Monday, November 26, 2012

Language Profile: Lahnda

According to the Ethnologue, Lahnda is a macrolanguage. A macrolanguage is a group of related languages whose speakers share a common identity, though their languages are often not mutually intelligible. In this case, the Lahnda languages are mainly used in Pakistan, with over 78 million native speakers.

There are several Lahnda languages, so we'll give a bit of information on each of them.

Hindko is the sixth main regional language of Pakistan, with about 3 million native speakers. The Hindko language has two main dialects: Northern and Southern. It is most often spoken as a household language in rural areas. The first Hindko dictionary was published in 2008 by the Gandhara Hindko Board, which works to preserve and promote the language in addition to being a cultural and social welfare organization. The dictionary contains about 30,000 words.

Khetrani has about 4,000 native speakers. It is mainly spoken in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.

This is Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, Pakistan.

Potwari (aka Pothohari), with over 49,000 native speakers, is mainly spoken on the Pothohar Plateau of northeastern Pakistan. The language has several dialects, including Pahari, Potwari, Chibhali, Poonchi and Mirpuri. It has a long tradition of sung poetry, often accompanied by sitar (a stringed instrument), tabla (a type of drum), harmonium (a reed organ), and dholak (another type of drum).

This is the Mankiala Stupa, a religious site on the Pothohar
Plateau where Buddha is said to have sacrificed some
of his body parts to feed hungry tiger cubs!

Mirpur Punjabi is spoken in the Punjab region of eastern Pakistan and northern India. It is closely related to Western Punjabi (which we'll get to in a moment), and has over a million native speakers.

Western Punjabi is the most spoken native language in Pakistan, with over 60 million native speakers. Pop and folk songs in Western Punjabi are often very popular, and an increasing number of Pakistani students are choosing to study Punjabi literature. Some linguists consider Western Punjabi and Eastern Punjabi (spoken in India) to be dialects of one language called, you guessed it, Punjabi! 

This is the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, capital
of the Punjab province of Pakistan.

Saraiki is the fourth most widely spoken language in Pakistan, with nearly 14 million native speakers. It is mainly spoken in the southern part of the Punjab province. Historically, Saraiki was a spoken language, and was used for centuries as a lingua franca in the Indus Valley. A standard written version of Saraiki was first developed after the founding of Pakistan in 1947. It was once considered by some linguists to be a dialect of Punjabi. However, it is said to be more lexically similar to Sindhi than to Punjabi.

We would like to note that these linguistic classifications are sometimes disputed depending on who you speak to... some linguists disagree with the idea of all these languages being referred to as Lahnda languages, others prefer to think of them as dialects of the same language, and some would include Gujarati as a Lahnda language. As always, we side with the Ethnologue, though it is always possible that they're wrong. We just love to learn about languages, even if they are a complicated mess at times!