from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in

speaker 100,000

Isolated language

  • Burushaski
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3



Burushaski [ buɾuɕaski ] is a language in the Karakorum Mountains in northern Pakistan is spoken by about 100,000 people. It is not related to the neighboring Dardic languages Shina and Khowar , nor to the south-east Iranian Wakhi , which is adjacent to the north . The majority of researchers so far believe that it is an isolated language that is not genetically related to any other known language on earth.

Burushaski is an agglutinative ergative language with the unmarked word order subject-object-verb . The number of phonemes is almost 40, and the large number of retroflexes is striking . Burushaski has an extremely complex verb morphology , the nouns are divided into four noun classes and inflected into five cases . In particular, the verbal morphology brings the Burushaski typologically close to the Yenisan and North Caucasian languages ​​as well as Basque , while the phonology typologically refers more to the neighboring Dardic languages. Lexically, the Burushaski is very independent; recent attempts to interpret the vocabulary Indo-European are not considered convincing.

Sociolinguistic situation

The Burusho - as the speakers of the Burushaski are called - live in the northwest of the northern Pakistani Gilgit region: in the Hunza and Nagar regions on both sides of the Hunza River and in the remote Yasin Valley 100 km away. The Burushaski has three dialects: Hunza, Nagar and Yasin. The dialects Hunza and Nagar spoken on both sides of the Hunza River show only minimal differences, whereas the Yasin dialect spoken in the Yasin Valley (also called Werchikwar from the neighboring Dardic Khowar) differs significantly from the Hunza and Nagar dialect ( phonetically , lexically , partly also morphologically ). The degree of mutual intelligibility between Hunza-Nagar and Yasin speakers is assessed differently: the judgments of the speakers themselves vary between “complete” and “rather minor”. The mutual intelligibility does not seem to be symmetrical: Yasin speakers tend to understand the more prestigious Hunza-Nagar dialect than the other way around. The higher prestige of the Hunza-Nagar dialect is due to the "cosmopolitan" location of its language area directly on the major traffic artery Karakorum Highway, while the Yasin area is located in a remote side valley that is difficult to access.

The genetically isolated Burushaski not only differs from all other languages ​​in the world in terms of its word and form, but is also typologically very independent, especially in its complex verbal morphology and in its nominal system . In addition to the old loan words from the neighboring Dardic languages ​​(especially Shina, but also Khowar and occasionally the Sino-Tibetan Balti ), more and more Urdu words and English terms are finding their way into Burushaski. The middle generation has already lost part of the old hereditary vocabulary, the younger ones often no longer master the complex morphology and syntax , the educated Burusho complain about the deterioration of their language. Nevertheless, the number of its speakers has increased slightly in the last decade and the attitude of most burusho towards their mother tongue has been positive overall: they assume that their children will also learn and pass on Burushaski. For most Burusho, the mother tongue is still the preferred means of communication and the carrier of an extremely lively oral narrative culture, although many Burusho are multilingual and also speak Khowar, Shina or Urdu.

Scripture, literature and teaching

Burushaski is not a written language . For their representation in scientific papers, the researchers developed their own different notations based on the Latin alphabet. The form most commonly used today is Hermann Berger's notation , which is also the basis for this article. The tentative attempts to develop Burushaski into a written language have not progressed far. (In contrast to the neighboring Dardic Shina , in which extensive literature in Urdu script has emerged in recent decades .) The only written works known to H. Berger are a volume of religious songs from the vicinity of Nasiruddin Hunzai (Diwan-i- Nasiri, Karachi 1960), a collection of riddles and an introductory primer. Backstrom 1992 also speaks of "some poems and stories".

A modified Urdu script ( Persian-Arabic script ) was used for the publication of these works, but this could not be used anywhere else. Berger writes: "Serious efforts in this direction (what is meant is the development of a written form of the Burushaski) are hardly to be expected in the future, given the tribe's mentality, which is completely focused on the practical." On the other hand, Backstrom states that the Hunza spokesmen themselves interested in the few written products in their language and took note of them, while the Nagar and Yasin people had no knowledge of the existence of this literature when questioned. However, many of the burusho interviewed emphasized their interest in being able to read and write their language and would welcome the production of burushaski literature - especially poetry, historical and religious representations.

