HINDKO is among about 75 or so languages and dialects spoken in Pakistan. Some say Hindko is a dialect of Punjabi. But the native speakers of Hindko do not agree with the notion. Native speakers claim Hindko is a separate language.
Ethnologue, an online catalogue of world languages, has listed Lahnda as a macrolanguage and has put Punjabi, Pothwari and Pahari as well as Southern dialects of Hindko under Lahnda.
A macrolanguage, linguists say, is a group of varieties of a language and these varieties may vary widely but are understood mutually by the speakers of different varieties.
But experts are divided over whether or not Hindko is a part of a group of languages known as Lahnda. The problem is the genuineness of the group called Lahnda itself is not fully validated. It was G.A. Grierison (1851-1941), the linguist behind the monumental work Linguistic Survey of India, who gave the name Lahnda to a group of Indo-Aryan languages spoken in North-Western Punjab. Lahnda is considered a group of varieties of Western Punjabi.
Aside from the debate whether or not Hindko is a part of Lahnda languages, Hindko has its dialects. They are: 1) Kohati, spoken in Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some adjoining areas. 2) Peshawari, spoken in Peshawar and its adjoining urban areas.
According to Dr Arshad Mahmmod Nashad, a sub-dialect spoken in suburbs of Peshawar and adjoining rural areas is distinct from the urban variety. 3) Attock dialects of Hindko include Ghebi (spoken in and around Pindi Gheb), Chhachhi (spoken in Attock) and Awankari (spoken in Chakwal district, especially in and around Talagang). 4) Hazara Waali, the Northern dialect of Hindko, spoken in Azad Kashmir, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Kaghan and adjoining areas, has different names, such as, Hazara Hindko, Kaghani and Hindki. It has sub-dialects spoken in Haripur, Mansehra and Galliyaat and some of them are called Tanoli Hindko and Muko-Tuko. Hazara Waali is influenced by Gojari and Pothwari. 5) Dera Waali is spoken in Dera Ismail Khan and is greatly influenced by the variety of Saraiki spoken in the area.
In this age of so-called globalisation when languages are dying all over the world and several Pakistani languages too have been declared endangered languages, some scholars of Hindko have all along been working for the preservation and promotion of the language.
Ilahi Bakhsh Akhter Awan (1938-2012) was among the prominent scholars who worked tirelessly for Hindko language. He did his PhD from London on The Phonology of the Verbal Phrases in Hindko. Awan wrote a primer of Hindko language, too. He had collected some 15,000 Hindko words for his doctoral dissertation and later on compiled a Hindko-Urdu dictionary that had about 25,000 entries.
Some foreign scholars, too, have worked on Hindko. A Descriptive Grammar of Hindko, Punjabi and Saraiki was published by Elena Bashir and Thomas j. Connors in 2019. But before that Turkish scholar Dr Halil Toker had published, in 2014, A Practical Guide to Hindko Grammar.
Work on Hindko language got a fillip when Khaatir Ghaznavi wrote Urdu Zaban Ka Maakhaz: Hindko (the source of Urdu language: Hindko). Published by National Language Authority (NLA), the book surmises that Hindko gave birth to the Urdu language and Hindko is the source from where Urdu originated. Though the book cannot prove with enough evidence what it supposes, it has detailed historical and social background on Hindko-speaking areas and gives some insight into the history and linguistic features of Hindko language. NLA has also published a brief history of the Hindko language and its literature. Written by Mumtaz Manglori, it is titled Mukhtasar Tareekh-i-Zaban-o-Adab: Hindko.
Peshawar’s Gandhara Hindko Academy has been very active and recently it has come up with a real big job: Gandhara Hindko Lughut. Arabic word ‘lughat’ (dictionary) is also used in Urdu but in Hindko it is pronounced as ‘lughut’. So keeping in line with Hindko pronunciation, diacritic mark has carefully been put over the word on title page.
This is not the first-ever Hindko-Urdu dictionary though, as Sultan Sukoon has compiled a Hindko-Urdu dictionary. Shiraz Tahir has also compiled a Hindko dictionary. But this dictionary is by far more comprehensive.
The two-volume gigantic work is in fact the fourth edition of Hindko-Urdu dictionary compiled by Ilahi Bakhsh Akhter Awan. Greatly revised and updated by Muhammad Ziauddin, the general secretary of Gandhara Hindko Board, the new edition of dictionary has 1979 pages and great time, money and labour must have gone into it. In fact it is a labour of love.
The 50 letters of Hindko alphabet have been given in the beginning. The dictionary mentions pronunciation, parts of speech, gender of words and etymologies. It is estimated that the dictionary has around 75,000 entries.
Gandhara Hindko Academy and Muhammad Ziauddin deserve kudos for this remarkable feat.
Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2023
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