Burushaski language

Burushaski language

region=Northern Areas, Pakistan,
Jammu & Kashmir
speakers=87,000 (2000)

Burushaski ( _ur. بروشسکی - burū́šaskī) is a language isolate not known to be related to any other language of the world. [ [http://original.britannica.com/eb/article-9018245/ Burushaski language, Encyclopædia Britannica online] ] It is spoken by some 87,000 (as of 2000) Burusho people in the Hunza, Nagar, Yasin, and parts of the Gilgit valleys in the Northern Areas in Pakistan. It is also spoken by some 300 speakers in Srinagar, India. [ [http://linguistlist.org/pubs/diss/browse-diss-action.cfm?DissID=14723 Linguist List - Dissertation Abstracts ] ] Other names for the language are Kanjut (Kunjoot), Werchikwār, Boorishki, Brushas (Brushias) and Miśa:ski.

Today Burushaski contains numerous loanwords from Urdu (including English and Sanskrit words received via Urdu), and from neighbouring Dardic languages such as Khowar and Shina, as well as a few from Turkic languages and from the neighboring Sino-Tibetan language Balti, but the original vocabulary remains largely intact. The Dardic languages also contain large numbers of loanwords from Burushaski.

There are three divergent dialects, named after the main valleys: Hunza, Nagar, and Yasin (also called Werchikwār). The dialect of Yasin is thought to be the least affected by contact with neighboring languages and is generally less similar to the other two than those are to each other; nevertheless all three dialects are mutually intelligible.


No connection has been established between Burushaski and any other language or language family. Several attempts have been made to establish a genealogic relationship between Burushaski and the Caucasic languages, [John Bengtson, "Ein vergleich von buruschaski und nordkaukasisch," Georgica 20, 1997, 88-94 [http://jdbengt.net/biblio.htm] ] or to include Burushaski in the Dené-Caucasian proposal. [John Bengtson, "Some features of Dene-Caucasian phonology (with special reference to Basque)." Cahiers de l’Institut de Linguistique de Louvain (CILL) 30.4: 33-54,] [John Bengtson and V. Blazek, "Lexica Dene-Caucasica". Central Asiatic Journal 39, 1995, 11-50 & 161-164 ] George van Driem attempted to establish links between Burushaski and Yeniseian (another putative member of Dene-Caucasian) in a language family he calls "Karasuk." However, in 2008 Yeniseian was convincingly shown to be related to Na-Dene in a Dene-Yeniseian family, and the evidence does not appear to extend to Burushaski. An attempt to link Burushaski to the Paleo-Balkan and Balto-Slavic languages has also been made. [Čašule 1998, 2003a, 2003b, 2004] None of these efforts have met with scholarly acceptance.

Following Berger (1956), the "American Heritage" dictionaries suggested that the word "*abel" (apple), the only name for a fruit (tree) reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European, may have been borrowed from a language ancestral to Burushaski. (Today "apple" and "apple tree" are /balt/ in Burushaski.) Others, however, reconstruct the Proto-Indo-European word for "apple (tree)" as "*mel-", while yet others don't think Proto-Indo-European had a word for "apple" at all and consider the different words of different Indo-European subgroups to be separate loans from different unidentified non-Indo-European languages.

Writing system

Usually Burushaski is not written. Occasionally, the Urdu version of the Arabic alphabet is used, but a fixed orthography does not exist. Partawi Shah has written poetry in Burushaski in the Arabic alphabet.

Tibetan sources record a "Bru-sá" language of the Gilgit valley, which appears to have been Burushaski. The "Bru-sá" are credited with bringing the Bön religion to Tibet and Central Asia, and their script is alleged to have been the ancestor of the Tibetan alphabet. Thus Burushaski may once have been a significant literary language. However, no "Bru-sá" manuscripts are known to have survived. [George van Driem, "Languages of the Himalayas," Brill 2001]

Linguists working on Burushaski use various makeshift transcriptions based on the Latin alphabet, most commonly that by Berger (see below), in their publications. The Burushaski Research Academy, in cooperation with Karachi University, has recently published the first volume (A to unicode|C̣) of a Burushaski-Urdu Dictionary using this transcription.


Burushaski primarily has five vowels, /i e a o u/. Various contractions result in long vowels; stressed vowels (marked with acute accents in Berger's transcription) tend to be longer and less "open" than unstressed ones ( [i e a o u] as opposed to IPA| [ɪ ɛ ʌ ɔ ʊ] ). Long vowels also occur in loans and in a few onomatopoeic words (Grune 1998). All vowels have nasal counterparts in Hunza (in some expressive words) and in Nager (also in proper names and a few other words).

In addition, Berger (1998) finds the following consonants to be phonemic, shown below in his transcription and in the :

The regular endings /-ul-e/ and /-ul-ar/ are archaic and are now replaced by /-ul-o/ and /-ar-ulo/ respectively.

