Brahui language


Brahui[3] (/brəˈhi/;[4] Brahui: براہوئی; also known as Brahvi or Brohi) is a Dravidian language spoken by some of the Brahui people. The language is spoken primarily in the central part of the Balochistan Province of Pakistan, with smaller communities of speakers scattered in parts of Iran, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan[5] and by expatriate Brahui communities in Iraq, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.[6] It is isolated from the nearest Dravidian-speaking neighbour population of South India by a distance of more than 1,500 kilometres (930 mi).[2] The Kalat, Khuzdar, Mastung, Quetta, Bolan, Nasirabad, Nushki, and Kharan districts of Balochistan Province are predominantly Brahui-speaking.

Brahui language.png
The word Brahui written in the Nastaliq script
Native toPakistan
EthnicityBrahui and Baloch
Native speakers
2,640,000 in Pakistan (Total users in all countries 2,864,400) (2017 Census)[1]
Arabic script (Nastaʿlīq), Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3brh
Dravidische Sprachen.png
Brahui (far upper left) is geographically isolated from all other Dravidian languages.[2]
Lang Status 80-VU.png
Brahui is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO
Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger


Brahui is spoken in the central part of Pakistani Balochistan, mainly in Kalat, Khuzdar and Mastung districts, but also in smaller numbers in neighboring districts, as well as in Afghanistan which borders Pakistani Balochistan; however, many members of the ethnic group no longer speak Brahui.[2] There are also an unknown very small number of expatriate Brahuis in the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, and Turkmenistan.[6]


There is no consensus as to whether Brahui is a relatively recent language introduced into Balochistan or the remnant of a formerly more widespread Dravidian language family. According to Josef Elfenbein (1989), the most common theory is that the Brahui were part of a Dravidian migration into north-western India in the 3rd millennium BC, but unlike other Dravidians who migrated to the south, they remained in Sarawan and Jahlawan since before 2000 BC.[7] However, some other scholars see it as a recent migrant language to its present region. They postulate that Brahui could only have migrated to Balochistan from central India after 1000 AD. This is contradicted by genetic evidence that shows the Brahui population to be indistinguishable from neighbouring Balochi speakers, and genetically distant from central Dravidian speakers.[8] The main Iranian contributor to Brahui vocabulary, Balochi, is a Northwestern Iranian language, and moved to the area from the west only around 1000 AD.[9][10] One scholar places the migration as late as the 13th or 14th century.[11] The Brahui lexicon is believed to be of: 35% Perso-Arabic origin, 20% Balochi origin, 20% other Indo-Aryan origin, 15% Dravidian origin, and 10% unknown origin.[12][13]

Franklin Southworth (2012) proposes that Brahui is not a Dravidian language, but can be linked with the remaining Dravidian languages and Elamite to form the "Zagrosian family," which originated in Southwest Asia (southern Iran) and was widely distributed in South Asia and parts of eastern West Asia before the Indo-Aryan migration.[14]


There are no important dialectal differences. Jhalawani (southern, centered on Khuzdar) and Sarawani (northern, centered on Kalat) dialects are distinguished by the pronunciation of *h, which is retained only in the north (Elfenbein 1997). Brahui has been influenced by the Iranian languages spoken in the area, including Persian, Balochi and Pashto.[15]


Brahui vowels show a partial length distinction between long /aː eː iː oː uː/ and diphthongs /aɪ̯ aʊ̯/ and short /a i u/. Brahui does not have short /e, o/ due to influence from neighbouring Indo-Aryan and Iranic languages, the PD short *e was replaced by a, ē and i, and ∗o by ō, u and a in root syllables.[16]

Front Central Back
Close i u
Open a

Brahui consonants show patterns of retroflexion but lack the aspiration distinctions found in surrounding languages and include several fricatives such as the voiceless lateral fricative [ɬ], a sound not otherwise found in the region.[17] Consonants are also very similar to those of Balochi, but Brahui has more fricatives and nasals (Elfenbein 1993).

