Ishkashimi language

škošmi zəvůk
Native to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan
Native speakers
3,000 (2009)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 isk
Glottolog ishk1244[2]
Linguasphere 58-ABD-db

Ishkashimi is an Iranian language. Its distribution is in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in Tajikistan, Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan and Chitral region of Pakistan.

The total number of speakers is c. 2500, most of whom are now dispersed throughout Tajikistan and Afghanistan and small villages within the vicinity. There are about 1500 spekaers in Afghanistan mostly in villages around Ishkashim. Tajikistan has roughly 1000 speakers in Ryn village and 360 in Sumjin village.[3] About 400 still live in the village of Ryn on the border with Afghanistan near the town of Ishkoshim. Based on these numbers, Ishkashimi is threatened to becoming critically endangered or extinct in the next 100 years whereas other significant languages are being spoken in schools, homes, etc.

Ishkashimi is closely related to Zebaki and Sanglechi (in Afghanistan). Ishkashimi was once classified with Sanglechi by its parent family, Sanglechi-Ishkashimi (sgl). On January 18, 2010, the parent language had retired and been split into what are now Sanglechi and Ishkashimi. This subfamily has furthermore been considered a part of a group of Pamir languages together with the Wakhi language, and a subgroup comprising Shughni, Rushani, Sarikoli, Yazgulyam, etc. However, this is an areal rather than genetic grouping.

Language Domain

While Ishkashimi may be their native tongue, most speakers are bilingual in Ishkashimi and Dari, one of the official languages of Afghanistan. However, the use of these languages can be situational depending on who they are speaking with. In the private and community domains, for example, family and close friends, a majority will choose to speak Ishkashimi. Even with the gap between elders and children, there seems to be little difficulty communicating since children grow up with both languages. Education can get complicated with the use of two languages, so schools preferably to use Dari. Instructions are solely in Dari, but rarely will teachers speak Ishkashimi to students for explanations. Similar to schools, religion is widely practiced with Dari especially for preaching and prayers. Meanwhile, when it comes to mass media and the government, Dari is exclusively used. Despite the seemingly balance of Ishkashimi and Dari inside and outside of the private domain, the vitality of Ishkashimi is more than likely to decline due to the high exposure of Dari in Afghanistan.[3]


  1. Ishkashimi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ishkashimi". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 Beck, Simone. The Effect of Accessibility on Language Vitality: The Ishkashimi and the Sanglechi Speech Varieties in Afghanistan. (2007)
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