Mother Tongue and Language Practices of Pashai-Speaking Communities in Afghanistan and the Diaspora

  • Rachel LehrEmail author
  • Jennifer Fluri
Living reference work entry


This chapter examines the language practices of various Pashai-speaking communities in Afghanistan and in the diaspora. Pashai speakers are an Afghan linguistic minority (less than 1% of the population). The authors look at the intersecting roles of gender and geographic space in language use patterns in areas of Afghanistan with a higher-density of Pashai speakers in comparison with the spatially diffuse diaspora. In Afghanistan, the dominance of the two national languages, Pashto and Dari, in the public spaces of education, commerce and politics have had a negative effect on minority language maintenance. An increase in multilingualism has eroded the reproduction of Pashai, especially among men. Conversely, female Pashai speakers are more likely to be monolingual, particularly when their access to public space is limited. This chapter will examine the spatial and situational dynamics of changing gender roles and spatial access to language within the Pashai-speaking community as well as language use patterns among younger community members. Social media, Skype, and other communication technologies play an expanding and considerably crucial role in language maintenance and transmission for Pashai speakers in the diaspora, thus constituting a spatial expansion of Pashai use through virtual connections. Women in particular use these technologies to bolster and maintain social ties among speakers of this ecologically fragile language. Through case studies and ethnographic description, this chapter analyzes the conjunction of language, space, and gender in Afghanistan and the diaspora, while exploring the role of women, men, and technology in Pashai language preservation.


Gender Language diglossia language endangerment Afghanistan Diaspora Migration Pashai 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of Colorado-BoulderBoulderUSA

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