Towards a Sociolinguistic Profile of the Khowar Language

by David Munnings

December 4, 1990

0. Introduction

The people of Chitral in north-western Pakistan are experiencing a period of rapid and unprecedented change. For centuries they have lived in relative isolation in their mountain kingdom but, dating from their involuntary association with the British Empire (1895) and their voluntary association with the new state of Pakistan (1947) and their incorporation into the North-West Frontier Province (1969), they have established ever more frequent and profound contacts with people from other linguistic and cultural traditions.

The leaders of Chitral are rightly concerned that the process of change in Chitrali society be managed wisely--so that the people will benefit from what is good in the new but will also preserve what is most precious in their own linguistic and cultural heritage (Israr-ud-Din, 1990). Those leaders with whom my wife and I have had the honour of becoming acquainted are most concerned about the preservation and promotion of the Khowar language, the mother tongue of the great majority of Chitralis and the second language of many others in the district.

The purpose of this paper is to draw a broad sketch of the Khowar language from a sociolinguistic perspective (Section 1) and to highlight those factors which will affect its on-going vitality as a spoken language and its chances of success as a developing literary language (Section 2). It needs to be emphasized that this is only a preliminary, qualitative study. It draws on library research, observations of life in Chitral during various visits to the district (1984-87) and conversations with Chitrali friends. However, it is hoped that this paper will serve as a basis for future quantitative studies conducted with the more precise tools of sociolinguistic research now available.

1. Language Profile

1.1 Name

The Khowar language has been given many names by those from outside the Khowar-speaking community--including Khowari, Khawar, Chitrali, Citrali, Chitrari, Arniya, Patu, Qashqari, and Kashkari (Grimes, 1988:574). 'Kashgari' (and its variants noted above) is the Pashto name for a person from Chitral (Stahl, 1988:39) [Pashto is the language of the Pathans, the dominant ethnic group of the North-West Frontier Province.1; 'Patu' is the name by which the Kalash, a small ethnic group in Lower Chitral, refer to Khowar-speakers (Morgenstierne, 1936:661); 'Arniya' was the name given to the language by Leitner who must have first encountered Khowar-speakers in the area of Yasin (in western Gilgit Agency) known to the Shina-speaking population as 'Arinah' (Grierson, 1919:112), and 'Chitrali' (and its variants) obviously derives from the name of the district which, in Khowar, is pronounced Chiltrar but which is usually pronounced 'Chitral' by Europeans and other outsiders (Ibid). However, 'Khowar', which means 'the language of the Kho (people)', is the proper name.

There has been a small controversy in recent years concerning the most appropriate way to spell 'Khowar' in Roman script. The problem is that, in Asia, the 'kh' sequence has often been used as a digraph to represent the velar fricative lxl--whereas, in 'Khowar', the traditional Roman-script spelling of the name, the 'kh' represents an aspirated, velar stop. As a result, some who are not well acquainted with the language have been mispronouncing it xo'war. To add insult to injury, xo'war is an actual word in the Khowar language which means 'the inferior one' or 'the poor one'. To avoid this unfortunate mistake, some have been lobbying for a change of spelling to 'Kohwar' and this change has been effected in several recent publications (Inayatullah Faizi, 1989a). However, Inayatullah Faizi, the President of Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Khowar, the Chitrali literary society, recently informed us that the society has decided to retain the traditional Roman-script spelling, 'Khowar',--perhaps, (although he did not say) to avoid creating even more confusion.

1.2 Location

Khowar is the principal language of the District of Chitral in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan (see Map 1 and 1A). In upper Chitral, the acknowledged homeland of the language (Morgenstierne, 1936:660), Khowar is spoken almost exclusively-- with the exception of a small population of Wakhi-speakers in the upper reaches of the Yarkhun valley. In Lower Chitral nine other languages are spoken by relatively small groups of people (Dangarik, Dameli, Kalasha, Gujri, Gawar Bati, Farsi, Kati, Yidgah and Pashto) (Israr-ud-Din, 1965:9 and 1990). Several of these small groups inhabit elevated side-valleys but others have settlements in the main valley itself starting in the area just south of Drosh and extending down-river to the Afghan border. In fact, the Khowar-speaking area ends three or four miles south of Drosh town in the vicinity of Kalkatak on the east side of the river and Suwir on the west side of the river (see maps 2 and 3). Khowar is also spoken in western Gilgit Agency, in Yasin and in the Ghizar River Valley from the area of Gupis west to Shandur Pass, and in the Ushu Valley of Kalam (primarily in the village of Mathiltan) in Swat District of the N.W.F.P. (Stahl, 1988:40) (see Map 2 and 4).

Meillet (1952) claims that there are 6,956 speakers of Khowar in India. This has not been confirmed.

Prof. Buddruss of Germany has also seen a paper "written in Russian by a Soviet scholar, who has discovered a few Khowar-speakers in the Soviet Pamirs" (1988:14,15). The Soviet scholar has published a list of 130 words, "most of them actually being good Khowar" (Ibid) (exact location and number of speakers unknown).

1.3 Population

Nyrop (1975:126) estimates that the number of Khos (Khowar-speakers) in Chitral is about 110,000. However, a survey of Chitral conducted in 1983 by the District Council of Chitral with the help of The Community Five Year Development Program places the total population of Chitral at 215,701 (Survey, 1983:28). Prof. Israr-ud-Din, Chairman of the Geography Dept. at the University of Peshawar and himself a Chitrali, estimates that 90% of a total population of 200,000 are Khowar-speakers (1984, personal communication). This would place the total number of Khowar-speakers in Chitral somewhere between 180,000 and 195,000.

We do not have any information concerning the number of Khowar-speakers in Yasin and Ghizar of western Gilgit Agency but the Wali of Swat (Barth, 1985:102) states that there are about 400 houses in Kalam that speak Khowar. Presumably these 'houses' are occupied by extended families of five to ten to fifteen members each. If one uses a conservative figure of 7 members each, then the Khowar-speaking population of Kalam may approach 3000.

Recognizing the gaps in the information that is available to us and the difficulty of conducting an accurate census in the area, we, nevertheless, estimate that the total number of Khowar-speakers in Chitral, Gilgit and Swat is about 200,000.