The school lessons in the Hunza and Yasin valleys, which are well organized with the help of the Aga Khan Foundation and attended by almost all children, take place in Urdu , with the result that at least the young generation of Burusho is bilingual. Burushaski is neither the language of instruction nor a subject in schools. According to Backstrom, however, half of the Burusho surveyed said that they would like to send their children to a school where Burushaski is the language of instruction. However, this offer does not exist to this day.

Research history

Research into burushaski begins around the middle of the 19th century with two unreliable word lists by the English travelers A. Cunningham and GW Hayward, from which it becomes clear, however, that the language of the time hardly differed from the current one. The first scientific stations in the study of Burushaski are the work of GW Leitner and J. Biddulph at the end of the 19th century. The next significant contribution was DLR Lorimer's The Burushaski Language 1935–38. It contained a large vocabulary and grammar of Burushaski that lasted for 60 years. By far the most important recent works come from Hermann Berger , who comprehensively analyzed and presented the grammar and dictionary for the Yasin dialect (1974) and the Hunza-Nagar dialect (1998). His work is all based on intensive field research.

Relationship with other languages

The Dene-Caucasian hypothesis

Burushaski was and is generally regarded as an isolated language by its most important explorers . Nevertheless, as with all languages ​​that cannot be classified into known language families , attempts have also been made with Burushaski to link it genetically with other languages ​​or language groups , primarily with Basque and the North Caucasian languages. Another framework draws z. B. Blažek with a classification of Burushaski in the hypothetical macro- families Sino-Caucasian or Dene-Caucasian , which in addition to Sino- Tibetan to a certain extent include all Eurasian remaining languages, such as Basque , North Caucasian , Hurrian , Urartian , Sumerian , Yenisian , Nahali and also Burushaski, in an extended version also includes the North American Na-Dené languages . All of these hypotheses have so far hardly found any serious recognition, since the lexical material used as evidence - e.g. As the words for eye , navel , spring , wings , leaf , day , brother / sister , eat , hear , and not , who , what , I , you - a serious review does not stand in the eyes of most researchers. Nevertheless, one has to wait and see what potential the Dene-Caucasian hypothesis has for the relationship of the Burushaski.

The Jenisian hypothesis

An interesting newer thesis can be interpreted as part of the more comprehensive Dene-Caucasian hypothesis (see above), but it should not be left unmentioned: van Driem refers to a close typological - which would be genetically irrelevant - but also a material relationship in verbal morphology ( especially the personal prefixes) of Burushaski and Ket , a Yenisei language . From this he constructs a Karasuk family consisting of the Yenisei languages on the one hand and the Burushaski on the other. He also sees connections between this hypothetical linguistic unit and a prehistoric Central Asian culture, the Karasuk culture . As a result of opposite migratory movements in the 2nd millennium BC, today's Yenisei people came to Siberia and the Burusho to the Karakoram. For a long time, the Burusho movement ran parallel to the Dardic group of Indo-Aryans , which could explain the numerous early loan words from Dardic . - According to this, however, Burushaski would not have been a language that was spoken in the Indian region before Indo-Aryan. Their immigration would have run parallel to the Indo-Aryan immigration in the 2nd millennium BC, and the current settlement areas would probably not have been reached until the 1st millennium BC. Ch. Lexically, a potential relationship between the Yenisei languages ​​and the Burushaski can hardly be confirmed so far. The proposed morphological matches are also controversial.

The Indo-European Hypothesis

In some articles I. Čašule tried to prove a genetic relationship between Burushaski and Indo-European (summarized in). He sees parallels in the vocabulary, but also in the morphology, especially to the old Balkan Indo-European languages Phrygian and Thracian . It should be noted that Burushaski have such basic morphological elements of Indo-European as z. B. the personal pronouns * h₁eǵ (-oH / Hom) / * me- 'I / me' and * tuH / te- 'you / you' don't have. (Instead, Burushaski has ja (dzha) 'I' and an ergative go, gu 'du', cf. North Caucasian * zō (n) 'I' and * uō (n) 'you'). Most of the word comparisons that Čašule cites are not “elementary” but concern cultural vocabulary. This can say a lot about contacts between ethnic groups, but nothing about the genetic connection.

