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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXII (1998-1999)

ON KASHMIRI LANGUAGE

Professor Omkar N. Kaul

Excerpts: 'KASHMIRI PANDITS: A CULTURAL HERITAGE' Edited by Prof. S. Bhatt
 

1. Kashmiri and its dialects

The Kashmiri language is primarily spoken in the Kashmir valley of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. It is called ke:shur or ke:shir zaba:n-by its native speakers and the valley of Kashmir is called keshir. The Kashmiri language is called kashmi:ri: or ka:shi:ri: in other language. As per the census figures of 1981 there are 30, 76,398 native speakers of the language.

There is no consensus of opinion regarding the origin or genealogical classification of Kashmiri. There are basically two schools of thought one places Kashmiri under the Dardic group of languages and the other places it under the Indo-Aryan group of languages. Grierson (1919) has placed Kashmiri under the 'Dardic or Pisacha' family of languages. He has classified the Dardic language under three major groups: 1. The Kafir Group, 2. The Khowar or Chitrali Group and 3. The Dard Group. According to his classification the Dard Group includes Shina, Kashmiri, Kashtawari, Poguli, Siraji, Rambani, and Kohistani- the last comprising Garwi, Torwali and Maiya.

Grierson considered the Dardic language a subfamily of the Aryan languages "neither of Indian nor of Iranian origin, but (forming) a third branch of the Aryan stock, which separated from the parent stem after the branching forth of the original of the Indian languages, but before the Eranian language had developed all their peculiar characteristics" (1906: 4). He has further observed that"Dardic" was only a geographical convention. Morgenstierne (1961) also places Kashmiri under the Dardic Group of languages along with Kashtawari and other dialects which are strongly influenced by Dogri. Fussman (1972) has based his work on Morgenstierne's classification. He has also emphasised that the Dardic is a geographic and not a linguistic expression. It is only in the absence of reliable comparative data about Dardic languages, a geographic or ethnographic label is frequently applied to a group of languages or dialects.

According to Chatterjee (1963: 256) Kashmiri has developed like other Indo-Aryan languages out of the Indo-European family of languages and is to be considered as a branch of Indo-Aryan like Hindi, Punjabi etc.

The classification of Dardic language has been reviewed in some works (Kachru 1969, Strand 1973, Koul and Schmidt, 1984) with different purposes in mind. Kachru laid stress on the linguistic characteristics of Kashmiri. Strand presents his observations on Kafir languages. Koul and Schmidt have reviewed the literature on the classification of Dardic languages and have investigated the linguistic characteristics or features of these languages with special references to Kashmiri and Shina. The classification of Kashmir under the Dardic group of languages needs further elaborate investigation.

There has been no serious linguistically oriented dialect research on Kashmiri. There are two types of dialects- (a) regional dialects and (b) social dialects. Regional dialects are of two types- (1) those regional dialects or variations which are spoken within the valley of Kashmir and (2) those which are spoken in the regions outside the valley of Kashmir.

Kashmiri speaking area in the valley of Kashmir is ethnosementically divided into three regions: (1) Maraz (southern and south eastern region), (2) Kamraz (northern and north-western region) and (3) Srinagar and its neighbouring areas. There are some minor linguistic variations in Kashmiri spoken in these areas. The main variations being phonological, and in the use of certain vocabulary items. Some of the main characteristics of these speech variations are as follows:

(1) Kashmiri spoken in Maraz area retains the flap /R/ which is replaced by /r/ in Kashmiri spoken in Kamraz area and Srinagar.

(2) The progressive or Indefinite aspect suffix an is added to the verb roots in the Kashmiri spoken in Mara:z which is replaced by a:n in other two varieties.

(3) Kashmiri spoken in Kamraz distinguishes itself from the variety spoken in the Maraz as well as Srinagar mainly in the use of peculiar intonation and stress.

(4) A number of vocabulary items are different in Kashmiri spoken in the above three regions.


All the above linguistic variations are not very significant. Kashmiri spoken in the three regions is not only mutually intelligible but quite homogeneous. These dialectical variations can be termed as different styles of the same speech. Since Kashmiri spoken in Srinagar has gained some social prestige, very frequent "style switching" takes place from Marazi or Kamrazi styles to the style of speech spoken in Srinagar. This phenomena of "Style switching" is very common among the educated speakers of Kashmiri. Kashmiri spoken in Srinagar and surrounding areas continues to hold the prestige of being the standard variety which is used in mass media and literature. In the literature available on Kashmir (Grierson 1919, Kachru 1969, including the census reports, following regional dialects of Kashmiri spoken outside the valley of Kashmir have been listed:

(1) Kashtawari,
(2) Poguli,
(3) Rambani,
(4) Siraji, and
(5) Kohistani.
Out of these dialects indicated above, Rambani and Siraji do not share any of the typically linguistic characteristics with Kashmiri. Rambani and Siraji are closely related dialects which share features with Dogri and other Pahari group of language. They do share some features such as the semantic dimensions of the pronominal system, some morphology and a substantial portion of their vocabulary (mostly borrowed from common sources) with Kashmiri. The term "Kohistani" has no precise linguistic significance. It probably refers to languages of the Shina group. It cannot be therefore recognised as a dialect of Kashmiri. This leaves our Kashtawari and Poguli as the only two regional dialects of Kashmiri which are spoken outside the valleys of Kashmir.

Poguli is spoken in the Pogul and Paristan valleys bordered on the east by Kashtawari, on the south by Rambani and Siraji, and on the west by mixed dialects of Lahanda and Pahari. The speakers of Pogul are found mainly to the south, south-east and south-west of Banihal. Poguli shares many linguistic features including 70% vocabulary with Kashmiri. Literate Poguli speakers of Pogul and Paristan valleys speak standard Kashmiri as well.

