Indo-Iranian languages

The Indo-Iranian languages, Indo-Iranic languages,[2][3] or Aryan languages[4] constitute the largest and southeasternmost extant branch of the Indo-European language family. It has more than 1.5 billion speakers, stretching from Europe (Romani), Turkey (Kurdish and Zaza–Gorani) and the Caucasus (Ossetian) eastward to Xinjiang (Sarikoli) and Assam (Assamese), and south to Sri Lanka (Sinhalese) and the Maldives (Maldivian). Furthermore, there are large communities of Indo-Iranian speakers in northwestern Europe (the United Kingdom), North America and Australia.

The common ancestor of all of the languages in this family is called Proto-Indo-Iranian—also known as Common Aryan—which was spoken in approximately the late 3rd millennium BC. The three branches of the modern Indo-Iranian languages are Indo-Aryan, Iranian, and Nuristani. Additionally, sometimes a fourth independent branch, Dardic, is posited, but recent scholarship in general places Dardic languages as archaic members of the Indo-Aryan branch.[5]

South, Central, Western Asia, South East Europe and the Caucasus / Total speakers = approximately 1.5 billion in 15 countries
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
  • Indo-Iranian
ISO 639-5iir
The approximate present-day distribution of the Indo-European branches of Eurasia:


Indo-Iranian languages
Chart classifying Indo-Iranian languages within the Indo-European language family
Lenguas indoiranias
Distribution of the Indo-Iranian languages

The Indo-Iranian languages consist of three groups:

Most of the largest languages (in terms of speakers) are a part of the Indo-Aryan group: Hindustani (Urdu/Hindi), (~590 million[6]), Bengali (205 million[7]), Punjabi (100 million), Marathi (75 million), Gujarati (50 million), Bhojpuri (40 million), Awadhi (40 million), Maithili (35 million), Odia (35 million), Marwari (30 million), Sindhi (25 million), Assamese (24 million), Rajasthani (20 million), Chhattisgarhi (18 million), Sinhalese (19 million), Nepali (17 million), Bishnupuriya (12 million)[8] and Rangpuri (15 million). Among the Iranian branch, major languages are Persian (60 million), Pashto (ca. 50 million), Kurdish (35 million),[9] and Balochi (8 million), with a total number of native speakers of more than 1471 million. Numerous smaller languages exist.


The common proto-language of the Indo-Iranian languages is Proto-Indo-Iranian, which has been reconstructed.

The oldest attested Indo-Iranian languages are Vedic Sanskrit (ancient Indo-Aryan), Older and Younger Avestan and Old Persian (ancient Iranian languages). A few words from another Indo-Aryan language (see Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni) are attested in documents from the ancient Mitanni and Hittite kingdoms in the Near East.


Innovations shared with other languages affected by the satem sound changes include:

  • Fronting and assibilation of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) palato-velar stops: *kʲ, *gʲʰ, *gʲ > *t͡ʃ, *d͡ʒʰ, *d͡ʒ
  • The merger of the PIE labiovelar and plain velar stops: *kʷ, *gʷʰ, *gʷ > *k, *gʰ, *g
  • The Ruki sound law

Innovations shared with Greek include:

  • The vocalization of the PIE syllabic nasals *m̥, *n̥ to *a (may be independent developments)
  • Grassmann's law (may be independent developments)

Innovations unique to Indo-Iranian include:

  • The lowering of PIE *e to *a
    • *o was also lowered to *a, though this occurred in several other Indo-European languages as well.
  • Brugmann's law


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Indo-Iranian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ D. D. Mahulkar (1990). Pre-Pāṇinian Linguistic Studies. Northern Book Centre. ISBN 978-81-85119-88-5.
  3. ^ Annarita Puglielli; Mara Frascarelli (2011). Linguistic Analysis: From Data to Theory. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-022250-0.
  4. ^ Numeral Types and Changes Worldwide, by Jadranka (EDT) Gvozdanovic, Language Arts & Disciplines,1999, Page 221. Retrieved 2013-01-02.: "The usage of 'Aryan languages' is not to be equated with Indo-Aryan languages, rather Indo-Iranic languages of which Indo-Aryan is a subgrouping."
  5. ^ Bashir, Elena (2007). Jain, Danesh; Cardona, George, eds. The Indo-Aryan languages. p. 905. ISBN 978-0415772945. 'Dardic' is a geographic cover term for those Northwest Indo-Aryan languages which [..] developed new characteristics different from the IA languages of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Although the Dardic and Nuristani (previously 'Kafiri') languages were formerly grouped together, Morgenstierne (1965) has established that the Dardic languages are Indo-Aryan, and that the Nuristani languages constitute a separate subgroup of Indo-Iranian.
  6. ^ Edwards, Viv. "Urdu Today". BBC.
  7. ^ Thompson, Irene. "Bengali". AboutWorldLanguages. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  8. ^
  9. ^ CIA- The World Factbook: 14.7 million in Turkey (18%)[1], 4.9–6.5 million in Iraq (15-20%)[2], 8 million in Iran (10%)"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 February 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) (all for 2014), plus several million in Syria, neighboring countries, and the diaspora


