IT is quite strange but true that several foreigners have carried out monumental research on many Pakistani languages.
True, many Pakistanis, too, have done exhaustive research on Pakistani languages and their literatures, but most of them are native speakers and they have a natural inclination towards their mother tongue. Secondly, some of the westerners had begun research on the languages spoken in today’s Pakistan much earlier than the natives and did some spade work that was instrumental in later research. Tribute must be paid to those who were not natives but worked on our languages.
There have been quite a few orientalists who have done research work on Pakistani languages for quite long and, in many cases, had it not been for these scholars, many aspects of some Pakistani languages would have remained in oblivion. It is a pity that in some cases we know very little about Pakistani languages that have not been the subject of study by orientalists.
So let us remember those who have done a good part of our work while we were politicising linguistic issues. Here is a brief introduction to foreign scholars who have done some research on Pakistani languages:
Though Alexander Cunningham (1814-1894) was an engineer in the British army, he was appointed as the archaeological surveyor to the government of British India in 1861. In his book on Ladakh, Cunningham has discussed the languages spoken in Hunza and Nagar, the areas in Gilgit-Baltistan that make parts of today’s Pakistan. In this book, he has discussed Brushaski and has enlisted a brief vocabulary of these languages. Cunningham is perhaps among the first westerners who wrote on the languages of this region.
George Abraham Grierson (1851-1941) did a monumental work on the languages spoken in the subcontinent. He surveyed, recorded and documented linguistic facts and figures about over 550 languages and dialects spoken in the subcontinent. The gigantic work took some 30 years and the research was published in 19 volumes in 1916 under the title Linguistic Survey of India. It also includes research on many languages spoken in the areas included in today’s Pakistan.
Though an officer in the British Indian government and serving as a political agent in Gilgit, David Lockhart Robertson Lorimar (1876-1962) was a linguist, too. He knew many languages. His linguistic research includes work on — aside from dialects of Persian — Pashto, Brushaski, Badakhshani, Domki, Wakhi, Khowar and Shina, the languages spoken in areas of what is today known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. His work on history, grammar and vocabulary of the Brushaski language was published from Oslo in three volumes in 1935.
The German missionary and linguist Ernest Trumpp (1828-1885) is credited with writing the first grammar of the Sindhi language. He also penned a grammar of Pashto language and translated Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, into English. Trumpp edited Shah Jo Risalo the classical Sindhi work by great Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, and published it from Leipzig in 1866.
Max Arthur Macauliffe (1841-1913), a civil servant in British India, had translated Guru Granth Sahib into English and had embraced Sikhism. He died as a Sikh. During his work on Guru Granth Sahib, which has some verses composed by Baba Fareed Ganj-i-Shakar, Macauliffe opined that the poetry attributed to Baba Fareed and included in Guru Granth Sahib was actually not composed by Baba Fareed. Though it was refuted by some scholars of Punjabi and it has been proved that the poetry was indeed written by Baba Fareed, Macauliffe is sometimes quoted in the research works on Punjabi language and literature.
Henry George Raverty
An officer in the British Indian army and posted in some areas of Punjab and what is now KP, Major Raverty (1825-1906) learnt Pashto and wrote a grammar of Pashto. He has to his credit a dictionary of Pashto and a selection from Pashto poetry.
Mansel Longworth Dame
A British civil servant, Mansel Longworth Dame (1850-1922) served for quite long in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan and studied Balochi and Pashto languages and their literatures. In 1894, he wrote a grammar of the Balochi language and then Popular Poetry of Balochi People, a book in two volumes.
German linguist Prof Dr Hermann Berger (1926-2005) is known for his remarkable work on Brushaski language, spoken in different valleys in northern Pakistan. Known as ‘language isolate’ among linguists for its unique features, Brushaski still remains to be classified under any specific family of languages. Berger’s three-volume work on this language earned him international fame.
Liljegren is a linguist and professor at Sweden’s Stockholm University. He has done extensive research on several Pakistani languages spoken in KP and Gilgit-Baltistan. Some of these languages, such as Palula, Yidgha and Gawar-bati are endangered and might die if steps are not taken to preserve them.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2019