1.4 Classification

Khowar is an Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan (Indic) language of the Northern India, Dardic, Chitral sub-group (Morgenstierne, 1961:138-39; Emeneau, 1966; Strand, 1973:302; Voegelin and Voegelin, 1965, 1977:165; Ruhlen, 1987:325).

The term 'Dardic' or 'Dard' comes from the writings of Herodotus who "is the first author who refers to the country of the Dards, placing it on the frontier of Kashmir and the vicinity of modern Afghanistan" (Schmidt, n.d.:9). In its widest sense the region of Dardistan includes "Gilgit, Astor, Hunza, Nager, and Chitral and Kafiristan" (Ibid).

However, concerning language classification, many scholars in the field agree that 'Dardic' should be used in an areal, rather than a phylogenetic sense (Strand, 1973:298). Schmidt says that the term 'Dardic' is ambiguous because "it is used to define both geographic and linguistic regions, the boundaries of which do not correspond to each other" (n.d.:9). In this opinion Strand, Schmidt et al are following the lead of Morgenstierne who claimed that:

"The [non-Nuristani] languages ... contain absolutely no features which cannot be derived from Old IA ... There is not a single common feature distinguishing Dardic, as a whole, from the rest of the IA languages ... Dardic is simply a convenient term to denote a bundle of aberrant IA hill languages, which in their relative isolation ... have been in a varying degree sheltered against the expanding influences of IA Midland (Madhyadesa) innovations, being left to develop on their own (1961:139)."

Concerning the position of Khowar within this Dardic group of languages, Sir George Grierson postulated that, "the whole tract comprising the present Kafiristan (now Nuristan), Chitral and Gilgit was once occupied by one homogeneous race, which was subsequently split in two by a wedge of Kho invasion, representing members of a different, but related, tribe coming from the north" (1919:133). He based this hypothesis on the claim that "in some essential particulars ... it (Khowar) agrees rather with the Ghalchah languages to the north" (=Iranian Pamir languages) and that "the Kafir languages are much more nearly related to those of the Dard Group than either of these groups is to Kho-war" (Ibid).

However, Morgenstierne was unable to share Grierson's views on this subject. Although he acknowledged "a strong influence upon Khowar from the languages beyond the Hindu Kush", his own studies led him to the firm conclusion that "the general structure of Khow. is ... purely IA"--based on Khowar's preservation of several archaic features in its phonology and particularly upon its preservation of the Old IA case system almost intact (1947:6-8).

1.5 Linguistic features

1.5.1 Phonology

The inventory of Khowar consonants and vowels is presented in (1) and (2). (1) is a modification of a chart by Endresen and Kristiansen (1981:233) and (2) has been borrowed from the same source without change. The multi-graphs represent single segments and upper case signifies retroflexion.

The reader will note that Khowar has a well-developed inventory of obstruents including a complete series of RETROFLEX stops, affricates and fricatives. In fact, Khowar has eight consonant phonemes (highlighted in (1)) which are not found in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. This has led to some orthographic innovations which will be discussed in Section 1.13.

1.5.2 Morpholoqy

In Morgenstierne's opinion, "the most striking feature of Khow. is its remarkable inflectional archaisms" (1947:7). Whereas "in the great majority of modern IA languages the ancient case system has been radically reduced ... Khowar stands alone in retaining, in the inflection of inanimate nouns, six of the seven Old IA cases" (Ibid:8).

1.5.3 Vocabulary

Morgenstierne also commented on the successful blend of conservation and adaptation which Khowar has achieved. He notes that, "Khowar ... is characterized on the one hand by a tenacious preservation of ancient IA. sounds, forms, and words, and on the other hand by the existence of a remarkably large number of foreign elements" (1936:657).

Particularly numerous are the Iranian loanwords which Morgenstierne divides roughly into the following groups (not, he cautions, always clearly distinguishable) (Ibid):

I. Loanwords from (Modern) Persian.
II. Loanwords from some Middle Ir. language
III. Loanwords from the Pamir dialects
IV. Loanwords from some undefinable or unknown Iranian source

Words borrowed from Pashto are "extremely rare in Kho." due to the fact that "it is not till quite recently that the two languages have come into contact, Kho. expanding towards the south and Pashto. towards the north in the Kunar valley and Dir" (Morgenstierne, 1936:665).

In 1957 Morgenstierne published "a brief list of the Sanskritic elements preserved, often in an astonishingly archaic form, in this outpost of IA (84)." That 'brief list' contains five hundred entries with their etymologies, "all the more interesting, because the great majority of such words must be real tadbhavas, or at any rate ancient tatsamas, since Chitral has been cut off from the main current of Indian civilization for a long time" (Ibid).

1.6 Dialects

It has been observed by several foreign investigators that there is very little dialect variation in Khowar. Emily Lorimer writes that her husband D. L. R. Lorimer "collected texts, notes, vocabulary, and all the data for a scientific grammar (in Yasin, Gilgit Agency) to supplement his considerable material from Chitral, noting how very trivial were the differences between the two varieties of Khowar" (Lorimer, 1939:19). [Lorimer's valuable collection of Khowar texts and his Khowar Vocabulary (7000 entries), very little of which has been published, were bequeathed to The School of Oriental and African Studies, London (Endresen and Kristiansen, 1981:214).]

[1994 Addendum: A photocopy of Lorimer's Khowar Vocabulary, obtained from SOAS by Don Gregson, is now in the possession of Ron and Gail Trail and will be added to the SIL library in Islamabad. Photocopies of Lorimer's Khowar texts can be obtained from SOAS upon request--and for a price!]

Morgenstierne also came to the conclusion, early in his Khowar studies, that dialect variation in the language was not very significant (1926:69). The following is his most complete statement on the subject, quoted here in its entirety (1932:50):

"On the whole there are no very pronounced dialectical variations within Khow. Pronunciation may vary slightly, e.g. as regards the vowels and the voiceless r (e.g. bort, boxt 'stone', sayurc, sayuc 'eagle'), and certain vulgarisms have developed in the bazaar language of Chitral village; but there does not exist any well defined dialects of the language, although it spreads over a territory much larger than that inhabited by most of the neighbouring tribes.

