Yaghnobi Language
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Yaghnobi Language
ya?nob zivók, ?
Native toTajikistan
Regionoriginally from Yaghnob Valley, in 1970s relocated to Zafarobod, in 1990s some speakers returned to Yaghnob
EthnicityYaghnobi people
Native speakers
12,000 (2004)[1]
Early form
  • Eastern Yaghnobi
  • Western Yaghnobi
Cyrillic script
Latin script
Perso-Arabic script
Language codes
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Yaghnobi-speaking areas and enclaves of Yaghnobi-speakers among a Tajik majority

Yaghnobi[5] is an Eastern Iranian language spoken in the upper valley of the Yaghnob River in the Zarafshan area of Tajikistan by the Yaghnobi people. It is considered to be a direct descendant of Sogdian and has often been called Neo-Sogdian in academic literature.[6] There are some 12,500 Yaghnobi speakers, divided into several communities. The principal group lives in the Zafarobod area. There are also resettlers in the Yaghnob Valley. Some communities live in the villages of Zumand and K?kteppa and in Dushanbe or its vicinity.

Most Yaghnobi speakers are bilingual in Tajik. Yaghnobi is mostly used for daily family communication, and Tajik is used by Yaghnobi-speakers for business and formal transactions. A single Russian ethnographer was told by nearby Tajiks, long hostile to the Yaghnobis, who were late to adopt Islam, that the Yaghnobis used their language as a "secret" mode of communication to confuse the Tajiks. The account led to the belief by some, especially those reliant solely on Russian sources, that Yaghnobi or some derivative of it was used as a code for nefarious purposes.[7]

There are two main dialects: a western and an eastern one. They differ primarily in phonetics. For example, historical *? corresponds to t in the western dialects and s in the eastern: met - mes 'day' from Sogdian m ⟨my?⟩. Western ay corresponds to Eastern e: way? - we? 'grass' from Sogdian way? or w ⟨wy?⟩. The early Sogdian group ?r (later ) is reflected as sar in the east but tir in the west: saráy - tiráy 'three' from Sogdian ?r?/?ray or /ay ⟨?ry⟩. There are also some differences in verbal endings and the lexicon. In between the two main dialects is a transitional dialect that shares some features of both other dialects.


Yaghnobi was unwritten until the 1990s,[8] but according to Andreyev, some of the Yaghnobi mullahs used the Arabic script for writing the language before 1928, mainly when they needed to hide some information from the Tajiks.[9] Nowadays, the language is transcribed by scholars using a modified Latin alphabet, with the following symbols: a (á), ? (), b, ?, d, e (é), f, g, ?, h, ?, i (í), ? (), ?, k, q, l, m (m?), n (ñ), o (ó), p, r, s, ?, t, u (ú), ? (), ? (), v, w (u?), x, x?, y, z, ?, ?

TITUS transcribes the alphabet thus: a (á), b, ?, d, e (é), ? (), ? (), (), ? (), f, g, ?, h, x?, i (í), ? (), ? (), ?, k, q, l, m (m?), n (ñ), o (ó), ? (), p, r, s, ?, t, u (ú), ? (), (í?), v, u?, x, x?, y, z, ?, ?

In recent times, Sayfidd?n M?rzozoda of the Tajik Academy of Sciences has used a modified Tajik alphabet for writing Yaghnobi. The alphabet is quite unsuitable for Yaghnobi, as it does not distinguish short and long vowels or v and w and it does not mark stress. Latin equivalents are given in parentheses:

? ? (a), ? ? (b), ? ? (v), ? ? (w), ? ? (g), ? ? (?), ? ? (d), ? ? (e/ye), ? ? (yo), ? ? (?), ? ? (z), ? ? (i, ?), ? ? (?), ? (y), ? ? (k), ? ? (q) ? ? (l), ? ? (m), ? ? (n), ? ? (o), ? ? (p), ? ? (r), ? ? (s), ? ? (t), ? ? (u, ?, ?), ? ? (?, ?), ? ? (f), ? ? (x), (x?), ? ? (h, ?), ? ? (?), ? ? (?), ? ? (?), ? ? (?), ? ? (e), ? ? (yu, y?, y?), ? ? (ya)

Cyrillic script

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Notes to Cyrillic:

