Khwarezmian language

Not to be confused with Khorezmian language (Turkic).
Native to Khwarezm
Region Central Asia
Era 300 BCE – 1000 CE[1]
Aramaic alphabet, Sogdian alphabet, Pahlavi script, Arabic script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xco
Linguist list
Glottolog khwa1238[2]

Khwarezmian (Khwarazmian, Khorezmian, Chorasmian) is an extinct East Iranian language[3][4][5][6] closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm (Chorasmia), centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea (the northern part of the modern Republic of Uzbekistan, and the adjacent areas of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan).

Knowledge of Khwarezmian is limited to its Middle Iranian stage and, as with Sogdian, little is known of its ancient form.

From the writings of the great Khwarezmian scholars, Al-Biruni and Zamakhshari, we know that the language was in use at least until the 13th century, when it was gradually replaced by Persian for the most part, as well as several dialects of Turkic.

Other than the astronomical terms used by Al-Biruni, our other sources of Khwarezmian include Zamakhshari's ArabicPersian–Khwarezmian dictionary and several legal texts that use Khwarezmian terms to explain certain legal concepts.

The noted scholar W.B. Henning was preparing a dictionary of Khwarezmian when he died, leaving it unfinished.

Writing system

Before the advance of Islam in Transoxiana (early 8th century), Khwarezmian was written in a script close to that of Sogdian and Pahlavi with its roots in the imperial Aramaic script. From the few surviving examples of this script on coins and artifacts it has been observed that written Khwarezmian included Aramaic logograms or ideograms, that is Aramaic words written to represent native spoken ones.

After the advance of Islam, Khwarezmian was written using an adapted version of the Perso-Arabic alphabet with a few extra signs to reflect specific Khwarezmian sounds, such as the letter څ, which represents /ts/ and /dz/, as in the traditional Pashto orthography.[7]

See also


  1. Khwarezmian at MultiTree on the Linguist List
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Khwarezmian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Encyclopedia Iranica, "The Chorasmian Language", D.N.Mackenzie. Online access at June, 2011:
  4. Andrew Dalby, Dictionary of Languages: the definitive reference to more than 400 languages, Columbia University Press, 2004, pg 278.
  5. MacKenzie, D. N. "Khwarazmian Language and Literature," in E. Yarshater ed. Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. III, Part 2, Cambridge 1983, pp. 1244-1249.
  6. Encyclopædia Britannica, "Iranian languages" (Retrieved on 29 December 2008)
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