Mother Tongue Literacy

Anglicized Writing System for Burushaski Language

December 30, 2018


Burushaski is one of those languages of the world, which are termed as “language isolate.” It means that the language families of Burushaski is unknown so far and highly challenging before the international linguists who have been studying this unique languages for over decades and are unable to determine its connectivity with any main language group.
Burushaski is mainly spoken in Gilgit-Baltistan region, more specifically in the three districts including Hunza, Nagar and Ghizer. A significant dialect variation could be seen among the communities of the same language.
The Burushaski of Yasin is also known as Verchikwor or Verchikwar by the indigenous Wakhi and Kh̃owar speaking communities of the region, which has retained and indicate the old name of Yasin as Varshigum. Verchik thus refers to the people of Varsh or Versh (i.e. Varshigum) and the suffix –wor or war refers to the language speakers. The Burushaski of Hunza is commonly known by the same name; while Burushaski of Nagar is also termed sometimes as Kh̃ajuna.
Two main written traditions can be found among Burushaski speaking communities: Arabicized and Latino-Greek . Among the Arabicized, there are again two contrasting or opposing scripts between late Allama Naseeruddin Hunzai and Wa’iz Ghulamuddin Hunzai.The Latino-Greek tradition is based on the work of the German linguists including Dr. Geeorg Buddrus and Dr. Hermann Berger as well as some others, which could be clearly seen for scholarly and scientific endeavors but they could never be found friendly and easy for mass education in addition with their exact illustration on the Internet.
Among the Yasin Burushaski communities, some natives have also began their proactive endeavors and reportedly Abdul Hameed, Basharat Shafi , Dr. Faiz Aman and Javaid Ahmad have been writing on some Cultural aspects.
However, like Balti, among the Burushaski communities, there is no consensus on common orthography. This little contribution of mine, therefore tries to offer an alternative to the Burushaski speakers to look into the states of affairs in an objective manner that how easily this unique language could be written, read and understood on Anglicized writing system without using any type of special software except for getting a shortcut of the symbol of tilde ( ̃) in the symbol chart within Insert of Microsoft Word.
I’d invite thee native Burushaski speakers to be positively critical to the writing system I’ve developed (based on my long and earlier experiences of Wakhi and the study of the sound system at different level of over twenty international and regional languages). I’d be glad to get positive reflections for the improvement of the writing tradition, if any. The target group of this Anglicized Burushaski orthography are certainly the native students, young and coming generations, the general mass and those interested to learn, read and write Burushaski.
The Burushaski vowel Sounds
There are basically five main vowel sounds in Burushaski and mostly they are observed to share with the indigenous languages of Northern Pakistan. However, there are The vowel letters that hav short and long in their nature. The main vowl sounds symbolization are highly friendly and fair for the learners to learn on Anglicized format as they are fixed for the respective vowel sounds and other vowel sounds cannot be anticipated out of them to get in complexities as we could come across in someways in English, French and Russian.
For instance, “A” would always be “a” as it sounds in “arm”; or as “a” in “car” and never “a” in care.”
“E” will always be “e” in “egg” or “exit”,or “edge” and never “e” in “English.”
“I” will always be “I” in “ink”, “in”, “input” or “inn” and never as “I” in “idol”, “idle”, or “idea.”
“O” will always be “o” in “orange”, “old” and “or” and can never be “o” in “color”, “conquer”, “come”, and so on.
“U” will always be “u” in “put” and could never be pronounced like “u” in “but.”

Examples of Burushaski Vowels and Words Formation
It should be noted that the initial vowel sounds of thee respective Burushaski words I have preferred and they are followed by English meanings or explanation in the parenthesis). The readers and learners need to focus on the initial vowel sounds most of the time (though in the middle or at thee end some of the vowel sounds may also appear).

