The âṣkuňu, saňu , and gřâmsaňâ


Âṣku˜gal and Adjacent Lands

Native Names: âṣkuňu, saňu, and gřâmsaňâ, all speaking dialects of a single language.

Other Names: "Ashkun" (first noted by Robertson [1896]), Wâmâi (from the Pashto name of the village of sâma), and "Achanu" (from the Pashto name of the village of gřâmsaňâ gřâm).


Location: upper-middle Pech Valley and over the watershed into the bâźâigal, mâseːgal, and titin valleys of upper Laghmân.


Population: perhaps 10,000 – 30,000 for all three ethnic groups.


Settlements: (names are given in the saňu dialect)
  of the saňu (Pech Valley): sâma [Pashto wâmâ, Kalaṣa-alâ šemi], pau˜ć, kâmgal, akaṭaban, vâu, buni;
  of the gřâmsaňâ (Pech Valley): gřâmsaňâ gřâm, sâbligal;
  of the âṣkuňu (Laghmân): in bâźâigal: bâźâigal, kuri, pâigalak;
      in mâseːgal: mâlak, bâiṣṭâl [?], mâsiː, gâdâlâm, koṭagal, koṭagal niše, kolâtâ˜, gulćâidârgřâm, ḍiŋordâra gřâm, âviːk, pašuːk;
      in titin: buddâlâm, ḍiŋordâlâm, bâidâlâm, šimâmdâlâm, kuri [?], nâkâdârgřâm.


Multi-Ethnic Language Name: Morgenstierne and others have called the overall language "Ashkun", after the largest ethnic group speaking the language (Morgenstierne 1929a). No known native term encompasses all the ethnic dialects, but âṣkuňu-saňu vːiri comes close.

Linguistic Position of Ashkun: Ashkun forms with Kalaṣa-alâ and Tregâmi the Southern Group of Nuristâni languages (see the Table of Languages). The âṣkuňu in Laghmân have assimilated some phonological processes of the neighboring Indo-Aryan-speaking Pašaî people of the Alingar Valley, forming a dialect group (âṣkuňu ve:ri) distinct from the linguistically more conservative dialects in Pech (saňu vi:ri and gřâmsaňâ vi:ri). Minor dialect divisions are reported among the three major valleys of âṣkuňu territory. Morgenstierne's field data remain the major source on Ashkun (1929a, 1934a, 1952), supplemented by Buddruss (2006) and Grjunberg (1999). Strand's field data on the saňu dialect appear in the Comparative Lexicon on this site.


History: No account of the history of the Ashkun-speaking peoples has been recorded. Accounts from other Nuristâni peoples assert that the saňu had the same origin as the other Nuristânis who settled in the Pech Valley after fleeing the predations of Mahmud Ghaznavi in the 11th century A.D. From the existence in âṣkuňu territory of village names that end in the Pašaî word lâm 'community' (rather than Ashkun gřâm or glâm), it would appear that Ashkun speakers have spread "over the top," as the Nuristânis say, from sâma into Laghmân. This hypothesis is consistent with the former religious preeminence of sâma, with its large orchard, indra kun, reputedly planted by the god Indra himself (cf. Degener 1998: 237).