From Oral to Written: A Text-linguistic Study of Wakhi Narratives

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Ihresalen (21-0011), Engelska Parken, Thunbergsvägen 3, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Obrtelová, Jaroslava
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Institutionen för lingvistik och filologi
  • Kontaktperson: Obrtelová, Jaroslava
  • Disputation


Wakhi is one of the endangered “Pamir” languages belonging to the East Iranian group of Indo-European. A total of around 72,000 Wakhi speakers live in the border areas of four countries: Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. This study focuses on the Wakhi spoken in Tajikistan, which for a long time was unwritten. Recently, however, native speakers have made significant efforts to preserve and develop their mother tongue in written form.

This study examines textual differences between oral and written narratives in Wakhi from a discourse-pragmatic perspective. It addresses issues relating to the transition from an unwritten to an early-stage written language. Rather than finding a clear boundary between the two, it proposes a continuum with spontaneous narratives at one end and written narratives at the other, and identifies both syntactic and textual differences between them. Oral narratives prepared in advance differ from the spontaneously told ones and share some characteristics with written narratives.

The first and most extensive part of the study compares interclausal coordinate and subordinate relations in the oral and written narratives. Coordination in written narratives is usually achieved using unmarked forms and with fewer types of coordinating devices than in oral narratives. Unmarked patterns of complementation are also more frequent in written than in oral narratives. However, temporal subordinate clauses in written narratives favour the post-nuclear form that is described as marked, whereas oral narratives prefer the unmarked pre-nuclear order.

The second part analyses significant differences between the two forms of expression from the perspective of their function in the overall structure of narratives. One significant difference concerns story development techniques. Development in oral narratives is marked primarily through a “then”-type conjunction, but in written narratives is signalled through certain forms of references to agents.

An annotated corpus of 29 written and 13 oral narratives accompanies the publication (available in electronic format).