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Post Languages Of Pakistan


Balti is a Tibetan language spoken in Baltistan district of the Northern Areas of Pakistan. It is closely related to Ladakhi, the majority language of the adjacent Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian held territory.

Baltistan is generally said to be comprised of five major valleys: Skardu, Arandu, Shigar, Khaplu and Kharmang. Although Balti is the dominant language throughout Baltistan, there are settlements of Shina speakers in several of these valleys as well. It is reported that most of the Shina speakers, to whom the Baltis refer as Brokpa, can also speak Balti. Balti speakers refer to both themselves and their language as Balti (balti). The origin of name is unknown, but it is apparently of great antiquity. Ptolemy, the second century Alexandrian astronomer and geographer, recorded and preserved the name as Byltal.

Despite the interaction with other languages, the common Balti vocabulary so far shows relatively little influence from other Indo-Aryan languages. Compared to other non-literate languages which are spread over a similar range of mountainous territory, Balti shows a surprising degree of uniformity in its vocabulary throughout Baltistan. There are some regional variations, but in general it consists more of a slight pronunciation and usage difference than of an actual lexical difference. These differences are very rarely significant enough to hamper communication between Balti speakers from even the widest spread parts of Baltistan. There are differences of opinion in considering Balti and Purki as different languages or simply different varieties of the same language, and there is no consensus on this issue.According to the 1981 census, the total population of Baltistan district was 223,662. In view of the number of Balti speakers and the geographic area they occupy, it is surprising to note that very little has been written about their language.

During British rule, H.H.G. Austin published the first vocabulary of Balti in 1866. George Grierson included a somewhat more precise and smaller account of the language in his linguistic survey of India. T.G. Bailey added a more detailed grammatical outline and vocabulary of Purki in 1915. In 1934, A.F.C. Read published the most extensive grammar of Balti to date along with a vocabulary of well over 2000 words. In recent times, K. Rangan published work on the phonology and grammar of the language in 1979, which are considered most accurate. No written literature exists in the language. A few people have produced Balti literature using either the Persian or the Roman alphabet, neither of which is well suited to Balti. A standard script for writing has yet not been agreed upon.


Philologically, the Baluchi language is of a Persian complexion as is evident from the Persian words and expressions in the two dialects of the language. In The Linguistic Survey of India, G.A. Grierson has listed Baluchi in the Iranian (or Eranian) sub-branch of Indo-European language family. However, this point is disputed by some local authors, who claim its origin to be Semitic. This point of view, which goes against most of the western theories, is forwarded by Sardar Khan Gishkori, in his book History of the Baluch Race. For present purposes, the former view is adopted, as much of the linguistic evidence is weighted against the latter. The controversy over which branch Baluchi belongs to remains unresolved.

The home of the Baluchi language is, as the term implies, Baluchistan, but it extends considerably beyond the usually recognized limits of that province. On the east, it reaches the Indus and as far north as Dera Ghazi Khan, although the country along the banks of the Indus is inhabited mainly by those whose language is either Lahnda or Sindhi. Northwards, it extends to near Quetta, or the 30th degree of north latitude; and as we go westward, it is found even further than this, up to the valley of Helmund, where Pashto becomes the main language. South of Quetta, it is the language of the greater part of Baluchistan and extends westward to (Persian) Iranian Baluchistan. The Baluchi language today, with its two distinct dialects, common in the districts of Kalat, Chagai, Makran, Kharan, Lasbela and Karachi. It extends as far as the Gulf States, Persia and to certain parts of Afghanistan, Iranian Baluchistan and Seistan.

The western dialect is known by different names in different regions, such as Kalat, Makrani, Panjguri, Bakhshani, Karachi, Saheli (coastal), etc. In fact, every region has certain spoken peculiarities of its own. The western dialect has borrowed words from Persian languages, while the eastern dialect has derived its vocabulary from Sindhi, Siraiki, Punjabi and Pushto, due to the proximity of these languages, yet both dialects are well understood, and the Baluchi language remains the same.

Like all oral cultures, Baluchi culture has no tradition of writing. Knowledge was transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation. Consequently, Baluchi literature circulated by word of mouth in the form of folklore and ballads. They contain the records of heroic battles and migrations of the 15th and 16th centuries. Baluchi poetry, aptly called the dafter (meaning a chronicle of performances), is essentially a record of gallant and brave deeds of legendary Baluch heroes, who achieved undying fame through their achievements in battle as well as in other walks of life. The custodians of these treasures are known as raizwar shair, who in addition to preserving folklore and poetry also act as keepers of historical annals and genealogical records of the tribes.

The earliest mention of Baluch literature is to be found in the works of Ibn-e-Haukal (961 A.D.), followed by Yaqooti (1218 A.D.), Al-Idrisi and Minhajuddin Osman bin Sirajjuddin, the authors of the famous Tabqat-e-Nasiri. However, Baluchi literature won no attention until five centuries later. It was in 1830 when an enterprising European globe trotter, named Leech, published his Research Report on the language and the literature of the Baluchis in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. This proved a turning point that attracted the world's attention.

