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An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Book Review: ‘Lexical Borrowings in Kashmiri’ By Dr. Ashok K.Koul

Review By: Prof. Raj Nath Bhat (BHU)

The growth of a language is accelerated by employing it in advanced intellectual activities in various knowledge domains, such as philosophy, theology, science, politics, economics, aesthetics, creative literature, etc. Astagnant society finds little chances of change and progress; hence its language does not undergo any noticeable growth in its vocabulary. Contacts due to economic-political reasons among diverse linguistic-cultural groups enrich languages of the respective communities in different ways depending upon the roles various languages play in day to day life. In a contact situation where the language of one group dominates that of the other group(s), the dominated language borrows lexical items extensively from the dominant language to fulfill the requirement of such items in specific domains and also as a mark of prestige attached to the lexis of the dominating language. The flow in the reverse direction is limited to items related to flora and fauna, cuisine etc. provided those entities happen to be alien to the dominant culture. Kashmiri language has been quite receptive to foreign languages and it has borrowed ample number of lexical items from several sources, namely Persian, Arabic, Turkish, English etc., thus enriching its own stock drawn from Vedic Sanskrit.

The Valley of Kashmir has been a center of learning (Sharada Peetha) for over two millennia where Sanskrit and Buddhist scholarship attained glory, depth and stature. With the advent of Islam in the last quarter of 14th century C.E. and the subsequent replacement of Sanskrit with Persian (during the reign of Zainul Abadin) as the language of court and administration, the Persian language came to occupy a position of dominance and prestige. The Persian literary canon was popularized through translations into Vernacular Kashmi ri. Consequently, Persian along with Arabic and Turkish words found an easy entrance into Kashmiri lexicon. English education was introduced in the 19th century and Urdu replaced Persian in the first decade of the 20thcentury, paving way for further enrichment of Kashmiri. At the dawn of independence Kashmiri had cultivated a strong literary tradition with Azad, Mahjoor, Nadim among others enriching it through their creative and literary historical writings with a vocabulary drawn from sources mentioned above.

The work under review provides a linguistic study of borrowed items in Kashmiri with special focus on Perso-Arabic and English loan words. Based on the author’s Ph.D. thesis that he submitted at Kurukshetra University, the book is divided into five chapters. The first chapter provides a brief introduction to Kashmiri language, its dialects, scripts, literary writings and delineates the scope of the work. The second chapter gives an account of the impact that Persian, Arabic, and English made on Kashmiri lexicon. The third chapter gives an exposition of borrowing, types of borrowing and causes of borrowing. It forms a theoretical foundation on which the remaining chapters are based. The fourth chapter, the longest in the book (pp. 24-95), analyses ‘linguisticchange’ that has affected loan words at the phonological level, compound formation, and semantics. The Perso-Arabic fricative consonants x/G/f/v, stop consonant Q have been invariably nativized, i.e. they have been replaced by nearest Kashmiri counterparts kh/g/ph/w.Similary, vowels in instances like re:sham ‘silk’ have been changed (ri:shim). Some words, like asli ‘real’ adab ‘literature’, have been retained in their original formbecause they do not violate any sound rules operating in Kashmiri. The final vowel has been dropped in some, and the final consonant has been aspirated in some other instances: xarbuza ‘melon’> kharbuz; shak ‘suspicion’> shakh. Meaning expansion has occurred in examples like sabzi ‘greenery’ in Persian > ‘vegetables of all colours’ in Kashmiri. Meaning shift has occurred in instances like daftar ‘ file of papers’ in Persian > ‘office’in Kashmiri. Some other examples of meaning change are: alm as ‘diamond’ > ‘sharp’ ; dam ‘breath’> ‘suffocation’and so on. The author has given a very rich and elaborate list of loan words from Perso-Arabic and English that are in use in Kashmiri and have undergone various kinds of sound or meaning change or both. The chapter V provides a brief note on loan translations where we find that Persian and English idioms and proverbs have been literally translated into Kashmiri. Some interesting instances are: harkat kar barkath kari from Persian az toharkat az xuda barkat. There is a rich bibliography atthe end of the book. The work will be useful to students and scholars in language, literature and dictionary making.

Source: Har-Van



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