). Thus Brahui phonology has been recast in a Baluchi mold. The aspectual system in the Brahui verbal system, both morphology and syntax, has been im­ported from Baluchi. Brahui has borrowed from Ba­luchi the nominal -ā case, some forms of kanning “do,” the -ok agent suffix, the syntax of the conjunction ki as well as the kind of parataxis usual in Baluchi, and the Baluchi group-inflection of nouns.

Of the lexicon at a conservative estimate approximately 15 percent of Brahui is of native Dravidian origin, 20 percent is of Baluchi origin, 20 percent is of Indo-Aryan origin (including many “Jaṭki” words borrowed through Baluchi), 35 percent is of Persian/Arabic origin, mainly through Indo-Aryan or Baluchi; the remainder is of unknown origin.


Older works. Allabux, Handbook of the Birouhi Language, Karachi, 1877.

H. Bellew, From the Indus to the Tigris, London, 1874 (notes on tribes; linguistic notes no improvement on Leech).

R. Caldwell, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages, London, 1856; 2nd ed., 1875; 3rd ed., 1913 (very limited Brahui material; even in the last edition Brahui is not allowed full Dravidian status).

C. Lassen, “Die Brahui und ihre Sprache,” ZDMG 5, 1844, pp. 337-409 (pioneer­ing study).

R. Leech, “Grammar of the Brahuiky, Belochky, and Panjabi Languages,” J(R)ASB 7, 1838, pp. 538-56 (the first mention and description of the Brahui language).

Linguistic Survey of India IV: Mundā and Dravidian Languages, ed. S. Konow, Calcutta, 1906 (Brahui pp. 619-36, based on Trumpp with some new material for specimens; treatment now out of date; full bibliography).

C. Masson, Narrative of a Journey to Kalât, London, 1843 (description of tribes and country, with some linguistic material of poor quality).

T. J. L. Mayer, A Brahui Reading Book, Ludhiana, I, 1906, II-III, 1907 (still useful; in Roman characters with English translations).

M. Nicolson, A Compilation of Extracts Translated into the Biroohi Language, Karachi, 1877 (earliest reasonably reliable collections and descriptions).

H. Pottin­ger, Travels in Beloochistan and Scinde, London, 1806.

G. P. Tate, The Frontiers of Baluchistan, London, 1909 (good description; still useful).

E. Trumpp, Grammatische Untersuchungen über die Sprache der Brāhūīs, Sb. Kön. Bayr. Akad. Wiss., Munich, 1880 (first scientific treatment of the language: Dravidian character not in doubt). [Allabux, repr. Quetta, 1983.]

Modern works. Abdul-Rehman Brahui, “History, Background, Objectives and Achievements of the Brahui Academy, Quetta, Pakistan,” in A. V. Rossi and M. Tosi, eds., Newsletter of Baluchistan Studies 1, 1983, pp. 6-10.

M. Andronov, “A Lexico-Statistic Analysis of the Disintegration of Proto-Dravidian,” IIJ 7, 1964, pp. 170-86 (argues for the separation of Brahuis and Brahui from other Dravidians in the 3rd millennium b.c.; unconvincing).

Idem, “Notes on Brahui,” Journal of Tamil Studies 1/2, 1969, pp. 1-6 (includes an unconvincing etymology of brāhūī from Dravidian “northern hillmen”).

Idem, Yazyk Braui, Moscow, 1971 (from Bray with minor changes).

Idem, “Dravidian Numerals,” Indian Journal of Dravidian Linguistics 5/1, 1976a, pp. 5-15.

Idem, “The Negative in Dravidian,” Journal of Tamil Studies 1976b, pp. 1-12 (etymologies, mainly convincing; the negative verb in Brahui pp. 10-12: origins not clear).

Idem, “Case Suffixes in Dravidian,” Anthropos 71, 1976c, pp. 716-38 (the Dravidian origin of many Brahui case suffixes is convincing).

Idem, Sravnitel’naya grammatika dravidiĭskikh yazykov, Moscow, 1978 (includes notes on Brahui).

Idem, The Brahui Language, Moscow, 1980 (updated, improved version of Andronov, 1971, but based on Bray, 1909; very full but unselective bibliography pp. 107-­09).

A. Bausani, “La letteratura Brahui,” in O. Botto, ed., Storia delle letterature d’Oriente, Rome, 1969, II, pp. 649-57 (good summary of the work of the modern movement).

J. Bloch, “Sanskrit et dravidien,” BSL 25/1, 1924, pp. 1-21.

“Some Problems of Indo-Aryan Philology,” BSOAS 5/4, 1930, pp. 719-56.

Idem, Structure grammaticale des langues dravidiennes, Paris, 1946 (includes a short discussion of the possible origin of Brahuis from Central India).

C. E. Bosworth, “The Kūfichīs or Qufṣ in Persian History,” Iran 14, 1976, pp. 9-17.

D. Bray, The Brahui Language I: Grammar, Calcutta, 1909; repr. Quetta, 1972 (the standard work); II: The Brahui Problem; III: Brahui Etymological Dictionary, Delhi, 1934 (a valu­able essay on the Brahuis, and the standard dictionary of the language; both first-rate work).

Idem, Life-­History of a Brahui, London, 1913 (remarkable cradle-to-grave narrative account).

Idem, “Brahui Tales,” Acta Orientalia 17, 1939, pp. 65-98 (very useful; Kalati dialect).

T. Burrow, “Two Develop­ments of Initial *k- in Dravidian,” BSO(A)S 11/1, 1943, pp. 122-39 (characterization of the Northern Dravidian languages).