It can be assumed that the parallels that exist in the vocabulary are a result of the historical, spatially close contacts of the Burushos with Indo-European, especially Dardic, ethnic groups. According to the current state of knowledge, a genetic relationship to Indo-European can be ruled out, especially since the typology of the Burushaski differs fundamentally from the Indo-European languages, but has similarities with the North Caucasian and Jenisian languages. There is no support for the Indo-European hypothesis of Čašules, neither in Indo-European studies nor among those who know Burushaski.

Linguistic features of burushaski

Significant features of Burushaski is a four-class system in noun and an extremely complicated verbal morphology with an eleven-position system (both of which are explained below). While the following description of the phoneme inventory follows the information in Grune 1998, the remaining sections on grammar are based on the comprehensive grammar by Hermann Berger 1998 and apply to the Hunza-Nagar dialect.


The Burushaski phoneme inventory contains 32 consonants and 5 vowels .


  bilabial alveolar post-
retroflex palatal velar uvular glottal
stl. asp. sth. stl. asp. sth. stl. sth. stl. asp. sth. stl. sth. stl. asp. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth.
Plosives p  (ph) b t  (th) d     ʈ  (ṭ) ʈʰ  (ṭh) ɖ  (ḍ)     k  (kh) G q      
Nasals     m     n                   ŋ  (ń)        
Vibrants           r                            
Fricatives       s   z ʃ  (š) ʒ ʂ  (ṣ)   ʐ  (ẓ)     x   ɣ  (ġ)       H
Affricates           t͡s  (ċ)   t͡ʃ  (ċh)     ʈʂ  (ćh)                
Approximants                   j                    
lateral approximants           l               w a            
a The semi-vowel w is coarticulated labially, i.e. in addition to a slight narrowing on the hard palate ( velar articulation ), when the sound is pronounced, the lips are rounded ( labial articulation ).

If different, the notation from Berger 1998 is given after the IPA representation of the phonemes in brackets. This is the standard and reference grammar of Burushaski (Hunza and Nagar). This notation is also used in this article. In addition to the phonemes mentioned, Berger also has ś, ć and ćh, which he describes as follows: ś is a palatal sibilant sound that arises from the fact that you / s / with simultaneous palatal, i.e. H. i position. Acoustically it can be described as standing between German [sch] and [s]. The associated affricates ć and ćh are composed of a retroflex closure and ś ( + ś , + ś + h ). ć can be compared with the initial consonant of the Italian cinque 'five'.


The five vowels of Burushaski are / a , e , i , o , u /. They appear short and long, whereby the elongated vowels can be further distinguished. The long vowels are expressed in Berger's notation by double setting, i.e. / ā / as aa etc. He thus takes into account the peculiarity of Burushaski that long vowels must be considered phonologically as composed of two identical short vowels. In exceptional cases, vowels can also be nasalized , Berger then notes ã etc.


The Burushaski has a free, distinctive accent that expresses itself as an articulatory reinforcement of the accented syllable and thus largely corresponds to the German pressure accent. The accent is distinctive, i.e. H. its position is meaningful: e.g. B. báre 'of the valley' - baré 'look!'; ḍuḍúr 'apricot' - --úḍur 'small hole'; Even within the verbal paradigm, the accent position can distinguish between forms. The accent is only noted for polysyllabic words. In the case of compound words made up of polysyllabic words, the accents are retained, but, as in German, it is weakened to a secondary accent in one of the two terms.

Nominal morphology

Nominal classes

In the nominal morphology of Burushaski there are four nominal classes (generalized genders):

  • m > male human beings, gods and spirits
  • f > female human beings and spirits
  • x > animals, "countable" objects
  • y > Abstracts, liquids, "uncountable" objects

The abbreviation “ h ” (human) is used as a summary of the m and f classes, “ hx ” as a summary of the m, f and x classes. - The nouns of the x-class typically denote countable non-human beings or things, e.g. B. Animals, fruits, stones, eggs, coins; Y-class nouns, on the other hand, denote non-countable non-human beings or objects, e.g. B. rice, liquids, powdered substances, fire, water, snow, wool etc.