With the advent of the British in Baluchistan in the 19th century, Baluch literature became the focus of European scholars. Scholars like Longworth, Domes, Hetu Ram and Burton created a robust reawakening of the slumbering Baluchi literary complex by collecting, assimilating and compiling Baluchi classical poems, ballads, epicedums, folksongs, and folktales. Some of outstanding contributions are the following:

Pierce, Manual and Vocabulary of the Baluchi.

Lord Bruce, Notes on the Baluchi Tribes of Derajat (Lahore 1870).

Dames, Baluchi Popular Poetry (1907).

Among the local contributors of the British period are Maulana M. Fazil, who established a madrassah in Durkhan, which published 600 books, beside imparting religious education. There was also Maulvi Hazoor Baksh Jatoi, who translated the Holy Quran into Baluchi. Other prominent poets such as Maulvi Ibrahim Sarbazi, Mast Tawakli, Rahim Ali Shaheja, and Abdul Nabi Rind contributed to the overall enrichment of Baluchi language and literature. As a result of mass education, contemporary Baluchi literature is catching up with modern times.


Brahvi belongs to the family of Dravidian languages. It is different from Indo-Aryan and Indo-European Pakistani languages such as Sindhi, Pushto, Saraiki, Baluchi, Urdu, Punjabi, etc. Brahvi is spoken in the northwestern regions of Pakistan. Some historians think that Brahvis are the remnants of the Sindh valley civilization (1000 B.C.). More than 30 tribes in Sindh and Baluchistan speak Brahvi.

There are three major dialects of Brahvi: Sarawan, spoken in Mastung, Kalat, Bolan and Quetta; Jhalavan, spoken in Khuzdar, Zari, Vad, Mula and Jahu; and Chaghi, spoken in Kharan and Besma. Sarawan is considered the standard dialect. Baluchi, Sindhi and Pushto have influenced the Brahvi language, but the core vocabulary and grammatical structure of the language have not changed over time.

Brahvi literature began in the 18th century. Tuhfa-tul-Ajaib, by Malik Dard, the oldest example of their literature, was written in the reign of Naseer Khan I (1750 - 1793). Banu Ziai, Allah Bux, Taj and Ghos Bux Raeesani, Nadir Qambrani, and Sardan Sarvan are some of the modern Brahvi writers.

A great number of Brahvis are bilingual, speaking Brahvi with their close relatives and Baluchi or Sindhi with others. Brahvis are laborers and pastoral nomads by profession and Sunni Muslims by faith. They are mostly poor and illiterate. They claim to be the old inhabitants of Biroea city and descendants of Braho/Ibrahim.


The Burushashki speaking people refer to themselves as Bursho (Buruso) and their language as Burushashki (Burusaski) or Mishaski (Misaski). In Nagar, this language is called Khajuna (Khhajuna) and in Yasin, Werchikwar (Waryikwar). This name is Khowar in derivation and was used by some of the early linguists.

Very little is known about the history of the language. Some linguists claim that Burushaski was once spoken over a much wider area, and it has since then become restricted to its present narrow confines by the pressures from surrounding language groups. Burushaski itself is isolated from all other languages, and as yet there is no conclusive evidence relating it to any language family. Various theories have been put forward in this regard. It is a non-Aryan language, and a common theory classifies Burushaski with the Cancerian languages and with Basque. V.N. Toporor goes a step further and proposes that Burushaski be included in the same ancient family to which the Yenisen languages of eastern Siberia belong. Be that as it may, it is safe to conclude that Burushaski is quite unrelated in origin to its Dardic, Iranian, Indo-Aryan and Tibetan neighbours. However, centuries of contact, particularly with Shina, have resulted in similarities in phonological systems and borrowing of words. The pace of such borrowing, with Shina and other languages like Persian, Punjabi and Urdu, will continue to increase due to greater communication and transportation links between the Northern Areas and the rest of Pakistan.

Burushaski is spoken in the central Hunza valley as well as in the valley of the Nagar River, one of the primary tributaries of the Hunza River. The language is also spoken in a slightly different form in the Yasin valley, located in the extreme northwest of Gilgit district. Since Yasin is separated from Hunza and Nagar by many miles of very rugged mountainous terrain, the language has developed differently there, where it is sometimes called Werchikwar. In the three Burushaski speaking areas mentioned above, a dialect variation exists in varying degrees between and within each of these areas.

Linguists believe that although the Hunza and Nagar dialects are quite similar, they display several historically important differences of various types. However, more significant than the difference between the Hunza and Nagar dialects are the differences between both of them and the Yasin dialect. Centuries of separation have given the opportunity for divergence to the point that speakers of the Hunza and Nagar dialects have considerable difficulty understanding Yasin Burushaski and perhaps to a lesser extent, vice versa.

Burushaski has been a topic of considerable research since the nineteenth century. The list of travellers and researchers working on Burushaski grammar and vocabulary is long. Leitner and Biddulph were the first Europeans to write about Burushaski in the 1880s. A work by Lormer, published in three volumes from 1935 and 1938 (The Burushaski Language), is considered a pioneering effort. In 1941, Siddheshwar Varma published an article on Studies in Burushaski Dialectology, which analyzed the dialect variations of the languages. In recent times, V.N. Toporov in 1970 and Dr. Herman Berger in 1985 have expanded the findings of the earlier experts.