  1. The letter ? never appears at the beginning of a word. Words beginning with ya-, yo- and yu-/y?-/y?- are written as ?-, ?- and ?-, and the combinations are written in the middle of the word: viyóra is [v'jo:ra].
  2. Use of ? and ? is uncertain, but they seem to distinguish two similar-sounding words: and , and . Perhaps ? is also used as a stress marker as it is also in Tajik, and ? can also be used in Tajik loanwords to indicate a Tajik vowel ⟨?⟩ [?:], but it can have some other unknown use.
  3. In older texts, the alphabet did not use letters ? ? and ? ?. Instead of Tajik ?, Yaghnobi ' and ? covered both Tajik ? and ? for /e/. Later, the letters were integrated into the alphabet so the older was changed into to represent the pronunciation ['e:tk?] (and not *['je:tk?]). Older ' was changed to [?'mak].
  4. /je/ and /ji/ are written ? and ?. Yaghnobi ? can be */ji/ after a vowel like in Tajik, and ? after a vowel is */ji:/. Also, ? has two values: word-initially and after a vowel, it is pronounced [je:], but after a consonant, it is [e:]. /je/ is rare in Yaghnobi and is only in Tajik or Russian loans, the only example for /je/ is ['je:vr?pa], a Russian loanword.
  5. Russian letters ? ?, ? ?, ? ? and ? ?, which can be used in Tajik loans from Russian, are not used in Yaghnobi. They are written as they are pronounced by the Yaghnobi speakers, not as they are written originally in Russian: aeroplane is ?/? in Russian, written ? in Tajik and pronounced [s?m?'lt] in Russian and in Tajik. In Yaghnobi, it is written as and follows the Yaghnobi pronunciation [samal?'jo:t?] or [samajl'o:t?]. The word concert is borrowed from Russian ? [k?n'ts?rt] in the form ? [k?an'se:rt?]). Compare with Tajik ?.
  6. According to Sayfidd?n M?rzozoda, the distinction between sounds /v/ and /w/ needs to be established. For /v/, ? is used, but for /w/, another letter should be adopted. W w would be the best choice. For //, ?w ?w should be used. M?rzozoda uses w in some texts, but it is inconsistent.


Yaghnobi includes 9 monophthongs (3 short, 6 long), 8 diphthongs, and 27 consonants.


Front Back
short long short long
Close ? i: y: ? u:
Mid ?: ?:
Open a ?:

The diphthongs in Yaghnobi are /ai?, ?:i?, ?i?, u:i?, y:i?, ?i?, ?:u?, au?/. /ai?/ only appears in native words in the western dialects, eastern dialects have /?:/ in its place, except in loanwords.

  • The monophthongs have these allophonic variants:
    • /?/: [i~?~e]
    • /a/: [(æ~)a(~?)]
    • /?/: [(y~)u~?~o]
    • /i:/: [i:]
    • /?:/: [?:~e:]
    • /?:/: [(a:~)?:]
    • /?:/: [(?:~)?:(~o:~u:)]
    • /u:/: [u:]
    • /y:/: [(u:~)y:(~i:)]
  • /?:/ was the result of compensatory lengthening (/d:m < d?a?m < d?am?/).
  • In recent loans from Tajik and/or Uzbek [?, ø] can also appear, but its pronunciation usually merges to /u:/.
  • /y:/ is only recognised by some authorities. IIt seems that it is an allophone of /u:/, originating from historical stressed *?, but historical *?, changed in Yaghnobi to ?, remains unchanged. It seems that /y:/ is unstable, and it is not recorded in all varieties of Yaghnobi. It is often realised as [u:(j), u:?, ?j, ], as well as /y:/. By summary: * (under stress) > ?/?y/uy/? or ?, *? > ? ( [vy:z~vu:z] "goat"; Tajik: , Avestan: ?‎).
  • Before a nasal, /?:/ can change to /u:/, e.g. ? [t?:dk?s't?:n~t?:dk?s'tu:n] "Tajikistan", [n?:m~nu:m] "name".
  • /?:/ is considered as a long vowel, however before /h, ?/, its pronunciation is somewhat shorter, and is realised as a half-short (or even short) vowel. Etymologically, the "short" e before /h, ?/ comes from older *i (there is an alternation e/i before /h, ?/) if the historical cluster *ih or *i? appears in a closed syllable, and *i changes to e. In open syllables, the change did not take place (that is similar to Tajik). The change can be seen in the verb dih-/deh-: infinitive ['d?hak] vs. 3rd sg. present ['d?(?)ht].
  • In Yaghnobi dialects, there can be seen a different development of historical svarabhakti vowel: in the Western and Transitional dialects, it is rendered as /?/ (or /?/ under certain circumstances), but in the Eastern dialects it changes to /a/ (but also /?/ or /?/): *?ray > *ráy > W./Tr. tiráy vs. E. saráy but *?r?t > *v?r?t > W./Tr./E. virót.
    When the second vowel is a back vowel, *? usually changes to /?/ in Western or Transitional dialects: *()r > *tf?r > *t?fór > W./Tr. tufór (but also tifór) vs. E. tafór, *pfs- > *b?dfs > W./Tr./E. budfs-. The later change appears also in morphology: verb tifárak (the form is same in all three dialects) has form in 3rd sg. present tufór?i < *t?fár- < *tfar- < *ar-. The alternation /?~a/ can be seen also in Tajik loans where an unstressed vowel can undergo this change: W./Tr. ?irk vs. E. ?ark < Tajik /?ar?k/ "partner", W./Tr. xipár vs. E. xapár < Tajik /xabar/ "news". The former svarabhakti vowels are often ultra-short or reduced in pronunciation, and they can even disappear in fast speech: xi?áp /xi?áp vs. xáp vs. x?ap/ < *xáp < *x?ap.
  • The /a/ changes to /?:/ in verbal stems of type -Car- if an ending containing historic *? or *t is added: tifár-, infinitive tifárak, 1st sg. present tifarómi?t but 3rd sg. present tufór?i (ending -?i comes from older -ti?t), 2nd pl. present W./Tr. tufórti?t E. tufórsi?t, x°ar-: x°árak : x°arómi?t : xór?i : xórti?t/xórsi?t (when /a/ changes to /?:/ after //, /?/ loses its labilisation). The change takes place with all verbs of Yaghnobi origin and also with older loans from Tajik. For new loans, a remains unchanged.: gudár(ak) : gudór?i vs. pár(ak) : pár?i: the first verb is an old loan from Tajik guza?tan < gu?a?tan, the later a recent loan from parr?dan.