Labial Dental
Retroflex Palato-
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ (ŋ)
Stop p b t d ʈ ɖ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ k ɡ ʔ
Fricative f s z ʃ ʒ x ɣ h
Lateral ɬ l
Rhotic ɾ ɽ
Glide j w
  • [h] of north corresponds to a glottal stop of south initially and intervocalically. Before a C in word-final position it is lost. Non-phonemic glottal stop before word-initial vowels, e.g. hust (N), ʔust (S) 'heart'.[18]
  • [ɬ] and [l] vary freely in many cases; contrast is limited to two or three items. Conditions for the emergence of [ɬ] are not clear.[18]
  • /ɽ/ does not occur word-initially. /r//ɽ/ before /t d s z/ in northern Brahui (Elfenbein 1998: 394), e.g. xūrt → xūṛt 'tiny'.[18]
  • The consonants [p t k] freely alternate with aspirated counterparts in the northeast. Aspirated stops word-initially occur in loanwords in the south, where they freely vary with unaspirated stops.[18]
  • [ŋ] occurs before velar stops /k, g/.[19]
  • Brahui preserves the PD laryngeal */H/ as /h/ in some words eg. PD. *caH- ~ *ceH- > Br. kah-.[16]


Stress in Brahui follows a quantity-based pattern, occurring either on the first long vowel or diphthong, or on the first syllable if all vowels are short.


Perso-Arabic scriptEdit

Brahui is the only Dravidian language which is not known to have been written in a Brahmi-based script; instead, it has been written in the Arabic script since the second half of the 20th century.[20] In Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, an Urdu based Nastaʿlīq script is used in writing:

Letter Latin equivalent IPA
ا á, a, i, u /aː/, /ə/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/
ب b /b/
پ p /p/
ت t /t/
ٹ ŧ /ʈ/
ث (s) /s/
ج j /d͡ʒ/
چ c /t͡ʃ/
ح (h) /h/
خ x /x/
د d /d/
ڈ đ /ɖ/
ذ (z) /z/
ر r /ɾ/
ڑ ŕ /ɽ/
ز z /z/
ژ ź /ʒ/
س s /s/
ش ş /ʃ/
ص (s) /s/
ض (z) /z/
ط (t) /t/
ظ (z) /z/
ع ', (a), (i), (u) /ʔ/, /ə/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/
غ ģ /ɣ/
ف f /f/
ق (k) /k/
ک k /k/
گ g /g/
ل l /l/
ڷ ļ /ɬ/
م m /m/
ن n /n/
ں ń /ɳ/
و v /w~ʋ/
ہ h /h/
ھ (h) /h/
ی y, í /j/, /iː/
ے e /eː/

Latin scriptEdit

More recently, a Roman-based orthography named Brolikva (an abbreviation of Brahui Roman Likvar) was developed by the Brahui Language Board of the University of Balochistan in Quetta and adopted by the newspaper Talár.

Below is the new promoted Bráhuí Báşágal Brolikva orthography:[3]

b á p í s y ş v x e z ź ģ f ú m n l g c t ŧ r ŕ d o đ h j k a i u ń ļ

The letters with diacritics are the long vowels, post-alveolar and retroflex consonants, the voiced velar fricative and the voiceless lateral fricative.

Sample textEdit


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Arabic scriptEdit

مُچَّا اِنسَاںک آجو او اِزَّت نَا رِد اَٹ بَرےبَر وَدِى مَسُّنو. اوفتے پُهِى او دَلِىل رَسےںگَانے. اَندَادے وفتے اَسِ اےلو تون اِىلُمِى اے وَدِّفوئِى اے.

Latin scriptEdit

Muccá insáńk ájo o izzat ná rid aŧ barebar vadí massuno. Ofte puhí o dalíl raseńgáne. andáde ofte asi elo ton ílumí e vaddifoí e.


According to a 2009 UNESCO report, Brahui is one of the 27 languages of Pakistan that are facing the danger of extinction. It was classified as "unsafe", the least endangered level out of the five levels of concern (Unsafe, Definitely Endangered, Severely Endangered, Critically Endangered and Extinct).[21] This status has since been renamed to "vulnerable".[22]


Talár is the first daily newspaper in the Brahui language.[citation needed] It uses the new Roman orthography and is "an attempt to standardize and develop [the] Brahui language to meet the requirements of modern political, social and scientific discourse."[23]