Pronouns and pronominal prefixes

Nouns indicating parts of the body and kinship terms are accompanied by an obligatory pronominal prefix. Thus, one cannot simply say 'mother' or 'arm' in Burushaski, but only 'my arm', 'your mother', 'his father', etc. For example, the root "mi" 'mother', is never found in isolation, instead one finds:

*"i-mi" 'his mother', "mu-mi" 'their mother' (3f sg.), "u-mi" 'your mother' (3h pl.), "u-mi-tsaro" 'their mothers'(3h pl.).

The pronominal, or personal, prefixes agree with the person, number and - in the third person, the class of their noun. A summary of the basic forms is given in the following table:

Formation of tenses and moods

The formation of the tenses and moods involves the use of several positions, or slots, in complicated wase. The preterite, perfect, pluperfect and conative are formed from the 'simple stem,' whereas the present, imperfect, future and conditional are formed from the 'present stem,' which is itself formed from the simple stem by placing -č- in position 7. The optative and imperative are derived directly from the stem. Altogether, the schema is as follows:

The formation of the tenses and moods of the verb "her" 'to cry', without prefixes:

*Simple stem tenses

Indication of the subject and object

The subject and object of the verb are indicated by the use of personal prefixes and suffixes in positions 3, 8 and 10 as follows:

For example, the construction of the preterite of the transitive verb "phus" 'to tie', with prefixes and suffixes separated by hyphens, is as follows :

*"i-phus-i-m-i" > he ties him (filled positions: 3-5-8-9-10)
*"mu-phus-i-m-i" > he ties her (f)
*"u-phus-i-m-i" > he ties them (pl. hx)
*"mi-phus-i-m-i" > he ties us

*"i-phus-i-m-an" > we/you/they tie him.
*"mi-phus-i-m-an" > you/they tie us
*"i-phus-i-m-a" > i tie it
*"gu-phus-i-m-a" > i tie you

The personal affixes are also used when the noun occupies the role of the subject or the object, e.g. "hir i-ír-i-mi" 'the man died'. With intransitive verbs, the subject function is indicated by both a prefix and a suffix, as in:

*"gu-ir-č-u-m-a" „you will die“ (future)
*"i-ghurts-i-m-i" „he sank“ (preterite)

Personal prefixes do not occur in all verbs and all tenses. Some verbs do not admit personal prefixes, others still do so only under certain circumstances. Personal prefixes used with intransitive verbs often express a volitional function, with prefixed forms indicating an action contrary to the intention of the subject. For example:

*"hurúţ-i-m-i" 'he sat down' (volitional action without prefix)
*"i-ír-i-m-i" 'he died' (involuntary action with prefix)
*"ghurts-i-mi" 'he went willingly underwater', 'he dove' (without prefix)
*"i-ghurts-i-m-i" 'he went unwillingly underwater', 'he sank' (with prefix)

The d-prefix

A number of verbs - mostly according to their root form - are found with the d-prefix in position 2, which occurs before a consonant according to vowel harmony. The precise semantic function of the d-prefix is unclear. With primary transitive verbs the d-prefix, always without personal prefixes, forms regular intransitives. Examples:

*"i-phalt-i-mi" „he breaks it open“ (transitive)
*"du-phalt-as" „to break open, to explode“ (intransitive)