External links

Askunu language

Âṣkuňu is a language of Afghanistan spoken by the Ashkun people – also known as the Âṣku, Ashku, Askina, Saňu, Sainu, Yeshkun, Wamas, or Grâmsaňâ – from the region of the central Pech Valley around Wâmâ and in some eastern tributary valleys of the upper Alingar River in Afghanistan's Nuristan province. Other major places where the language of Ashkun is spoken are Nuristan Province, Pech Valley in Wama District, eastern side of the Lower Alingar Valley in Nurgaram and Duab districts, Malil wa Mushfa, Titin, Kolatan and Bajagal valleys.

It is classified as member of the Nuristani sub-family of the Indo-Iranian languages.

Augment (linguistics)

In linguistics, the augment is a syllable added to the beginning of the word in certain Indo-European languages, most notably Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian languages such as Sanskrit, to form the past tenses.


Avestan , also known historically as Zend, refers to two languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium BCE). The languages are known only from their use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture (the Avesta), from which they derive their name. Both are early Iranian languages, a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages within the Indo-European family. Its immediate ancestor was the Proto-Iranian language, a sister language to the Proto-Indo-Aryan language, with both having developed from the earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian. As such, Old Avestan is quite close in grammar and lexicon with Vedic Sanskrit, the oldest preserved Indo-Aryan language.

The Avestan text corpus was composed in ancient Arachosia, Aria, Bactria, and Margiana, corresponding to the entirety of present-day Afghanistan, and parts of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Yaz culture of Bactria-Margiana has been regarded as a likely archaeological reflection of the early "Eastern Iranian" culture described in the Avesta.

Avestan's status as a sacred language has ensured its continuing use for new compositions long after the language ceased to be a living language.

Bartholomae's law

Bartholomae's law (named after the German Indo-Europeanist Christian Bartholomae) is an early Indo-European (PIE) sound law affecting the Indo-Iranian family. It states that in a cluster of two or more obstruents (stops or the sibilant *s), any one of which is a voiced aspirated stop anywhere in the sequence, the whole cluster becomes voiced and aspirated. Thus to the PIE root *bʰewdʰ- "learn, become aware of" the participle *bʰudʰ-to- "enlightened" loses the aspiration of the first stop (Grassmann's law) and with the application of Bartholomae's law and regular vowel changes gives Sanskrit buddha "enlightened".

Brugmann's law

Brugmann's law, named for Karl Brugmann, is a sound law stating that in the Indo-Iranian languages, the earlier Proto-Indo-European *o normally became *a in Proto-Indo-Iranian but *ā in open syllables if it was followed by one consonant and another vowel. For example, the Proto-Indo-European noun for 'wood' was *dόru, which in Vedic became dāru. Everywhere else, the outcome was *a, the same as the reflexes of PIE *e and *a.

Dardic languages

The Dardic languages (also Dardu or Pisaca) are a sub-group of the Indo-Aryan languages natively spoken in northern Pakistan's Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northern India's Jammu and Kashmir, and eastern Afghanistan. Kashmiri/Koshur is the most prominent Dardic language, with an established literary tradition and official recognition as one of the official languages of India.

Direct case

A direct case (abbreviated DIR) is a grammatical case used with all three core relations: both the agent and patient of transitive verbs and the argument of intransitive verbs, though not always at the same time. The direct case contrasts with other cases in the language, typically oblique or genitive.