1. A: Asqur (flower), ag̃ha (father), alto (two), appi (grandma), api (not), amin (which one)
2. Ã: ãskir (father-in-law),ãmin (to make rink), ãltir (to show)
3. E: etas )to do or make), eymin (make them drink), elum (from there)
4. I: in (he/she), ici (following/behind), iski (third),
5. O: oq (vomit), os (their heart; my wife).
6. U: un (you), uwe (they), ut̃ (camel), uyam (sweet) uyum (big/large).
7. Consonants and their Specific Sounds
8. B: It’s the same letter sound as in English. Examples: bas̃h (bridge), bãs̃h (language), balt (apple), barch (obedient), bush (cat), bar (saying), birdi (earth), burum (white).
9. C: It is not the same sound as in English but rather sounds like German “c” in cehn” (in ten; or in more general way “c” has the sound like “ts” as in “Tsar” or “Czar” in Russian). Besides this sound is also found in Russian, Greek, Italian and many other languages also including aboriginal languages. “C” sound is also found in other indigenous languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. Examples: can (true/real), cu (carry), cir (line), cĩr (goat), cundo (five, cor (quickly), car (tear or rend, pull apart).
10. Ch: it’s the same sound of and should always be pronounced like English “ch” in “Chair”, “cheese”, or “charm.”; But it should be noted that unlike English “ch” can never be pronounced as “k” as in “Chemistry”; or “chord.” In the same manner, “ch” cannot be pronounced as “sh” as sometimes it can be witnessed in English (coming from French) to pronounce like “sh” as in “nish.” Examples: chap (hide), chodo (insult), churuk (cut), chukang (toilet, charbu (information communicator), chagha (talk).
11. Ch̃ This is the stressed hissing sound of “ch” (ch+h) and exists in Urdu, Burushaski, D̃umaki, S̃hina, Balti and Khowar; and is not often prominent in Wakhi. It doesn’t exist as a separate phoneme in Persian while in Arabic there is no “ch” sound at all. Examples: ch̃ap (meat), ch̃um (fish), ich̃ar (his voice), ch̃at̃ (short height), ch̃arda (rubab, a musical instrument), .
12. C̃h: it’s the retroflex sound of “ch” and can be found within the indigenous languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral Region; as well as in Chinese and Russian. Examples: c̃huk (sew), c̃his̃hko )mountain),c̃hus̃h (suck), c̃ham (needling/prickling).
13. C̃h̃: c̃h̃am (hungry),
14. D: It’s the soft sound of English “d” and should not be perceived as English or German “d” sound. It’s rather the same sound as is found and pronounced in the same way in French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and the like. Examples: D̃: It has the same sound as English or german “d” in “dog” or Deutsch respectively.” Examples: dãdo (grandpa), dan (stone), dicu (bring), das (barren-land),damman (master), den (year), dasin (girl), dus (exit/go out).
15. D̃: It has the same sound as English or german “d” in “dog” or Deutsch respectively.” Examples: d̃om (flee),d̃ir (boundary), d̃ad̃ang (a musical drum), d̃amal (a kettle drum), d̃uwaqo (a hammer).
16. F: Although, apparently it’s the same as in English, Urdu, Persian or Hindi. But it should be noted that “f” could also be in frequent exchange for “ph” by the natives (due to issue of pronunciation) and it has no “f” sound in Burushaski. “F” can be seen exchanged for “ph” sound in many cases. Here “ph” is a aspirating sound of “p” with “h” (p+h). Examples: farman (some may distortedly pronounce it as pharaman or parman), fakhar (pride) as phaqar or paqar; fuzul (useless) that may be pronounced either as phuzul, puzul or phuz̃ul.
17. G: It should never be named as “ji” rather is “g” or “gi.” “G” is always fixed for “g” in “gall”, “give”, “get””,”got”, or “gum.” It should be noted that “g” should never be pronounced like “ji” as is occasionally found in English in the case of “ge” in “geo” or “age”, “edge”, or others. Examples: gan (way/path), gocil (irrigation channel), gar (marriage), garurum (warm/heated; closed in relation with someone), gut (tent), gal (juniper), gus (woman), gunc (day), gas̃h (sell).
18. Gh: it’s the same sound as “gh” of “Ghulam” in Urdu or Persian; or “r” of German in “reise” and “parler” in French. Examples: ghar (song), ghut̃ (deaf;cloudy), ghit̃ (mud), ghamu (glacier), ghut̃um (deep).
19. G̃h: It’s a subtle palatal sound in Burushaski and is in consonance with Wakhi and Pamiri languages as well as Russian and Greek. But it should be noted that “g̃h” doesn’t appear in the beginning rather can be witnessed taking its position at the end of a world or in the middle. While in the Wakhi, Pamiri and other languages, it moves its position and could be seen either in the beginning, middle or end. Examples: ag̃ha (father), kag̃h (river bank), bepag̃h (yak).
20. H: It’s the same English sound as in “hen”,” hall”, and should always be pronounced and could never be kept silent like English as “h” is silent in the case of “honour” or “hour.” Examples: hann (one), Hunz̃o (Hunza), hing (door), hun (wood), hir (man), harip (music), ha (house/home), huk (dog), halanc (sky), hiss (month).
21. J: It’s the same as in English “j” in “jug”, “jet”, “journal” and the like (but it should be noted that “j” must not be pronounced like the “j” letter of French in “je” (I) or German “Jetz) (yet or now). On the other, It should also be kept in mind not to get confuses between J and G as normally people are seen vulnerable in distinguishing between both. Examples:jimile (tomorrow), jot̃ (small), jaqar (fork), jamãt (couple),jarpa (penalty), ju (thanks), jamip (others/strangers), ji (life).
