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Published Date: Nov 20, 2011

SDPI-FLI PRESS RELEASE ( November 20,2011)

Deliberating on the need to protect endangered languages in Pakistan, the national and international experts, urge on making conscious effort to preserve extinct Ormuri language spoken by Ormuri people in South Waziristan and Lugar province in Afghanistan.

They discussed it during the official presentation of book ‘The Ormuri Language in Past and Present’, jointly organized by Forum for Language Initiatives, Islamabad and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Sunday. The book is translated from Russian to English and is written on century’s old ‘Ormuri’ language, which is now on verge of extinction. Dr. Joan L.G. Baart, translator of the book, Dr. Henrik Liljegren, Research Consultant, FLI and Rozi Khan Burki, native speaker and expert on Ormuri language spoke at event while Distinguished National Professor and renowned author and linguist Dr. Tariq Rahman chaired the proceedings. Large number of people, academics as well as native speakers of Ormuri attended the event. Dr. Joan presented the first official copy of the book to Ormuri community representative Rozi Khan Burki.

Ormuri is the language of small Indo-Iranian community, which lives in Logar province in Afghanistan while other part has its home in South Waziristan in Pakistan. The language has, amazingly, persisted over many centuries instead of pressure from the surrounding predominant Persian and Pashto languages. Nowadays, however, it is 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.

This translated book ‘The Ormuri Language in Past and Present’, was originally written in Russian by a Russian linguist Dr. V.A. Efimov in 1986, and makes an important contribution to the documentation of Ormuri language, grammar and diction. Feeling the need to protect and preserve the language, Dr. Joan L.G. Baart started work on its English translation and after editing translated the original monograph into English.

Dr. Rehman, while speaking at the occasion,  referred to term language death when last speaker of any language dies, the language dies with it putting an end to a whole culture, society, history and folklore. He also explained the terms of language murder by policy neglect from authorities and language suicide when the community itself opts to not practice it. He urged government to take policy measures to preserve the endangered Ormuri and other languages in Pakistan. He gave examples of several extinct languages around the world which were revived such as Welsh, Katan and Hebrew.

He expressed that language diversity is wealth of world and that must be preserved for the generations to come. He acknowledged that translation is a very difficult job and especially in this case where there was no written literature available in the language. He appreciated the translator for his commendable work and congratulated Ormuri people on this important milestone in preservation of their language and culture.

Dr. Henrik said that it’s a big day for Ormuri people and we all have the reasons to celebrate it. He said that although this excellent book was published in 1986 but its true benefits can now be reaped after translation into English and is now be accessible to all including the vulnerable community itself. He highlighted the work of Forum for Language Initiatives and elaborated that FLI is working on documentation and language based development in Pakistan serving as a resource center for researchers as well as local community in the field of linguistics.

Dr. Joan, while speaking on the occasion, informed on earlier work done on Ormuri language. He said that British first recorded 43 sentences of this language in 1838. Then Ghulam Muhammad Khan compiled some vocabulary, short sentences and grammar which was later included in linguistic survey of India, he added. This book written in 1986, he said, is the very first comprehensive documentation of the language. But this work unfortunately was not accessible to academics as well as community because of content in Russian. It has now open the way for further research on the language, he said.

Rozi Khan Burki, the native speaker and expert of Ormuri Language informed that there are around 8000 Ormuri speakers in South Waziristan and there is great risk for the language in view of very strong Pashtu dominance in the area. He said that written literature in the language is non existent with very little documentation. But now the documentation, he said, has started and 5000 words are collected for its dictionary. He informed that they requested Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to teach Ormuri language to kids in primary schools in the area but it was refuted. Mr. Burki said that majority of Ormuri people has now been displaced from their homes due to fighting in the area and they have now been dispersed to various settled area’s in KPK as IDPs which pose another serious threat to this extinct language.

Dr. Dono from SIL and Mr. Wahga from Quaid-e-Azam University also spoke on the Occasion.