  1. ^ "Brahui".
  2. ^ a b c Parkin 1989, p. 37.
  3. ^ a b Bráhuí Báşágal, Quetta: Brahui Language Board, University of Balochistan, April 2009, retrieved 2010-06-29
  4. ^ "Brahui". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  5. ^ "A slice of south India in Balochistan". 2017-02-18.
  6. ^ a b "International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, Volumes 36-37" department of linguistics, University of Kerala[full citation needed]
  7. ^ "BRAHUI – Encyclopaedia Iranica".
  8. ^ Pagani, Luca; Colonna, Vincenza; Tyler-Smith, Chris; Ayub, Qasim (2017). "An Ethnolinguistic and Genetic Perspective on the Origins of the Dravidian-Speaking Brahui in Pakistan". Man in India. 97 (1): 267–278. PMC 5378296. PMID 28381901.
  9. ^ Witzel 1998, p. 1[full citation needed].
  10. ^ Elfenbein 1987.
  11. ^ Sergent 1997, pp. 129–130.
  12. ^ Bashir, Elena (1991). A contrastive analysis of Brahui and Urdu. Academy for Educational Development. OCLC 31900835.
  13. ^ Bhadriraju Krishnamurti 2003, p. 27.
  14. ^ Southworth, Franklin (2011). "Rice in Dravidian and its linguistic implications". Rice. 4: 142–148. doi:10.1007/s12284-011-9076-9.
  15. ^ Emeneau 1962, p. [page needed].
  16. ^ a b Bhadriraju Krishnamurti 2003, p. 118.
  17. ^ Bashir 2016, p. 274.
  18. ^ a b c d Bhadriraju Krishnamurti 2003, p. 77.
  19. ^ Bhadriraju Krishnamurti 2003, p. 58.
  20. ^ "Бесписьменный язык Б." Archived from the original on 2015-06-23. Retrieved 2015-06-23.
  21. ^ Moseley 2009, p. [page needed].
  22. ^ Moseley, Christopher, ed. (2010). Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. Memory of Peoples (3rd ed.). Paris: UNESCO Publishing. ISBN 978-92-3-104096-2. Retrieved 2015-04-11.
  23. ^ Haftaí Talár, Talár Publications, archived from the original on 2013-06-24, retrieved 2010-06-29


  • Bashir, Elena (December 2003), "Brahui - Notes" (PDF), South Asian Language Resource Center Workshop on Languages of Afghanistan and neighboring areas, retrieved 2010-06-29
  • Bashir, Elena (2016). "Contact and convergence". In Hock, Hans Henrich; Bashir, Elena (eds.). The Languages and Linguistics of South Asia. pp. 241–374. doi:10.1515/9783110423303-004. ISBN 978-3-11-042330-3.
  • Bray, Denys. The Brahui Language, an Old Dravidian Language Spoken in Parts of Baluchistan and Sind: Grammar. Gian Publishing House, 1986.
  • Elfenbein, J. (1987). "A Periplus of the 'Brahi Problem'". Studia Iranica. 16 (2): 215–233. doi:10.2143/SI.16.2.2014604.
  • Emeneau, M. B. (1962). "Bilingualism and Structural Borrowing". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 106 (5): 430–442. JSTOR 985488.
  • Moseley, Christopher, ed. (2009), Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, UNESCO, OCLC 435877932
  • Parkin, Robert (1989). "Some comments on Brahui kinship terminology". Indo-Iranian Journal. 32 (1): 37–43. doi:10.1163/000000089790082944. JSTOR 24654607. S2CID 161638780.
  • Sergent, Bernard (1997), Genèse de l'Inde, Bibliothèque scientifique Payot, ISBN 9782228891165, OCLC 38198091
  • Witzel, Michael (2008). "The Languages of Harappa: Early Linguistic Data and the Indus civilization". doi:10.11588/xarep.00000120. S2CID 165751802. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju (2003). The Dravidian Languages. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-77111-5.

External linksEdit

  • Online Brahui Dictionary
  • Handbook of the Birouhi language By Allâh Baksh (1877)
  • Brahui Language Board
  • Bráhuí Báşágal (Brahui Alphabet)
  • Profile of the Brahui language
  • Partial bibliography of scholarly works on Brahui
  • Britannica Brahui language
  • Brahui basic lexicon at the Global Lexicostatistical Database