See also

* Partawi Shah



*Anderson, Gregory D. S. 1997. Burushaski Morphology. Pages 1021–1041 in volume 2 of "Morphologies of Asia and Africa", ed. by Alan Kaye. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.
*Anderson, Gregory D. S. 1999. M. Witzel’s "South Asian Substrate Languages" from a Burushaski Perspective. "Mother Tongue" (Special Issue, October 1999).
*Anderson, Gregory D. S. forthcoming b. Burushaski. In "Language Islands: Isolates and Microfamilies of Eurasia", ed. by D.A. Abondolo. London: Curzon Press.
*Backstrom, Peter C. "Burushaski" in Backstrom and Radloff (eds.), "Languages of northern areas, Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, 2. Islamabad", National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Qaid-i-Azam University and Summer Institute of Linguistics (1992), 31-54.
*Bashir, Elena. 2000. A Thematic Survey of Burushaski Research. "History of Language" 6.1: 1–14.
*Bengtson, John D. 2001. Genetic and Cultural Linguistic Links between Burushaski and the Caucasian Languages and Basque. (Paper presented at the 3rd Harvard Round Table on Ethnogenesis of South and Central Asia, Harvard University, May 13, 2001.)
*Berger, Hermann. 1956. Mittelmeerische Kulturpflanzennamen aus dem Burušaski [Names of Mediterranean cultured plants from B.] . "Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft" 9: 4-33.
*Berger, Hermann. 1959. Die Burušaski-Lehnwörter in der Zigeunersprache [The B. loanwords in the Gypsy language] . Indo-Iranian Journal 3.1: 17-43.
*Berger, Hermann. 1974. "Das Yasin-Burushaski (Werchikwar)". Volume 3 of "Neuindische Studien", ed. by Hermann Berger, Lothar Lutze and Günther Sontheimer. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
*Berger, Hermann. 1998. "Die Burushaski-Sprache von Hunza und Nager" [The B. language of H. and N.] . Three volumes: "Grammatik" [grammar] , "Texte mit Übersetzungen" [texts with translations] , "Wörterbuch" [dictionary] . Altogether Volume 13 of "Neuindische Studien" (ed. by Hermann Berger, Heidrun Brückner and Lothar Lutze). Wiesbaden: Otto Harassowitz.
*Čašule, Ilija. 1998. [http://www.ling.ed.ac.uk/linguist/issues/16/16-1975.html Basic Burushaski Etymologies: The Indo-European and Paleo-Balkanic Affinities of Burushaski] . LINCOM Etymological Studies 01. Munich: LINCOM Europa.
*Čašule, Ilija. 2003a."Burushaski Names of Body Parts of Indo-European Origin". Central Asiatic Journal. 47/1: 15-74.
*Čašule, Ilija. 2003b. "Evidence for the Indo-European Laryngeals in Burushaski and Its Genetic Affiliation with Indo-European". Journal of Indoeuropean Studies. 31/1-2 : 21-86.
*Čašule, Ilija. 2004. "Burushaski-Phrygian Lexical Correspondences in Ritual, Burial, Myth and Onomastics". Central Asiatic Journal. 48/1: 50-104.
*van Driem, George. 2001. "Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region, containing an Introduction to the Symbiotic Theory of Language" (2 vols.). Leiden: Brill.
*Greenberg, Joseph H., and Merritt Ruhlen. 1992. Linguistic Origins of Native Americans. "Scientific American" 267(5): 94–99.
*Grune, Dick. 1998. [http://www.few.vu.nl/~dick/Summaries/Languages/Burushaski.pdf Burushaski – An Extraordinary Language in the Karakoram Mountains] .
*Lorimer, D. L. R. 1935–1938. "The Burushaski Language" (3 vols.). Oslo: Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning.
*Morgenstierne, Georg. 1945. Notes on Burushaski Phonology. "Norsk Tidsskrift for Sprogvidenskap" 13: 61–95.
*Munshi, Sadaf. 2006. "Jammu and Kashmir Burushaski: Language, language contact, and change." Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation. Austin: University of Texas at Austin, Department of Linguistics.
*van Skyhawk, Hugh. 2003. Burushaski-Texte aus Hispar. Materialien zum Verständnis einer archaischen Bergkultur in Nordpakistan. "Beiträge zur Indologie" 38. ISBN 3-447-04645-7.
*Starostin, Sergei A. 1996. Comments on the Basque-Dene-Caucasian Comparisons. "Mother Tongue" 2: 101–109.
*Tiffou, Étienne. 1993. "Hunza Proverbs". University of Calgary Press. ISBN 1-895176-29-8
*Tiffou, Étienne. 1999. "Parlons Bourouchaski". Paris: L'Harmattan. ISBN 2-7384-7967-7
*Tiffou, Étienne. 2000. Current Research in Burushaski: A Survey. "History of Language" 6(1): 15–20.
*Tikkanen, Bertil. 1988. On Burushaski and other ancient substrata in northwest South Asia. "Studia Orientalia" 64: 303–325.
*Varma, Siddheshwar. 1941. Studies in Burushaski Dialectology. "Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, Letters" 7: 133–173.
*Witzel, Michael. 1999. Early Sources for South Asian Substrate Languages. "Mother Tongue" (Special Issue, October 1999): 1–70.

External links

* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=bsk SIL Ethnologue entry]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Burushaski language —       language spoken by the Burusho people living in the Gilgit territory of northwestern Kashmir. Burushaski is a “language isolate,” not known to be related to any other language of the world.       Among the grammatical characteristics of… …   Universalium

  • Burushaski — Gesprochen in Pakistan Sprecher 100.000 Linguistische Klassifikation Isolierte Sprache Burushaski …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Burushaski — Bourouchaski Bourouchaski Parlée au Pakistan Nombre de locuteurs 87000 Classification par famille     Hors classification (isolats)        Bourouchaski (Dérivée de la classification …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Language isolate — A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical (or genetic ) relationship with other living languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common to any other …   Wikipedia

  • burushaski — ˌbu̇rəˈshäskē noun ( s) Usage: usually capitalized : a language of unknown affinity spoken in northwestern Kashmir, India * * * /boor euh shah skee/, n. a language of NW Kashmir, not known to be related to any other language …   Useful english dictionary

  • Burushaski — /boor euh shah skee/, n. a language of NW Kashmir, not known to be related to any other language. * * * …   Universalium

  • Burushaski — noun A language of NW Kashmir, not known to be related to any other language …   Wiktionary

  • language — Synonyms and related words: Abnaki, Afghan, Afghani, Afrikaans, Afro Asiatic, Ainu, Akan, Akkadian, Albanian, Aleut, Algonquian, Algonquin, Amharic, Anatolian, Anatolic, Andaman, Annamese, Anzanite, Apache, Arabic, Aramaic, Araucanian, Arawak,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • Burushaski — ISO 639 3 Code : bsk ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Idioma burushaski — Burushaski روشسکی , burūšaskī Hablado en  Pakistán Región Territorios del Norte (Pakistán) Hablantes 87 …   Wikipedia Español

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.