Kashtawari is spoken in the Koshtawar valley lying to the south-east of Kashmir. It is bordered on the south by Bhadarwahi, on the west by Chibbali and Punchi, and on the east by the Tibetan speaking region of Zanskar. According to Grierson (1919: 233) Kashtawari is "one true dialect" o Kashmiri. It shares most linguistic features of standard Kashmiri but retains some archaic features which have disappeared from the latter. It shares about 80 per cent vocabulary with Kashmiri (Koul and Schmidt 1984).

No detailed sociolinguistic research work has been conducted to study different speech variations of Kashmiri spoken by different communities and people who belong to different professions and occupations. In some earlier works beginning with Grierson (1919: 234) distinction has been pointed out in the speech variations of Hindus and Muslims - the two major communities who speak Kashmiri natively. Kachru (1969) has used the terms Sanskritized Kashmiri and Persianized Kashmiri to denote the two "style differences" on the grounds of some variation in pronunciation morphology and vocabulary common among Hindus and Muslims. It is true that most of the distinct vocabulary is common among Hindus and Muslims. It is true that most of the distinct vocabulary used by Hindus is derived from Sanskrit and that used by Muslims is derived from Perso-Arabic sources. On considering the phonological and morphological variation (besides vocabulary) between these two dialects, the terms used by Kachru do not appear to be appropriate or adequate enough to represent the two socio dialectical variations of styles of speech. The dichotomy of these social dialects is not always significant. One can notice a process of style switching between the speakers of these two dialects in terms of different situations and participants. The frequency of this "style switching" process between the speakers of these two communities mainly depends on different situations and periods of contact between the participants of the two communities at various social, educational and other levels.

2. Linguistic Characteristics

Some of the important phonological and grammatical characteristics of Kashmiri are pointed out in this section.

Kashmiri has following vowel phonemes:

(1) Front Vowels: / i, i:, e and e:/ (2) Central Vowels / 1, 1: e, e:, a and a: /: and back vowels / u, u:, o, o: and c /. The nasalization is phonemic in Kashmir. All the nasals can be nasalized. The high and mid central vowels in Kashmiri / 1,1:, e and e: / are not found in any other Indian languages. Kashmiri has also developed unrounded back vowels / U. U: and 0: / which are not found in any other lndo-Aryan or Dravidian Language.

Kashmiri has following consonant phonemes:

(1) Stops: Bibabial / p, ph and b /, dental / t, th and d /, retroflex / T. Th and D/, Velar / K kh and g /;
(2) Affricates: dental / ts and tsh /, Palato-al veolar / c, ch and j ;
(3) Nasals / m n and N /
(4) Fricatives, / s, z, sh and h / ,
(5) Lateral /1 /, (6) Trill /r/ and (7) Semi-vowels / v and y/.
It may be observed that Kashmiri does not have voiced aspirated stops. Palatalization is an important feature of Kashmiri. All the consonants excepts the palatals, can be palatalized. The denial affricates / ts and tsh / are not found in Hindi-Urdu and many other Indian Languages.

Kashmiri has borrowed, with adaptation, a large number of vocabulary items from Sanskrit, Perso-Arabic sources and most recently from English. These borrowings have resulted in various phonological changes and the development of certain morphological characteristics and registers as well (Knul 19Sf.).

Kashmiri shares a number of grammatical features with other Dardic languages (Koul and Schmidt 1984), but it also shares some characteristics with modern Indo-Aryan languages. Some of the peculiar morphological and syntactic characteristics are pointed out here. Nouns are declined for number, gender and case. There are four cases : a direct or nominative and three oblique cases - a dative, an ergative and an ablative. Different case markers are added to the nouns in oblique cases. Various postpositions govern two different oblique cases : dative and ablative.

Pronouns are declined for person, number gender and case. There is a three term distinction in the demonstrativec pronouns: (1) proximate (2) remote (within sight) and (3) remote (out of sight). Pronominal suffixes are very frequently suffixed to finite verbal forms to indicate personal pronouns. The usage of pronominal suffixes is optional in the case of first and third person but their use is obligatory in the second person.

There are two sets of adjectives (1) declinable and (2) indeclinable. Declinable adjectives are declined for number, gender and case, and indeclinable adjectives do not decline for number and gender. A distinction is being maintained between the base adjectives and derived adjectives.

Verbs are inflected for person, number, gender and tense. All verbs are conjugated and can be classified in different sets according to the sentence patterns. All but seven verb roots end in consonant.

In the conjugation of past tense, three distinctions are made:

(1) simple or proximate past,
(2) indefinite past and
(3) remote past.
They are formed by adding different past participles to the verbs.

Main verbs are classified into copulative, intransitive and transitive. Verbs are causativized by adding causative suffixes to the verb stems. Conjunct and compound verbs are very frequently used in Kashmiri. Compound verbs have their own characteristics.

Kashmiri has a different word order from other Indian languages at the surface level. The verb in Kashmiri always comes in the second position in a sentence. Kashmiri is therefore characterized as a verb 2 language.

3. Script

Various scripts have been used for Kashmiri. The main scripts are: Sharda, Devanagri, Roman and Persio-Arabic. The Sharda script, developed around the 10th century, is the oldest script used for Kashmiri. It is now being used for very restricted purposes (for writing horoscopes etc.) by the priestly class of the Kashmiri Pandit community. The Devanagri script with additional diacritical marks has also been used for Kashmiri and is still being used by some writers. The Roman script has also been used for Kashmiri but could not become popular. The Persio-Arabic script with additional diacritical marks has been recognized as the official script for Kashmiri by the Jammu and Kashmir Government and is now being widely used. Most of the books are being printed in this script.
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