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Baluchi Glossary

System of Transcription
A Note on Vowels

[page iii]


The Baluchi language is spoken by about five million Baluchs living in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and in the south of the Turkmen SSR of the USSR. The majority of the Baluchs, however, live in Pakistan's southern province of Baluchistan, bordering with Iran and Afghanistan. Baluchs are Muslims of Sunni persuasion, the majority of whom live a semi-nomadic life. About 700,000 Baluchs live in Karachi. The Baluchs also constitute an important segment of the Sultanate of Oman in the Persian Gulf.

The origin of the Baluch people as well as their language, has been the subject of considerable speculation among historians and linguists. A Baluch historian, Muhammad Sardar Khan Baloch, in his History of the Baluch Race and Baluchistan, has concluded that the Baluch people belong to the Chaldean branch of the Semitic race who migrated from Babylon (Chaldea) in 500 BC and settled in the northern regions of Persia. In the course of time, the Baluchs lost their original Semitic dialect and copiously borrowed from the language of their conquerors, the Achaemenians. Some linguists believe that the Medic branch of the Avestan langauge is the parent of the present Baluchi language. Hence, Baluchi, according to this view, belongs to the Iranian branch of the Aryan sub-family of the Indo-European family of languages. Some other linguists, however, point out that even after pruning all the imported Persian, Indian and Pashto words twined around the classical Baluchi, there yet remains the trunk of a language which is a relic of the ancient Semitic family, both in root and in sound.

Although Baluchi is one of the oldest of living languages, much of its classical literary heritage consists of oral tradition in the form of ballads and folk songs which have been passed from age to age and tribe to tribe through generations of bards and minstrels.

The Baluchi language and literature came to the notice of the outside world in 1830 when an English tourist started research and published his reports. This venture drew the attention of other English scholars; notable among them were Pierce, A Description of the Mekrani Baluch Dialect (London, 1877) and Mayer, Baluch Classics, (London, 1900) and English-Biluchi Dictionary (Lahore, 1909).

The great breakthrough in the development and growth of the Baluchi language and literature came after the creation of Pakistan in 1947 when young educated Baluchs established literary societies, published books and periodicals and tried to revive the creative spirit of their language in competition with Pakistan's other regional languages - Punjabi, Sindhi, and Pashto. In subsequent years, four institutions played a major role in the promotion of the Baluchi language, literature and culture: Radio Pakistan in Quetta -- the capital city of Baluchistan, the Baluchi Academy, Pakistan Television Corporation's Quetta Center, and the Baluchistan University in Quetta. Quetta Radio, which was set up in the early 1950's, provided opportunities for creative expression to a large number of Baluchi intellectuals. During the late 1950's the Federal Government of Pakistan set up the Baluchi [page iv] Academy which subsequently became a premier institution for the development of Baluchi language and literature. The Academy has published many books on Baluchi language, literature, culture, and history and has played an important role in encouraging growth of a vernacular press in Baluchistan.

The establishment of the Quetta Television Center and the Baluchistan University in the late 1960's also played a significant role in reviving the interest in Baluchi language and literature, and in creating a corps of Baluchi intellectuals who take pride in their ethnic and cultural heritage.

The Baluchi language is written in the Arabic script with both nasta'liq and nasx forms. The question of script, however, is far from settled. A meeting of Baluchi intellectuals in Kunchiti (Baluchistan, Pakistan) in January 1982, for example, discussed the issue of script and recommended the adoption of Roman script in view of its simplicity and phonological affinities with the Baluchi language. Other Baluchi intellectuals argued for the continuation of the present Arabic script as they felt that the Roman script would separate Baluchi from other languages of the region.

The present work, A Baluchi-English Glossary: Elementary Level, will fill a gap in the field of available Baluchi teaching materials in English. The glossary consists of 2,500 entries of Baluchi words and phrases most frequently used in everyday discourse and in the contemporary Baluchi newspapers, periodicals, and publications of general interest in Pakistan and Iran. It is intended to aid in a more systematic way the teaching and acquisition of vocabulary in beginning and early intermediate-level Baluchi courses.

The entries have been obtained from Ashfaq Ahmad (ed.) Haft Zubani Lughat (Seven Languages Dictionary), (Lahore, Markazi Urdu Board, 1978), a monumental work based on word frequency counts of the major regional languages of Pakistan.

The glossary has been designed to be used in several specific ways by both students and teachers:

1) For students at the mid-elementary and early intermediate level it will serve as a mini-dictionary.

2) It will also serve as a vocabulary review list at the end of the elementary-level course.

3) For teachers, it should function as a goal for elementary-level instruction and as a standard for intermediate level instruction.

