By Umar Hayat Hussain
AMID the ongoing debate in South Asia on the significance of native languages, the focus on Kashmiri as a language is getting a lot of traction.
Being one of the oldest languages of the South East Asia with a unique syntax, phonology, and morphology, the future of Kashmiri language, says Prof. Shafi Shauq, is safe.
“Kashmiri language has been and shall continue to be the language of peasants, artisans, and various professionals,” Prof. Shauq, a noted author, editor, translator of over forty-five books, says. “It is the most effective means of communication at the speech level.”
In a brief chat with Kashmir Observer, the professor who has received several National and State awards is deconstructing the debate.
Is Kashmiri really a language?
I say it with conviction that the Kashmiri language is a living language.
It has an area of occurrence, speakers, dialectical variations, oral and written literature, and capacity to change through borrowing and code-switching in consonance with changing economic and social conditions.
But then many say it’s on the verge of extinction?
It is a big fallacy propagated by ill-informed journalists, profiting linguistic activists and by all those who do not know Kashmiri.
The Kashmiri language has been and shall continue to be the language of peasants, artisans, and various professionals. It is the most effective means of communication at the speech level.
What challenges did you face as a language lecturer?
I taught the literature and linguistics at the postgraduate level and research. Books, right from Aristotle to present day critics, and writers have been translated and published that are taught. I wish that more and more teaching material is made available through translation.
But is younger generation ready to accept Kashmiri as a language?
Younger generation does not mean broiler-like kids of Convent, Mallinson and Biscoe and other exploiting private schools. Younger generation means teeming millions of boys and girls in rural and urban areas who speak Kashmiri, and never use any other language in natural communication, customs, rituals and various social activities. They sing, dream, converse, narrate, and remember through their native language.
Since you’ve translated many Kashmiri books in other languages, did you get any good response?
Unfortunately, there aren’t many buyers of books in all languages. Nevertheless, books are sold and bought always. Some of my books like Kashmiri Grammar, History of Kashmiri Language Literature, and Kashmiri Dictionary are reprinted every year and publishers have made considerable money. Some of my books are the most circulated books in Kashmir for the last fifty years.
Where do you place the Kashmiri language among all the spoken ones?
Kashmiri is one of the oldest languages of the South East Asia with a unique syntax, phonology, and morphology. It is the only language of Asia that has a non-Indo-Aryan structure. It is interestingly closer to the Indo-European Languages having the finite verb at the second slot in all sentences.
What measures need to be taken to safeguard this language?
All measures taken by any government are politically motivated. But the future of Kashmiri language is safe so long its speakers continue to survive.
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