  • /k/ and /?/ are palatalised to and respectively before a front vowel or after a front vowel word-finally.
  • [?] appears as an allophone between vowels or voiced consonants.
  • , both have allophones and before /k, ?/ and /f, v/, respectively
  • All voiced consonants are pronounced voiceless at the end of the word when after an unvoiced consonant comes a voiced one. Likewise, unvoiced consonants become voiced by assimilation. In voicing q, the voiced opposition is , not .
  • The consonants , , , , , , , appear mostly in loanwords, native words with those sounds are rare and mostly onomatopoeic.


W, E and Tr. refer to the Western, Eastern and Transitional dialects.


Case endings:

Case Stem ending is consonant Stem ending is vowel other than -a Stem ending is -a
Sg. Direct (Nominative) - - -a
Sg. Oblique -i -y -ay (W), -e (E)
Pl. Direct (Nominative) -t -t -ot
Pl. Oblique -ti -ti -oti


  • kat : obl.sg. káti, pl. katt, obl.pl. kátti
  • mayn (W) / men (E) : obl.sg. máyni/méni, pl. maynt/ment, obl.pl. máynti/ménti
  • póda : obl.sg. póday/póde, pl. pódot, obl.pl. pódoti
  • ?alló : obl.sg. ?allóy, pl. ?allót, obl.pl. ?allóti
  • zindag : obl.sg. zindagy, pl. zindagt, obl.pl. zindagti
  • mórti : obl.sg. mórtiy, pl. mórtit, obl.pl. mórtiti
  • Also, the izofa construction is used in Yaghnobi and appears in phrases and constructions adopted from Tajik or with words of Tajik origin.


Person Nominative Singular Oblique Singular Enclitic Singular Nominative Plural Oblique Plural Enclitic Plural
1st man man -(i)m mox mox -(i)mox
2nd tu taw -(i)t ?umóx ?umóx -?int
3rd ax, i? áwi, (aw), íti, (?d) -(i)? áxtit, í?tit áwtiti, ítiti -?int

The second person plural, ?umóx also finds use as the polite form of the second person.


Eastern Yaghnobi Western Yaghnobi Tajik loan
1 ? ? yak, yag, ya
2 d? d? du
3 saráy t?ráy se, say
4 tafór t?fór, t?fór ?or
5 pan? pan? pan?
6 ux? ux? ?i?, ?a?
7 avd aft haft
8 a?t a?t ha?t
9 nau? nau? nu?
10 das das da?
11 das ? das ? yozdá?
12 das d? das d? d?wozdá?
13 das saráy das t?ráy senzdá?
14 das tafór das t?fór / t?fór ?ordá?
15 das pan? das pan? ponzdá?
16 das ux? das ux? ?onzdá?
17 das avd das aft habdá?, havdá?
18 das a?t das a?t ha?dá?
19 das nau? das nau? n?zdá?
20 b?st
30 bst-at das bst-at das s?
40 d? b?st d? b?st ?il
50 d? nma b?st d? nma b?st pin?ó?, pan?ó?
60 saráy b?st t?ráy b?st ?ast
70 saráy nma b?st t?ráy nma b?st, t?ráy bst-u das haftód
80 tafór b?st t?fór / t?fór b?st ha?tód
90 tafór nma b?st t?fór / t?fór nma b?st navád
100 sad
1000 hazór


