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Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm (Chorasmia) on the northern banks of the river Syr Daryamarker (Jaxartes) in Transoxiana (part of the modern Republic of Uzbekistanmarker).

Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is limited to its Middle Iranian stage and much like Sogdian, we are not sure of its ancient form. Before the advancement of Islam in Transoxiana (early 8th century AD), Khwarezmian was written in a script close to that of Sogdian and Pahlavi with its roots in the imperial Aramaic script. From the few remaining pieces of this script (from coins and artifacts), it has been observed that written Khwarezmian included Aramaic logograms or ideograms, that is, Aramaic words written to represent native spoken ones.

After the advancement of Islam, Khwareazmian adapted a version of the Perso-Arabic alphabet with a few extra signs to reflect the specific Khwarezmian sounds, such as the letter څ, which represents /ts/ and /dz/, as in traditional Pashto orthography. A version of this script survives and is used by modern speakers of Pashto.

From the writings of the great Khwarezmian scholars, Biruni and Zamakhshari, we know that the language was in use at least until the 13th century AD, when it was gradually replaced by various dialects of Turkish as well as by Persian.

Other than the astronomical terms used by Biruni, our other sources of Khwarezmian include Zamakhshari's Arabic-Persian-Khwarezmian dictionary and several legal texts that use Khwarezmian terms to explain certain legal concepts.

The noted scholar W.B. Henning was preparing a dictionary of Khwarezmian when he died, leaving it unfinished.


  1. Encyclopedia Iranica, "The Chorasmian Language", D.N.Mackenzie
  2. Andrew Dalby, Dictionary of Languages: the definitive reference to more than 400 languages, Columbia University Press, 2004, pg 278
  3. MacKenzie, D. N. "Khwarazmian Language and Literature," in E. Yarshater ed. Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. III, Part 2, Cambridge 1983, pp. 1244-1249
  4. Encyclopedia Britannica, "Iranian languages" (Retrieved on 29 December 2008)

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