The direct case is often imprecisely called the "nominative" in South Asia and "absolutive" in the Philippines, but linguists typically reserve those terms for grammatical cases that have a narrower scope. (See nominative case and absolutive case.) A direct case is found in several Indo-Iranian languages, there it may contrast with an oblique case that marks some core relations, so the direct case does not cover all three roles in the same tense. For example, Dixon describes "proto-Pamir" as having, in the present tense, the direct case for S and A and the oblique case for O (a nominative–accusative alignment), and, in the past tense, the direct for S and O and the oblique for A (an absolutive–ergative alignment). Because of this split (see split ergativity), neither "nominative" nor "absolutive" is an adequate description of the direct case, just as neither "accusative" nor "ergative" is an adequate description of the oblique case.

The Scottish Gaelic nominative case is also an example of a direct case, which evolved as the accusative became indistinguishable in both speech and writing from the nominative as a result of phonetic change. The situation in the Irish language is similar, though some pronouns retain a distinction (e.g. "you" (singular) - nominative tú, accusative thú)

In languages of the Philippines, and in related languages with Austronesian alignment, the direct case is the case of the argument of an intransitive clause (S), and may be used for either argument of a transitive clause (agent or patient), depending on the voice of the verb. The other transitive argument will be in either the ergative or accusative case if different cases are used for those roles. In languages where a single case is used for the other argument, as in Tagalog, it is called the indirect case. This is analogous to the direct–oblique distinction in proto-Pamir, but with the split conditioned by voice rather than by tense.

East Indies

The East Indies or the Indies are the lands of South and Southeast Asia. In a more restricted sense, the Indies can be used to refer to the islands of Southeast Asia, especially the Indonesian Archipelago and the Philippine Archipelago. The name "Indies" is derived from the River Indus and is used to connote parts of Asia that came under Indian cultural influence.

Dutch-occupied colonies in the area were known for about 300 years as the Dutch East Indies before Indonesian independence, while Spanish-occupied colonies were known as the Spanish East Indies before the American conquest and later Philippine independence. The East Indies may also include the former French-occupied Indochina, former British territories Brunei and Singapore and former Portuguese East Timor. It does not, however, include the former Dutch New Guinea western New Guinea (West Papua), which is geographically considered to be part of Melanesia.

The inhabitants of the East Indies are almost never called East Indians, distinguishing them both from inhabitants of the Caribbean (which is also called the West Indies) and from the indigenous peoples of the Americas who are often called "American Indians." In colonial times they were just "natives". However, the peoples of the East Indies comprise a wide variety of cultural diversity, and the inhabitants do not consider themselves as belonging to a single ethnic group. Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism are the most popular religions throughout the region, while Sikhism, Jainism, Chinese folk religion and various other traditional beliefs and practices are also prominent in some areas. The major languages in this area draw from a wide variety of language families, and should not be confused with the term Indic, which refers only to a group of Indo-Iranian languages from South Asia.

The extensive East Indies are subdivided into two sections (from a European perspective), archaically called Hither India and Further India. The first is the former British India, the second is Southeast Asia.

Regions of the East Indies are sometimes known by the colonial empire they once belonged to, hence, British East Indies refers to Malaysia, Dutch East Indies means Indonesia, and Spanish East Indies means the Philippines.

Historically, the king of Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) was identified with "Prester John of the Indies", since that part of the world was imagined to be one of "Three Indias".

Georg Morgenstierne

Georg Valentin von Munthe af Morgenstierne (2 January 1892 Oslo, Norway – 3 March 1978, Oslo, Norway) was a Norwegian professor of linguistics with the University of Oslo (UiO). He specialized in Indo-Iranian languages.

Goaria language

Goaria is a Marwari Rajasthani language spoken by some 25,000 people in Sindh Province, Pakistan. The people are predominantly Hindu, and use the Hindi language for worship.


Graeco-Aryan, or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan, is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family that would be the ancestor of Greek, Armenian, and the Indo-Iranian languages.

Phylogenetic models have been reconstructed on Indo-European populations through comparative studies using both genotyping based on haplotypes, specifically haplogroup R1a, as well as the analysis of their linguistic lexicon.The Graeco-Armeno-Aryan group supposedly branched off from the parent Indo-European stem by the mid-3rd millennium BC.


Indo-Iranian may refer to:

Indo-Iranian languages

Indo-Iranians, the various peoples speaking these languages

Proto-Indo-Iranian religion

India–Iran relations

Indo-Iranian Journal


Indo-Iranian peoples, also known as Indo-Iranic peoples by scholars, and sometimes as Arya or Aryans from their self-designation, are an ethno-linguistic group who brought the Indo-Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, to major parts of Eurasia.


