Ethno-linguistic groups

The people of Afghanistan form a mosaic of ethnic and linguistic groups. Pashtu (Pashto) and Dari, , are Indo-European languages; they are the official languages of the country. More than sixty five percent  of the population speaks Pashto, the language of the Pashtoons, while the rest of the population speaks Dari,{the language of the Tajiks, Hazaras, Chahar Aimaks, and Kizilbash peoples and other Indo-European languages, spoken by smaller groups, include Western Dardic (Nuristani or Kafiri)}, Baluchi, and a number of Indic and Pamiri languages spoken principally in isolated valleys in the northeast, Turkic languages, a subfamily of the Altaic languages, are spoken by the Uzbek and Turkmen peoples, the most recent settlers, who are related to peoples from the steppes of Central Asia. The Turkic languages are closely related. Within Afghanistan they include Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz, the last spoken by a small group in the extreme northeast. (see also IndexPashtu languageDari language, Dardic languages, Balochi languageTurkic languages)

The present population of Afghanistan contains a number of elements, which, in the course of history and as a result of large-scale migration and conquests, have been superimposed upon one another. Dravidians, Indo-Aryans, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols have at different times inhabited the country and influenced its culture and ethnography. Intermixture of the two principal linguistic groups is evident in such peoples as the Hazaras and Chahar Aimaks, who speak Indo-European languages but have pronounced Mongoloid physical characteristics and cultural traits usually associated with Central Asia.

The Pashtoons of Afghanistan predominantly  inhabit the southern and eastern parts of the country but are also well represented in the west and north. They are divided into a number of clans, some sedentary and others nomadic. The traditional homeland of the Pashtuns lies in an area east, south, and southwest of Kabul; many live in contiguous territory of Pakistan. The two most politically  important groups of the Pashtoon are the Durranis, who live in the area around the city of Qandahar, and the Ghilzays, who inhabit the region between Kabul and Qandahar. The Durranis formed the modern nucleus of Afghanistan's social and political elite.

The Tajiks, mostly farmers and artisans, live in the Kabul and Badakhshan provinces of the northeast and the Herat region in the west; there are also pockets of Tajiks in other areas. They are sedentary in the plains and semi-sedentary in the higher valleys. The Tajiks are not divided into clear-cut tribal groups.

The Nuristanis, who speak Western Dardic, inhabit an area of some 5,000 square miles in Laghman, Nangarhar, and Konar provinces, north and east of Kabul. The Hazaras traditionally occupy the central mountainous region of Hazarajat. Because of the scarcity of land, however, many have migrated to other parts of the country. The Hazaras speak a Dari dialect that contains a number of Turkish and Mongolian words.

The Chahar Aimaks are probably of Turkic or Turco-Mongolian origin, judging by their Mongoloid physical appearance and their housing of Mongolian-style yurts. They are located mostly in the western part of the central mountain region. The Uzbeks and Turkmens inhabit a region north of the Hindu Kush, and there are small numbers of Kyrgyz in the Vakhan in the extreme northeast. The Uzbeks are usually farmers, while the Turkmens and Kyrgyz are mainly semi-nomadic herdsmen. The Uzbeks are the largest Turkic-speaking group in Afghanistan. There are also other smaller Turco-Mongolian groups.

Afghanistan has very small ethnic groups of Dravidian and Semitic speakers. Dravidian languages are spoken by the Brahuis, residing in the extreme south. There are also a small number of Jews, most of whom speak Dari in their daily lives but use Hebrew for religious ceremonies.


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