The written literature in the language is scanty and scattered. A few poems and stories have been written in Burushaski by some obscure authors from Hunza, using a modified Perso-Arabic script. Linguists have attempted to evolve a Roman script for writing the language in recent times. However, the attempts have not caught the imagination of the public, and much remains to be desired.


The term Hindko is often used to refer to the speakers of the Hindko language, but in popular usage it may designate the language as well. The NWFP Imperial Gazetteer (1905) regularly refers to the language as Hindku.

More than one interpretation has been offered for the term Hindko. Some associate it with India, others with the Hindu people, and still others with the Indus River, which is of course the etymological source of all these terms. Long before independence Grierson, in the Linguistic Survey of India, employed the term Hindko to mean "the language of Hindus" (viii, 1:34) Linguists classify the language into the Indic subgroup of Indo-European languages and consider it to be one of the Iranian languages of the area.

An estimated 2.4 per cent of the total population of Pakistan speak Hindko as their mother tongue, with more rural than urban households reporting Hindko as their household language. The speakers of Hindko live primarily in five districts: Mansehra, Abbottabad, Peshawar, and Kohat in NWFP, and Attock in Punjab. Addleton states that "Hindko is the most significant linguistic minority in the NWFP, represented in nearly one-fifth of the province's total households." In Abbottabad District 92 per cent of households reported speaking Hindko, in Mansehra District 47 per cent, in Peshawar District 7 per cent, and in Kohat District 10 per cent (1986).

Testing of inherent intelligibility among Hindko dialects through the use of recorded tests has shown that there is a northern (Hazara) dialect group and a southern group. The southern dialects are more widely understood throughout the dialect network than are the northern dialects. The dialects of rural Peshawar and Talagang are the most widely understood of the dialects tested. The dialect of Balakot is the least widely understood.

In most Hindko-speaking areas, speakers of Pashto live in the same or neighbouring communities (although this is less true in Abbottabad and Kaghan Valley than elsewhere). In the mixed areas, many people speak both languages. The relationship between Hindko and Pashto is not one of stable bilingualism. In the northeast, Hindko is the dominant language both in terms of domain of usage and in terms of the number of speakers, whereas in the southwest, Pashto seems to be advancing in those same areas. However, over the past forty years, the position of Pashto speakers appears to have strengthened in the Hindko-speaking areas.


The Kashmiri language is the language of Kashmir. In dialectic form it has spread southwest into the valley of Kastrawar, while to the south, it has crossed the Panstal Range. The term Kashmiri is Persian or Hindu and is derived from the Sanskrit Kasmirika. It is not used by the people of Kashmir, who call their language Koshir.

The language belongs to the Indo-European family, the Indo-Iranian subgroup, and the Dardic branch. While it is closely related to another member of the Dard group, Shina, due to centuries of Indian influence its vocabulary shows signs of Indian languages. Kashmiri is bounded on the north by the Shina language. On the west it is bounded by the Chibhale and Punchi dialects of Lahnda. To its south it has on the west the Dogri dialect of Punjabi. The southeast of Kashmiri is Padari, a western Pahari dialect similar to Bhadrawali. On the rest of the eastern side of Kashmiri there are Tibeto-Burman dialects, all separated from the Kashmir valley by inhospitable ranges of mountains and thus in no way affecting its language.

The standard dialect of Kashmiri is Kashtawari, spoken in the valley of Kashtawar. Other mixed dialects are Poguli, Siraji, Doda and Rambani. In the standard dialect, there are minor differences of language based on vocabulary and pronunciations. The Muslims of the valley freely borrowed words from Persian and Hindus borrowed from Sanskrit. The political developments of the past fifty years have altered the socio-linguistic situation of the Kashmiri language.

Kashmiri possesses a small but respectable list of ancient literary works. The first known author was a holy woman, who wrote religious verses strongly tinged with Saira philosophy. A Hindu writer, Parmanada of Matanda, is said to have written a history of Krishna in 1822 A.D. Other writers include, Muhammad Gami (1855 A.D.), who wrote Yusuf Zulaikha, Laila Wa Majnun and Shirin Khosrau, all on familiar Persian models. In addition, a valuable collection of Kashmiri proverbs was compiled by the Rev. J. Hinton Knowles in the British period; it was published in 1883 under the name Folktales of Kashmir.


The language is usually called Khowar (sometimes spelled Kohwar) by the people who speak it as their first language. The language and people are also commonly referred to as Chitrali by Khowar speakers as well as others. The language is also called Arniya, which is the name given to Khowar speakers by Shina speakers. Pashtuns call the people and language Kashgari. The Kalash call Kohwar speakers Patu.

