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Express Tribune

Published Date: Nov 21, 2011

DYING ORMURI LANGUAGE FINDS SAVIOUR IN ENGLISH BOOK

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 book.
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 Pakistan.
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 language.”
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 language.