Articles / Essays

Wakhi Pamiri Language:Its Bright Future with Anglicized Orthography

June 8, 2018

By Fazal Amin Beg

This writing piece (at a bit lenth) is about the fate of WakhiPamiri language in relation with serious deliberations and decisions on its orthography, at least within the context of Wakhi communities of Pakistan.There are series of writing tradition that emerged on the radar in our recent history, and they exist and prevail in the contemporary period. More negative competition are observed among the indigenusWakhi communities and less positive collaboration and cooperation on the genuine issues. Taking advantage of such diversity in negative ccompetition, various forces within and out of the cultural communities have already been taking their shares for themselves due to various reasons. Les or no attention is paid towards the broader communal causes and future of the language with high fortunes for the coming generations. This piece is therefore dealing with such issues at length and invites all indigenous community members (particularyeducatedand highly educated with real senses of professionalism). I earnestly request and invite each one of you, who are serious and sincere towards this old -aged language, to kindly go through this writing critically to the maximum you could and please do comment at lenth within the accepted norms so that to know what we need to do in reality and what effective strategies could be taken against a dictatorial decision by a few public servans and imposed upon the Wakhi communities in Pakistan regarding the options of and voluntary decision for the fate of Wakhi by majority of the language community and never ever by few pessimistic servants. You’re requested to kindly throw away all layers of affinities from the body of your minds ( personal likeness and dislikeness, affinities of family, lineages, villages, ideologies, regions, nations and so on) and please read through all lines by devoting sober time for it. I would also solemnly invite the sincere and competent friends out of Wakhi language communities to kindly suggest, guide and advice on the subject under discussion as there are both aspects of mutual learning and sharing. Additionally, I’d also request to pleserecognize and take care of the serious aspect of copywrite of this piece , which is purely with the author only.

The diverse WakhiPamiricommunities live in five nation states including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Russia (though a very small population lives on permant bases in Turkey as well as other continents (apart from Asia.No written tradition is found of this ancient language and it travelled for such a long time (thousands of years) and handed over its identity, unity, knowledge and skills and the like through oral traditions.

During the colonization era, the Western scholars and researches) are seen gradually contributing towards Wakhi language in terms of their transcription based on International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA (particularly in the 20th century), and recently in Anglicized and Cyrillic systems (in 21st century).

Written tradition in Cyrillic system could be witnessed by the Tajik and Russian Wakhi colleagues and friends and some of their publications are coming up in the form of booklets. But on this written tradition, writing and readership is not representative to all Wakhi communities within their respective nation states.

Contributions in Arabicized system (Farsi and Urdu) could be witnessed comparatively at very low level in its amount and quality, as could be seen by very few natives in the 20th century. It holds true particurly for Pakistani Wakhi community in Hunza valley in line with writing their Waki poetry in a flexible manner and likewise for documentation of some poems.In addition, Mir aliWakhani, an Afghan Wakhi, whom I had mentored for two months in Gilgit on Latino-Greek tradition in 2007, developed his Wakhi primers in Arabicized and Latino-Gree. But because of the then fanatic regime in Afghanistan, Arabicized was given priority and he got his primer published, as related Ministry officials could not understand the Latino-Greek.

Based on the above realities, two broader factions could be seen in line with writing Wakhi: 1) from the left to write; and 2) from the right to left. Both of these groupsccan be then distinguished further among themselves. Such phenomena also holds true for other indigenous language communities of Gilgit-Baltistan in the northern Pakistan.

From the left to write are advocates of Latino-Greek, Cyrillic (Russian ) and Anglicized (English based). From the right to left are the Arabicized proponents (but factions among themselves by advocating for their own transcription system and in many ways influenced by late AllamaNaseeruddinHunzai who had his own writing system and wonderful contribution for burushaski). .

At present (January 2018)two main advocacy groups of written traditions are found among the Wakhi communities in Pakistan.

