Book Review of The Languages of Jammu & Kashmir

Book Review
The Languages of Jammu & Kashmir (People’s Linguistic Survey of India Vol. 12),
edited by  Omkar N Koul. G N Devy is the chief editor of the PLSI series. Orient Blackswan, New Delhi 2014. Pp. LVIII + 382, Price: Rs. 1500.
Reviewed by Rajnath Bhat
The People’s Linguistic Survey of India is the culmination of nation-wide survey of languages, documented by linguists, social activists, and members of speech communities. The Survey was conducted by the Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, Vadodara during the period 2010-2013. It presents locale, nomenclature and history of the languages, their linguistic characteristics, texts and classified vocabulary. The survey focuses on the languages of indigenous people, minority communities with an effort to bring them to the centre of contemporary language debates in a globalised world. The Survey comprises state and national volumes. The state volumes focus on the languages of the concerned states, and national volumes focus on the Eighth Schedule languages, Indian languages in diaspora, foreign languages, Indian sign language, language census, survey and policy.    
      The Languages of Jammu and Kashmir is divided into three sections. The first section is devoted to Dogri (Veena Gupta) and Kashmiri (Omkar N Koul & Roop K Bhat), which are listed in the eighth schedule of the Constitution of India. The second section is devoted to other languages of the state in an alphabetic order:  Balti (Irshad A Naiku), Bhadarwahi (Pritam K Kaul), Brokskat (N Ramaswami), Burushaski (Sanna Usman), Gojri (Javaid Rahi), Kishtawari (Omkar N Koul), Kohistani (Parvaiz Ahmad Ganai), Ladakhi ( Konchok Tashi), Pashto ( Aejaz M Sheikh & Sameer A Kuchey), Poguli ( Neelofar H Wani & A.A. Kak), Punchi (Updesh Koul), Sheikh Gal (Rahila Safdar), Shina ( Musavir Ahmed & Tanveer Ahmed), and Siraji (Shabir Ahmed Bhat & Sahar Niaz). The third section is devoted to classical, official and contact languages under the titles Sanskrit in Kashmir (T N Dhar Kundan), Persian Influence on Kashmiri (Omkar N Koul), Hindi-Urdu and Kashmiri (Omkar N Koul), Hindi (Rattan Lal Shant), and Urdu in Kashmir (Nazir Ahmed Dhar). Sanskrit and Persian, two classical languages have played important role and have influenced local languages significantly. Of late Hindi and Urdu are the major languages that have attained note-worthy roles in the state. As an official language of the Union of India, Hindi has an important role in education and administration, especially in the central government offices located in the state. Urdu, a non-native language, is the official language of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. There are different proficiency levels of the use of Hindi and Urdu languages in the State.
      Kashmir has remained an important centre for Sanskrit scholarship in creative expression and literary discourse for centuries. A large number of Sanskrit scholars were born in Kashmir and have made a very significant contribution to Sanskrit, read Indian studies. Sanskrit was used in the administration till 14th century.  Persian, a non-native language was introduced as the official language by medieval rulers and was patronised by them for the literary activities too. Consequently, Kashmir produced a large number of Persian scholars and creative writers whose creations are widely acclaimed. Urdu replaced Persian as the language of administration during Dogra rule in the 19th century.
      Linguistic profile of the state of Jammu & Kashmiri has undergone noticeable change lately. Kashmiri was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India from its very inception. Dogri was added to the list of the Scheduled languages in 2003. After India’s independence, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir chose to continue the use of Urdu as its official language. The state has witnessed a few linguistic movements in favour of the use of local languages in various domains.
      Kashmiri was introduced as a subject of study in primary schools but was discontinued in 1953. Of late, the language movement in favour of the use of local languages in education has succeeded and the state government introduced the use of Kashmiri, Dogri and Ladakhi as school subjects up to the eighth standard in the regions where they are spoken natively by dominant populations. The local languages are used in the radio and television channels.
      Pahari [literally: the language of the mountainous terrain] is not properly defined in the linguistic terms. Pahari is mentioned in the languages of Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand too which represent different linguistic characteristics or a mixture of different variations. In the context of the state of Jammu & Kashmir it is a mixture of Punjabi, Gojri, Punchi and other varieties of speech spoken at higher altitudes mostly spread across the Line of Control (LOC) of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. There is no entry on Pahari in this volume. PurIk, a minor language from Ladakh region does not find an entry in the Volume.
      All entries [on twenty languages] are complete and present adequate information on the languages, although no formal model has been followed. The contributors have perceived the format differently and each contributor has adopted individual style in his/her write-up.
      After identifying the languages of the survey and the scholars, the format and entries of this volume have been discussed in various workshops held in Srinagar, Jammu, Delhi and other places.  
      It is an attempt to present the people’s perception as well as some linguistic characteristics of major as well as minor languages. It includes descriptions of some minor languages with limited native speakers like Burushaski, Pashto, and Sheikh Gal. Burushaski has just about 300 speakers in the valley.
      The languages of the state of Jammu and Kashmir are distinct in some significant linguistic features and some of these distinct features are changing under the influence of neighbouring languages.  Some significant features are mentioned very briefly.  Kashmiri is a V2 (Verb Second) language. Its V2 word-order in its two closely related regional dialects, namely, Kishtawari and Poguli, is not maintained fully. The latter [languages] are changing under the influence of their surrounding languages.  
      Dogri, Punchi, and Gojri are tone languages. They share this feature with Punjabi. Though there is a three-way tone contrast – high, mid and low. The tone contrast is not always distinct in the recorded speech. This may be due to the influence of other dominant non-tone languages, like Kashmiri, Urdu and Hindi.  
      I hope that the present volume will stimulate scholars to study in depth languages of the three linguistically distinct regions of the State. The volume shall prove of great interest in equal measure to Dialectologists, language planners, linguists, language teachers, anthropologists, geographers, culture and women studies specialists, folklorists, human rights activists and general readers. I congratulate the editors for conceiving and executing the Survey.

Deptt of Linguistics, Banaras Hindu University, Banaras.

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