However, these assignments are not generally valid, since countable objects can also belong to the y-class, e.g. B. ha 'house'. Words that can be both x and y with little difference in meaning are also interesting, e.g. B. bayú means "salt in chunks" in the x class and "powdered salt" in the y class. Fruit trees are seen as a collective and belong to the y-class, their fruits, however, as countable units of the x-class. The same objects are sometimes treated as x or y depending on the material they are made of, e.g. B. Stone and wood as x, metal and leather as y. Articles , adjectives , numeralia and other attributes form a congruence with the noun class of the noun that they define.

Plural formation

The burushaski noun has two numbers : singular and plural . The singular is the unmarked form. The plural is indicated by suffixes , which usually depend on the class of the noun (see above):

  • h class > common plural suffixes: -ting, -aro, -daro, -taro, -tsaro
  • h- and x-class > usual plural suffixes: -o, -išo, -ko, -iko, -juko; -ono, -u; -i, -ai; -ts, -uts, -muts, -umuts; -nts, -ants, -ints, -iants, -ingants, -ents, -onts
  • y-class > common plural suffixes: -ng, -ang, -ing, -iang; -eng, -ong, -ongo; -ming, -čing, -ičing, -mičing, -ičang (Nagar dialect)

Some nouns allow two or three different plural suffixes, others appear only in the plural without a special suffix, e.g. B. bras "rice", gur "wheat", bishké "animal hair" (so-called pluralia tantum ), again others have the same form in the singular and plural: z. B. hagúr "horse (s)". Adjectives have their own plural suffixes, their use depends on the class of the noun being determined, e.g. B. burúm "white" forms the x pl. burúm-išo , y pl. burúm-ing .

Some examples of plural formation in Burushaski

  • wazíir (m), pl. wazíirting "vizier, minister"
  • hir (m), pl. hirí "man" (accent shift)
  • gus (f), pl. gushíngants "woman" (accent shift)
  • dasín (f), pl. dasíwants "girl, unmarried woman"
  • huk (x), pl. hukái "dog" (accent shift)
  • tilí (x), pl. tilí "walnut"
  • tilí (y), pl. tiléng "walnut tree"

Case formation

Burushaski is an ergative language . It has five primary cases , which are marked by suffixes:

case suffix function
Absolutely unmarked Subject (agent) intransitive and you. Object (Patiens) transitive verbs
Ergative -e Subject (agent) transitive verbs
Obliquus -e ; -mo (f-cl.) Genitive ; Basis for the endings of secondary cases (see below)
dative -ar , -r Dative, allative
ablative -um , -m , -mo Separately (where from?)

The case suffixes are added to the plural suffix in the case of plural forms , e.g. B. Huséiniukutse "the people of Hussain" (Ergative plural). The genitive ending is only in the so-called f-class / -mo /, otherwise always / -e / (i.e. identical to the ergative ending). The dative ending / -ar /, / -r / is also attached to the oblique in the singular of the f-class, otherwise to the absolute. Examples:

  • hir-e "of the man", gus-mo "of the woman (Gen.)"
  • hir-ar "the man", gus-mu-r "the woman (dat.)"

The genitive comes before the noun that refers to it: Hunzue tham "der Mir von Hunza".

The endings of the secondary case are formed from a secondary case suffix (sometimes incorrectly referred to as an infix ) and one of the primary endings / -e /, / -ar / and / -um /. Here / -e / stands for the locative (question “where?”), / -Ar / for the terminative (question “where?”) And / -um / for the ablative separative (question “where from?”). The markers and their basic meaning are

  1. / -ts- / "on"
  2. / -ul- / "in"
  3. / -aţ- / “on; With"
  4. / -al- / "bei" (only in Hunza dialect)

This results in the following "compound" or secondary cases:

marker locative Terminative Separately
-ts- -ts-e "on" -ts-ar "an ... to" -ts-um "from ... away"
-ul- -ul-e "in" -ul-ar "into ... into" -ul-to "out ... out"
-at- -aţ-e "on; With" -aţ-ar "on ... up" -aţ-um "from ... down"
-al- -al-e "at" -al-ar "to ... towards" -al-um "from ... away"

The regular endings / -ul-e / and / -ul-ar / are out of date and are now mostly replaced by / -ul-o / or / -ar-ulo /.