22. J̃: It’s not found in English and is a retroflex (or hard) sound of regular “j” and is found in almost all the indigenous languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral.Examples: j̃ang (position), j̃akun (donkey), j̃u (come), j̃uh (apricot).
23. K: It’s the same as in English, French, German, Turkish, and other related languages. Examples: kuyoch (subject/public),kako (elder brother), kaki (elder sister), kanaw (advice).
24. Kh: It’s a Velar sound (fricative). It’s the same sound as “kh” in Urdu “khun” (blood), “kharab” (worse or distorted,) which hav come from Persian and Arabic respectively). This sound doesn’t exist commonly in Burushaski and normally the native speakers perceive it as “q.” Example: kharcha (expenses), kharab (distorted).
25. Kh̃: It’s the aspirated “k” sound of Urdu as in kh̃ana (meal or to eat).Examples in Burushaski: kh̃in (this), kh̃ulto (today), kh̃an (village colony) , kh̃isho (mosquito).
26. L: It’s the same as in English, French, German, Turkish and other related languages. Examples: laq (nude), lam manas (run off), las̃h (wipe out)
27. M: It’s also the same as in English, French, German, Turkish and other related languages. Examples: mama (mother), mishindo (six), mann (platform), minashing (story), marraq (twist).
28. N: It’s also the same as in English, French, German, Turkish and other related languages. Examples: nana (uncle), nabihel (nuisance),niyas (to leave), ni (leave).
29. P: It’s the same as in English, French, German, Turkish and other related languages. Examples: Put̃ (look), parcin (cap), pac̃hi (towards),
30. Ph: This sound is confusing even among the natives themselves in terms of sound perception and customary pronunciation. Ph could be pronounced either as “f” or “p+h) as are inter-changeable among Burushaski and Balti speaking people with variation. Such instances of accent on this sound (ph) are also evidenced among the Pushto and Turkic speaking communities. Examples: phu (fire,phas̃h (finish, end up)phar (turn, return)phari (lake), phut̃ (look at), and the like.
31. Q: In English or other European languages, “q” has been borrowed from Arabic. Therefore, in English “q” is being perceived as “k” and not the same pharyngeal sound but the indigenous languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and across the borders in Central Asian languages (Pamiri and Turkic), “q” is found and pronounced in the same way as in Arabic. Examples: qarqamuc (hen), qula (zebra), qaw (call), qarc (clap), qatu (swinging).
32. R: It’s the same as in English as well as Spanish, Italian and Turkish. Examples: raq (mood, like), Rom (clan), rac̃h (spirit/guarded),
33. S: It’s the same as in English, Spanish, Italian and Turkish.But it should be noted that “s” in English means as in sparrow, son, sun and sky. “S” should never be pronounced like “z” as in could be evidenced in German “sehen (to see), or “sieben” (seven and , “salz” (salt). Examples: sabur (yesterday), sa (sun), sis (people), samba (thought), sabr (noon), surnay (flute)
34. Sh: It’s the same as in English. Examples: shatilo (strong), shoqum (narrow), shini (summer), shalda (order, direction).
35. S̃h: It’s the hard or retroflex sound of “sh” and resembles or found in the indigenous languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral as well as in Chinese and Russian. Examples: s̃hung, s̃hang (passage/corridor), s̃hapik (food/bread), s̃hi (eat), s̃haq (slip).
36. T: It’s not the same as in English, German or Dutch but rather is the same sound as in French, Italian, Spanish, Russian and other related languages such as those of Gilgit-Baltistan, Chitral and the Pamiri languages. Examples: ta (leopard), tol (snake), tesh (roof), tumaq (gun), tal (pigeon), .
37. Th: It’s neither the English or Wakhi “th” in think or thin rather is the aspirated sound (th+h). similar to that of Urdu thana (police station) Examples in Burushaski: tha (hundred), thass (smoke), tham (king), thamkus̃h (state), thãng (fort).
38. T̃: It’s almost th same sound as in English for tomato; or the same retroflex sound in Urdu as in t̃amat̃ar (tomato). Examples: t̃oq (uncultivable land), t̃is (blunder), t̃ori (water halter on main channel), t̃ing (peak)
39. W: It’s the same “w” sound of English as in “way” or “wall.”Examples: walum (lost), walto (four)
40. Y: It’s the same English sound as in “yesterday”, “yell”, or “yes.”. Examples in Burushaski: yã (wolf), yar (ahead), yãr (down), yarkamas (first and foremost), yaran (friend)
41. Z: It’s the same “z” sound as in English as in “zebra”, or “zoo.” However, it should bee noted that “z” sound seems not that much regular in Burushaski and could bee found borrowed from Persian, Arabic or Urdu. Examples: zindagi (life), zilzila (earthquake), zinda (alive), zang (rust),
43. Z̃: It’s not the regular “z̃ of English rather is thee “dz” sound as can bee found in “Adze.” It’s the voiced sound of “c” [ts].Examples in Burushaski: z̃araq (break), z̃iz̃i (mother, mostly used formally for or among the royral or ruling families)
Z̃h: This is a retroflexed (fricative) or hard sound of “zh” and does not exist in English as well as most of the Pakistani languages. It rather has its place internationally within the Russian and Chinese languages. Contextually within Gilgit-Baltistan, this retroflexed sound is found among all the native languages. Examples in Burushaski: z̃hamey (bow), ghaz̃ham (scratch), paz̃hu (toss)