"There are probably several reasons for this relative homogenity (sic). As remarked above, the expansion of Khow. appears to have taken place at a comparatively recent date. And there is still a good deal of circulation among the Khos of different parts of Chitral. Nobles receive new fiefs and settle on them, and serfs are moved from one estate to another.

"The custom of assigning children to a foster-mother of a befriended family living in another part of the state is common among the nobility, and probably counter-acts the tendencies towards linguistic differentiation. And, finally, Khowar, though not a written language, enjoys a certain prestige. The Mehtar and his family, and many Adamzadas or nobles, are proud of their sonorous language and cultivate a distinct pronunciation, thus forming a - conservative safeguard, retarding all changes. This is a factor which is not active to the same extent with regard to other languages of the region."

Of course, the existence of a state structure with political organization and an astute leadership is, in itself, an important unifying factor--working for the preservation of the Khowar language, protecting it from encroachments by neighbouring languages and even giving it the strength to make gains at the expense of those languages (Ibid:47,48).

To these reasons for the homogeneity of Khowar we might add the comment of Maula Nigah (personal communication), himself a member of a noble family and a resident of Zondrangram in Upper Terich valley in Upper Chitral, who said that it has been the custom in the past for marriages to be arranged between families of distant villages (the brides taking up residence in their husbands' villages). We failed to ask whether this custom was peculiar to the upper strata of society only but any circulation of brides would also, no doubt, tend to counter-act the forces that create dialect variation.

Inayatullah Faizi, the President of Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Khowar, recently published an article on the Different Dialects of Kohwar (1989b:19-28). He states that "there is considerable difference of dialects in various zones of the Kohwar speaking areas. People of each zone claim that only their dialect is the original and correct one. Some times there are even bitter differences on this issue" (Ibid:19,20). He defines six dialect zones (1. Chitral and Drosh, 2. Torkhow and Mulkhow, 3. Biyar ("the main valley of Tehsil Mastuj including Yarkhun"), 4. Lotkoh, Karimabad and Arkari, 5. Laspur and 6. Ghizar, Yasin, Warashgum & Ishkomin) and compares fifty-three words or phrases across the six zones.

Faizi's data and comments confirm Morgenstierne's and Lorimer's observations that, in comparison with other languages in the region, the dialect variations in Khowar are rather minor-- although they may certainly be of significance to speakers of the language. Faizi's study also supports the hypothesis that dialects of Khowar spoken outside Chitral (i.e. Zone 6.) show the greatest signs of divergence (and we assume that the same would be true in the Ushu valley of Kalam, Swat). And concerning the situation inside Chitral, the study also confirms verbal reports we have received that the dialects of Khowar spoken in Lotkoh Tehsil (perhaps under the influence of Yidgah) and in Laspur valley (between Mastuj and Shandur Pass) are the most distinct.

On the basis of the information provided above, it would be possible to test the mutual intelligibility of these dialects using procedures described by Casad (1974) and Blair (forthcoming). Our hypothesis is that these tests would show a high degree of mutual intelligibility.

1.7 Domains

The 'domains' of a language, as defined by Joshua Fishman, are "socio-culturally recognized spheres of activity" in which a language is used (1965:72). More specifically, a domain is a "social nexus which brings people together primarily for a cluster of purposes-... and primarily for a certain set of role-relations" (emphasis his) (Ibid:75). The following are the 'spheres of activity' in which Khowar is used:

1.7.1 Home

Khowar is the language of hearth and home. It is the language which children learn from their parents and grandparents within the extended family and through which they receive their informal education in the customs, traditions, values and beliefs of Kho society.

As the language of the hearth, Khowar is also the language of the heart. It is the medium through which sentiments of various kinds can be most appropriately expressed--a fact to which the long, oral tradition of romantic poetry bears eloquent witness.

1.7.2 Village

Khowar is also the language of the village. It is the means by which good-neighbourly relations are maintained and by which the leading men of the village make decisions which effect the life of the community--from the construction and maintenance of the irrigation channels, to the establishing of water-sharing timetables, to the settling of local disputes.

1.7.3 Mosque

Arabic, of course, is the language of religion in Islam. The Qur'an is written in Arabic, it is only authoritative in Arabic and should be read in Arabic--if one wishes to derive the greatest benefit from it. In Khowar-speaking communities, however, the local 'imam' or spiritual leader will preach the Friday sermon in Khowar, interpreting and applying quotations from the Qur'an.

1.7.4 School

The object of instruction in the schools is Urdu and English and Arabic. The medium of instruction, however, is Khowar--at least in the primary grades--because the children, through lack of opportunity, do not know Urdu. Most of the teachers in Chitral District are Khowar-speakers and are, therefore, able to assist their students with explanations of their subjects in Khowar. At some point, however, perhaps at the high school level (years 9 and 10) or at the intermediate college level (years 11 and 12), lecturing in Urdu begins. And at the B.A. (13 and 14) and M.A. (15 and 16) levels English assumes an ever more important role.

1.7.5 Shop

Most villages have one or two small shops dealing in a variety of essential commodities. The owners of these shops are almost invariably Khowar-speaking and so business at a local level can be carried on in the Khowar language.

1.7.6 Recreation

Khowar is used in sporting events--polo matches, games of 'buDi dik' (Chitrali cricket) or football (soccer).

Khowar is also used in social gatherings for interactive and entertainment purposes. Traditionally, women have gathered on long, dark winter nights to card and spin wool and to re-tell the old 'shilogh' (folk tales), and poets have held 'mushairas' to recite their latest work.

Khowar's oral tradition is full of well-loved poems and songs, passed down from generation to generation and sung to the accompaniment of a variety of instruments--especially the 'sitar'. And with the advent of tape recorders, a small business has sprung up in the sale of Khowar audio cassettes featuring certain, well-known vocalists and instrumentalists.

1.7.7 Language of wider communication

'For centuries Khowar has been the language of wider communication or 'lingua franca' in Chitral. Many of the speakers of the ten other languages in Chitral have learned Khowar as a second language. Morgenstierne estimated that Khowar "is probably understood to some extent by every grown up man in the state" (1932:46).

