Pashto (Naskh: پښتو - [paʂˈto]; also transliterated Pakhto, Pushto, Pukhto, Pashtu, or Pushtu), also known as Afghani, is an Indo-European language spoken primarily in Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Pashto belongs to the Eastern Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian language family. The number of Pashto-speakers is estimated to be 30-40 million, and as defined in the Constitution of Afghanistan, Pashto is an official and national language of the country. In Afghanistan, Pashto is primarily spoken in the east, south and southwest, but also in some northern and northwestern parts as a result of recent relocation. No exact numbers are available, but the CIA World Factbook 2009 estimates that 35% of the population speak Pashto as their first language. According to an older, but scholarly, estimate by the Encyclopaedia Iranica, Pashto is the native language of 50 to 55 percent of the population, and spoken by less than 10 percent as a second language. According to "A survey of the Afghan people - Afghanistan in 2006", Pashto is the first language of 40% of the population, while additional 28% also speak the language (combined 68%). In Pakistan, Pashto is spoken by about 27 million people (15% of the total population) in the North-West Frontier Province, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Balochistan. Modern Pushtun-speaking communities are also found in Sindh (Karachi and Hyderabad). With an estimated 4 million ethnic Pashtuns, Karachi hosts one of the largest Pashtun populations in the world. Other communities of Pashto speakers are found in northeastern Iran, primarily in South Khorasan Province to the east of Qaen, near the Afghan border, and in Tajikistan. There are also Pashtun communities in Uttar Pradesh as well as the southwestern part of Jammu & Kashmir in India. Sizable Pashto-speaking communities also exist in the Middle East, especially in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as in the United States, particularly California, and in the United Kingdom, Thailand, Canada and Australia HISTORY The first written records of Pashto are believed to date from the sixteenth century and consist of an account of Sheikh Mali's conquest of Swat. In the seventeenth century, Khushal Khan Khattak, considered the national poet of Afghanistan, was writing in Pashto. In this century, there has been a rapid expansion of writing in journalism and other modern genres which has forced innovation of the language and the creation of many new words. Traces of the history of Pashto are present in its vocabulary. While the majority of words can be traced to Pashto's roots as member of the Eastern Iranian language branch, it has also borrowed words from adjacent languages for over two thousand years. The oldest borrowed words are from Greek, and date from the Greek occupation of Bactria in third century BC. There are also a few traces of contact with Zoroastrians and Buddhists. Starting in the Islamic period, Pashto borrowed many words from Arabic and Persian. Due to its close geographic proximity to languages of the Indian sub-continent, Pashto has borrowed words from Indian languages for centuries. Pashto has long been recognized as an important language in Afghanistan. Classical Pashto was the object of study by British soldiers and administrators in the nineteenth century and the classical grammar in use today dates from that period. In 1936, Pashto was made the national language of Afghanistan by royal decree. Today, Dari Persian and Pashto both are official national languages. ACADEMIC RESOURCES Pashto is taught at very few universities in the United States and Canada. The most consistent program offered is at the Diplomatic Language Services in Arlington, Virginia.
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