Within Arabicized tradition, ontopis Ahmad Jami Sakhi of Passu, who published a Wakhi primer in 2001. Although, he is not clear yet completely on the Wakhi sound system, particularly on the contrasting vowels distinction (and I wish he could get command over them), neverthelesshis efforts are appreciable. It becomes more than 17 years after that primar’spublication, but it could not make space for itself among the target communities of Gilgit-Baltistan as the children cannot understand the Arabicized scrip effectively because high controversies and ambiguities are within this written tradition in relation with Wakhi as well as other languages of the region.

Second is our highly respectable and senior poet, UstodhAsmatulahMushfiq of chipursan valley. He hasn’t work on the language side in itself but has great contribution in terms of his poetry that thousands of verses he has composed and has his own approach of writing in Arabicized format.

Third but of equal importance is Ahmad Riaz Ahmad of Gulmit. He published his booklet of poems in 1994 and he has his style of symbolization of the Wakhi sounds, although has the same issue in linguistic terms as with the above respected advocates. Additionally, he has also been working on the text books.

Interestingly, There is thus a significant level of disagreement among these three main sub-groups of Arabicized tradition, though there are other small advocates within this tradition, too. What is being observed that normallyUstodhMushfiq and Ahmad Riaz are intentionally neglected with regard to building consensus among the Arabicized tradition itself.

Within the Left to Right approaches of writing are two main advocacy groups among Pakistani Wakhi community: one, followers of Latino-Greek tradition; and two, followers of Anglicized tradition.

One of the most important predecessors of Latino-Greek tradition is Dr. George Buddrus of Mainz University, Germany, with whom late UstodhHaqiqat Ali worked as his research assistant when Buddruswas carrying out his fieldwork on Wakhi language. It was the writingsystem of Buddrus on which late ustodhHaqiqatAli developed and published his Wakhi primer for the first time in Wakhi history in 1986. It was of a very high level of contribution but numerouserrors are witnessed when the chart of alphabet is compared with the sound combination of the words in different pages. One of the genuine reasons for not becoming popular among the children and any learners is this important point, too. , in addition with difficulties of conceptualization of the sound symbols /letters.

The next predecessors of Latino-Greek traditions are Dr. StablinKamensky and Dr. Grunberg of Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

Among others, I was one of the main advocates of this Latino-greek tradition on which I wrote on various aspects of Wakhi culture and language . It was my elder brother Amin beg who mentored me Wakhi on this tradition for the first time in 1986-87 from the Primar of late UstadHaqiqat Ali. Later on, when two volumes of published books of Wakhiby Kemensky we acquired, it was highly refined and relatively easy and I followed it and shared with others in a consistency for over two decades. But after October 2011, I gave up the Latino-Greek and embraced Anglicized orthographyfor the sake of the interests such as mass level education of Wakhi community on top and paid less attention to serve the needs of and enrich the non-Wakhi researchers and scholars on the Wakhi language.

At present, proponents of Latino-Greek tradition for wakhi are renowned Wakhi poet, Nazir Ahmad bulbul and his team on the one hand; and Karim Khan Shimshali on the other after publication of few books of poetry and magazines respectively. Great contributions of them, indeed but again, like the earlier publications, strong issues and misconceptions of the vowel sounds are found among both groups of Latin-Greek tradition. Due to the strange symbolization of the Wakhiconsonants ,the native reders are reluctant in reading and writing on latino-Greek script. Let me add a slight flavor of critique and will advance. It’s a huge duality, if we note seriously, that such people teach in educational institutions in english, write and speak in English with a high pride, but when considerations regarding Wakhi language writing and promotion come up on Anglicized system, they mislead peplethrough Latino-Greek keeping in view their own poetry or other publications and not the future of Wakhi language and the coming generations that what could be productive, long term and friendly for them.

Persoally for me, as a researcher on the different subject areas (within anthropology and linguistics), Latino greek remained highly efficient as I am among the first ever Wakhi who began writing Wakhi on the Keyman software (initially on 3.2 and finally on 7.1 versions). I provided trainings to uncountable people on latino-Greek for over twenty years but, like the Arabicized , it also proved highly difficult for the common people as well as professionals to remember and continue creativities. I provided trainings of Latino-Greek in Hunza, Gilgit, Peshawar, Islamabad/Rawalpindi, Karachi, Afghan Wakhan and Xinjiang. But I could understand how much productive it remained and sustained in realistic sense.

