The Kashmiri Language

The origin and the growth of Kashmiri language

Though it is very hard to exactly know the origin of a language, linguists still try to locate it by going through its evolution to as deep as possible in history at which point they make conclusion about its root. The same can be said about Kashmiri language, known to its people as Koshur. The history of language is rooted in the changing religious faiths and strategic geographic location of the valley of Kashmir. The language has developed out of Sanskrit and old Indo-Aryan language and has lately been influenced by Persian and Arabic languages.

Kashmir as a geographical place is situated at a position of significant importance where it joins the Islamic central Asia and the Middle East through Afghanistan on its north west, Buddhist China on north east and Hindu India on its south. With this topography Kashmir started its religious career with Vedantics followed by Buddhism, Shivism and recently Islam. This religious journey of the place is clearly reflected in the growth and development of Kashmiri language. A pure Kashmiri language which is hardly spoken and understood anywhere in the land is direct derivative of Sanskrit as is evident from its lexical elements, diction and phonetics. Sanskrit forms the foundation and the essence of the language. When Asoka the Great, some 200 years before Christ’s birth, chose Kashmir to spread the message of Buddhism, Pali - the language of Buddhist origin, crept into the Sanskrit base. In 14th century AD the majority of the people of Kashmir were converted to Islam by a Saint from Central Asia who popularized the Persian and Arabic languages in the valley of Kashmir. With the passage of time a volume of Persian and Arabic diction was incorporated with the language. The Kashmiri language continued to accept the new entrants and thereby continued to become richer though at the cost of purity. It is not strange for Kashmiris to speak every now and then a good number of English words as English has become a universal auxiliary language.

The scope of the language

The Kashmiri language has a limited scope. It is spoken mainly in the two divided regions of Kashmir controlled by India and Pakistan. The valley of Kashmir is divided into different districts and the dialect of language changes within each district. The people of a particular district can be identified from the dialect they speak. Apart from dialectical differentiation of geographical places, Kashmiri is spoken differently by the speakers of different religious faiths though belonging to the same district. Muslims speak in different way than Hindus, commonly known as “pandits”, and Sikhs. As mentioned earlier this is because of the influence of Arabic and Persian language on the dialects of the Muslim population and Sanskrit on the dialects of Pandits.

Kashmiri alphabets, numerals and a touch of grammar

The present form of Kashmiri is written in an adapted form of Arabic script using same the letters as are used in Arabic with some added extra letters for sounds which do not occur in the Arabic language. Kashmiri script like Arabic, Persian, Urdu or Hebrew is written from right to left. Most of the letters are joined together in a word giving it a cursive nature. The language comprises of 34 consonants and 18 vowels making it phonetically a very comprehensive language. Alphabets occur in groups of similar shapes whose sounds are differentiated by the placement of dots. Unlike Urdu it is very important to explicitly put vowels in the script to make it easily readable even to the native user of the language.

Kashmiri numerals are represented in the same form as Arabic but spoken like in Sanskrit. The Kashmiri language has got a familiar pattern of nouns ,verbs, gender etc. like French, German or Greek languages. Linguists have identified Kashmiri as a complete language in which the speaker can express every feeling precisely. Unlike English language it makes a clear distinction in its pronouns between people of lower and higher orders or people of different gender. For instance the sentence “Where are you going?” will have two translations depending on the order of the person you are asking. If you are asking a person elder to you it will be “toeh kout chu gatzun?” and if the same thing is asked to a person younger than you it will be “tze kout chuy gatzun?” Kashmiri has both masculine and feminine nouns. The sentence indicates whether you are talking to or about a male or a female.

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