In fact, in certain locations, among certain groups, there has been a shift to Khowar from these other languages. Morgenstierne noted that, "even at the present day the Khos are-expanding at- the expense of the Kalashas in Lower Chitral and its side-valleys" (Ibid:47) and he drew attention to some Kalasha-speaking, Muslim converts in a few villages in the main valley near Drosh who would "ere long be assimilated by the Khowar-speaking population" (Ibid:51). -Decker confirms that this shift from Kalasha to Khowar has proceeded on a wide scale throughout southern Chitral. Kalasha converts to Islam have deliberately made this shift to Khowar to distance themselves from the (animistic) Kalash religion (1990:7).

Decker also discovered that the Dangarik-speakers of the village of Ghos, situated near Drosh, seem to be making an intentional shift to Khowar by marrying Khowar-speaking wives. He interviewed some older, educated boys who felt that they "have no future use for Dangarik" and who expressed a preference for Khowar-speaking wives "so that their children would speak Khowar" (Ibid). They feel that this will make it easier for their children to get an education because most of the teachers in the schools are Khowar-speakers (Ibid:6).

1.7.8 Bazaar

The situation concerning small, village shops was discussed in Section 1.7.5 above. However, in Chitral town and Drosh there are large bazaars where the patterns of language use are not quite so clear.

Chitralis own the majority of shops in Chitral and in Drosh but there are also Pathan shopkeepers in both places. Some of these Pathans are descendants of immigrants who came to Chitral from Dir district several generations ago. They have learned to speak Khowar in order to live and conduct business in Chitral.

Since 1979/80, however, a large number of Afghan refugees have set up camps in Lower Chitral and some Afghan entrepreneurs have begun to compete very successfully with local Chitrali and Pathan businesses. These refugees speak Pashto and Farsi and a variety of other languages and are probably not as accommodating to Khowar as the older Pathan immigrants were. As a result, Khowar's traditional dominance in the commercial life of the district may be adversely affected.

1.7.9 Government

In the past, Khowar had an important role to play in the functioning of government. Although it was not a written language, it was the language of the royal family and was used "for all oral official communications" (emphasis mine) (Morgenstierne, 1932:46). [Farsi was used for all written purposes in government until 1952 (Sher Nawaz Naseem, 1987a).]

The British did not seek to alter this situation when they became involved in the affairs of the state. In fact, we understand that a program was set up whereby an officer newly assigned to the state could learn Khowar under the tutelage of a Khowar-speaker. If the program was completed successfully, the student would receive a stipend [The program is still in place but has apparently fallen into disuse.]

In 1969, however, the royal family gave up their rule and the state was incorporated as a District into the North-West Frontier Province. Now the reins of power are in the hands of the Deputy Commissioner, the Superintendent of Police, the Commander of the Chitral Scouts (the local militia) and the officer in charge of the regular army unit stationed in the area. These officers are all non-Chitralis--as a matter of policy. Serving under them, at various levels within the bureaucracy, are both Chitralis and non-Chitralis--with the proportion of Chitralis increasing at the lower ranks. Government documents are in Urdu and/or English. Khowar is, therefore, still of some use if one is dealing with a Khowar-speaking officer, clerk, constable, etc. If not, Pashto or Urdu or English must be employed. To gain the coveted civil service posts, however, one must have a knowledge of Urdu and English.

1.8 Language attitudes and choice

As the discussion above indicates, Khowar has lost something of the prominence it once enjoyed in Chitral. In the past, it met most, if not all, of the linguistic needs of the Kho. In the last fifty years, however, its role in government and administration has been severely curtailed, its traditional dominance in the commercial life of the district has been challenged and it has been given no place in the modern institutions of formal education.

Therefore, for the first time in their long history, the Kho have been faced with the necessity of learning other languages--to conduct business with the government, to trade with outsiders, to get an education, to obtain employment in the civil service and to advance economically. However, the languages they choose to speak (e.g. Pashto, Urdu or English) and the degree to which, and the purposes for which they use them depend to a considerable extent on their attitudes towards these languages (and their own).

1.8.1 Khowar

Although Khowar's usefulness in certain spheres of activity has declined, the attitude of the Kho toward their own language is still quite positive. It is regarded as a sweet-sounding, melodious language (as, indeed, it is), eminently suitable for poetic expression. The older poems and songs are still recited and sung with pleasure and new works are still being created.

Khowar also retains something of the aura and prestige of the former princely state (see Section 1.6 above). Concerning the situation in Gilgit, Emily Lorimer made the following observation (1939:19):

The 'Royal Families' of Yasin and Punial are descendants of the Chitral Khushwaqts, who had conquered parts of the Agency two hundred years ago. They retain their native language and have, to a certain extent, imposed it as a second language on the upper strata of their subjects. Throughout the Agency it is therefore regarded as a polite language, meet for chiefs.

Chitralis, therefore, take quiet pride in their language (perhaps more so in Upper Chitral than in Lower) and we have not observed any instances of Chitralis switching to another language in the presence of non-Chitralis through embarrassment or shame. There are also those who are enthusiastically promoting Khowar as a language of literature. However, there is also a general recognition that, in terms of higher education and career advancement, Khowar is something of a 'dead-end street'. The path to the future lies elsewhere.

1.8.2 Pashto

Pashto (or pux'tu) is the language of the Pathans, the dominant ethnic group of the North-West Frontier Province. They may number between eight and ten million (Nyrop, 1975:84) and inhabit most of the province--including Dir District, immediately to the east of Lowari Pass. There are also Pathans living in the area south of Drosh in Chitral and in the Kunar valley of Afghanistan. [The Chitral river becomes the Kunar river at the point where it flows out of Pakistani territory into Afghanistan.] One might expect, therefore, that Pashto would be a natural choice as a second language for many Chitralis.

Chitralis, however, seem to have a general dislike for Pathans and their language. Several Chitralis have told us that Pashto sounds like a stone rattling around in a tin can. Perhaps more to the point, they regard Pathans as an uncivilized, uncouth, and violent people (blood-feuding, which is endemic in the Pathan tribal territories, has not been a factor in Chitrali society). This view was once graphically illustrated for us when we were discussing the cover design of a booklet with a Chitrali friend. He suggested that the image of a mosque and an open book be superimposed on an outline map of Chitral--with guns juxtaposed to the right and left (east and west)--symbolic of the fact that Chitral is a land of peace and civility and faith surrounded by barbarians.