Khowar is believed to have been spoken in Chitral for a very long time. It is generally accepted that it spread throughout Chitral from the northern part of the region, specifically from the Torkhow valley. Most researches believe that the original Khowar speakers came to Chitral as part of the Aryan invasion of South Asia. Khowar means "language of the Kho people." Morgenstierne (1932) says that the original home of the Kho was northern Chitral in the valleys around Mastuj, although their settlements in Ghizar valley are ancient. He further suggests that at some point some of the Kho crossed Baroghil Pass and occupied part of the Wakhan valley in what now is called Afghanistan. Another scholar notes that long ago Chitralis could cross to the Wakhan valley by mountain passes from the Mulkhow and Torkhow valleys and subdued the Kasksha language.

Khowar is part of the Indo-European language family in the Dardu, Chitrali subgroup. Linguists state that though Khowar has been strongly influenced by the Iranian languages to the west, its linguistic structure is purely Indo-Aryan. The only other Dardic language that Khowar resembles evinces certain unique grammatical features, but there is not much lexical similarity. Although the two languages are in the same sub-group, there is no doubt that they are separate and mutually unintelligible. Several researchers have observed that there is little or no variation in the language. A recent article by a Khowar speaker compares the Khowar spoken in six different areas and concludes that there is only slight variation between these areas.

In Swat district, there are small communities of Khowar speakers in the north. There are also permanent communities of Khowar speakers in Peshawar and Rawalpindi, and Khowar speaking communities have been reported in the Gorno-Badakhshan region of the former Soviet Union.

Khowar has been thoroughly studied since the days of the British Raj. Early studies by Leitner and Biddulph were short vocabularies and grammatical notes. Grierson's Linguistic Survey of India gathered material on Khowar songs, ethnography, and the grammatical structure of the language. Later, Lormer (1915), and Morgenstierne (1924) gathered material. Bashir (1991) and Munnings are two recent scholars who worked on Khowar.

One interesting feature of Khowar studies has been the involvement of South Asians and later of Chitralis themselves in the research. For example, Prince Hisham and Wazir Ali wrote extensive collections of folklore and published Khowar songs in 1959. As a result of their efforts, Khowar evolved a script based on Arabic and Urdu. Professor Isra-ud-Din, a Chitrali, has written several studies on the history of Chitral (1979) and the cultures of Chitral (1969). Today there is a small but growing number of local writers.


Kohistani is the language of Indus Kohistan, a vast mountainous range situated between Chilas and Chitral which constitutes an administrative district of the NWFP. The Kohistani language has been classified as a Dardic language. On a higher level, Kohistani has been grouped into the northwestern group of the Indo-Aryan (Indic) languages. On the highest level, Kohistani is a member of the Indo-Iranian and Indo-European language families. Kohistani (Kohiste is the local pronunciation) is the name most commonly used for the major language spoken on the west bank of the Indus River in Kohistan. Kohistani is also a general term which is used for other mountain languages in the NWFP (e.g. Torwali, Kalami, etc), so the term "Indus Kohistani" is being adopted to differentiate it from others.

According to the 1981 census, there are 468,365 people in Kohistan, roughly divided on each side of the river. This means there are more than 200,000 Indus Kohistani speakers (on the west bank of the Indus River) and more than 200,000 speakers of the Kohistani variety of Shina (on the east bank of the Indus River). No written literature exists in Kohistani, nor is there any reported oral literature.

The Kohistani language recieved relatively less attention of the scholars. The British initiated the task of documentation of the language, and G.W. Leitner wrote a book entitled Dardistan in 1894. Researchers have identified various localized names of the Kohistani language used by the local inhabitants and experts. Maiya was the name used by the Grierson in the Linguistic Survey of India. However later experts dropped the label, and Kohistani was adopted. Buddrus in his 1959 article on Kanyawali and Barth were unable to confirm the language name of Maiya. Other names include Khil and Seois used by various inhabitants to refer to the language.


Often spelled Panjabee, Punjabi is from the word Punjab, which is the geographic name of the area in which the language is spoken. The word Punjabi is a Persian composition of punj (five) and aab (water, river). The area of Punjab, which extends from the plains of the Indus valley to the Ganges valley in India, has five rivers, the Chenab, Ravi, Jhelum, Sutlej and Beas. Punjabi belongs to the Indo-Aryan subgroup of the Indo-European family. One author claimed that the origin and growth of the Punjabi language was "a result of administrative divisions of northern India since Mughal rule," made Punjab a central administrative division; its language rose to prominence after the 16th century due to the socio-political situation. In addition to Pakistan's Punjab, the language is also spoken in the the Indian state of Punjab. Its territory stretches from the Hissar-Ambala line in the east to the area between the Ravi and Chenab in the west.

The important dialects include; Majhi which is spoken in the region between the rivers Ravi and Beas, with two major cities Lahore and Amritsar, Poadhi, spoken between the Beas and the Sutlej with the two main towns, Jullunder and Hoshiarpur, Patialwi in Patiala and Sangur; Dogri in Jammu and Kangra, Pahari in Chamb and Mandi, Lailpuri, in Faisalabad, Multani,in Multan, Potohari in the area between the Jhelum and the Indus, with the main town Rawalpindi, Hindko in Hazara, Malwai in Ludhiana, Ferozpur, Kalir, Nabha, MalirKotla and Faridkot (India), Bhatiani in Hissar and Baikanir (India) and Maghribi, spoken in the areas of Gujrat, Sialkot, Gujranwala and the adjacent areas. If this classification is lacking in precision, this is because these dialects have not been studied in detail.

