[aka Torwālī, Turvali, Dardu]

Classification: Indo-European




Challenges to the linguistic diversity of North Pakistan

The areas where these languages are spoken comprise of the mountainous northern parts of the northwestern frontier province named Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. In Chitral only twelve languages (Decker, 2004) are spoken. These are Khowar, Kalasha, Dameli, Palula (Phalura), Gawar-bati, Yidgha, Shekhani, Eastern Kativiri, Madaglashti Persian, Gujari, Wakhi and Pashto. Khowar is the dominant language in Chitral whereas the Kalash community is the single indigenous community who are a religious minority as well. In the Swat valley the indigenous languages are Torwali, Gawri, Ushojo and Gujari. Pashto is the dominant language in Swat. Torwali and Gawri are said to be the ancient indigenous languages (Torwali, The ignored Dardic culture of Swat, 2015) of Swat which are traced back to the pre-Muslim era in the valley. In Indus Kohistan there are five indigenous languages spoken in addition to Gujari and Pashto. These languages are Kohistani, Shina, Chilliso, Gowro and Bateri ( (Hallberg, 2002). In Indus Kohistan Shina and Kohistani are the major languages. In upper Dir district, adjacent to Chitral and Swat, Gawri is spoken along with the moribund language Kalkoti. The dominant language of upper Dir district in Pashto. In Northern Areas, present day Gilgit-Baltistan, Shina, Brushaski, Balti, Wakhi, Khowar and Domaki are spoken. The major languages here are Shina, Balti and Brushaski ( (Backstrom & Radloff, 2002). All these languages excluding Wakhi, Yidgha, Balti and Brushaski are Indo-Aryan languages. They have further been classified as Dardic by a number of writers notably by G.W Leitner ( (Leitner, 1880, 1866, 1886 and 1893). Yidgha, Madaglashti and Wakhi are Indo-Iranian whereas Balti is a Tibetan language. Linguists classify Brushaski as a ‘language isolate’ which means that this language does not go with any major language family. Gujari and Hindko are Indo-Aryan but not in the sub-family, Dardic. Hindko is spoken in Peshawar, Kohat and in the Hazara division especially in the districts of Abottabad and Mansehra. It is the second major language in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In these districts it is the dominant language. Gujari or Gojri is the language of Gujar communities living in Northern and Southern Pakistan (Ethnologue, 2002). In Swat and other upper parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Gujari is also spoken by communities now stellated in some villages over the hills. In Mansehra district, a minor language, Mankiyali, also locally knows as Trawara, (Anjum & Rehman, 2015) is spoken by a small community of few hundreds. The language is Indo-Aryan Dardic and is also critically endangered. The number of people speaking each of these languages is never estimated correct in Pakistan because in Pakistan these communities do not have a separate counting column in the census survey. Their populations vary from a few hundreds to thousands to a million.

Zubair Torwali


Jan. 1, 2017