Chitrali students who attend the University of Peshawar in the provincial capital have ample opportunity to mingle with Pathans and, as a result, may gain some proficiency in the language. However, a Chitrali graduate employed in the Post Office informed us that he (and his Chitrali fellow-employees) prefer to speak in Urdu with Pathan customers unless the customer is monolingual in Pashto and there is no alternative.

Another Chitrali friend from Drosh, whose mother is a Pathan and who speaks Pashto fluently, told us that, when he visits Peshawar, he prefers to attend a mosque on Friday where the sermon in delivered in Urdu, not Pashto.

However, we suspect that, in spite of this apparent preference for Urdu as a second language, Chitrali men who find employment, either on a permanent or seasonal basis, in Peshawar or other parts of the N.W.F.P., working with or for Pathans, actually learn Pashto and become reasonably fluent in it. This would certainly be true of Chitralis who have brought their wives to Peshawar and have lived there for many years.

1.8.3 Urdu

The attitude of Chitralis towards Urdu is positive. It is the language which has been associated with the Muslim population of the sub-continent for many centuries and it has a rich literary tradition. It is regarded (we believe) as a pleasant and elegant language--easier to learn than Pashto and certainly easier than English. It is also a language of higher education (Pashto is not) and is the language of wider communication in Pakistan.

1.8.4 English

English is a foreign language -- to Chitral and to the subcontinent. It is written in a different script and has a difficult spelling system, vocabulary and grammar. It is, however, an international language with great prestige and it has maintained its prominence in Pakistan as the (unofficial) language of government administration (Nyrop, 1975:111) and as the premier language of higher education and science and technology.

For these reasons, many Chitralis have a strong desire to learn English and to have their children educated in English. Following the nation-wide trend, several public (read private) schools have opened in Chitral, two in Drosh, one in Ayun and two in Chitral town, where English is taught and where the educational standards are advertised to be higher than in the government schools. These schools are run as businesses and charge tuition fees but parents who have the financial means are willing to pay in the hope that their children will proceed on to college and university and eventually obtain the choice civil service appointments.

1.9 Multilingualism & polyglossia

The changes which have occurred in Chitral and the language choices which Chitralis now face have given rise to a new Kho society characterized by multilingualism and polyglossia.

Multilingualism refers to the ability of a person or a group of people to comprehend and speak more than one language (Fasold, 1984:40). Chitralis, of course, have always lived in a multilingual environment--sharing, as they do, their rather confined mountain valley with speakers of ten other languages. In the past, however, it was not necessary for Chitralis to learn these other languages. They were the masters of their own house; the weaker neighbours had to learn Khowar. Now, however, for the various reasons described above, Chitralis are forced to learn other languages. These languages fulfill certain specific functions, a situation referred to as 'polyglossia' (Ibid:40,48-50) and illustrated in (3) below:

(3) Linear polyglossia for the Kho of Chitral:

Arabic H1

English H2

Urdu H3

Pashto (?) M

Khowar-R1 L1

Khowar-R2 L2

Khowar-R3 L3

(H=high, M=medium, L=low, R=register)

Khowar-R1, -R2 and -R3 are three 'registers' or variations of Khowar. Khowar-R3 is the local dialect of Khowar which a Chitrali learns in his home and village. It is characterized by a distinct pronunciation and certain vocabulary items and colloquialisms peculiar to that area. Khowar-R2 (we speculate) is a somewhat more restrained, de-colloquialized version of Khowar used by Chitralis who interact frequently with speakers from other dialect zones. Khowar-R1 is 'academic' Khowar used by the highly educated in certain settings and characterized by 'code-mixing' (Fasold, 1984:180), the inclusion of Urdu and English words and phrases in Khowar.

Above Khowar is Pashto, in a somewhat ambivalent position for reasons described above, but which may be needed for business purposes or for employment, and Urdu and English, for government and higher education, and Arabic for religion. Only a highly educated Chitrali would participate in this system of linear polyglossia fully; others to a greater or lesser degree depending on their level of education and how much time they have spent outside Chitral. The vast majority of Chitrali ladies would be monolingual in Khowar-R3, the local dialect, but would also have learned to "read" (that is, pronounce or sound out the words of) the Qur'an in Arabic.

Multilingualism among the Kho is an area of study which is obviously ripe for investigation using the quantitative testing techniques described by Blair (forthcoming). The object of the tests would be to determine what proportion of Khowar-speakers (by age and sex) speak what languages with what degree of fluency. In Chitral the languages to test would be Pashto and Urdu. In Ushu valley of Kalam, Garwa would have to be added to the list. In Gilgit Agency the languages to test would be Shina and Urdu and, perhaps, Werchikwar (the dialect of Burushaski spoken by the indigenous population of Yasin). Because very few Chitralis speak English, we assume that it would not be worthwhile to include it in the testing.

1.10 Language policy (Government)

Urdu is the language which has been associated with Muslim government and scholarship in the sub-continent since the days of the Mughal emperors. Consequently, when the new state of Pakistan was formed in 1947 as a homeland for the Muslims of British India, Urdu was chosen as the national language--even though it is not indigenous to the territory of Pakistan and is the mother tongue of only about 8% of the population (Nyrop, 1975:111)

The promotion of Urdu as the national language has not proceeded without difficulty. On the one hand, it has faced stiff competition from English which was inherited from 'British India as the language of government administration and which is jealously guarded as a tool of power and privilege by the civil and military elite. On the other hand, it faces competition from the other 'national' languages of Pakistan, Panjabi, Sindhi, Baluchi and Pashto. Opposition to Urdu has been particularly intense among Sindhi nationalists and has led to bloodshed in the past (Ibid:116).

The Constitution of 1973 states that Urdu is the national language but that the provinces may teach and use other languages "in addition" to Urdu and "without prejudice to the status of the national language". It also states that "any section of citizens" may promote the use of their own language, within the guidelines established for the use of the national language (Ibid:117). [The Sind province and the N.W.F.P. offer instruction in Sindhi and Pashto up to the university level (Ibid).]

