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Pashto, also known as Pushtu, is one of the two major languages of Afghanistan, the other being Persian. It is spoken by about 15 million people there (about 60 percent of the population), mostly in the eastern and southern parts of the country. Another 20 million speakers live across the border in Pakistan, in the North-West Frontier Province whose capital is Peshawar.
Pashto is the language of the Pashtuns, the indigenous inhabitants of Afghanistan. Like Persian, it is one of the Iranian languages, and thus part of the Indo-European family. It is written in the Perso-Arabic script, but the alphabet contains a number of letters not to be found in either Persian or Arabic.
The term “Pashto” actually refers to the more important of the two dialects: the so-called “soft” dialect of Afghanistan which preserves the ancient sh and zh sounds. In Pakistan, where the “hard” kh and gh are preferred, the language is generally referred to as Pakhto. But with the large number of Afghanis now living in Pakistan, this distinction has begun to blur.
Authorized from the original edition of The Languages of the World 3rd edition by Keneth Katzner published by Routledge, a member of the Taylor & Francis Group.
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