Pronominal prefixes and pronouns

Nouns for body parts and kinship terms appear in Burushaski with a pronominal prefix . In Burushaski one cannot simply say “mother” or “arm”, but only “my arm”, “your mother”, “his father” etc. For example, the root mi means “mother”, it cannot appear in isolation; instead it says:

  • i-mi “his mother”, mu-mi “her mother” (3f sg.), u-mi “her mother” (3h pl.), u-mi-tsaro “her mothers” (3h pl.).

The pronominal or personal prefixes are based on the person, the number and - in the 3rd person - on the nominal class (see above) of the owner. The following table of pronominal prefixes gives an overview of the basic forms:

Person /
nominal class
Singular Plural
1st person a- mi- , me-
2nd person gu- , go- ma-
3rd person m i- , e- u- , o-
3rd person f mu- u- , o-
3rd person x i- , y- u- , o-
3rd person y i- , e-

The personal pronouns in Burushaski distinguish a “distant” and “near” form for the third person, e.g. B. khin “he, this” (near here) but in “he, that” (back there). In the Obliquus there are also so-called short forms.


The Burushaski number system is vigesimal , so it is based on the unit 20. E.g. 20 altar , 40 alto-altar (2 times 20), 60 iski-altar (3 times 20) etc. The basic numbers are 1 hin (or han , hik ), 2 altán (or altó ), 3 iskén (or uskó ), 4 wálto , 5 čundó , 6 mishíndo , 7 thaló , 8 altámbo , 9 hunchó , 10 tóorumo (also toorimi and turma ) and 100 tha .

Examples of composite numbers:

11 turma-hin , 12 turma-altan , 13 turma-isks , etc., 19 turma-hunti ; 20 altar , 30 altar-toorimi , 40 alto-altar , 50 alto-altar-toorimi , 60 iski-altar, etc .; 21 altar-hik , 22 altar-alto , 23 altar-iski , etc.

Verbal morphology


The verbal morphology of Burushaski is extremely complex and rich in forms, comparable to that of the Sumerian , Basque , Yenisan or North Caucasian languages. Many changes in phonetic law ( assimilations , contractions , accent shifts ) make almost every verb a morphological unique. Only a few basic principles can be addressed here. More detailed presentation in.

The finite verbal forms of Burushaski include the following categories:

category Possible forms
Tense / aspect Present , future , imperfect , perfect , past perfect
mode Conditional , three optatives , imperative , conative
number Singular , plural
person 1st, 2nd and 3rd person (in the imperative only the 2nd person)
Nominal class the four nominal classes m, f, x and y (only in the 3rd person)

In many transitive verbs, in addition to the subject , the (direct) object is also identified, namely by pronominal prefixes , which also have the categories number, person and - in the 3rd person - nominal class. All verbs have negated forms, some intransitive verbs can morphologically form secondary transitive forms. The infinite forms - in Burushaski these are the absolutes of the past and present (comparable to participles ), the past participle and two infinitives - have all categories of finite forms except tense and mode. Infinite forms, together with auxiliary verbs, form the periphrastic (compound) forms.

The 11 positions of the finite verb forms

All verbal forms can be described by a complicated but regular system of positions. Berger differentiates between a total of 11 positions (also called slots ), which, however, cannot all be occupied in one verb form. Some positions have alternative filling options (indicated below by a / b / c). The verbal stem occupies position 5, so there are four positions for prefixes before that , followed by six positions for suffixes . The following table gives an overview, particularly important items are highlighted.

The positions (slots) of the verb forms in Burushaski
position Affixes and their meanings
1 Negation prefix a-
2a / b d-prefix (formation of intransitiva) / n-prefix (absolute prefix)
3 Pronominal prefixes : subject of intransitive verbs, object of transitive verbs
4th s-prefix to form secondary transitiva
6th Plural suffix -ya- on the verbal stem
7th Present stem characters -č- (or š , ts ..) to form present tense, future tense, imperfect tense
8a / b Pronominal suffix of the 1st sg. -a- (subject) / connecting vowel (no meaning)
9a m-suffix: forms m-participle and m-optative from the simple stem /
9b m-suffix: from the present stem the future tense and the conditionalis /
9c n-suffix to identify the absolute (see position 2) /
9d š suffix to form the š optative and -iš infinitive /
9e Infinitive ending -as , -áas / optative suffix -áa (directly at the stem)
10a Pronominal suffixes of the 2nd and 3rd person and 1st pl. (Subject; forms see below) /
10b Imperative endings (on the bare trunk) /
10c Forms of the auxiliary verb ba- to form the present tense, imperfect tense, perfect tense, past perfect tense
11 Nominal inflectional endings and particles

