Central Asian Arabic

Central Asian Arabic
Native to Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Native speakers
(7,000, not counting Khorasani, possibly ethnicity rather than speakers, cited 1967)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
abh  Tajiki Arabic
auz  Uzbeki Arabic
Glottolog afgh1238[2]

Central Asian Arabic is a variety of Arabic spoken in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and currently facing extinction. It was once spoken among Central Asia's numerous settled and nomadic Arab communities, which inhabited areas in Samarqand, Bukhara, Qashqadarya, Surkhandarya (present-day Uzbekistan), and Khatlon (present-day Tajikistan), as well as Afghanistan. The first wave of Arabs migrated to this region in the 8th century during the Muslim conquests and was later joined by groups of Arabs from Balkh and Andkhoy (present-day Afghanistan). Owing to heavy Islamic influences, Arabic quickly became the common language of science and literature of the epoch. Most Central Asian Arabs lived in isolated communities and did not favour intermarriages with the local population. This factor helped their language survive in a multilingual milieu until the 20th century. By the 1880s many Arab pastoralists had migrated to northern Afghanistan from what is now Uzbekistan and Tajikistan following the Russian conquest of Central Asia. These Arabs nowadays speak no Arabic having adapted to Dari and Uzbek.[3]

With the establishment of the Soviet rule in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Arab communities faced major linguistic and identity changes having had to abandon nomadic lifestyles and gradually mixing with Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkmen. According to the 1959 census, only 34% of Soviet Arabs, mostly elderly, spoke their language at a native level. Others reported Uzbek or Tajik as their mother tongue.

Nowadays Central Asian Arabic (heavily influenced by the local languages in phonetics, vocabulary and syntax) is spoken in 5 villages of Surkhandarya, Qashqadarya and Bukhara. In Uzbekistan, there are at least two dialects of Central Asian Arabic: Bukharian (influenced by Tajik) and Qashqadaryavi (influenced by Turkic languages). These dialects are not mutually intelligible.[4] In Tajikistan, Central Asian Arabic is spoken by 35.7% of the country's Arab population, having been largely replaced by Tajik.[5]

Giorgi Tsereteli and Isaak Natanovich Vinnikov w:ru:Винников, Исаак Натанович were responsible for the first academic studies of Central Asian Arabic.

Recent studies considered Khorasani Arabic (spoken in Khorasan, Iran) as part of the Central Asian Arabic family, and found that it was closely related to Qashqadaryavi.[6]

See also


  1. Tajiki Arabic at Ethnologue (13th ed., 1996).
    Uzbeki Arabic at Ethnologue (13th ed., 1996).
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Afghanistan–Uzbekistan Arabic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Peter R. Blood, ed. Afghanistan: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 2001
  4. (Russian) Ethnic Minorities of Uzbekistan: Arabs Archived February 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. by Olga Kobzeva
  5. (Russian) Ethnic Minorities of Tajikistan: Arabs
  6. Ulrich Seeger, On the Relationship of the Central Asian Arabic Dialects (translated from German to English by Sarah Dickins)

External links

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