Personal endings - present:

Person Singular Plural
1st -omi?t -?mi?t
2nd -t -ti?t (W, Tr.), -si?t (E)
3rd -ti?t (W), -?i (E, Tr.) -o?t

Personal endings - preterite (with augment a-):

Person Singular Plural
1st a- -im a- -om (W), a- -?m (E, Tr.)
2nd a- -? a- -ti (W, Tr.), a- -si (E)
3rd a- - a- -or

By adding the ending -i?t (-?t after a vowel; but -or+i?t > -o?t) to the preterite, the durative preterite is formed.

The present participle is formed by adding -na to the verbal stem. Past participle (or perfect participle) is formed by addition of -ta to the stem.

The infinitive is formed by addition of ending -ak to the verbal stem.

Negation is formed by prefix na-, in combination with augment in preterite it changes to n?-.

The copula is this:

Person Singular Plural
1st ?m om
2nd i?t ot (W, Tr.), os (E)
3rd ast, -x, xast, ásti, xásti or


Knowledge of Yaghnobi lexicon comes from three main works: from a Yaghnobi-Russian dictionary presented in Yaghnobi Texts by Andreyev and Peereva and then from a supplementary word list presented in Yaghnobi Grammar by Xromov. The last work is Yaghnobi-Tajik Dictionary compiled by Xromov's student, Sayfidd?n M?rzozoda, himself a Yaghnobi native speaker. Yaghnobi Tajik words represent the majority of the lexicon (some 60%), followed by words of Turkic origin (up to 5%, mainly from Uzbek) and a few Russian words (about 2%; through the Russian language, also many international words came to Yaghnobi). Only a third of the lexicon is of Eastern-Iranian origin and can be easily comparable to those known from Sogdian, Ossetian, the Pamir languages or Pashto.

Sample texts

A group of Yaghnobi-speaking schoolchildren from Tajikistan
Latin Fál?ar-at Yá?nob asos láfz-?int ?-x gumn, néki áxtit tok-pi wó(v)o?t, mox ya?nob-pi. 'Mtif' wó(v)omi?t, áxtit 'Mu?dív' wó(v)o?t.
Cyrillic , ? , . '' ?, '' .
IPA ['falrat? 'jnb as'si: 'lafznt? 'i:? 'mo:n 'ne:c?e 'tt? tdi?'c?i:p?e 'o:t? mo:? jn'bi:p?e 'my:tf 'o:mt? 'tt? m'd?v 'o:t?]
Translation In Falghar and in Yaghnob it is certainly one basic language, but they speak Tajik and we speak Yaghnobi. We say 'Mü?tif', they say 'Mu?div'.

An anecdote about Nasreddin

Latin Cyrillic IPA Translation
Nasriddn ? x?d ?i bozór ux? tangái axirn. ? . [nasre?'d:i:n 'i: '?u:d 't b'zo:r ' t?a?'?a?j ?'ri:n] Nasreddin bought a tubeteika at the bazaar for six tangas.
Kaxík woxúrd? av, ?áwi apursó?t: ? , ? : [c?a'?ec? ?'rd a've?: | 't?ae apr'so:?t] Everyone he met asked him:
"X?d ?of p?l axirn" " " ['?u:d 't?o:f 'p?u:l ?'ri:ne] "How much money have you bought the tubeteika for?"
Nasriddn ipi? ?awób atifár, dúipi? ?awób atifár, tiráyipi? ?awób atifár, a?ór: , , , ?: [nasre?'d:i:n 'i:jp?e d?a'o:b at'far | 'dje?p?e d?a'o:b at'far | t'raje?p?e d?a'o:b at'far | ?'?o:r] Nasreddin answered to the first of them, he answered to the second of them, he answered to the third of them, than he said,
"Hámaipi ?awób tifaróm, z?q vómi?t." "? ?, ." ['hama?jp?e? d?a'o:b tfa'ro?:m | 'zeq? 'vo?:mt?] "If I answer to everyone, I will go crazy."
Ax x?d? ?i sar? anós, bozórisa adáu?, fayród akún: ? ? ?, ?, ?: ['a? '?u:d 't 'sar? a'no:s | b'zo:r?sa a'dau? | fai?'ro:d a'kn] He took the tubeteika off his head, ran to the bazaar, and cried,
"E odámt! "? ! ['e?'damt?] "Hey, people!
Daràu?-daráwi maydónisa ?au?t, ?yóka m v?t! - ?, ? ? ?! [dar?au?-da'rae mai?'do:ne?sa 'au?t? | i?j'o:c?a 'd:m 'vy:t?] Go quickly to the square, gather somewhere over there!
Kattóti ?umóxpi árk?int ast!" ? ? ? ." [c?a't?:o:t?e? ?'mo:?p?e? 'arc?nt ?ast?] The Big Ones have something to deal with you."
Odámt hamá? maydóni ?yóka m avór, áni ?áhri hi?úxs nàapiráxs. ? ? ? ?, . ['damt? ha'ma mai?'do:ne? i?j'o:c?a 'd:m a'vo:r | 'ane? 'ahr? he't?s ?naa?p'ra?s] Everyone had gathered somewhere at the square, no one else had remained in the city.
Nasriddn balandi sári asán, fayród akún: ? ?, ?: [nasre?'d:i:n balan'di:j 'sare? a'san | fai?'ro:d a'kn] Nasreddin came upon a high place, and cried:
"E odámt, ?iríft, nihí? x?d man ux? tangái axirnim." "? , , ." ['e?'damt? | 're?ft? | n'he? 'd 'man ' t?a?'?a?j ?'ri:ne?m] "Hey people, to let you know, I bought this tubeteika for six tangas."


