[lg policy] Pakistan: Dying Ormuri language finds saviour in English book

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 21 15:11:38 UTC 2011

Dying Ormuri language finds saviour in English book
Published: November 21, 2011

" Language suicide is when a community itself opts not to practice
it," Distinguished National Professor and renowned author and linguist
Dr Tariq Rahman. Deliberating on the need to protect endangered local
languages, national and international experts urged on making
conscious effort to save Ormuri language, spoken by the Ormuri people
in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to an SDPI press release.

This was discussed during an official presentation of the book ‘The
Ormuri Language in Past and Present’, jointly organised by the Forum
for Language Initiatives, Islamabad (FLI) and Sustainable Development
Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Sunday. The book has been translated
from Russian to English and is on the centuries-old Ormuri language,
which is now on verge of extinction. Dr Joan LG Baart translated the

FLI Research Consultant Dr Henrik Liljegren, and Rozi Khan Burki, a
native Ormuri speaker and expert on the language, spoke at event while
Distinguished National Professor and renowned author and linguist Dr
Tariq Rahman chaired the proceedings. A large number of academics and
native Ormuri speakers attended the event.

Ormuri is the language of a small Indo-Iranian community which is
spread from the Logar province in Afghanistan to South Waziristan in
Pakistan. The language has amazingly persisted over many centuries in
spite of pressure from the surrounding predominantly Persian and
Pashto-speaking peoples. However, it is now on the verge of extinction
in Afghanistan, where only a few members of the older generations are
able to speak it, while it is still alive but seriously endangered in

The Russian version of the book was written by Russian linguist Dr VA
Efimov in 1986, and makes an important contribution to the
documentation of the Ormuri language, grammar and diction.

Dr Rehman explained “language death” as the time when the last speaker
of any language dies, as with it dies the whole culture, society,
history and folklore. He also explained “language murder” by policy
neglect from authorities and “language suicide” as when a community
itself opts not to practice it.

Explaining the historical records of the language, Dr Baart said that
the British first recorded 43 sentences in Ormuri in 1838. Later,
Ghulam Muhammad Khan compiled some vocabulary, short sentences and
grammar which was later included in the linguistic survey of India, he
said. “The book is the very first comprehensive documentation of the

Burki said that there are around 8,000 Ormuri speakers in South
Waziristan and there is great risk for the language in view of Pashtu
dominance in the area. He said that written literature in the language
was nonexistent. “But now, documentation has started and 5,000 words
are in its dictionary,” he said.

Burki said that most Ormuri people have been displaced from their
homes due to violence in the area and that they now reside in various
settled areas as IDPs, which poses another serious threat to the

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2011


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