Language and Identity

Sajjad Hussain Tshering

Identity of a nation has always been associated with its language and culture. Many great nations have suspiciously disappeared from the surface of the globe due to the loss of their language and culture! This gloomy and icy hand of nation slayer seems to be hovering over the skies of northern Pakistan, especially over Gilgit-Baltistan. This slayer creeps into lands of sleeping nations and gets away with their language, culture and identity. Gilgit-Baltistan is in its deep slumber and ignorant to the fact that their identity is seeping away like water from a rusted broken old water-tank. The major mother tongues spoken in this region have been classified vulnerable languages of the world by UNESCO and Balti language is one of them.

Balti language is spoken in Baltistan region of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is the only language in Pakistan which belongs to Tibeto-Burman family of languages. A gradual shift in its vocabulary has been observed for the last some decades. This shift was accelerated and expedited in around previous twenty to twenty-five years due to the easy access and better communication prospects, of Baltistan region, with the other cities of Pakistan. Improved transportation facilities have helped to bring an influx of people from diverse range of language backgrounds; resultantly the arrival of non-local people has transformed the bilingual society into a multilingual community. Thus, these many voices have inconspicuously helped to change the shape of the language by injecting some of their lexical items into the vocabulary of Balti language. Further mover, the escalating waves of advancement in technology have added fuel to fire.

 Electronic media has been playing the key role in changing the languages of the world and Balti is no exception to it.  Words from other dominant languages have penetrated deep into its roots that those alien words seem no more exotic to our ears. These tremendous changes are the signs that the language in question is creeping towards its death. To curtail the discussion it is obvious that the major mother tongues of Gilgit-Baltistan are highly in an insecure condition. This alarming situation is leading these languages especially Balti to its ‘final destination’. Steps need to be taken to document the languages of Gilgit-Baltistan to preserve them and to preserve the identity of this region and its people. When a language dies a nation dies, thus, our survival lies in the survival of our language and culture!

The contributor is pursuing MS in English Linguistics and Literature at COMSATS, Islamabad. 

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