I learned it in the later stages that writing on Latino-greek system is actually designed for scholarly work of the researchers and scholars and thus it could not become effective rather proved to be highly difficult and defective for mass education such as school children, common people and non-wakhipeple interested to learn this language.even the proponents themselves among the native communities are in complicated loope of appropriate conceptualization.

Anglicized writing system (or in other words, writing based on English) was championed by late Dr. BoghshoLashkarbekov of Tajikistan, who served the Russian Academy of Sciences (in Moscow) for more than three decades. Despite the fact that his grooming and entire life was overall within Russian and Tajiki, but keeping in view the easiest way of lerning and teaching Wakhi and other Pamiri languages (reding and writing on computers, he worked on, proposed and strongly recommended for Anglicized writing system, as he himself is the first native Wakhi speakers (having his PhD on Wakhi language) and he knew (as a highly honorable and refined guru of the language ) various aspects of his mother-tongue and its future.He thus came up with such innovative ideas of Anglicized writing system based on the following striking and main factors, for which I am and will remain one of the highest and strongest level of proponents for Anglicized orthography for our current and future generations:
1. Anglicized writing system is fully based on english language.
2. Anglicized Wakhi writing is so easy that children and new learners easily pick it up and bring in use for their mother tongue literacy (because they are already gooming themselves by learning English in schoolsat elementary level with high priority.
3. Anglicized is not strange to you and all those who like to read and write as you do so already in english in your text messages whether in your mobiles, FaceBook, blogs, twitters, what’s up or others.
4. In contrast to Arabicized and latino-Greek traditions of writing, Anglicized system doesn’t need any kind of software rather simply a shortcut key is assigned within the symbol and one gets started working in Microsoft Word. No change in the pattern of diacritics comes up.
5. It gets displayed exactly on the internet as in the Microsoft Office or other applications.
6. Highly invaluable, our beloved Imam o the Time always urges everyone to learn English as it is an international passport (even in his recent visit to Pakistan, he strongly directed towards learning English). so, where are our thoughts and actions regarding our mother tongue and decision on its fate for the coming generations? Why do we prefer then Arabicized or Latino Greek for our children in other matters and in the professional lives for ourselves and our children alike?
7. Along with learning English, with the course of time, Wakhi language will internationalize and foster itself globally.
8. English is no more the language of the English speaking people, but rather it’s one of those highly effective and respectable languages of the world that it has been robustly contributing towards science and technology, integration of people around the world through easy communication, and many more. There is a contextually befitting Wakhi proverb it says: “Peghidim-e tov c̃hes̃hk-eyupkpitn” (means: Because of watering wheat crops, the surrounded shrubs also get water). When it’s so, why not to adopt English-based (i.e.e, Anglicized) writing system for Wakhi?
9. Anglicized Wakhi orthography will not only easily integrate all related Wakhi communities but rather also integrate them effectively within their neighboring and global language communities in many ways.

Since October 2011, I got off and shifted from Latino-greek to Anglicized and developed a huge mass of literatures in thousands of pages in Anglicized Wakhi orthography. This includes poetry of over a hundred Wakhipoets from all countries, particularly from Pakistan. Besides, on Anglicized orthography, I have been shifting the invaluable Wakhi words of over thirty thousand, which I had originally developed in Latino-Greek in 2008. In the same manner, I have written a Wakhi primer, other aspects in pros and the grammatical considerations.

It should be seriously noted that adopting this same Anglicized writing system in 2013 and with due acknowledgement of Dr. Boghsho and myself for making learning and contribution so easy in Wakhi, Dr. Todd Hugh of Florida University (U.S.A) marvelously wrote his first ever PhD dissertation on an aspect of Wakhi language of Tajikistan (Tajik Wakhan). This dissertation was thus published as a precious book in 2015 which is avaible on the website and can be accessed in PDF.

