Pashto is spoken by about 40.000.000 people. The speakers mostly live in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pashto belongs to the southeastern subdivision of the Iranian languages. The Iranian languages together with the closely related Indo-Aryan languages constitute the Indo-Iranian subgroup of the Indo-European language family.
Pashto is subdivided into two major dialect groups: Pashto Proper and Waneci. Pashto Proper is further subdivided into four subgroups: 1) Southwestern Pashto spoken in southwestern Afghanistan, the most prominent dialect is the dialect of Kandahar, 2) Northwestern Pashto spoken in eastern and northeastern Afghanistan, 3) Southeastern Pashto spoken in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan, 4) Northeastern Pashto spoken in Northwestern Pakistan.
Pashto and the Dari variety of Persian became the official languages of Afghanistan in 1936. Pashto is the first language of up to 50 percent of the inhabitants of Afghanistan, but only spoken by 10 percent as second language. Dari has a much higher proportion of second language speakers due to the fact that it is the lingua franca of multi-ethnic Afghanistan.
Since the 16th century Pashto has a very rich written and oral literature.
Pashto like Persian is written with a modified Arabic script, which has been exteded by additional letters.
Pashto shares many isoglosses with Yidgha-Munji.
Vowel has phonemic value. Complex consonant groups can occur word-initially. There are retroflex consonants.
The position of lexical stress has phonemic value.
Pashto nominal morphology is quite archaic: It has preserved a number of nominal inflectional categories and a wirde range of plural formations. However, there are also innovation in the nominal system, for instance the distinction of animate vs. inanimate in the formation of the plural. Nominal inflection is characterized by suffixing and alternation of the stem vowel. Nouns are inflected for gender (masculine, feminine), number (singular, plural) and case (direct, oblique). Nouns are cassified into various inflexion classes.
Adjectives agree with the head noun in gender, case and number. Comparative and superlative are formed by analytic means.
First and second person pronouns are inflected for number (singular, plural) and case (direct, oblique). Third person pronouns are also inflected for gender (masculine, feminine).
There are also enclitic and possessive pronouns. Enctitic pronouns can act as possessor, object and agent of a transitive verb in the past tense.
The cardinal numbers are inflected for case and gender.
Verb inflection is based on three stems: present stem, past stem and perfect stem. The present tense and the imperfect are formed with the present stem, the past tense is formed with the past stem, perfect and pluperfect are formed with the perfect stem. Person and number are indicated personal suffixes attached to the stem. The third singular distinguishes between masculine and feminine gender.
The verbal system is characterized by a Slavic-like aspect sytem: The perfective aspect is derived from the imperfective verb by prefixing or accent shift or a different stem
Compound verbs consisting of a non-verbal element and a light verb occur quite frequently in Pashto. Non-verbal and verbal component can be separated by verbal particles and enclitic pronouns.
Pashto is a split ergative language: Split ergativity means that a language has in one domain accusative morphosyntax and in another domain ergative morphosyntax. In Pashto the present tense is structured the accusative way and the past tense is structured the ergative way. Accusative morphosyntax means that in a language subjects of intransitive and transitive verbs are treated the same way and direct objects are treated another way. Ergative morphosyntax means that in a language subjects of intransitive verbs and direct objects are treated one way and subjects of transitive verbs are treated another way.
In the Pashto past tense subjects of intransitive verbs and direct objects are marked by the direct case whereas subjects of transitive verbs are marked by the oblique case. This feature characterises the Pashto past tense as ergative.
The verb agrees with the transitive and intransitive subject in the present tense, but with the intransitive subject and the direct object in the past tenses.
There are our non-finite forms of the verb: infinitive, present participle, perfect participle and optative-potential participle.
New words are formed in Pashto by derivation and composition.
Pashto uses prepositions, postpositions and ambipositions (two elements surrounding word).
The unmarked order of constituents is SOV like in most other Iranian languages.
The lexical inventory of Pashto is characterized by the frequent occurrance of Arabo-Persian and Indo-Aryan loan words.