Monday, December 11

The Influence of The Tajik Language on The Vocalism of Central Asian Arabic Dialects

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The Influence of the Tajik Language on the Vocalism of Central Asian Arabic Dialects

Central Asia has seen a great deal of Arabic influence on the region; the Arabs were able to conquer a great deal of the region and so introducing their own language onto the people was only to be expected. However, over the centuries the Central Asian Arabs have lost their language to the point where only small pockets of them speak the language.

There are two independent dialects spoken by the Central Asia Arabs, the Bukhara dialect and the Qashqa-darya dialect. These dialects are widely dissimilar and one speaker will not understand the other so that when these Central Asian Arabs met, they prefer to talk in the Tajik or Uzbek languages.

The Tajik language has had a great deal of influence on the Central Asian Arabic dialects, especially on the vocalism. For example, in both dialects of Central Asian Arabic /a/ is in some cases represented by an open low non-labial /a/, qualitatively close to the Tajik short /a/  – “ndm ‘he slept’, safu ‘he saw him ‘; Sdlu ‘he lifted it ‘, jabu ‘he brought it’, saddaha 9 he tied her ‘, imbdn (< inbdn) ‘it appeared’, sdr ‘he was going’, mdl ‘property’, nds ‘ people ‘, sib’dn ‘wealthy’ (literally ‘replete ‘), kalbdt 10 (pl. of kalba) ‘ dogs ‘, ista’ ‘winter’, tdffdh ‘ apple ‘, salas ‘three’, bdki participle of the verb baka ‘ to cry ‘, gidddm ‘in front of’, etc”.

In Common Arabic, this /a/ changes to /o/ in Central Asian Arabic. This is a labial mid back vowel, close to Tajik /O/ in such words as dodar ‘brother’, toqat ‘ patience’. This change of sound in the Bukhara dialect, not only with borrowed words (such as bog ‘garden’, bogbon’ gardener’, bozor ‘bazaar’ etc) but also with many Arabic words, such as kon ‘he was’.

“The pronunciation of original /a/ as /o/ in Central Asian Arabic cannot be explained otherwise than by the influence of the Tajik language. In the latter, as is well known, Middle Persian and New Persian /a/ is represented by /o/ with which the Central Asian Arabic /o/ is identical (in modern Tajik orthography, based on the Russian alphabet, it is written o). The CAD [Central Asian Dialect], as already mentioned, have become almost completely dissolved in the Tajik dialects, and in those few places where they have been preserved, the influence of this language is very considerable. At the same time it must be noticed that these Arabs are bilingual, sometimes even trilingual, and in their social life along with Arabic they use Tajik and sometimes Uzbek as well. In the Tajik language itself, as is well known, many Arabic words are used which have been preserved in Arabic dialects too, and it is natural that Arabs when speaking Arabic, should pronounce them in the same way as when they speak Tajik and in the same manner as Tajiks themselves pronounce them. Therefore there can be no doubt that the pronunciation of /o/ in the words dawo’, samo’, ‘aso’, zino’, salo’, tillo’, etc., is due to Tajik influence”.

Understanding the basis of any language can be a tricky thing for people; languages evolve and change due to language contacts and areal linguistics, as we can see here.


Tsereteli, George V. (1970) The Influence of the Tajik Language on the Vocalism of Central Asian Arabic Dialects, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies.


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