Proposed Anglicized Orthography of Burushaski (Verchikwar) of Yasin Valley, Northern Pakistan
By Fazal Amin Beg

Vowel Sounds:
1. A: ana (where), asqur (flower), asqor (grave), awa (yes)
2. Ã: ãskir (father-in-law), ãmin (make me drink), ãskil (face), ãwus (wife)
3. E: ekin (liver), etas (to do/make), echam (I will do), esum (from th heart)
4. I: iljiya (back/return), iss (baby),
5. O: Os (their heart; look there), omina (make them drink)
6. U: ulji(behind), ut̃ (camel), ule (inside), ulum (from inside)

7. B: bas̃hk (bridge), balk (timber), bac (small terrace), basha (when), beltum (how), bãlt (apple)
8. C: cum (from), cigar (goat), cindi (five), cagha (garden), cel (water)
9. Ch: chaghe (crow), chãr (competitor), chok (straight)
10. Ch̃: ch̃ar (mountain), ch̃ap (meat),ch̃aghurum (cold)
11. C̃h: c̃ham (needling), c̃hur (sharp), c̃his̃h (ladder)
12. C̃h̃: c̃h̃am (hungry), c̃h̃an (free/leisure)
13. D: dunesh (to think), duhat̃ (snow-avalanche), dulus̃h (leave, ) datu ((summer), daghac̃hum (to hide)
15. D̃: d̃ur (belly), d̃ad̃ang (musical drum), d̃af (tambourine)
16. G: galgi (wing), garum (warm), gari (light)
17. Gh: ghono (seed), gharee (together; talk), ghamo (glacier)
18. H: hekan (sometimes), hepultuk (day after tomorrow), hir (man), hen (one; know)
19. J: jagha (place), ja (I), ji (life), jimal (tomorrow), ju (apricot)
20. K: Kaman (a little), karut̃u (deaf), kuru (fruit garden)
21. Kh: kham )dried), kheret (phlem), khalang (quilt)
22. Kh̃: kh̃ot (this), kh̃at̃a (downward),
23. M: ma (you, in plural; kiss), moss(flood), momatee (paralyzed)

