The Yazgulyam language (also Yazgulyami, Iazgulem, Yazgulam; Tajik: yazgulomi) is a member of the Southeastern subgroup of the Iranian languages, spoken by ca. 4,000 native speakers in 1994 along the Yazgulyam River, Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan. Together with Shugni, it is classified in a Shugni-Yazgulami subgroup, as well as a part of the areal group of Pamir languages. Virtually all speakers are bilingual in the Tajik language.
The Yazgulami language consists of two dialects, one of these is spoken higher in the mountains, the other lower. The differences are not significant and are limited to the vocabulary. Differences in the vocabulary are also detectable between the languages used in different villages in the lower mountains. The Vanji language (also Vanži) is a close relation to Yazgulami, which has become extinct now. Other languages spoken in the Pamirs differ greatly from the Yazgulami language. The disparities are the largest in the vocabulary.
The language was first recorded by Russian traveller G. Arandarenko in 1889, listing 34 Yazgulami words recorded in 1882. The language was described in greater detail by French linguist Robert Gauthiot in Notes sur le yazggoulami, dialecte iranien des Confins du Pamir (1916).
The Yazgulyam people are an exception among the speakers of Pamir languages in that they do not adhere to Ismailism.
In 1954 the Yazgulami living on the mountain slopes were resettled, about 20% of them forcibly, to the Vakhsh valley, where they live dispersed among the Tadjiks, Uzbeks, Russians and other ethnic groups.
The phonology of the Yazgulyam language differs from the basic "Shugni-Roshani" type in its system of dorsal consonants: in addition to the velar and uvular stops g, k, q and fricatives x̌, γ̌, x, γ,, Yazgulami has a palatalized and a labialized series, transcribed as ḱ, ǵ (palatalized velars), k° g° x̌° (labialized velars, there is no labialized velar voiced fricative) and q° x° γ° (labialized uvulars). A significant number of labialized consonants etymologically correspond to Proto-Iranian *Cv or *Cu, e.g. x̌°arg < *hvaharā- "sister", while others are unrelated to Proto-Iranian v, e.g. sk°on < skana- "puppy".
This threefold system of articulation of dorsals has been compared typologically to the three reconstructed rows of dorsals in the Proto-Indo-European language.
In the past tense, Yazgulyam has tripartite marking—one of the very few languages in the world to have it at all. This means that the subject of an intransitive sentence is treated differently from both the subject and the object of a transitive sentence.
- Ėdel’man, D.I. Jazguljamskij jazyk. Moskva: Nauka, 1966.
- Ėdel’man, D.I. Jazguljamsko-russkij slovar’. Moskva: Nauka, 1971.
- Zarubin, I.I.. Two Yazghulāmī Texts. Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, 1936, vol. 8, no. 2/3, p. 875-881.
- Payne, John, "Pamir languages" in: Rüdiger Schmitt (ed.), Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, 417–444. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1989.
- A Short List of Yazghulami Words
- English-Ishkashimi- Zebaki-Wakhi-Yazghulami Vocabulary
- Grierson G. A. Ishkashmi, Zebaki, and Yazghulami, an account of three Eranian dialects. (1920)