The word Brahui written in the Nastaliq script
Native toPakistan, Afghanistan[1]
EthnicityBrahui and Baloch
Native speakers
(2.8 million cited 1980–2017 Census)[1]
Perso-Arabic Script (Nastaʿlīq),
Latin script
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byDepartment of Brahui, University of Balochistan
Language codes
ISO 639-3brh
Brahui (far upper left) is geographically isolated from all other Dravidian languages.[2]
Brahui is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

Brahui[3] (/brəˈhi/ brə-HOO-ee;[4] Brahui: براہوئی; also known as Brahvi or Brohi) is a Dravidian language spoken by the Brahui people who are mainly found in the central Balochistan Province of Pakistan, with smaller communities of speakers scattered in parts of Iranian Baluchestan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan (around Merv)[5] and by expatriate Brahui communities in Iraq, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.[6] It is isolated from the nearest Dravidian-speaking neighbouring population of South India by a distance of more than 1,500 kilometres (930 mi).[2] The Kalat, Khuzdar, Mastung, Quetta, Bolan, Nasirabad, Nushki, and Kharan districts of Balochistan Province are predominantly Brahui-speaking.


The proportion of people with Brahui as their mother tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Brahui is spoken in the central part of Pakistani Balochistan, mainly in Kalat, Khuzdar and Mastung districts, but also in smaller numbers in neighboring districts, as well as in Afghanistan which borders Pakistani Balochistan; however, many members of the ethnic group no longer speak Brahui.[2] There are also an unknown (but very small) number of expatriate Brahuis in the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, and Turkmenistan.[6]


There is no consensus as to whether Brahui is a relatively recent language introduced into Balochistan or the remnant of a formerly more widespread Dravidian language family. According to Josef Elfenbein (1989), the most common theory is that the Brahui were part of a Dravidian migration into north-western parts of the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd millennium BC, but unlike other Dravidians who migrated to the south, they remained in Sarawan and Jahlawan since before 2000 BC.[7] However, some other scholars see it as a recent migrant language to its present region. They postulate that Brahui could only have migrated to Balochistan from central India after 1000 AD. This is contradicted by genetic evidence that shows the Brahui population to be indistinguishable from neighbouring Balochi speakers, and genetically distant from central Dravidian speakers.[8] The main Iranian contributor to Brahui vocabulary, Balochi, is a Northwestern Iranian language, and moved to the area from the west only around 1000 AD.[9][10] One scholar places the migration as late as the 13th or 14th century.[11] The Brahui lexicon is believed to be of: 35% Perso-Arabic origin, 20% Balochi origin, 20% Indo-Aryan origin, 15% Dravidian origin, and 10% unknown origin.[12][13]

Franklin Southworth (2012) proposes that Brahui is not a Dravidian language, but can be linked with the remaining Dravidian languages and Elamite to form the "Zagrosian family," which originated in Southwest Asia (southern Iran) and was widely distributed in South Asia and parts of eastern West Asia before the Indo-Aryan migration.[14]


There are no important dialectal differences. Jhalawani (southern, centered on Khuzdar) and Sarawani (northern, centered on Kalat) dialects are distinguished by the pronunciation of *h, which is retained only in the north (Elfenbein 1997). Brahui has been influenced by the Iranian languages spoken in the area, including Persian, Balochi and Pashto.[15]


Brahui vowels show a partial length distinction between long /aː uː/ and diphthongs /aɪ̯ aʊ̯/ and short /a i u/. Brahui does not have short /e, o/ due to influence from neighbouring Indo-Aryan and Iranic languages, the PD short *e was replaced by a, ē and i, and ∗o by ō, u and a in root syllables.[16]

Front Central Back
Close i u
Open a

Brahui consonants show patterns of retroflexion but lack the aspiration distinctions found in surrounding languages and include several fricatives such as the voiceless lateral fricative [ɬ], a sound not otherwise found in the region.[17] Consonants are also very similar to those of Balochi, but Brahui has more fricatives and nasals (Elfenbein 1993).

Labial Dental
Retroflex Palato-
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ (ŋ)
Stop p b t d ʈ ɖ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ k ɡ ʔ
Fricative f s z ʃ ʒ x ɣ h
Lateral ɬ l
Rhotic ɾ ɽ
Glide j w


Stress in Brahui follows a quantity-based pattern, occurring either on the first long vowel or diphthong, or on the first syllable if all vowels are short.


Perso-Arabic script

Brahui has the rare letter "ڷ" and is written in Nastaliq script.