Iranian may refer to:

Iran, a sovereign state

Iranian diaspora, Iranian people living outside Iran

Iranian peoples, the speakers of the Iranian languages. The term Iranic peoples is also used for this term to distinguish the pan ethnic term from Iranian, used for the people of Iran

Iranian languages, a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, also known as The Iranian and The Iranian Times


Kalasha (locally: Kalashamondr) is an Indo-European language in the Indo-Aryan branch spoken by the Kalash people, further classified as a Dardic language in the Chitral group. The Kalasha language is phonologically atypical because it contrasts plain, long, nasal and retroflex vowels as well as combinations of these (Heegård & Mørch 2004).

Kalasha is spoken by the Kalash people who reside in the remote valleys of Bumburet, Birir and Rumbur, which are west of Ayun, which is ten miles down the river from Chitral Town, high in the Hindu Kush mountains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The Kalash have their own religion, with gods and goddesses. There are an estimated 5,000 speakers of Kalasha.Kalasha should not be confused with the nearby Nuristani language Waigali (Kalasha-ala). According to Badshah Munir Bukhari, a researcher on the Kalash, "Kalasha" is also the ethnic name for the Nuristani inhabitants of a region southwest of the Kalasha Valleys, in the Waygal and middle Pech Valleys of Afghanistan's Nuristan Province. The name "Kalasha" seems to have been adopted for the Kalash people by the Kalasha speakers of Chitral from the Nuristanis of Waygal, who for a time expanded up to southern Chitral several centuries ago. However, there is no close connection between the Indo-Aryan language Kalasha-mun (Kalasha) and the Nuristani language Kalasha-ala (Waigali), which descend from different branches of the Indo-Iranian languages.


Mayrhofer is a German surname meaning "from the region of Mayrhof" in Austria. Notable people with the surname include:

Carl Mayrhofer (1837–82), Austrian obstetrician

Johann Mayrhofer (1787–1836), Austrian poet and librettist known for his friendship with Franz Schubert

Manfred Mayrhofer (1926–2011), Austrian linguist who specialized in Indo-Iranian languages

Sabine Mayrhofer-Gritsch (born 1973), Austrian recurve archer

Wolfgang Mayrhofer (born 1958), Austrian sailor who competed in the 1980 Olympic Olympics, academic in the field of management and organisational behaviour

Nuristani languages

The Nuristani languages (Pashto: نورستاني‎) are one of the three groups within the Indo-Iranian language family, alongside the much larger Indo-Aryan and Iranian groups. They have approximately 130,000 speakers primarily in eastern Afghanistan and a few adjacent valleys in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Chitral District, Pakistan. The region inhabited by the Nuristanis is located in the southern Hindukush mountains, and is drained by Alingar River in the west, Pech River in the center, and Landai Sin and Kunar River in the east. The languages were previously often grouped with Indo-Aryan or Iranian until they were finally classified as forming a third branch in Indo-Iranian.

Proto-Indo-Iranian language

Proto-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Indo-Iranic is the reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Iranian/Indo-Iranic branch of Indo-European. Its speakers, the hypothetical Proto-Indo-Iranians, are assumed to have lived in the late 3rd millennium BC, and are often connected with the Sintashta culture of the Eurasian Steppe and the early Andronovo archaeological horizon.

Proto-Indo-Iranian was a satem language, likely removed less than a millennium from the late Proto-Indo-European language, its ancestor, and in turn removed less than a millennium from the Vedic Sanskrit of the Rigveda, its descendant. It is the ancestor of the Indo-Aryan languages, the Iranian languages, and the Nuristani languages.

Sintashta culture

The Sintashta culture, also known as the Sintashta-Petrovka culture or Sintashta-Arkaim culture, is a Bronze Age archaeological culture of the northern Eurasian steppe on the borders of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, dated to the period 2100–1800 BCE. The culture is named after the Sintashta archaeological site, in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia.

The Sintashta culture is widely regarded as the origin of the Indo-Iranian languages. The earliest known chariots have been found in Sintashta burials, and the culture is considered a strong candidate for the origin of the technology, which spread throughout the Old World and played an important role in ancient warfare. Sintashta settlements are also remarkable for the intensity of copper mining and bronze metallurgy carried out there, which is unusual for a steppe culture.

Indo-Iranian languages

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