4) The primary functional utility of the glossary will be, however, in the field of curriculum development. While preparing curriculum/teaching materials in the Baluchi language, this glossary will serve to control the vocabulary used in drills and exercises and help determine which vocabulary items in any text lesson are to be actively acquired. It will thus help in the preparation of graded textbook materials for the elementary text and in deciding which vocabulary items must be glossed in the intermediate text.

[page v]

Baluchi has six major dialects: (a) the Eastern Hill dialects, (b) the Rakhshani, (c) Saravani, (d) Kechi, (e) Lotuni, and (f) Coastal dialects. (For details, see J.H. Elfenbein, "The Baluchi Language," Royal Asiatic Society Monographs, Vol XXVII, London, 1966). The present work is based on the Rakhshani dialect because of its central location, wide intelligibility, and socio-cultural importance in contemporary Baluchi society. As Elfenbein has noted: "If a choice of a standard dialect were to be made for Baluchi, Rakhshani has stronger claims than any other group to the position." Rakhshani is also a dialect used in radio broadcasting in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Soviet Turkmenistan.

The glossary uses a four-column format with the Baluchi entry word/phrase in Arabic script, a modified phonemic transcription (see: A Note on Transcription), a grammatical category and an English definition.

I wish to express my gratitude to Mr. John D. Murphy for his help during the compilation of this work. I am also thankful to Prof. M. A. R. Barker whose book, A Course in Baluchi (Montreal: Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, 1969) was a great help in preparing this glossary. Finally, I am grateful to Mr. Blount Stewart for his willing and efficient cooperation in the preparation of the final draft of the glossary.

M. A.
January 1985
Washington, D.C.

[page vi]


The system of transcription in this Glossary is essentially phonemic. However, a few modifications have been introduced in order to facilitate an accurate correlation of the transcription with the Baluchi orthography. The Arabic letters having the same sound in Baluchi are therefore represented by different symbols so that the reader can easily relate the phonemic transcription used here with the Arabic/Baluchi script.

/z/ will be represented by z for ز, ẓ for ذ, ẕ for ض, and z̤ for ظ.

/s/ will be represented by s for س, ṣ for ص, and s̤ for ث.

/h/ will be represented by h for ه, and ḥ for ح.

/t/ will be represented by t for ت, and ṭ for ط.

The following chart shows the Baluchi letter and the transcription symbol used in this work.

ا a/ə ذ غ G
ب b ر r ف f
پ p ڑ R ق q
ت t ز z ک k
ٹ T ژ ž گ g
ث س s ل l
ج J ش š م m
چ c ص ن n
ح ض و w/v
خ x ط ه h
د d ظ ے y/i
ڈ D ع ʻ

[page vii]


Short Vowels

/ə/ a lower-mid central unrounded vowel: the a in above or the u in but. Before /h/ followed by a consonant or before /h/ at the end of a word, it is lowered and fronted to the position between the e of set and the a of cat.

/ə̃/ the same, nasalized.

/w/ a lower-high back rounded vowel: the u of put or the oo of took.

/w̃/ the same, nasalized.

/y/ this symbol has been used in two ways: (1) a voiced alveopalatal continuant: the y of yes or you; and (2) for a lower-high front unrounded vowel: the i of pin or sit. These sounds do not contrast in Urdu; before and after vowels /y/ is interpreted as a consonant; elsewhere this symbol denotes a vowel.

/ỹ/ the same as the second use of /y/ above, but nasalized.

Long Vowels

/a/ a low central unrounded vowel: the a of father.

/ã/ the same, nasalized.

/e/ a tense mid-front unrounded vowel: the a of fate, but without the "y-like" diphthongal off glide of the English vowel.

/ẽ/ the same, nasalized.

/i/ a high front unrounded vowel: the i of machine but without the "y-like" diphthongal off glide of the English vowel.

/ĩ/ the same, nasalized.

/o/ a mid-back rounded vowel: the o of boat but without the "w-like" diphthongal off glide of the English vowel.

/õ/ the same, nasalized.

/u/ a high-back rounded vowel: the oo of boot but without the "w-like" diphthongal off glide of the English vowel.

/ũ/ the same, nasalized.

[page viii]


adj. adjective
adv. adverb
comp. prep. compound preposition
conj. conjunction
demon. demonstrative
interj. interjection
interrog. adv. interrogative adverb
interrog. pron. interrogative pronoun
n. noun
neg. adv. negative adverb
pred. adj. predicate adjective
postpos. postposition
prep. preposition
pron. pronoun
rel. pron. relative pronoun
v. verb

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