  1. ^ Yaghnobi at Ethnologue (23nd ed., 2020)
  2. ^ Gernot Windfuhr, 2009, "Dialectology and Topics", The Iranian Languages, Routledge
  3. ^ Paul Bergne (15 June 2007). The Birth of Tajikistan: National Identity and the Origins of the Republic. I.B.Tauris. pp. 6-. ISBN 978-1-84511-283-7.
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Yagnobi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ Also rendered Yaghnabi, Yagnobi or Yagnabi; - ya?nob zivók (in Tajik variant of Cyrillic script [jn?:'bi: z'vo:k?], Russian ? jagnobskij jazyk, Tajik zabon-i ya?nobî, Persian ? zæbn-e yæ?nb?, Ossetic æ? ja?nobag ævzag, German Jaghnobisch, Czech jaghnób?tina, Slovak jagnób?ina, Ukrainian ? jahnobs'ka mova, Polish jagnobski j?zyk, Croatian jagnopski jezik, Greek ?, , Turkish yagnabca, yagnobca, yagnob dili; linguistic abbreviation: YAGH
  6. ^ Bielmeier. R. Yaghnobi in Encyclopedia Iranica
  7. ^ See ?. ?. ?: ? ? ? ?. In? ? ? - ?, ?. IX - 1938 - ? - ? - ?. Akademijaji Fanho SSSR: Asarhoji ?azaji Toçikiston, çildi IX - Tarix - za?on - ada?ijot. - (: ? ?), 1940. 104-117.
  8. ^ The Cyrillic Tajik alphabet-based script was invented by Sayfidd?n M?rzozoda in the 1990s.
  9. ^ ?. ?. ?, ? , ? () 1970, pp. 38-39


(M. S. Andrejev, Je. M. Peereva, Jagnobskije teksty s prilo?enijem jagnobsko-russkogo slovarja, Moskva - Leningrad 1957) (in Russian)

  • ?. ?. , () ?. ? . ? ? ?, 1956

(M. N.Bogoljubov, Jagnobskij /novosogdijskij/ jazyk. Issledovanija i materialy. Avtoreferat na soiskanije u?enoj stepeni doktora filologi?eskix nauk, Leningrad 1956) (in Russian)

(M. N. Bogoljubov: Jagnobskij jazyk. In: V. V. Vinogradov (ed.): Jazyki narodov SSSR. Tom pervyj: Indojevropejskije jazyki. Moskva, 1966, p. 342-361) (in Russian)

  • ?. , , ? 1998.

(S. Mirzozoda, Ya?nob? zivok, Du?anbe 1998) (in Tajik)

  • ?. , - , ? 2002.

(S. Mirzozoda, Lu?at-i ya?nob? - tojik?, Du?anbe 2002) (in Tajik)

(?. Novák: Yaghnobi-Czech Dictionary with an Outline of Yaghnobi Grammar. Praha 2010) (in Czech)

(A. L. Xromov, Jagnobskij jazyk, Moskva 1972) (in Russian)

(A. L. Xromov, Jagnobskij jazyk. In. V. S. Rastorgujeva (ed.): Osnovy iranskogo jazykoznanija. Novoiranskije jazyki II. - Vosto?naja gruppa. Moskva 1987, p. 644-701.) (in Russian)

External links

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