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Auteur: Khawaja A. REHMAN

Level of Endangerment of the Kundal Shahi Language

Abstract/Résumé: The Kundal Shahi language is the ancestral language of a community of 3371 with only 700 active speakers in the village of Kundal Shahi in the central Neelam Valley in Pakistani administered Kashmir. The language is closely related to Shina and has borrowed heavily from Kashmiri and Hindko, the dominant language in the Kundal Shahi village and the region. Since the construction of the Neelam Highway in the late sixties and the establishment of the market in the Kundal Shahi village in 1970, there has been an influx of Hindko speakers into the region and Hindko became the local lingua franca. Circumstances forced Kundal Shahi speakers to use Hindko in more and more social contexts. When Kundal Shahi speaking men married Hindko speaking women, Hindko became the household language. As the Hindko speaking community grew, a stigma was attached to speaking the Kundal Shahi language. Kundal Shahi speaking parents came to think of the ability to speak Kundal Shahi as not just an additional cognitive burden but also a social disadvantage to their children. My research revealed that the youngest fluent Kundal Shahi speakers are now in their forties, suggesting that a drastic language shift took place before 1970, a few years after the road came through. Disrupted intergenerational transmission is the principal indicator that a language is seriously endangered. Other indicators, including the absolute number of speakers, the proportion of speakers within the total population, trends in existing language domains, the response to new domains and media, materials available for language education and literacy, can also show the level of endangerment of a language. This study has established that Kundal Shahi meets the criteria of a severely endangered language. While members of the Kundal Shahi community express pride in their ancestral language, which to them represents tradition, collective identity and group cohesion, their actual behavior is motivated by the stigma attached to speaking their language. Unless there are immediate initiatives within the community to act on their expressed desire for the language to survive, I anticipate that Kundal Shahi will be extinct within half a century. If language revitalization is to remain a realistic possibility, thorough documentation and description of Kundal Shahi is urgent