Although the promotion of regional or local languages is generally seen as contrary to the interests of national unity, Khowar has received some concessions from the government. In 1965 a fifteen minute Khowar radio program commenced broadcasting from Peshawar on Radio Pakistan (Sher Nawaz Naseem, 1987b). It has since expanded its format to one hour and is broadcast daily. The program features Chitrali music, poetry, stories, interviews, drama, etc. There is also a brief, daily news broadcast in Khowar from the same station.

Furthermore, in 1968 the Border Publicity Organization in Peshawar appointed a Chitrali, Gul Nawaz Khaki, as editor of the Khowar section of a new monthly journal, Jamhoor-e-Islam (Sher Nawaz Naseem, 1987c). At that time Jamhoor was primarily a Pashto publication. Eventually, however, the journal was divided to create two separate journals, one for Pashto and one for Khowar (Sher Nawaz Naseem, 1988). Jamhoor-e-Islam Khowar is now published by the Press Information Department in Peshawar. Its editor and assistant editor are both Chitralis, based in Chitral and Peshawar respectively. Although the journal is primarily designed to promote government policy, and although it does contain some articles in Urdu, it also contains articles, stories, poems, etc. in Khowar.

In recent years the provincial government of the N.W.F.P. has also given a modest sum of money to Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Khowar, the Chitrali literary society, to launch a program of publication of Khowar literature.

1.11 Language development (non-government)

1.11.1 Promotion & publication

In 1956 Prince Hisam-ul-Mulk, the 'Father of modern Khowar', established Anjuman-e-Taraggi-e-Chitral (the 'Society for the Promotion of Chitral'). He organized 'mushairas' (poetry-readings) and literary gatherings of various kinds and remained president of the society until his death in 1977 (Sher Nawaz Naseem, 1988). [Yousaf Shahzad (1989:32) places the foundation of Anjuman in 1957.]

More recently, the Society (now renamed Anjuman-e-Taraggi-e-Khowar) has established links with the Academy of Letters and Lok Virsa (the Folk Heritage Institute) in Islamabad and has launched an ambitious publications program. They now have about fifteen titles to their credit and have published the first issue of the Annual Journal of Khowar with articles in Khowar and Urdu and English.

The aim of the Society, according to President Inayatullah Faizi, is to preserve the language and culture of Chitral. He emphasizes, however,, that the Society is a purely non-political, social and voluntary organization and that it is also "striving for the cause of national cohesion and understanding" (Inayatullah Faizi, 1989a).

In the first issue of the Annual Journal, Yousaf Shahzad (on behalf of the Society) proposes the establishment of a Khowar Adabi Board, an institute for the promotion of the language and culture of Chitral, that would operate directly under the control of, and with the funding of the provincial government. Its aims would be to carry out extensive research into the language and culture of Chitral and to translate and publish important works from Khowar into other languages and vice versa (Yousaf Shahzad, 1989:32-35).

Another proposal (perhaps a modified version of the above) has been recently advanced by the Recommendations Committee of the Second International Hindu Kush Cultural Conference (September, 1990). They recommend the establishment of a Research Institute in Chitral under the auspices of Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Khowar that would "provide an interdisciplinary base for further research, together with a library and bibliographical resources to which all participating scholars would contribute." Financial assistance from private and foreign sources has been solicited.

1.11.2 Codification

According to Yousaf Shahzad, Sir Nasir-ul-Mulk (Mehtar of Chitral, 1936 to 1943) and Mirza Mohammad Ghufran "prescribed the present Arabic script with additional alphabets (sic) for peculiar Kohwar words, instead of international Roman, alphabets with phonatic (sic) characters" (1989:32).

It may be, however, that this new script for Khowar was not widely promoted at first because, when Prince Samsam-ul-Mulk was a student at Islamia College in Peshawar, Mr. Abdul Qadir, the director of the Pashto Academy at the University of Peshawar, asked him to design a script for Khowar. This he proceeded to do with the help of his father, Prince Hisam-ul-Mulk, the late Ghulam Umar and (now Prof.) Israr-ud-Din, and he prepared a Khowar grammar (in Khowar and Urdu) which was published by the Pashto Academy (Sher Nawaz Naseem, 1988). [It seems likely that these collaborators drew on the work of Sir Nasir-ul-Mulk.]

Although the precise dates and details of the development of the Khowar orthography are not clear to the author at the time of this writing, it is certain that by the late 1950's, an alphabet had been established based on the Arabic and Urdu writing systems. Apparently, some consideration had been given to the idea of writing Khowar in Roman script but the idea was rejected for political, technical and (we assume) religio-cultural reasons. The following is an excerpt from a letter written to Georg Morgenstierne by Prince Hisam-ul-Mulk dated May 5, 1958:

"I agree with you that Roman Character is far better medium to express Khowar than Urdu. But it is pitty (sic) that owing to the political changed condition it does not seem possible to adopt it. There is only one draw back in the Roman Character that for some of the letters i.e. Sh, Tsh, Ch, Tj, Tz etc. If (sic) we make some other inventions then it will be difficult to find type writers and press to suit our requirements and no European institution will be so much interested in us to help us in getting such equipments."

Having decided on an Arabic/Urdu writing system, the challenge for the Chitrali alphabet-makers was to design characters for the Khowar phonemes which are not found in Urdu (see (1) above). They did this by adding different configurations of diacritic marks to already existing base forms in the Urdu alphabet. The following are the five new letters they created (as defined in Prince Samsam-ul-Mulk's Khowar grammar):

(4) /J/ /Sh/ /C/ /Zh/ /ts/

[The aspirated affricates, /tsh/ and /Ch/, were written with digraphs.]

However, during our stay in Pakistan, we noticed that these 'extra' Khowar characters were not being written with complete consistency. The configuration and location of the diacritic marks varied from one author to the next--sometimes within the same publication. Nevertheless, when we discussed this matter with various Chitrali acquaintances (all university graduates), it became apparent that the greatest degree of consensus still centres around the character designs illustrated in Prince Samsam's grammar.

Therefore, to promote standardization of the orthography, we collaborated with Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Khowar to publish two booklets, one of Khowar short stories and one of Khowar proverbs (both with Urdu translation) (Rahmat-ud-Din and Munnings, 1987 and 1990). On the inside back cover of both books is a Khowar alphabet chart and opposite it, on the last page, is a self-teaching alphabet list (as in (5)). One thousand copies of the first booklet and two thousand copies of the second were printed and are on sale in Chitral.

