Category: Languages

26 languages spoken in NWFP, northern areas: Many face threat of extinction

Daily Times – PESHAWAR: Many of the 26 languages spoken in North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and the country’s northern parts are endangered due to small number of their speakers coupled with the relevant authorities’ disinterest in their promotion. Most of these endangered languages are spoken in small mountainous hamlets, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) interactive Atlas of World’s Languages in Danger issued in 2009. The atlas said the languages in

question faced threats of extinction due to the monopoly of major languages and lack of documentation and preservation on the part of the authorities concerned. Overall, around 69 languages are spoken in the country with great linguistic diversity. The atlas said Dameli, Chilasso, Domaaki, Bashkarkik and Kalasha were severely endangered, Wakhi, Yidgha, Kati, Gawar Bati, Savi, Torwali, Bateri, Ushojo, Kundal Shahi and Urmur definitely endangered and Burshuski, Maiya and Khowar vulnerable (to extinction). According to it, the severely endangered language is spoken by grandparents and older generations, while the parent generation may understand it but doesn’t speak it to children or among themselves. Definitely endangered language is no longer learnt by children as mother tongue at home, while in case of vulnerable language, most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains like homes. According to the Forum for Language Initiatives (FLI), an initiative to promote and preserve the indigenous languages, around 26 languages are spoken across the Frontier and northern areas of Pakistan. These languages include – Balti (270,00) in Baltistan, Bateri (20,000) in Indus Kohistan, Burushaski (100,000) in Hunza, Chilisso (3,000) in Indus Kohistan, Dameli (5,000) in Damel valley of Chitral, Domaaski (500) in Hunza, Gawar-Bati (1,500) in Arandu Chitral, Gawri/Kalami (100,000) in Swat, Dir and Kohistan, Gojri (300,000) in throughout the region, Hindko (2.5 million) in Hazara, Azad Kashmir, Kohat and Peshawar, Indus Kohistani (220,000) in Indus Kohistan, Kalasha (3,000) in Chitral, Kataviri/Kamviri (7,000) in Chitral, Kashmiri (105,000) Azad Kashmir, Khowar/Chitrali (220,000) in Chitral and Gilgit, Ormuri (8,000) in South Waziristan, Pahari/Potwari (3.8 million) in Murree Hills and Azad Kashmir, Palula (10,000) Chitral, Pushto (10 million) throughout the region, Shina (500,00) in Gilgit and Kohistan, Torwali (80,000) in Swat, Ushojo (1,000) in Swat, Wakhi (12,000) in Chitral and Yidgha (6,000) in Lutkoh valley in Chitral. Zubair Torwali, associated with mother language-based education in Swat, told Daily Times on Sunday that these languages were endangered and dependent on government for their preservation and promotion. He said the issue of endangered languages and their promotion had taken a backseat due to militancy. He said the government should open a research centre in Peshawar University or Pashto Academy to preserve and promote the province’s endangered or vulnerable languages. He also called for educating schoolchildren speaking these languages at primary level in their respective areas.