Formation of tenses and modes

The formation of the tenses and modes is done in a rather complicated way using the various positions or slots. Here are past tense , perfect , pluperfect and conative from simple stem formed; Present , past tense , future tense and conditionalis from the present stem , which results from an extension of the simple tribe in position 7 (usually by C-). The optatives and imperatives are derived directly from the stem . Overall, the following scheme results:

The formation of tenses and modes using the example verb "weep", without prefixes:

Tempora from the simple trunk
education Form and translation
Conative Stem + personal suffix her-i "he will cry in a moment"
preterite Stem [+ connecting vowel] + m-suffix + personal suffix her-imi "he was crying"
Perfect Stamm [+ connecting vowel] + auxiliary verb in the present tense her-u-ba-i "he cried"
Plus squ. Perfect Stem [+ connecting vowel] + auxiliary verb in the past tense her-u-ba-m "he cried"
  • '
Tenses from the present stem = stem + present sign
education Form and translation
Future tense Stem + present tense sign [+ binding voc. + m suffix] + personal end. her-č-imi "he will cry"
Present Stem + present tense + connecting vowel + auxiliary verb in the present tense her-č-u-ba-i "he is crying"
Past tense Stem + present tense + connecting vowel + auxiliary verb in the past tense her-č-u-ba-m "he cried (often)"
Conditional Stem + present tense + binding voc. + m-suffix (except 1st pl.) + če her-č-um-če "... would cry"
Conditional Stem + present sign + connecting vowel + ending 1. pl. + če her-č-an-če "we would cry"
Optative and imperative
education Form and translation
áa -optative Stamm + áa (in all persons) her-áa "... should .. cry"
m option Stem + [connecting vowel] + m-suffix around "... should .. cry"
š -optative Stamm + (i) š + personal ending her-š-an "they should cry"
Imperative sg. Stem [+ é for verbs with an emphasis on ending] here "cry!"
Imperative pl. Stem + in her-in "crying!"

Identification of subject and object

The subject and object of the verb form are identified by pronominal prefixes and suffixes in positions 3, 8 and 10 in the following way:

Affixart position function
Prefixes 3 direct object in the transitive verb, subject in the intransitive verb
Suffixes 8/10 Subject in the transitive and intransitive verb

The personal prefixes are identical to the pronominal prefixes on the noun (obligatory for body parts and relatives, see above). The forms of the prefixes (position 3) and suffixes (positions 8 and 10) are summarized in simplified form in the following tables:

Pronominal prefixes (position 3)
Person /
nominal class
Singular Plural
1st person a- mini
2nd person gu- ma-
3rd person m i- u-
3rd person f mu- u-
3rd person x i- u-
3rd person y i-
Pronominal suffixes (positions 8 and 10)
Person /
nominal class
Singular Plural
1./2. person -a -on
3rd person m -i -on
3rd person f -O -on
3rd person x -i -ie
3rd person y -i

Some construction examples of the past tense of the transitive prefix verb phus "bind" follow to explain the interaction of prefix and suffix:

  • i-phus-imi > he tied him (occupied positions: 3-5-8-9-10)
  • mu-phus-imi > he tied her (f)
  • u-phus-imi > he tied her (pl. hx)
  • mi-phus-imi > he bound us
  • i-phus-im-an > we tied / you tied / they tied him
  • mi-phus-im-an > you bound / they bound us
  • i-phus-ima > I tied / you tied him
  • gu-phus-ima > I tied you

The pronominal affixes are also used when nouns take the role of the subject or object, e.g. B. hir i-ír-i-mi "the man died". In intransitive verbs, the subject function can be marked by a prefix as well as a suffix - i.e. double. Examples:

  • gu-ir-č-uma "you will die" (future tense)
  • i-ghurts-imi "he sank" ( simple past)