Within Anglicized tradition, I’m on top, and will robustly continue and sacrifice tfor its advocacy and promotion. As a professional volunteer, without any funding from any kind of organizations, I’ve imparted practical trainings and orientation sessions (as I did earlier for promoition of Latino-Greek in my personal capacity) to hundreds of interested Wakhi community members included Wakhi poets, teachers, students (male and female) and others.
it’s noteworthy that the proponents and advocates of Anglicized writing system within Pakistan have increased significantly and they include the farsighted Wakhi professionals, leaders, students and majority of other community members of all walks of life. On November 2, 2017, when there has been an interesting workshop in Passu, organized by one of our distinguished musicians and poets (DawlatWaliBaig, in collaboration with Forum for Languages Initiative , Islamabad on orthography for Wakhi poets and writers Ofwhich I was not a part), the participants have reportedly discussed at length and have developed consensus to embrace Anglicized orthography for Wakhi (which was appreciable that the participants have recognized the future generation as has been envisioned by late Dr. BoghshoLashkarbekov); but I’m so surprised and shocked that it was harmfullypoliticized again by some negative forces for the sake of their personal exposure and earning cheap names and not upholding the community and the connected fate of the language in the future with a Longview.

In addition to leaderships and students at different levels among the Wakhi community of Hunza, logicaladvocates within this Anglicized tradition are uncountable people. Among the renowned Wakhi poets frommhunza they include SaifuddinSaif, Ali QurbanMughani, Ahmad Riaz Ahmad, UstodhSa’odatShoh, Sultan Ahmad, Muhammad Rahbar, Muhammad Rahim, AmanullahAmanMaad, Zakir Rumi, Abida Aziz, hyderMurad, HyderBadakhshani, Ehsan Ali, GhulamBaqir, and many others from the area.Likewise, along with leaderships at various scales in Ishkoman valley, prominent advocates among the poets from Ishkoman valley are Saffar Muhammad Afghon, Barkat Ali Bustoni, JavedBustoni, various layers of students, and the like.

To conclude, I must say but rather advise our communities to look towards the future generations when we prfer to provide education to our children in english, when Imam of the time emphatically directs us towards english, when the constitution and official language of Pakistan is English, when English is one of the effective and largest languages of science and technology, when english is an international passport for global integration, when you yourself serve or contribute in English, wy not then English-based writing system (Anglicized orthography) for Wakhi to internationalize this old language of small population which is with high risk of endangerment in global context as UNESCO and other related UN experts are concerned about all such indigenous languages including WakhiPamiri.

Finally, all sensible and majority of Wakhi community within Pakistan seriously condemn and denounce those related public servants and few pessimistic natives who are trying to impose orthography of their choice on the wakhi community of Pakistan for which the Wakhi community members have their strong reservations with respect to their future generations. No language or writing system could be termed bad including Arabicized. I myself am a nominal student of over 12 languages (including English, Urdu, Farsi, Wakhi, burushaski, Pushto, Arabic, Uyghur, German, French, greek, Russian and Chinese). Arabic language itself is thus in my heart and I love it personally. Even I had also come up with Arabicized writing system for Wakhi in the 1990s, which I developed in a more logical order. But what do the indigenous people thinkand envision appropriate for them and their future generations should be honored on top as Balti language’s diversity in orthography (particualyAgai script, which is a non-Arabic) has been recognized and honored. I’m so happy and grateful for such response fromm the Government’s related officials towards Agai. In the same manner, as Gujratilanguage (not written in Arabicized) has been recognized , I’m so delighted again for such open-heartedness and acceptance of such diversity by the communities and the State.

At the end, the WakhiPamiricommunity of Pakistan seriously demand from the related public servants (as they are our servants and not our lords to dictate us and impose their interests upon us) to take back the decision of their choice and look at the sentiments of the indigenous community as per charters/ conventions / resolutions of the United Nations vis-à-vis Indigenous rights of languages. Otherwise, there are arrays of legal channels to challenge it. The novice forum for Wakhi language doesn’t represent the whole language community at all and never a legal entity either. On the other, the team of this language forum has failed in holding series of consultative sessions with all related stakeholders of the language within the region and country (instead have avoidance behavior) an that led towards poor performance in favor of the community cause at broader context. Copyright@FazalAminBeg 2018.

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