Brahui is the only Dravidian language which is not known to have been written in a Brahmi-based script; instead, it has been written in the Arabic script since the second half of the 20th century.[20] In Pakistan, an Urdu based Nastaʿlīq script is used in writing:

Letter Latin equivalent IPA
ا á, a, i, u /aː/, /ə/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/
ب b /b/
پ p /p/
ت t /t/
ٹ ŧ /ʈ/
ث (s) /s/
ج j /d͡ʒ/
چ c /t͡ʃ/
ح (h) /h/
خ x /x/
د d /d/
ڈ đ /ɖ/
ذ (z) /z/
ر r /ɾ/
ڑ ŕ /ɽ/
ز z /z/
ژ ź /ʒ/
س s /s/
ش ş /ʃ/
ص (s) /s/
ض (z) /z/
ط (t) /t/
ظ (z) /z/
ع ', (a), (i), (u) /ʔ/, /ə/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/
غ ģ /ɣ/
ف f /f/
ق (k) /k/
ک k /k/
گ g /ɡ/
ل l /l/
ڷ ļ /ɬ/
م m /m/
ن n /n/
ں ń /ɳ/
و v, o, ú /w~ʋ/, /o/, /u/
ہ h /h/
ھ (h) /h/
ی y, í /j/, /iː/
ے e /eː/

Latin script

More recently, a Roman-based orthography named Brolikva (an abbreviation of Brahui Roman Likvar) was developed by the Brahui Language Board of the University of Balochistan in Quetta and adopted by the newspaper Talár.

Below is the new promoted Bráhuí Báşágal Brolikva orthography:[3]

b á p í s y ş v x e z ź ģ f ú m n l g c t ŧ r ŕ d o đ h j k a i u ń ļ

The letters with diacritics are the long vowels, post-alveolar and retroflex consonants, the voiced velar fricative and the voiceless lateral fricative.

Sample text


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Arabic script

مُچَّا اِنسَاںک آجو او اِزَّت نَا رِد اَٹ بَرےبَر وَدِى مَسُّنو. اوفتے پُهِى او دَلِىل رَسےںگَانے. اَندَادے وفتے اَسِ اےلو تون اِىلُمِى اے وَدِّفوئِى اے.

Latin script

Muccá insáńk ájo o izzat ná rid aŧ barebar vadí massuno. Ofte puhí o dalíl raseńgáne. andáde ofte asi elo ton ílumí e vaddifoí e.


According to a 2009 UNESCO report, Brahui is one of the 27 languages of Pakistan that are facing the danger of extinction. It was classified as "unsafe", the least endangered level out of the five levels of concern (Unsafe, Definitely Endangered, Severely Endangered, Critically Endangered and Extinct).[21] This status has since been renamed to "vulnerable".[22]


Talár is the first daily newspaper in the Brahui language.[citation needed] It uses the new Roman orthography and is "an attempt to standardize and develop [the] Brahui language to meet the requirements of modern political, social and scientific discourse."[23]


  1. ^ Official provincial minority status by the Provincial Assembly of Balochistan
  1. ^ a b Brahui at Ethnologue (26th ed., 2023) Closed access icon
  2. ^ a b c Parkin 1989, p. 37.
  3. ^ a b Bráhuí Báşágal, Quetta: Brahui Language Board, University of Balochistan, April 2009, archived from the original on 2023-01-03, retrieved 2023-10-05
  4. ^ "Brahui". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  5. ^ "A slice of south India in Balochistan". 2017-02-18.
  6. ^ a b "International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, Volumes 36-37" department of linguistics, University of Kerala[full citation needed]
  7. ^ "BRAHUI – Encyclopaedia Iranica".
  8. ^ Pagani, Luca; Colonna, Vincenza; Tyler-Smith, Chris; Ayub, Qasim (2017). "An Ethnolinguistic and Genetic Perspective on the Origins of the Dravidian-Speaking Brahui in Pakistan". Man in India. 97 (1): 267–278. PMC 5378296. PMID 28381901.
  9. ^ Witzel 2008, p. 1.
  10. ^ Elfenbein 1987.
  11. ^ Sergent 1997, pp. 129–130.
  12. ^ Bashir, Elena (1991). A contrastive analysis of Brahui and Urdu. Academy for Educational Development. OCLC 31900835.
  13. ^ Krishnamurti 2003, p. 27.
  14. ^ Southworth, Franklin (2011). "Rice in Dravidian and its linguistic implications". Rice. 4: 142–148. doi:10.1007/s12284-011-9076-9.
  15. ^ Emeneau 1962, p. [page needed].
  16. ^ a b Krishnamurti 2003, p. 118.
  17. ^ Bashir 2016, p. 274.
  18. ^ a b c d Krishnamurti 2003, p. 77.
  19. ^ Krishnamurti 2003, p. 58.
  20. ^ "Бесписьменный язык Б." Archived from the original on 2015-06-23. Retrieved 2015-06-23.
  21. ^ Moseley 2009, p. [page needed].
  22. ^ Moseley, Christopher, ed. (2010). Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. Memory of Peoples (3rd ed.). Paris: UNESCO Publishing. ISBN 978-92-3-104096-2. Retrieved 2015-04-11.
  23. ^ Haftaí Talár, Talár Publications, archived from the original on 2013-06-24, retrieved 2010-06-29