The Burusashki struggle, more than a minority in a majority set of languages
Of a population of 12.5 million in Jammu and Kashmir, just 350 people speak Srinagar Burushaski. However, in the Hunza, Nagar, and Yasin valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan, claimed by Pakistan as its fifth province, the language is spoken by around 100,000 people.
Professor Sadaf Munshi, at the University of North Texas, works on Indo-Aryan languages (Hindi, Urdu, Kashmiri, Romani or “Gypsy” language) and Burushaski. Her work began in 2003, documenting during curfews in the strife-torn Kashmir Valley. She initially faced resistance from young men from the community, suspicious of her research to “decode” the language. Munshi has published her work in the book, Srinagar Burushaski (Brill), offering a structural description of Burushaski spoken in Srinagar.
Bunshi initially met someone from a Srinagar community referred to as “Bota Rajas”, which she ultimately discovered as being Burushaski, a language isolate yet primarily spoken in the Hunza, Nagar and Yasin valleys in Pakistan. Most members of the Burushaski-speaking community in Srinagar are the descendants of Raja Azur Khan, the crown prince of the then Gilgit Agency in the late 19th century.
Much work has attempted to explain the linguistic origins of Burashaski, but a fully convincing relationship has not been established. John Bengtson, Sergei Starostin, and Ilija Čašule, have all attempted to define the language.
In 1981, Peter Backstrom had estimated the number of Burushaski speakers in Pakistan then to be 55,000-60,000. Ethnologue reported approximately 96,800 Burushaski speakers in Pakistan in 2004, whereas Munshi suggests the current number to be approximately 100,000. There is currently an increasing fear of language shift, where most speakers are multilingual in Kashmiri, Urdu and English, and hence, Burushaski is influenced by Urdu and other languages such as Kashmiri, Shina and Khowar. However, scholars in Pakistan have embarked on efforts to preeever the language.
Munshi has produced a large searchable digital corpus, Burushaski Language Resource, which are housed at the Digital Collections Library of UNT. These include popular stories, personal narratives, natural conversations, songs, etc.
The language has a number of dialects: Nagar (“Khajuna” (pej.), Nagir), Hunza (Kunjut), Yasin (Werchikwar). Yasin is geographically separated from other dialects, where the lexical similarity is 91%–94% between Nagar and Hunza dialects, 67%–72% between Yasin and Hunza, and 66%–71% between Yasin and Nagar. Different dialects of Burushaski are spoken in different areas, though they are largely
Watch documentaries from the Burusashki community.
Information About Burushaski Language in Srinagar India With Muhammad Ibrahim in 2019.
Burushaski, the Unique language of Gilgit Baltistan from BBC News in 2017.