The early Punjabi books to be published besides the missionary literature include, Punjabi Grammar by Dr.Carry in 1812, Bihari Lal?s Punjabi Grammar in 1867 and Sikhan Da Raj and Punjabi BaatCheet by Pandit Sardha Ram Phulwari in 1868. Literature in Punjabi, however, is based on the Majhi dialect, which is largely due to the presence in the Majhi speaking area of the political and commercial centers Amritsar and Lahore.

Dialects in the western part of the Punjab-Multani, Potohari and Hindko-differ considerably from the literary language. For this reason some scholars are inclined to regard them as offshoots of a separate language, to which they have given the name Lahnda (Western). On the other hand, since speakers of both western and eastern dialects use the same literary language, many Punjabi scholars regard the two dialects as forms of one Punjabi language.

Scholars date the beginning of Punjabi literature to the ninth century A.D., when remnants of the Yoga and Natha sects of Buddhism were active in the Punjab. But its full development had to await the spread of Sikhism in the 16th century, which made Punjabi the language of its scripture, the Adi Granth in 1604. Later Sikhs developed Punjabi into a literary language, written in Gurmukhi and Devanagari scripts, and produced vast amount of literature. An Arabo-Persian script has been used for western Punjabi. Waris Shah, Shah Hussain, and Bulleh Shah are the important representatives literary Punjabi who produced monumental works in verse.

Since there are no precise linguistic frontiers between Punjabi and the Lahnda or western dialects, we can only guess at the number of speakers. Estimates for Punjabi speakers in Pakistan range from 21 to 50 million.


From the point of view of the people who speak it, Pushto is the language of the Afghans. The name Afghans, given to them by the Persians, is not used by the people, who call themselves Pashtun or, in the plural, Pashtana, and who call their language Pushto or in the northwestern provincial dialect, Pakhto. In English, linguists have generally adopted pushto, and this spelling will be adopted in the following pages. Pushto belongs to the Indo-European family and is usually classified as part of the Eranian/Iranian subgroup. Among the Eranian subgroup, it belongs to the eastern branch. However, this position is not unchallenged, and Trump (1873), who wrote a Pushto grammar, strongly maintained that the language does not belong to the Eranian subgroup but is a member of the Indo-Aryan family closely linked with Sindhi. No modern research has been conducted to vindicate this point.

Pushto is spoken in most of Afghanistan. In Pakistan, it is spoken in NWFP, Baluchistan, and border districts of Punjab. A district-wise survey of the Pushto speaking population in provinces would include Hazara, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan in the province of NWFP. In Baluchistan, the Pushto districts include Quetta, Pishin, Loralai, Zhob, and Sibi. It is also spoken in border districts of Punjab such as Attock and Mianwali.

According to an estimate in 1950, the total number of Pushto speakers was nearly 5.35 million, 4.47 million in the NWFP and 270,000 in Baluchistan. Out of the 5.35 million, 4.84 million claimed Pushto as their mother tongue. A later estimate in 1961 put the total Pushto speaking population at 6.8 million. Generally, it is assumed that at least 10 million people in Afghanistan and Pakistan are native speakers of Pushto, which makes it the second most important language of modern Eranian languages. Pushto is written in a Persian-Arabic script but contains letters which are not to be found in either Persian or Arabic languages.

Two dialects of Pushto are recognized, the soft dialect of Afghanistan, which preserves the ancient sh and zh sounds, and the hard dialect of Pakistan, in which rh and gh prevail, and the dialect is referred as Pakhto. The name of the language, properly Paxto, also denotes the strong code of customs, morals and manners of the Pashtun nation.

Historically, Pushto has a fairly copious literature, partly original and partly translated. The first book written in the language is said to be a history of the conquest of Swat by the Yusufzais, but no copy of it is known to exist. The earliest books for which a historical record exists are by Bayazid Ansari, popularly known as Pir Roshun. These works are not available, but extracts exist in the famous works of the great doctor of Afghans, Akhun Darweza. His most renowned work, an unparall treasury of invectives, is the Makhzan-e-Islam, in which he attacked the heroes of Bayazid.

The earliest poet on record is Mirza Ansari, a grandson of Bayazid, who founded the school of mystic verification which has since monopolized the field of the religious poetry in Afghanistan. The most famous poet is Khushal Khan, the warrior prince of the Khaataks (1613-1691). His Diwan was first published in 1869. His grandson, Afzal Khan, wrote a valuable history of the Afghans entitled the Tarikhe-Murassa.


Shina belongs to the Dardic group of the Indo-European family of languages. Properly, it is the language of the Shin tribe, who although numerically inferior established their language to the exclusion of others wherever they penetrated. According to one theory, Shin conquerors came up the Indus valley and occupied an area that included Gilgit and Baltistan and extended almost as far as Leh in Ladakh. They either replaced the original inhabitants or imposed their language upon them. This left the original language, Burushaski, to be spoken in highey inaccessible vallies such as Yasin, Hunza and Nagar.

