Pashto and Dari are two major languages in Afghanistan. Both languages are of Persian origin as it is the main language in Iran world. Dari and Pashto have common roots in Italian family meaning that they common words and common letters. Both languages are written in Arabic alphabet from right to left. Official statistics show that about 35% are speaking Pashto and more than 50% are speaking Dari dialect. Dari was official language till 1973, and today it remains the language of government and business.
Pashto is national and official language in Afghanistan since 1973. Lexicons of Pashto and Dari are of Eastern Iranian origin, and their words can be easily compared to those in Pamir, Ossetic and Avestan languages. Despite Pashto and Dari share common roots in Iranian family having common letters, words, word order and verb system they are considered two different languages. Firstly, in sound system the key difference is that Pashto language has additional series of retroflex consonants that Dari doesn’t.
In particular, additional retroflex consonants are: t, r, d, n and sh in Kandahari dialect. They are usually pronounced by curling the tongue backward. Unlike Dari, Pashto allows consonant clusters of more than three sounds at the beginning of a syllabus. The differences in pronunciation are present as well. Pronunciation of some sounds is slightly different. Actually, differences are better displayed in pronunciation of number: [yak], [du], [se], [char], [panj] in Dari and [jaw], [dwa], [dre], [tsalor], [pindzuh] in Pashto.
Word stress in Pashto is dynamic. (Language and Literacy 2002) Secondly, in grammar Pashto and Dari share similar word order, in which the verb is put before the object. The key difference is that Pashto language has three separate verbs types and each type of verb is provided with own set of irregular verbs. In that aspect Dari is less complicated that Pashto as word formation is easier. In contrast to Dari, Pashto is characterized by several classes of feminine and masculine nouns and adjectives. Weak and strong pronounces are present.
One more difference is that, unlike, Pashto, Dari uses continuous tense. In Dari the verb ‘dashtan’ is placed before any verb to indicate that an action is continuous. Moreover, prepositions and postpositions are inherent to Pashto and are not allowed in Dari dialect. Thirdly, in writing system Pashto and Dari share the same Arabic alphabet and the words are written from right to left. The key difference is that Dari has four extra letters that are not present in Arabic, whereas Pashto has additional eight letters that Dari doesn’t have.
In particular, additional letters represent retroflex consonants /tt/, /dd/, /rr/, and /nn/. Further, Pashto has the letters /ssin/ and /zz/ that represent voiceless and voiced retroflex fricatives, which are absent in Dari. Thus, writing system of Pashto is more complicated than that of Dari. They key problem is that Dari and Pashto can’t be translated into English or any other European language as they don’t have symbols that represent vowels. Fourthly, in vocabulary Pashto and Dari have words that can be compared to other Iranian dialects.
Pashto and Dari are of Iranian origin meaning they share common vocabulary. Pashto and Dari have similar ancestral words that have been spoken side by side. Modern borrowings come from Arabic, similar all languages spoken by Islamic people. The key difference is that Pashto has additional borrowings from Urdu (spoken in Pakistan) and Hindu, whereas Dari has more borrowings from Turkmen and Uzbek. It shows that Dari and Pashto are adjacent to other languages. (Language and Literacy 2002)
Summing up, Pashto and Dari languages share the same Iranian family having similar sound and writing systems, grammar and vocabulary. Nevertheless, they are two different languages. Pashto language has additional series of retroflex consonants that Dari doesn’t. Pashto has three separate verbs types and more complicated word formation. Pashto borrows words more from Urdu, whereas Dari has more borrowings from Turkmen and Uzbek. Pashto has additional eight letters that are not present in Arabic, whereas Dari has only four additional letters.