[lg policy] Is Sindhi an ‘endangered’ language?

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat Jul 21 11:26:24 EDT 2018


Is Sindhi an ‘endangered’ language?

The decrease in use of this indigenous language is a threat to Pakistan’s
linguistic diversity?

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Mazhar Ali Dootio <https://dailytimes.com.pk/writer/mazhar-ali-dootio/>

July 21, 2018

Language is one of the significant identifications of any nation or
society. It is the complete source of communication and the primary way of
sharing of thoughts, values, emotions, feelings, opinions, social
integration, socio-political status and educational development. Therefore,
language is considered a vital asset for people and the world. There are
about 7000 languages spoken around the world today, whereas, hundreds are
dead or extinct.

Linguists are of the opinion that more than 70% of languages used today
will be dead or extinct by the coming decades. Several languages are in
danger of becoming extinct and this is an increasing threat to linguistic
diversity.

Languages are the most influential tools of preserving and developing our
tangible and intangible heritage. A society or nation is known by its
speakers, therefore, language tells the structure, moral status, behaviour,
educational development, social integration, culture, financial status and
the everyday routine and lifestyle of a nation or society. Language is a
natural phenomenon that was born along with the birth of man. Mother
language is as necessary for man as air, water, oxygen, food, land,
culture, rains, etc.

Sindhi language has been facing several attacks and conspiracies for the
past many years. But the language survived due to its rich literature,
morphology and complex grammar

A Hungarian poet of early twentieth century AD Mr Gyula Juhasz, explained
the significance of language in these touching words: “Let us take care of
the people who sing, the people who create myths, the women who draw
pictures, and the men that carve wood and bone, and do not become extinct,
for their extinction would mean the end of the mankind. Let us preserve,
collect and disseminate their work; let us learn from them; let their art
which is permanent as nature and continuous as history, become a part of
our own living soul.”

Pakistan is a multi-lingual country that has several socio-economic and
linguistic diversity problems. Since there is no proper “language policy”,
therefore, some languages are in process of transformation to influenced
languages and others are in danger of being extinct.

The Sindhi language is one of the oldest indigenous languages of the world,
possessing history, culture, civilization, heritage, grammar, morphology,
land and nation.

Sindhi is one of the country’s major languages and pivotal to Sindhi
identity. A majority of historians, anthropologists, linguists and scholars
believe that Sindhi language and culture were not offshoots of any foreign
influence, but are indigenous, and owe its roots to the Indus Valley
civilization.

Dr Louis Flam, an American scholar wrote in preface of a book on Sindhi
culture. “To see the richness of Sindh and Sindhi culture, one only has to
visit Sindh to be made aware of the diversity and beauty of its people and
their language, literature, arts and crafts, music and social customs.
Historically, the ruddiness of Sindhi culture can be found in the
civilization represented by the ancient site of Mohen-jo-Daro, dating back
to the third millennium BC.”

Sindhi language has been facing several attacks and conspiracies for the
past many years. But the language survived due to its rich literature,
morphology and complex grammar. The British had given importance to this
language and made it an official language. All officers were bound to learn
Sindhi, while working in Sindh.

After partition, Sindhi, like other regional languages, was ignored. Urdu
was declared the official language of the country for all purposes,
including education. However, the Sindhis did not accept this decision and
struggled to revoke their mother language’s status. Some of their efforts
were rewarded, but the National Commission for Education’s edict has
stopped Sindhi from regaining the status it held under the British.

On 7th July 1972, the Sindh assembly passed a “Sindhi Language Bill,” but
it was opposed by non-Sindhi groups. After amendments, the bill was passed
in 1990. However, it has not been properly implemented.

Despite these problems, Sindhi languge is alive and developing. It stands
together with all developed languages, like English, Arabic, Urdu, etc.
Sindhi is resourced with all the natural languages processing (NLP) and
computational tools and techniques. It is a fully unicode based language
and has got the status, capacity and capability of being a modern language.
Sindhi text corpus is developed to analyse using machine learning and deep
learning techniques which enable Sindhi language for machine translations,
information retrieval, syntactic, semantic and sentiments analysis and
other computing and business operations. There are hundreds of daily and
weekly Sindhi newspapers, magazines as well as a good number of online
blogs and websites. Sindhi keyboard enables Sindhi users all over the world
to write texts, messages, while using dissimilar social media sites and
applications.

Sindhi NLP is developed professionally to solve the computational
linguistics and NLP problems of the language. Now Sindhi text corpus may be
segmented, tagged with universal part of speech and Sindhi part of speech,
parsed syntactically, analysed morphologically by Sindhi NLP tools (
http://www.sindhinlp.com/).

Sentiments and opinions are identified from Sindhi text and analysed to
evaluate the positive, negative and neutral polarity. Research on different
aspects of Sindhi language and linguistics is in progress and will be
published in national and international journals.

However, language diversity, the trend of learning different languages and
an “international education system” are generating problems for Sindhi.
People, living in big cities are using other languages to communicate with
children. They tell stories, poems and songs to their children in foreign
languages.

All this might lead to an upcoming Sindhi generation that don’t speak and
write Sindhi. This will not only be a great loss to the language, but our
society and nation as well and may even lead to Sindhi’s extinction.

The government, linguists, researchers, scholars and socio-political
organisations should take serious notice of this situation and work to
prevent this outcome. All these parties should take steps like
incorporating Sindhi in the country’s primary education syllabus and
implementation of the “Sindhi Language Bill” as safeguards to protect and
preserve this rich language.

*Published in Daily Times, July 21st 2018.*

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-- 
=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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