Shina is the major language in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The majority of the speakers live in the Gilgit and Diamer districts. In addition to Baltistan districts, the Kohistan district of NWFP also contains a major population of Shina speakers. Additionally, some Shina speakers are found in valleys on the Indian side of Kashmir. The total number of speakers of Shina is estimated to be from 450,000 to 500,000, based on population figures from the 1981 census of Pakistan. This total would comprise some 300,000 speakers in the Northern Areas and 150,000 to 200,000 speakers in Kohistan district.

The literature on the language abounds with controversies and debates over the dialect variation of the Shina language from British days onwards. In addition, much practical work was done in the description of Shina and the formation of grammar. Leitner was the first western scholar to enumerate some of the dialects of Shina in 1880. Grierson (1919) and Lorimer (1927) also offered lists of the different varieties of the language. Bailey (1924), however, was the first person to make an in-depth study of the grammar and phonology of Shina. Based on his studies, he proposed three main types of Shina: Gilgiti, Kohistani and Aston. Other contemporary scholars, for example Namus (1961) and Schmidt (1985), also recognize three main groups of Shina.

The Shina spoken in Gilgit is considered the standard speech. As the centre of trade and government in Northern Areas, Gilgit has much to do with the promotion and elevation of Gilgiti as the standard dialect of Shina. Programs for Radio Pakistan are produced in this dialect, and some literature has begun to appear in Shina.


The word Sindhi is an adjective which means "belonging to Sindh." It is used to designate the people and language of Sindh. The name of the language indicates with fair accuracy the locality in which it is spoken. This includes the whole of the modern province of Sindh, Khairpur, the peninsula of Cuth, the southern portion of Lasbela and Kachhi in Balochistan, and the extreme southern portion of Bahawalpur.

However, it can be observed from the geographical description that the linguistic boundaries of Balochi extend beyond the borders of Sindh in every direction. The Sindhi language meets with Balochi in the west, with which it shares a distant affinity but is little influenced by the interaction. To the north it meets with Landha, with which it is closely connected but by which it is influenceed only slightly, in vocabulary.On its eastern border it is bounded by Marwari, a dialect of Rajastani. To the south and southeast, various dialects of Gujrati confront the language.

According to accepted definitions and scientific classifications, Sindhi belongs to the Indic subgroup of Indo-European languages. More specifically, it is placed in the northwest group of the outer circle of Indo-European or Indo-Aryan vernaculars. It is derived from Prakrit, an early popular dialect of Sanskrit, but it is distinguished in its retention of a number of characteristic features of Prakrit which in other existing Indo-Aryan languages are regularly modified. This conservation is due to the isolated position of Sindh, separated by a great desert from other tracts where cognate tongues are spoken.

The grammatical structure of Sindhi is heterogenous. The noun and branches belong to Sanskrit. Verbs and adverbs are formed from Persian models. The historical age of Sindhi language is not precisely known. However, Arabian travellers such as Al-Istakhari and Al-Maqdisi, who visited Sindh in the 10th century, reported that the languages spoken in Deybal, Mansurah, and Multan were Arabic and Sindhi.

The script of Sindhi is Arabic in character, principally Kufic. The script may have originated as early as the Arab period of its history. Al-Baruini (973-1048) reports in his Kitabul Hind that the alphabet used in southern Sindh toward the seacoast was Malwari, while in some parts the Ardhanagari script was used. The authorities are silent on the subject of which script was transformed into Arabic. The oldest form of the Arabicized Sindhi script is to be found in the couplets of Shah Karim of Bulic (1537-1625), which are embodied in his table talks, translated into Persian by his disciple, Muhammad Rida, in 1629. Although this script does away with the aspirates and the nasals, it is sufficiently intelligible. The 52 sounds in Sindhi are represented by the 30 letters of Arabic.

Some writers identify Vichola as standard literary language and Saraiki, Thareli or Dhatki, Kachi, Lari, and Lasi as dialects of Sindhi. The term Saraiki is commonly used in Sindh to designate the Landha dialect spoken by Jats and certain Baloch and other tribes who came to Sindh from Punjab. Thareli or Dhatki and Kachi are forms of Sindhi having a strong admixture of Rajastani and Gujrati respectively. Lari is considered the most primitive type of Sindhi and regarded by speakers as uncouth.

The Sindhi language possesses a voluminous literature in both poetry and prose. Shah Karim of Burli (1537-1628) and Shah Latif Bhitai (1698-1750) were the greatest of Sindhi poets. In the Talpur period, Sachal Sarmast (1739-1828) astounded the people with his unrivelled Kafis and Ghazals. In the British period (1843-1947), Sindhi poetry tended to adopt Persian verse forms, and this trend continues to date.


Siraiki is the language of western Punjab. It has been called by various names, including Lahnda, Multani, Uchi and Derewali. However, all these names have now been dropped, and Siraiki has been adopted. Linguistically it is linked with the Indo-Aryan languages, but some recent authors claim that its origin was in pre-Aryan India and trace the influences of dialects of pre-Aryan, Dravidian and Dardic languages on Siraiki.