N: nani (mother),nayur (harwork), ne (go), nos̃h (tree)
25. P: paqo (breead), papuras (scabbies), gamburi (flower), pãri (fairy)
26. Ph: pharat̃ (twist), phu (fire), phar (revert, rverse)
27. Q: qaq (thirsty), qoqo (goiter), qur (snoring)
28. R: ranjuli (a type of mountainous flower), rat (plain), ren (hand)
29. S: sum (female calf), sa (sun), sat̃i (yesterday), sen (say)
30. Sh: shuwa (well; okay), shol (flood), shum (bad)
31. S̃h: s̃heli (beautiful), s̃har (anger), s̃haw (strike/beat)
32. T̃ tati (father), tish (wind), tes̃hk (knife)
33. Th: thap (night), thar (open), thur (whip)
34. T̃: tungt̃ang (dark), t̃ingan (egg), t̃ong (pear)
35. T̃h: t̃his (breaking wind), t̃hong (bow), t̃har (social boycott)
36. W: warc (repair), wahkit (useless), wah (bad smell)
37. Y: yah (no), yar (front), yãre (down)
38. Z: zah (wet; curry), zahr (poison),), zinda (alive) zam (steep under one’s feet)
39. Z̃: z̃aq (push), z̃akhmi (wounded), z̃al (shake)
40. Z̃: z̃hame (slingshot), z̃hakun (donkey), z̃ho (come)

I owe indebtedness to all my related friends and respected eespondents for sharing their invaluable thoughts, reviewing and suggesting thee vocabularies on thee Burushaski of Hunza . Special thanks to Sherbaz (an artist and writer of uncountable Burushaski drammas for Radio Pakistan Gilgit) for his kind suggestions.
Pertaining to the Burushaski of Yasin, I’m so grateful to Gohar Ali Khan (a young and talented singer plus poet) and Sadruddin (a teacher) as well as other friends from Yasin for their kind help in developing thee interesting alphabetic chart of Yasin Burushaski (Verchikwor).
I hope the Anglicized Burushaski writing system will provide a golden opportunity for the young and upcoming generations in looking at the Burushaski on an alternative but most effective orthography, which involves no special software except for getting a shortcut of tilde ( ̃) from the symbol chart of the MS Word. Second, it’ll also invite Burushaski speakers of Hunza and Nagar to look at the similarities and differences in at a glance for some selective words.

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  • Reply Hisamullah Beg January 2, 2019 at 11:23 am


    • Reply fazalamin January 17, 2019 at 2:38 pm

      Anglicized orthography is for the literacy of all (mass education) while IPA-based Latino-Greek is for the scholarly work, which I’ve used for over 20 years and even now for my scholarly contributions. It’s thus critical to understand the objectives and approaches ofr orthography. For our young and coming generations, English-based writing system (i.e., Anglicized writing) is so friendly, easy and quick in learning that it doesn’t require any kind of special software or font to write the indigenous languages. I think this would bring a clarity in your thoughts about the advocacy for the respective writing system. If so, for instance, why don’t then your write on the same IPA-based writing system if your late father has contributed? Why is it not becoming popular so far? We need to come out of our specific shells and look at the communal causes and the interests of the upcoming generations. Arabicized is totally failed for promotion of indigenous languages preservation and promotion as I’ve discussed them at lenth lat year and my essays and articles are available to be read critically in a productive manner.

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