Pronominal prefixes do not appear in all verbs and in all tenses. Some verbs never use personal prefixes, others always, others only under certain conditions. In intransitive verbs, pronominal prefixes often express an activity intended by the subject , while non-prefixed forms denote an action that is not done with the will of the subject. Examples:

  • hurúţ-imi "he sat down" (voluntary action without a prefix)
  • i-ír-imi "he died" (involuntary action with prefix)
  • ghurts-i-mi "he deliberately went under water: he dived" (without prefix)
  • i-ghurts-imi "he involuntarily went under water: he sank" (with prefix)

The d prefix

A number of verbs appear - sometimes in addition to their basic form - with a d-prefix (position 2), which is expanded before the consonant with a "harmonic" vowel. The exact semantic function of this d-formation has not been clarified. The d-prefix, always without pronominal prefixes, forms regular intransitiva for primary transitives. Examples:

  • i-phalt-i-mi "he broke it open " (transitive)
  • du-phalt-as "break open, explode" (intransitive)

Further details of the verbal morphology and other parts of the grammar can be found in the cited literature (especially H. Berger 1998).

Notes on the syntax

Note: the terms introduced in morphology are assumed here.

The simple sentence

As mentioned above, the burushaski is an ergative language , i. H. the subject of transitive verbs is in a special case , the ergative (ending - e ), while the subject of intransitive verbs and the direct object of transitive verbs are in the endless absolute (see above noun morphology, case formation).

The general order of the parts of the sentence is SOV, i.e. subject-object predicate , in two-part sentences without object SV. Two commented examples:

  • Example 1 hír-e gus mu-yeéć-imi 'the man saw the woman'
Explanation: The predicate is transitive, therefore the subject hír-e is in the ergative, the object gus in the endless absolute. The pronominal prefix mu- the finite verb form (see verbal morphology) refers to the object and is congruent with it in nominal class and number ( feminine singular ), the pronominal suffix -imi relates to the subject and is congruent with it in nominal class and number ( masculine singular ).
  • Example 2 hir i-ír-imi 'the man died'
Explanation: The predicate is intransitive, so is the subject hir in endingless Absolutiv. In contrast to the transitive construction, the pronominal prefix of the verb form i- refers here to the subject and congruates with it in nominal class and number (masc. Singular); redundantly, the personal suffix -imi also refers to the subject with which it is congruent in nominal class and number. This redundancy in the subject reference in intransitive sentences can be observed in many ergative languages.

The finite verb agrees with the subject in the person and (in the 3rd person) also in the nominal class. If there are several subjects with different nominal classes, the form of the x class is usually used (see nominal morphology, case formation above).

Noun phrases

The simple noun can be attributively extended by adjectives , participles , numerals , adjectival pronouns and genitives . These elements assigned to the noun always come before the noun in Burushaski (there are exceptions to this rule, especially numerals can also be added). If several attributes are added to a noun, a fixed order applies to the attributes: 1. the genitive attribute, 2. adjectives, pronominal adjectives and numerals, 3. demonstrative pronouns .


  • ínmo guyan 'her hair', literally 'the hair (guyan) of her'
  • han partiáantine dísanar 'to a ( han ) place of fairies ( partiáantine )'
  • naazúk daltás dísanulo 'in a pure, beautiful place' (the locative ending only receives the noun)

For the syntax of more complex sentences, reference is made to the literature cited, in particular to Berger 1998. The examples for syntax are also taken from this work.