It should be pointed out that in the alphabet chart of the second booklet (pictured in (5)) a sixth character ( dz ) has been added to represent the affricate /dz/. Those who originally designed the Khowar script were from Lower Chitral and did not feel that this letter needed to be included (although they were, apparently, aware of the issue). In Upper Chitral, however, certain words are pronounced with /dz/ in contrastive position and Inayatullah Faizi, the President of the literary society, himself from Upper Chitral, feels that this character ought to be included.

The Khowar alphabet suffers from over-representation of certain consonant phonemes (certain characters, not needed in Khowar, have been inherited from Arabic and retained for cultural reasons) and from under-specification of certain vowels. The fact that vowels are not always written and that many characters have four shapes depending on their position in the word creates additional complexity and (sometimes) confusion. On the whole, however, the Khowar writing system is very efficient and aesthetically pleasing. [Among Chitralis there is marked preference for the 'nastaliq' or slanty style of calligraphy used in Urdu--as opposed to the 'naskh'' or flat style of calligraphy employed in Arabic.]

1.11.3 Standardization & Education

The father and son team of Prince Hisam-ul-Mulk and Prince Samsam-ul-Mulk were very active in the late 1950's in promoting Khowar. In a letter to Georg Morgenstierne dated February 18, 1959 Prince Hisam-ul-Mulk writes, "Lately my son has compiled a course book for first primary class. It has been recommended by the educational authorities of Chitral State ... I have myself written a Khowar self-taught. I enclose the first two pages" (Endresen and Kristiansen, 1981:217). Prince Samsam also wrote a 'First Reader' and a 'Khowar Phrase Book' (or help for the traveler in Chitral). Unfortunately, their efforts to introduce Khowar to the schools in Chitral "met with failure because of unfavourable circumstances" (unspecified) (Sher Nawaz Naseem, 1988).

The Khowar grammar written by Prince Samsam-ul-Mulk was not, to the best of our knowledge, circulated or used widely because the Pashto Academy still has about five hundred copies in stock. No other grammar has been written or published since.

A Khowar-English Dictionary by Mr. Ismail Sloan, an American, was published in 1981. Mr. Sloan uses a Roman phonemic alphabet to write Khowar but does not distinguish between the apical and retroflex consonants. The inclusion of a number of vulgar expressions in the book has also made it unacceptable to many.

However, Gul Nawaz Khaki, the first editor of Jamhoor-e-Islam, is now compiling a dictionary of Khowar (Sher Nawaz Naseem, 1987c) and plans are afoot for a Khowar - Urdu/Pashto dictionary (Yousaf Shahzad, 1989:34).

1.11.4 Foreign scholar involvement

Foreign scholar interest in Chitral and the Khowar language dates from the latter half of the nineteenth century, from the initial investigations of Leitner (in the 1870's), to Biddulph (1880), O'Brien (1895), Grierson and the Linguistic survey of India (1919), Morgenstierne (1926-57), Buddruss (1965-80) and Elena Bashir (1990).

By far the most important contribution to Khowar studies was made by Georg Morgenstierne (1892-1978), a Norwegian scholar. He published a number of important articles on the subject and bequeathed much of his unpublished material and data to the Indo-Iranian Institute of the University of Oslo in Norway.

2. Language vitality

Any discussion of the ongoing vitality of the Khowar language ought to be based, not only on a profile of the language itself (as in the preceding section), but on a profile of Kho society and culture. For lack of time that study will have to be postponed but we will, nevertheless, attempt to highlight here some of the factors that are most likely to influence the future of Khowar.

2.1 Positive factors

It is clear, at the outset, that there are a number of factors which are working in favour of the survival of Khowar and even, perhaps, in favour of its development as a literary language.

1. Khowar is spoken by a fairly substantial population, most of whom live in close proximity to each other in a relatively homogeneous community in a remote location.

2. Khowar has historically demonstrated an ability to incorporate foreign elements and yet preserve, with great tenacity, its basic structure and vocabulary--and even today displays very little variation from one dialect area to another.

3. The Kho people have a healthy pride in their own history and language. Khowar is regarded as a beautiful language, the language of a people and a state that "has remained totally independent during most of its recorded history" (Israr-ud-Din, 1965:32).

4. There is a small, but committed and energetic group of Chitralis who are concerned about the future of the Khowar language and who are taking positive, practical steps to preserve and promote it.

5. An aesthetically pleasing, efficient and culturally appropriate orthography has been developed.

6. Ground-breaking work in grammar and primer writing has been done by Chitrali scholars, work which can serve as the foundation for further efforts in this field.

7. There is a growing body of literature in the language. The works of past poets and authors are being published and the production of new works is being encouraged.

8. Chitralis have taken advantage of the media opportunities granted by the government, that is, the monthly journal sponsored by the Press Information Dept. and the daily Khowar radio broadcast on Radio Pakistan, and they are calling for a local radio station in Chitral and for Khowar programming on Pakistan Television (Peshawar Centre) (Annual Journal of Kohwar, 1989:35).

9. Chitral District has very limited natural resources. Almost all available arable land is under cultivation but the crops produced are not sufficient to support the present population. There are, in addition, no major, known mineral deposits and the forest resources have been seriously depleted. The climate in winter is harsh (particularly in Upper Chitral at between 60001 to 10,0001) and Chitralis road link to lowland Pakistan through Lowari Pass (10,5001) is blocked by snow for five or six months of the year. This means that the Khowar-speaking population of Chitral will probably not be inundated by a wave of immigrants to the district at any point in the immediate future.

10. Among lowland Pakistanis, Chitralis seem to have a reputation for being a civilized, peace-loving, honest people. Therefore, the efforts of Chitralis to promote their own language will probably not be regarded as seditious and they may be granted more latitude to pursue their goals as a result.

2.2 Negative factors

Although there are many factors working in favour of Khowar, there are also a number of factors working against its survival and development.

1. Although Chitralis like their own language, they also recognize that its usefulness in education, government and big business is severely restricted. Consequently, the majority of Chitralis may not share the enthusiasm of those who wish to promote the language and may regard such efforts as a waste of time.