Siraiki has adopted the Persian script (nastaliq) for its writing, although the script is insufficient for all the sound patterns of the language. As a result, several changes have been made to fit the language to the Persian script. The number of letters in the Siraiki alphabet exceeds that of any other developed language such as Arabic, Persian, English, Urdu or Punjabi. The Siraiki language is spoken in the central part of Pakistan, on either side of Indus, approximately from 280 N to 330 N longitude and including the reaches of Chenab and Sutlej, which correspond to the southwestern part of Punjab and adjacent areas.

Siraiki is spoken on the western edge of the Indo-Aryan language area. Its boundaries between the Iranian, Pushto and Baluchi language are well defined by the Sulaiman range in the west. To the southeast, the natural boundaries of the Thar desert separate Siraiki from the Marwari dialect of Rajasthani. However, to the east, there is no natural boundary between Siraiki and Punjabi. Siraiki speaking districts are, D.I. Khan (NWFP); Mianwali, Bhakkar, Leiah, D.G. Khan, Rajanpur, Multan, Vehari, Khanewal, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and R.Y. Khan (Punjab); Sukkur and Jacobabad (Sindh); and Nasirabad (Baluchistan). The 1981 census estimated that Siraiki is spoken by 14.9% of the total population of the Punjab. The literary stock of the Siraiki language is small but growing. During Mughal rule, Devan-e-Hafiz, Hir Ranjha, Sassi and Punnu, Mirza Sahiban, and many other works were translated into Siraiki. As a result of the movement of mystics, linguistic consciousness developed during the 17th to 19th century in Siraiki regions. Mystics like Sheikh Saadi, Shah Shams Sabzwari, Sultan Bahoo, Shah Hussain, and Khawaja Farid produced monumental poetry. Modern literary writers include Ghulam Hasan Haidrani, Musarrat Kalanchwi, Saleem Haidr, Shahida Rehman, Anjum Lashari, Prof. Anwar Ahmad and Fida Hussain Gaddi.


Urdu is the official language of Pakistan. The language belongs to the Indo-Aryan subgroup of the Indo-European family.

It is closely related to Hindi, the official language of India. In his Linguistic Survey of India, Grierson has defined Urdu as that form of Hindustani which is written in Persian characters and which makes free use of Persian and Arabic words in its vocabulary. Hindi itself is said to have emerged from the market place and army camps during the period of Islamic invasion and establishment of Muslim rule in the north of India between the eighth and tenth centuries A.D. The speech of the areas around Delhi, known as Khari boli, was adopted by the Afghans, Persian and Turks as a common language of interaction with the local population. With the passage of time it developed a variety called Urdu (from the Turkish word urdu, or camp). This variety naturally had a preponderance of borrowing from Arabic and Persian, but remained relatively free from large-scale borrowing from these foreign languages. In time Urdu gained prestige and patronage at Muslim courts and developed into a literary language. Urdu has been used as a literary language since the twelfth century.

Its cultivation began in the Deccan at the end of the sixteenth century with the Wali of Aurangabad, commonly called the ?father of Rekhta or Urdu?, Sauda and Mir Taqi Mir. Another school, almost equally celebrated, arose at Lucknow, during the troubled times in Delhi in the middle of the eighteenth century. In Delhi in the nineteenth century, Ghalib and Zauq produced monumental works in Urdu poetry. Urdu prose came into existence as a literary medium at the beginning of the last century in Calcutta under the influence of the English. The Bagho Bahar of Mir Amman and the Khirad Afroz of Hafiz ud din Ahmad are among these earlier works. Urdu prose prospered, and literature poured from the press in the last century. Muhammad Hussain Azad and Pandit Ratan Nath (Sarshar) are among the most eminent writers of Urdu prose. In a later era, Maulana Azad and Altaf Hussain Hali introduced new themes and fresh styles, and the sphere of Urdu poetry widened. During the struggle for Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal and Hafeez Jalandhari excelled in poetry and cultivated refined themes in Urdu literature. After independence, Urdu literature flourished under state patronage, when Urdu was declared the official language of Pakistan. Manto, Faiz, Qasmi, and many others developed matchless poetry and prose.

It should be noted that Urdu is not a communal language, nor is it only a Muslim language. A huge mass of historical research corroborates this point. Urdu is spoken by approximately eight million people in Pakistan as a mother tongue and by 23 million people in India.


Wakhi speakers refer to themselves in their own language as Xik and to their language as Xik. The English terms Wakhan and Wakhi come from the Persian name for the area and its language. These names are also recognized and sometimes used by the Wakhi people themselves.

The name Wakhi is derived from Wakhan, the name of the narrow corridor of Badakhshan province in Afghanistan which separates Pakistan from Tajikistan. The Wakhan area is, as far as is known, the original homeland of the Wakhi people. They have lived in the high, cold Wakhan region of the Pamir mountains where few other people could thrive. Before the advent of tightly controlled international boundaries, they would often cross the high passes which surround Wakhan in search of summer pasture lands for their animals. Sometimes they settled permanently on those lands. In this way, Paki-Wakhi migrated to their present locations from the Wakhan region at various times to live in Hunza, Yarkhun and Yasin.