T. Burrow and M. Emeneau, Dravidian Etymological Dictionary, 2nd ed., London, 1984 (DED; incorporates the original Dictionary and Supplement, plus much new material, fundamental for Dravidian comparative linguistics).

Census of India 1911, vol. 4: Baluchistan, Calcutta, 1914 (the last properly analyzed census data on Brahuis).

M. L. Dames, “Balochistan,” in EI1, pp. 625-40 (Brahuis mentioned briefly on p. 630).

J. Elfenbein, “Notes on the Balochi-Brahui Linguistic Com­mensality,” TPS, 1982, pp. 77-98.

Idem, “The Brahui Problem Again,” IIJ 25, 1983a, pp. 103-32 (additions and corrections to Bray, with new texts, translations, notes, glossary). Idem, “A Brahui Supplementary Vocabulary,” ibid., pp. 191-209 (as supplement to Bray, 1934, with etymologies for Baluchi and Indo-Aryan loanwords).

Idem, “A Periplus of the Brahui Problem,” in Varia 1977, Acta Iranica 16, Tehran and Liège, 1987, pp. 215-33.

M. B. Emeneau, “Phonetic Observations on the Brāhūī Language,” BSO(A)S 8/4, 1937, pp. 981-83 (a systematic account, using a Nīčāṛī informant).

Idem, India and Historical Grammar, Annamalai University Publications in Linguistics 5, Annamalainagar, 1959 (origin of certain Brahui structural borrowings, pp. 40-71).

Idem, “Brahui Demonstrative pro­nouns,” J(R)ASB 1, 1961, pp. 1-6 (discussion of , ō, ē: etymologies proposed).

Idem, Brahui and Dravidian Comparative Grammar, University of California Publications in Linguistics, 1962a (excellent sum­mary of the history of Brahui studies up to 1962; it is the first systematic study of the history of Brahui vowels, as well as of the n/r verb stem problem; concluding is a discussion of the central problem of Iranian and Indo-Aryan influences on Brahui, with a restatement of the case for North Dravidian language subgroup containing Brahui, Kuṛukh, and Malto: sets the standard for comparative studies of Bra­hui).

Idem, “Bilingualism and Structural Borrowing,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 106/5, 1962b, pp. 430-42 (a study of Brahui/Baluchi bilingualism).

Idem, A Sketch of Dravidian Compara­tive Phonology, Berkeley, 1963 (precursor to Eme­neau, 1970).

Idem, Dravidian Comparative Phonol­ogy, Annamalai University Publications of Linguis­tics, 1970 (includes a systematic treatment of Brahui historical phonology).

“Koḍagu and Brahui Devel­opment of Proto-Dravidian *z,” IIJ 13/3, 1971, pp. 176-98.

Idem, Language and Linguistic Area, Stanford, Calif., 1980 (esp. “Brahui Language Studies,” pt. III, pp. 315-49).

Idem, “Brahui Personal Pronouns: 1st Sing. and Reflexive,” in B. Lakshmi Bay and B. Ramakrishna Reddy, eds., Studies in Dravidian and General Linguistics: A Festschrift for Bh. Krishnamurti (Osmania University Publications in Linguistics 6), Hyderabad, 1991.

G. Morgenstierne, Report on a Linguistic Mission to North-West India, Oslo, 1932 (new material on Brahui pp. 5-9, important for phonol­ogy and for relations with Baluchi).

Pakistan Census of 1961, vol. 1, Karachi, 1964 (the last census in which language and tribal data were collected; the analysis is poor).

A. V. Rossi, Iranian Lexical Elements in Brāhūī, Naples, 1979 (an accurate list of Baluchi and Persian loanwords in Brahui).

F. Scholz, “Formen regionaler Mobilität bei den Brahui-Stämmen,” in Deutscher Geographentag Erlangen-Nürnberg, Juni 1971, Wiesbaden, 1972, pp. 55-70 (valuable study using new, post-Bray data).

Idem, “Der moderne Wandel in den nomadischen Belutschen und Brahui-stämmen,” Sociologus 2, 1974a, pp. 117-36 (further to Scholz, 1972).

Idem, Belutschistan, Göttingen, 1974b (best comprehensive and systematic study, by an anthropologist, of climate, geography, ethnology, but weak on history and language).

Idem, “Detribalization and Marginality,” in Pakistan. Analysen, Berichte, Dokumentation, Hamburg, 1979, pp. 31-71.

C. Shackle, The Siraiki Language of Central Pakistan, London, 1976 (best modern treatment; includes notes on “Lahndā, Jatki”).

N. Swidler, “The Development of the Kalat Khanate,” in W. Irons and N. Dyson-Hudson, eds., Perspectives on Nomadism, Leiden, 1972, pp. 115-21.

W. Swidler, “Some Demographic Factors . . . among the Brahui of Baluchistan,” in. W. Irons and N. Dyson-Hudson, eds., Perspectives on Nomadism, Leiden, 1972, pp. 69-75 (useful sketches).

Idem, “Economic Change in Baluchistan,” in A. T. Embree, Pakistan’s Western Borderlands, New Delhi, 1977, pp. 85-108 (sketch of present-day Brahui conditions).

K. Zvelebil, Comparative Dravidian Phonology, The Hague and Paris, 1970 (very limited material on Brahui; no advance on Emeneau, 1963).

Idem, A Sketch of Comparative Dravidian Morphology I, The Hague and Paris, 1977 (an important work).

(Josef Elfenbein)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 4, pp. 433-443

Cite this entry:

Josef Elfenbein, “BRAHUI,” Encyclopædia Iranica, IV/4, pp. 433-443, available online at (accessed on 30 December 2012).