2. The orthography, spelling system and grammar of Khowar have still not been standardized. It remains to be seen if Chitralis from different dialect areas will be able to achieve a consensus on these important issues and produce the much-needed dictionaries and grammars and educational materials.

3. Perhaps 1% of Chitrali women and 15 to 20% of the men are literate. Efforts to promote Khowar as a language of literature will be impeded by this high rate of illiteracy because the potential audience has been so greatly reduced.

4. Khowar has been given no formal role to play, even at the primary level, in the schools of Chitral. The value of vernacular or bilingual education does not seem to be understood by the government or by the people.

5. The educational system, inherited from the British, is designed to prepare students for positions in the civil service and for little else (Nyrop, 1975:94). Unfortunately, this has led to a surplus of graduates and a simultaneous shortage of technical personnel (Ibid:92). The educational system is obviously not meeting the needs of the people of Chitral, the needs for basic literacy and occupational and technical training that will sustain and improve the local economy. [Students who have achieved a certain level of education often feel that manual labour is beneath their dignity.]

6. The central and provincial governments and the District administrators are not interested in the survival and development of Khowar. They are concerned about national unity and winning support for the government (often seen as the same thing). Government concessions towards the Khowar language have, therefore, been motivated by a desire to promote the government's viewpoint, not the Khowar language. Stronger measures in support of Khowar, like the proposed Khowar Adabi Board or the inclusion of Khowar in the curriculum of the schools, will probably be opposed.

7. Whereas Chitralis were once almost entirely self-sufficient in terms of the basic necessities of life, they have now become increasingly dependent on food and other consumer goods imported from lowland Pakistan. All these goods must be paid for with cash but there are very few cash-generating opportunities at the village level. As a result, many Chitrali men (several members of nearly every family) must find employment outside the village, or outside Chitral, or even outside Pakistan. There is a fairly sizeable seasonal migration of Chitrali men to Peshawar and to other cities of Pakistan for winter employment and many have also found employment in the Gulf States (particularly from Upper Chitral). Most of these men leave their wives and children at home and return for visits as they are able. A few others have arranged to take their families with them. if the local economy continues to stagnate and if the Chitralis' desire for, and dependency on consumer goods continues to increase, the most serious threat to Khowar may come from emigration, not immigration. This would most certainly be the case if any number of Chitrali families began to move down-country. This would lead eventually to a depopulation of the hills, starting in Upper Chitral, the homeland of Khowar, where only one crop can be harvested per year and where the economy is the poorest.

8. In the early 1970's(?) the government of Pakistan under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began the construction of a five mile tunnel under Lowari Pass. One quarter mile of the tunnel was completed before the work was stopped for technical and financial reasons. Chitralis are naturally very concerned that the project be brought to a successful completion so that an all-weather, year-round link to the rest of the country can be established (Israr-ud-Din, 1990). This is obviously a very necessary thing for the people of Chitral and, hopefully, the government will pave the way for the resumption of the work. However, one speculates that the outcome for the Khowar language itself might not be entirely positive. After all, isolation has been one of the factors working in favour of Khowar in the past. The tunnel would make Chitral more accessible and attractive to outsiders and, perhaps more to the point, would also serve to increase the Chitralis' dependency on, and desire for consumer goods. If steps were not taken at the same time to bolster the local economy, then the process of emigration which has already begun could accelerate.

[1994 Addendum: As the situation in Afghanistan has improved in recent years, a winter-time road route down the Kunar River Valley, through Afghanistan and the Khyber Pass to Peshawar has once again been utilized.]

9. The presence of such a large number of Afghan refugees in Chitral continues to pose a threat to the Khowar language. If these 'guests' should become permanent residents, Khowar will be adversely affected. [Appeals have been made to the government to shift the refugees to some other location in the N.W.F.P. but the request has, so far, been denied.]

[1994 Addendum: Ron and Gail Trail recently informed us that at least some of the Afghan refugee camps in Chitral have been closed.]

2.3 Key factors

It is impossible to predict the course of events but, concerning the long-term survivability and development of Khowar, the following factors are thought to be most important (not necessarily in order):

1. The return of the Afghan refugees to Afghanistan.

2. The completion of the Lowari Tunnel.

3. Improvement in the local economy (in agriculture and in small industry).

4. Improvement in transportation and health services.

5. Reform of the educational system to promote basic literacy (in Khowar and Urdu) and the acquisition of occupational and technical skills that will benefit the local economy.

6. Standardization of the Khowar alphabet and spelling system and grammar.

7. Vigorous and imaginative promotion of the language through all available media.

3. Conclusion

The purpose of this paper has been to trace in rather broad detail a profile of the Khowar language (Section 1.) and to draw attention to those factors which are working both for, and against its survival and development (Section 2.). Although these goals have only been achieved in part, there is no doubt that the subject is of critical importance to the Chitrali people. It is most fitting that the paper conclude with a quotation from Prof. Israr-ud-Din's Welcome Address to the guests at the Second International Hindu Kush Cultural Conference held in Chitral this September (1990):

This entry of Chitral into the larger cultural arenas of the nation and of the world is inextricably related to the second aspect of our cultural and developmental dilemma. With rapid change comes dislocation and discontinuity. We are in a period in which our various cultures, in which we take pride for their ancient roots and their unique customs and institutionalized values, are under tremendous pressure. We see around us the beginnings of cultural loss and deterioration, and the prospect of their eventual extinction ... For these reasons, every group is rightly concerned about maintaining the continuity of those aspects of its cultural heritage which are deemed essential to maintaining its distinctive identity. At this particular historical juncture, we in the northern mountains of Pakistan find ourselves facing the problem of how to preserve the best elements of our traditional cultures while adopting selectively the beneficial elements of the new.

This is not to say that we want to remain in a cultural vacuum or to preserve a past status quo forever. This is neither a healthy nor a possible goal. Cultural change is inevitable, but we hope and believe that with thoughtful and. enlightened leadership among our scholars and educationists, the progress of cultural change can be shaped and guided to produce a positive and healthy synthesis of the old and the new.



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Survey conducted by the District Council of Chitral with the help of The Community Five Year Development Program. 1983. Extracts from the Urdu translated by Hidayat-ul-Islam.

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