The first group of Wakhis who settled in Northern Pakistan in the 1880s had different reasons. A group led by the Mir of Wakhan came to seek refuge in Ishkoman, fleeing the tyranny of the Amir of Afghanistan. Wakhi is spoken in the sparsely populated upper portions of four of the northernmost valleys in Pakistan: Hunza (Gojal), Ishkoman, Yasin and Yarkhun. Yarkhun is located in Chitral district of the NWFP, while others are in the Northern Areas. Gojal, in the Hunza valley, has the largest Wakhi population of any of the four areas. The Wakhis of Ishkoman live primarily in the Karambar valley, in and above the town of Imit. In Yasin, they live mostly in the vicinity of Darkot, and in Yarhkun, they are found in Baroghil and in a few other small villages in the high, upper portion of valley.

In addition to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Wakhi speakers also live in the adjacent parts of Tajikistan, along the Pamir River, the Ab-i-Panj, and in the nearby Sarikot area of China. It is impossible to say exactly how many Wakhi speakers live in Pakistan, but their numbers are probably between 7,500 and 10,000, with the most in Gojal, Hunza. The number of Wakhi people in Ishkoman in probably around 2,000 or more. This area is said to be predominantly Wakhi. In addition, there are some Wakhi speakers in other parts of the valley.

Wakhi belongs to the Pamiri branch of the Iranian (Persian) language family. Other languages of this group include Sarikoli, which is spoken in China, Shugni, Rushani, Ishkashmi, etc., which are spoken in Pamir regions of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Wakhi is considered to be one of the most archaic extent Iranian dialects. It has survived in relative isolation for a long period, thus preserving many forms which have since been lost in other Iranian languages.

Very little is known about the regional variations throughout the extended geographic range where Wakhi is spoken. Morgenstierne noted a couple of morphological differences separating western Wakhi from eastern Wakhi, which suggests that a line dividing the two varieties might be drawn between the Wakhan villages of Young and Khandut.

G.A.Grieson, Linguistic Survey of India (calcutta: central Group, 1926).

Syed Abdul Qudus, Tribal Baluchistan (Feroz Sons Liimited, 1990).

G.A.Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. III, 1908.

Peter.C.Backstiom & Carla S.Radolf (ed.) Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan: Languages of Northern Areas, Volume 2 (Islamabad: SIL & NIPS, QAU, 1992).

Bray, Denis, The Brahvi Language, 1977.

Clarence Malony, Peoples of South Asia (Seaton Hall University, 1974).

Elena Bashir, A Contractive Analysis of Brahvi and Urdu (Washington: Academy of Educational Development, 1991).

Kenneth Katzan, The Languages of the World, 1986.

Urdu Encyclopedia (Lahore: Ferozsons, 1984).

G.A. Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. II, (Calcutta, Central Group,1926).

Peter.C.Backstiom & Carla S.Radolf (ed.) Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan: Languages of Northern Areas, Volume 2 (Islamabad: SIL & NIPS, QAU, 1992).

G.A. Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India ( Calcutta, Central Group,1926).

Daniel G. Hallberg, "Languages of Indus Kohistan," in Kalvin.R.Rensch,Sandra.J.Decker & Daniel G. Hallberg (ed.) Socio-Linguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, vol.1 (Islamabad SIL & NIPS, QAU, 1992).

Ahsan Wagha, The Saraiki Language (Islamabad: Dedewar Publishers, 1992).

Bernard Conrie, (ed.), The Major Languages of South Asia, the Middle East and Africa (London: Routledge, Kagan and Paul, 1980).

C. Shackle, A Century of Saraiki Studies in English (Multan: 1983).

Dr. Mahr Abdul Haq, Saraiki Zaban Aur Uski Hamsaya Alaqai Zabanein (Multan: 1977).

G. A. Zograph, The Languages of South Asia: A Guide (London: Routledge, Kagan and Paul, 1982).

N. I. Tolstoy, The Punjabi Language: A Descriptive Grammar (London: Routledge, Kagan and Paul, 1981).

A. Schimmel, German Contribution to the Study of Pakistani Linguistics (Hamburg: 1981).

D.N. Mackenzie, "Pushto," in Bernard Conrie, (ed.), The Major Languages of South Asia, the Middle East and Africa (London: Routledge, Kagan and Paul, 1980).

G.A.Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India, (Calcutta: Central Group, 1916).

G. A. Zograph, The Languages of South Asia: A Guide (London: Routledge, Kagan and Paul, 1982).

Ahsan Wagha, The Siraiki Language: Its Growth and Development (Islamabad: Dederewar Publishers 1992).

C. Shackle, A Century of Saraiki Studies in English (Multan: 1983).

O. Brien, A Glossary of the Multani Language (Punjab Govt. Press, 1903).

Dr. Farman Fathepuri, The Pakistan Movement and Hindu-Urdu Conflict (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1987)

Ram Babu Saksena, A History of Urdu Literature (Lahore: Sind Sagar Academy,

Peter.C.Backstiom & Carla S.Radolf (ed.) Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan: Languages of Northern Areas, Volume 2 (Islamabad: SIL & NIPS, QAU, 1992).

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