Click the speaker icons below to hear some Pashto words and sentences, which are written in a non-standard Roman orthography similar to the one used in Herbert Penzl's A grammar of Pashto: a descriptive study of the dialect of Kandahar, Afghanistan (Washington, DC: American Council of Learned Societies, 1955). Literary Pashto actually uses a modified Arabic script, which is not shown here. The morpheme-by-morpheme glosses (the English words and grammatical categories written underneath the Pashto) have also been considerably simplified. Pashto has a rich system of case and agreement, but the purpose of this page is merely to illustrate how Pashto sounds. Many thanks to Abdul Aziz and Zafar Hussain for recording the sound samples on this page.
The retroflex lateral flap
One of the more distinctive consonants in Pashto is surely rr, the retroflex lateral flap. According to Penzl, this sound is made "by the rapid motion of the retroflexed tip of the tongue from a prepalatal to an approximately postdental position. The blade of the tongue leaves lateral openings through which the air escapes. This accounts for the l-like quality of the sound" (p. 25)
The masculine form of "yellow" shows that rr in final position is more of an approximant (like English r). The "flapping" property of rr is best brought out when a vowel follows, as it does in the feminine form of this word. Compare the rr sound in the two forms of "yellow" below, as pronounced by two different native speakers:
Pashto has a fairly free word order, although the verb is typically at the end of the sentence. The following sentence illustrates the word order subject-direct object-indirect object-verb:
Another complicated area of Pashto grammar is relative clauses, of which only a couple of examples are given below. Each sentence is again illustrated by two different speakers:
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