A gateway to Afghanistan’s history and dialectology

Project description

Pashto is an Indo-European language of the Iranian branch spoken in Afghanistan, Pakistan and by a large diaspora community across the globe. It is one of two official languages of Afghanistan and a regional official language in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. With about 15 million native speakers in Afghanistan and 30 million in Pakistan it is the second-most spoken Iranian language after Persian.

However, monographs and academic articles which focus on Pashto are still few and are commensurate neither with the linguistic importance of Pashto among the Iranian (and, indeed, Indo-European) languages, nor with the geopolitical significance of the Pashto-speaking areas in the Iranian world. Pashto is of key relevance to regional and historical studies as well as Iranian and Indo-European studies. Not only does Pashto serve as a lingua franca in the politically crucial, ethnologically and linguistically diverse and understudied Hindukush area, which makes a working knowledge of Pashto a valuable asset for any researcher focused on the region; Pashto is also important by itself for Iranian historical and comparative linguistics, be it in the fields of phonology, morphosyntax or lexicon. In addition, the growing diaspora of Pashto speakers in Europe, North America and beyond necessitates high-quality dictionaries and translation tools for non-linguists interested in the language for purely practical reasons.

Resources that exist were oftentimes created for anachronistic purposes (i.e., in connection with the many military occupations of Afghanistan), satisfy neither the needs of the academic community nor of the speaker community, and are often insufficiently accessible (i.e., they have not been digitized or were digitized in restrictive manners limiting their usability).

The goal of this project is the creation of an open online dictionary of Pashto which will meet these shortcomings head-on. For this purpose, we are partnering with the Department of Finno-Ugrian Studies at the University of Vienna, which has experience in the creation of open online lexical resources for marginalized languages (most notably the Mari-English dictionary at dict.mari-language.com, Riese et al. 2014) in relatively short time frames and which will manage the technical implementation.


Veronika Milanova (IFI)
Jeremy Bradley (EVSL)


Main Consultant

Julian Kreidl (Indiana University Bloomington)



01/2023 – 12/2024



ÖAW – go!digital