Call to make collaborative efforts to save endangered languages ​​- Newspaper

MUZAFFARABAD: A US government-funded project aimed at building capacity of public-sector universities of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) in ‘Language Documentation’ concluded with emphasis on conscious collaborative efforts to save the endangered vernaculars being spoken in the two regions.

The concluding ceremony was held at the city campus of the University of AJK, where earlier the speakers drew attention towards the imminent threat of extinction being faced by dozens of local and regional languages ​​and dialects in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The project was implemented by UAJK in partnership with San Jose State University of California. It was funded by the US government and administered by the US Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP).

AJK’s secretary for Kashmir cause, arts and languages ​​Aijaz Lone was the chief guest at the concluding ceremony.

“We must take some solid steps to preserve the dying languages ​​that carry with them the centuries-old history, civilization and culture of the region,” Mr Lone said on the occasion.

Sharing salient features and success stories, project director Prof Dr Abdul Qadir told the participants that under this programme, training was provided to the faculty members of AJK and GB universities in basic linguistic analysis, language documentation methods, language documentation software (ELAN, FLEX, Audacity), data management, besides providing an opportunity for fieldwork experience.

According to him, as many as 27 participants were chosen for the capacity building training program to document endangered languages ​​in both territories, who included 21 linguistic faculty from seven public-sector universities of AJK and GB and six language activists from GB.

These participants visited Hunza, Nagar and Skardu districts of GB during the field trip and worked closely with Shina, Khowar, Wakhi, Balti, Burushaski and Domaaki language speakers, he said.

After the fieldwork, the trainees annotated the collected data and also conducted one-day workshops, seminars and walks on language documentation in their respective universities, he added.

He said 35 members and 180 students and language activists were trained through cascading workshops in the seven universities.

Describing the initiative as a tremendous success, UAJK Registrar and Co-Principal Investigator Prof Dr Ayesha Sohail expressed her gratitude to all the individuals and institutions, particularly the USEFP, for their keen interest and support in documenting the endangered languages ​​of the region.

Quoting studies, she lamented that at least one language was dying out every two weeks and by the next centurynearly half of the roughly 7,000 languages ​​spoken on earth were feared to vanish mainly because the communities concerned tended to prefer national languages ​​over mother tongues.

“When we preserve a language, we also preserve the culture and the entire civilization of the area concerned,” she said.

The closing ceremony was attended via video link by San Jose State University’s Dr Chris Donlay and USEFP representative Shahram Niazi. Prominent among those who attended it in person were UAJK’s Meritorious Prof Dr Nadeem Haider Bukhari, Deans Prof Dr Sadaat Dar and Dr Bashirur Rehman Kanth, Prof Dr Khawaja Abdul Rehman and UAJK’s Jhelum Valley campus director Engineer Faisal Butt.

Certificates and shields were also presented to the participants who attended the training as resource persons and volunteers.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2022

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