Belonging broadly to the Sino-Tibetan languages family, Balti language is an international language and is spoken mainly in the Northern Pakistan and India in addition to few other countries in a small population.
In the Northern Pakistan, Balti language is being spoken by a significant number of the native people, particulary in Baltistan Region. Balti has its centuries old Agay orthography, for which a proactive revivalist group has been positively endeavoring to revive and maintain the Agay script among the indigenous community in the region. In addition, there is also a strong group of Arabicized written tradition en face de face to Agay script so to pave a way for their efforts, no matter whatsoever the consonant-based Arabicized Urdu letters have their representation implications for Balti.
This little contribution of mine attempts to propose and offer an alternative to Balti language reading and writing based on Anglicized orthography (that is, based on English, which itself is basically a Latinate tradition). The purpose of this Anglicized writing system is to enable all students, all common people (even a semi-literate driver or otherwise) in an easy way whether to write manually or on computers as it involves no special software or special font.
I hope this small contribution will stimulate thoughts of the indigenous language communities of Gilgit-Baltistan and across the borders in Central Asia to look at the new phenomenon in a constructively critical manner so to save the indigenous languages of small population that are considered to be endangered and may move towards extinction. Along with learning English, I’m pretty sure that the young and upcoming generations of different languages of small population in the region will supplement each other in positive learning, teaching and promotion of the indigeonous languages and these languages will ultimately never die out.
I’d humbly request the native readers to bee open to this Anglicized writing system and feel free to be positively critical if confronting any issues in understanding it ; or if they provide their invaluable inputs and advice. I’d also be happy to know the impressions if this Anglicized writing system stands easier to the readers than Agay and Arabicized scripts. However, it should be critically noted that there is no point at all to discuss unnecessarily the Latino-Greek or IPA-based writing system for the unwritten languages, which is a standardized writing system for international researchers and scholars and never for mass education or mother tongue literacy. Unfortunately, our people mix up the Anglicized orthography with Latino-Greek, though both of them share Roman letters to an extent, if the Greek letters are excluded from Latino-Greek. Those who advocate for Latino-Greek do not understand or realize yet that by doing so they are enriching the international linguists, researchers and scholars on the respective unwritten languages and as such they do not advocate for or serve their mother tongues that are already endangered in the face of critically globalized flooding of development contextually.
Main vowel Sounds of Balti
There are five main vowel sounds in Balti language and mostly they are observed to share with the indigenous languages of Northern Pakistan. The vowel letters are highly friendly and fair for the learners to learn as they are fixed for the respective vowel sounds and other sounds cannot be anticipated as in English, French and Russian the vowel letters sometimes pushes the learners towards complexities.
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.”
Ẽ: This is very minute vowel sound in Balti and is also found in Wakhi in almost the same manner. This is even smaller than the semi-vowel; and sometimes seems contraction of the above five vowel sounds.
Examples of Balti Vowels and Words Formation
It should be noted that the Balti words are followed by English meanings or explanation in the parenthesis).
1. A:ato/ata (father), añgo (mother), apo (grandpa/old man), api (grandmother/old woman)
2. E: ekh̃a (there), bet (I do), rẽbet (I write/I will write), ret (indicating expectation), res (indicated expectation) [Res also refers for “turn”)
3. I: In (is/are), ina (is? Are?) [-a indicates question mark); min (give), rẽbin (has to write)
4. O: Ong (come), oñga (milk), ot (light)
5. U:phr̃u(boy), bu (son), khẽchus (twist)
6. Ẽ: This is a very minute vowel sound within Balti. For example: dẽrba (trembling) in a contrast to darba (butter-milk).
7. B: It’s the same letter sound as in English. Examples: bu (calf), broq (pastureland), bos (subset), bosmet (poor).
8. 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: celbu (cage), calba (to beg), calkh̃an (begger), cece (millet).
9. 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: chā(why), choq (break), chus (fill in), chuk (close/lock), chuli (apricot).
10. 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: c̃ho (wheat), c̃hoqpa (shallow small water), c̃haq (better), c̃hos (become warm), c̃hos (make fry).
11. 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 the in the same way in French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and the like. Examples: darba (butter-milk), dẽrba (trembling), das (barren-land).
12. D̃: It has the same sound as English or german “d” in “dog” or Deutsch respectively.” Examples: d̃ãng (musical instrument), d̃ang (small barren-land); d̃ong (cliff), d̃ingbu (pitch), D̃ambudas (a place near Skardu).
13. F & V: both these labio-dental sounds do not distinctively exist in Balti.
14. 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: ga (where), gos (woolen costume), goqpa (to separate), gom (stairs).
15. 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: gha (five) ghung (sound of a vehicle), ghut (mute and deaf), ghur (scold), gho (cry), ghang (complain).