  • GDS Anderson: Burushaski. In: K. Brown, S. Ogilvie (Eds.): Concise Encyclopedia of Languages ​​of the World. Elsevier, Amsterdam et al. 2009.
  • Peter Backstrom: Burushaski. In: Languages ​​of Northern Areas. (= Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan. Volume 2). Islamabad 1992. (Reprint: 2002)
  • Hermann Berger: The Burushaski language of Hunza and Nager. 3 volumes: 1. Grammar. 2. Texts with translations. 3. Dictionary. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998.
  • Hermann Berger: The Yasin Burushaski (Werchikwar). Grammar, texts, dictionary. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1974.
  • Václav Blažek: Lexica Dene-Caucasia. In: Central Asiatic J. vol. 39, 1995, pp. 11-50, 161-164. (Burushaski word equations with Basque, Caucasian and Yenisan languages, Sinotibetic and Na-Dené)
  • Ilija Čašule: Burushaski as an Indo-European "Kentum" language. (= Languages ​​of the World. 38). Lincom Europa, Munich 2009. (Highly controversial genetic assessment)
  • Jan Henrik Holst: Advances in Burushaski linguistics. Narr, Tübingen 2014.
  • Jan Henrik Holst: The origin of Buruschaski. Shaker, Aachen 2017.
  • Ernst Kausen: The language families of the world. Part 1: Europe and Asia. Buske, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-87548-655-1 . (Chapter 12)
  • David Lockhart Robertson Lorimer: The Burushaski Language. Volume 1: Introduction and Grammar. Volume 2: Histories. Volume 3: Dictionary. Aschehoug, Oslo 1935.
  • Yves Charles Morin, Etienne Tiffou: Dictionnaire complémentaire du bouroushaski de Yasin. (= Etudes bouroushaski. 2). SELAF # 304, Peeters / SELAF, Paris 1989. (addition to Berger and Tiffou)
  • Etienne Tiffou, Jürgen Pesot: Contes du Yasin - Introduction au bourou du Yasin. (= Etudes bouroushaski. 1). SELAF # 303, Peeters / SELAF, Paris 1989. (Continuation based on Berger's grammar)
  • George Van Driem: The Languages ​​of the Himalayas. Brill, Leiden 2001.
  • Stephen Willson: Basic Burushaski Vocabulary. (= Studies in Languages ​​of Northern Pakistan. Volume 6). Islamabad 1999.
  • Stephen Willson: A Look at Hunza Culture. (= Studies in Languages ​​of Northern Pakistan. Volume 3). Islamabad 1999.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. GDS Anderson: Burushaski. In: K. Brown, S. Ogilvie (Eds.) Concise Encyclopedia of Languages ​​of the World. Pp. 175-179.
  2. PC Backstrom: Burushaski. In: PC Backstrom, CF Radloff (Ed.): Languages ​​of Northern Areas. Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan. Volume 2, National Institute of Pakistani Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad 1992, p. 45.
  3. PC Backstrom: Burushaski. In: PC Backstrom, CF Radloff (Ed.): Languages ​​of Northern Areas. (= Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan. Vol. 2). National Institute of Pakistani Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad 1992, pp. 48-49.
  4. PC Backstrom: Burushaski. In: PC Backstrom, CF Radloff (Ed.): Languages ​​of Northern Areas. (= Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan. Vol. 2). National Institute of Pakistani Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad 1992, p. 49.
  5. ^ Hermann Berger: The Burushaski language of Hunza and Nager. Volume I, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998, p. 5.
  6. PC Backstrom: Burushaski. In: PC Backstrom, CF Radloff (Ed.): Languages ​​of Northern Areas. (= Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan. Vol. 2). National Institute of Pakistani Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad 1992, p. 49.
  7. PC Backstrom: Burushaski. In: PC Backstrom, CF Radloff (Ed.): Languages ​​of Northern Areas. (= Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan. Vol. 2). National Institute of Pakistani Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad 1992, p. 49.
  8. ^ Václav Blažek: Lexica Dene-Caucasia. In: Central Asiatic J. vol. 39, 1995, pp. 11-50, 161-164.
  9. ^ George van Driem: The Languages ​​of the Himalayas. Brill, Leiden 2001, pp. 1177-1205.
  10. ^ Ilija Čašule: Burushaski as an Indo-European Centum Language. (= Languages ​​of the World. 38). Lincom Europe, Munich 2009.
  11. ^ Hermann Berger: The Burushaski language of Hunza and Nager. 3 volumes. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998, p. 22.
  12. ^ Hermann Berger: The Burushaski language of Hunza and Nager. 3 volumes. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998, pp. 14-16.
  13. ^ Hermann Berger: The Burushaski language of Hunza and Nager. 3 volumes. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998, pp. 78-92.
  14. ^ Hermann Berger: The Burushaski language of Hunza and Nager. 3 volumes. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998, pp. 103-173.
  15. ^ Hermann Berger: The Burushaski language of Hunza and Nager. 3 volumes. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998, p. 110.
  16. ^ Hermann Berger: The Burushaski language of Hunza and Nager. 3 volumes. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998, pp. 177-202.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on December 1, 2010 in this version .