Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

John M. Clifton


Wardak is one variety of the Pashto language. Most of its approximate one million speakers live in Wardak Province, which is just south of the capital city, Kabul, of Afghanistan. While all Wardaks think of themselves as Pashtun, the Wardak speech variety is considered different from other Pashto varieties. Is Wardak a dialect of Pashto, or is there evidence for it being a variety separate from Pashto? Pashto has been developed with an alphabet going back four hundred years and an extensive literature, which includes an education curriculum that is taught in the primary schools. Does the existing literature and education materials meet the needs of the Wardak speaker? Linguists historically have divided Afghan Pashto into three dialects: Southern-Kandahar, Eastern-Jalalabad, and Central-Ghilji. The first two are considered the prestige dialects of Pashto. Does Wardak fit into one of these three existing dialects, or is it part of another dialect of Pashto?

Three instruments were used to answer these questions. First, Word List assessments compared similarity between Wardak and the prestige Pashto varieties. Second, Recorded Text Testing assessments compared comprehension levels between speakers from Wardak and other Pashto varieties. Third, Sociolinguistic Questionnaire assessments compared language usage and attitudes between speakers from Wardak and other Pashto varieties.

Wardak is a dialect of Pashto. While the needs of many Wardaks are met by the existing education curriculum and literature, some Wardaks would benefit from a limited Wardak language development project. Beyond this, the identity needs of Wardaks would benefit from more books, poems, and songs being written in Wardak. Finally, Wardak may have a relationship to other Pashto varieties that are spoken primarily in Khost and Paktia provinces. This relationship exists because Wardak speakers share the same ancestor, that is, Karlan, with speakers of these Khost and Paktia Pashto varieties.