16. J: It’s the same as in English. But it should be noted that “j” must not be pronounced like the “j” letter of French or German language. Examples: ju (greeting), jur (worry/sad), jong (favor/side), jus (frankness)
17. K: It’s the same as in English. Examples: kos (listen), kar̃am (a type of vegetable), karacu (choybun in Wakhi), kore (bowl)
18. Kh̃: It’s the stressed hissing sound of “k; and never should be perceived as “kh.”.” Examples: kh̃asman (helpless), kh̃a (mouth), kh̃o (he), kh̃os (accepted), kh̃or (cloudy/wander/neighbor)
19. Kh: It doesn’t exist in the modern English, though existed in the middle and old English. It’s the same sound as –ch in Buch of German or loch of Scotish and khan in Urdu . Examples: kha (angry), kho (bitter), khong (pit), khom (depth), khorma (date), khilingbu (flute),
20. L: It’s the same as in English. Examples: lam )street), long (to stand), las (work), lus (left), le (hello), loñgha (leaf), lama (priest), la (mountain pass).
21. M: It’s the same as in English. Examples: maqpa (son-in-law), Mo (she), malsa (place).
22. N: It’s the same as in English. Examples: nung (lacking confidence), nang (house), nating (cap/hat), nor (wealth/sheep and goats).
23. P: It’s the same as in English. Examples: Polo (polo), phokhstran (peas), pula (traditional Balti long shoes), pong (suffix as Shigar-pong (dweller of Shigar); patar (traditional Balti room at the ground floor)
24. Q: It’s not the same as in English but rather the same as in Arabic or Turkic languages. It should be noted that in English, “q” has come from Arabic via Greek to Latin and cannot be pronounced like Arabic “q” rather is perceived as “k.”. Examples: qar )woolen bed sheet), qoba (dom), qalaq (mud).
25. R: It’s the same as in English. Examples: ra (goat), ring (long), rin (price), riw (baby goat), rent̃aq (floor mill), ruspa (bone), ribis (write).
26. S: It’s the same as in English. Examples: sa (land), sos (brought up), song (go), khẽsom (think), sal (choose), so (tooth).
27. Sh: It’s the same as in English. Examples: sha (meat), shokh (greet formally), shorr (run away), shing (wood), shus (skiing).
28. S̃h: It’s a retroflex sound (or in other way, the harder sound of “sh”) and found similar within the indigenous languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral Region. Examples: s̃hong (canyon), s̃hrag (wisdom), s̃hraq (slip)
29. T: It’s the softer sound of English “t.” It should not be pronounced like English or German “t” but rather is the same sound of “t” in French, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Russian. Examples: tus (era), tong (put in), tiyang (beat), tam (speech)
30. T̃: It’s the same regular “t” or German sound as in tomato, tin, and the like. Examples: T̃oq (hill), t̃uk (thick), t̃ong (tin), t̃ulu (bead).
31. W: It’s the same as in English. Examples:Wa (fox), wakht (time), wakhla (early).
32. Y: It’s the same as in English. Examples: yang (you), yoq (to place), yot (present)
33. Z: It’s the same as in English. Examples: zam (hold tightly), zong (high-land), zem (container), zun (catch)
34. Z̃: It’s the voiced form of “c” and is not commonly found in English, although one of the words could be witnessed as “adz.” Examples: z̃e (hillocksite), z̃abar (stony place); z̃el (sewing torned stuffs)
35. Zh: It’s the same sound as in English appearing in the last syllable of “treasure” (trea-sure), “measure” (mea-sure), and “decision (deci-sion.In French, “zh” is equal to “j” sound as in “je” (meaning I); and in Persian it’s equal to “muzhda” (goodndews. Examples: zharba (blind), zhorba (earn), zhim (taste), zhus (melt), zhokhchan (handsome)
36. Z̃h:It’s a retroflex sound (harder form of “zh”) and does not exist in English. This sound can be found within the indigenous languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and Mandarin Chinese. Examples: z̃how (rotten milk) z̃hor (to remove the skin), z̃her (wiped out completely)
In addition to all related Balti respondents, I’d like to extend my special gratitude to the native Balti linguists and researchers including Dr. Zakir Hussain (Associate Professor, Baltistan University), Sajjad Hussain Sering and Musa Ali Tonpa (both of them as Faculty Members in Baltistan University, Skardu) for their generous thoughts and sharing the Balti vocabularies with me while developing this Anglicized Balti Writing System.I trust this little contribution will drive the thoughts of the young and upcoming generations to ponder over seriously towards this alternative but most effective way of writing Balti language on Anglicized orthography, which is never ever difficult to read and write along side their learning of English language.