[lg policy] Romanising Pashto: The debate rages on

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Nov 25 16:23:26 UTC 2015


Romanising Pashto: The debate rages on
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Romanising Pashto: The debate rages on
<http://tribune.com.pk/story/997680/romanising-pashto-the-debate-rages-on/>
By Iftikhar Firdous <http://tribune.com.pk/author/143/iftikhar-firdous/>
Published: November 25, 2015
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[image: Regardless of political beliefs, latinisation is taking place as an
organic result of communication necessity. STOCK IMAGE]

Regardless of political beliefs, latinisation is taking place as an organic
result of communication necessity. STOCK IMAGE
*PESHAWAR: *

*Is the romanisation of Pashto a good idea? Regardless of our views, it is
something that already exists. For a language that has more speakers than
writers, the decision to do or not to do will depend on political beliefs
of the native speakers.*

In the census of 1998, it was estimated that 73.9 % people in
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (known then as NWFP) spoke Pashto. However, Pashto
literacy remained a low priority for the provincial and national
assemblies. It was not until 1984 that Pashto was officially sanctioned.

The politics related to Pashto language have been well documented by Robert
Nicols in Language Policy and Language Conflict in Afghanistan and its
Neighbors: The Changing Politics of Language Change.  The author discusses
the manner in which historical conditions of the area raised and lowered
the value of the Pashto and its use in social and political domains.

He implicitly mentions the language was predominantly used and solidified
in madrassas rather than the formal schooling system.

Today, however, as education has become an integral part of Pukhtun
society—idealistically—the most common script of communication amongst the
middle and upper middle classes is romanised Pashto. Perhaps the most
pervasive influence on romanisation has been technological; evidence of
which is clear in the form of text messages, tweets or Facebook posts. Most
of them are in the romanised form of the language.

Over the years, public spaces in Pukhtun society have shrunk and the hujra
or jumat, considered integral to the linguistic community, has been
severely affected by terrorism. This resulted in the progression to a
relatively closed off and safe social media where the same interaction
takes place, but with less intimacy.

Whether romanisation should be officially notified or not is something that
has developed into a debate. The earliest of efforts to romanise Pashto
were in the 1950s and 60s in Afghanistan through the Yaqubi script. Later,
and perhaps the most noteworthy, efforts were the ones in the aftermath of
9/11.

The conservative school of thought believes a standardised, romanised
Pashto will have consequences for the original script. The more liberal
school of experts believes a romanised form will encourage more people to
learn it. The argument for the more liberal school is based on the fact
that the differences in various dialects are not morphological, but based
on the pronunciation of various dialects.

The debate is not specific to Pashto alone; languages throughout the world
are facing similar issues. A Pashto-specific romanised script carries
political undertones that have been unresolved for decades.

The last government in K-P made proposals for a romanised script, but there
was no tangible progress. The criticism for Pukhtuns has been their
deliberate aloofness. Meanwhile, the Pukthuns argue they have been
marginalised. The romanisation of the language can perhaps become a step to
negate both.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/997680/romanising-pashto-the-debate-rages-on/


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