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Documentation of the Kundal Shahi Language, Kundal Shahi, Pakistan


Language Kundal Shahi
Depositor Khawaja Rehman
Affiliation Professor, University of Management Sciences & Technology Kotli
Location Pakistan
Collection ID 0294
Grant ID SG0231
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Group represented

The Kundal Shahi language community. Kundal Shahi belongs to the North-Western group of the Indo-Aryan languages; it is closely related to Shina and spoken as a native language by 700 people or less in the predominantly Hindko-speaking village of Kundal Shahi. Nearly all people whose ancestral language is KS or who still speak the language live in the village of Kundal Shahi. The depositor conducted a survey in 2010 which showed that the total population of the KS community was 3371 living in 537 households scattered throughout eight mohallas (‘hamlets’), namely: Rait, Graan, Gujhaan, SinjiNakka, Dolur, Frashian/Khujhaani, Gheelan and Sattra.

Hindko is the dominant language and the main lingua franca of the Neelam Valley. All KS speakers are bilingual in Hindko. A process of language shift to Hindko is ongoing. KS has no oral or written literary tradition or orthography. It has become completely inactive with regard to emerging domains, and vocabulary items appear to be eroding (Rehman 2012). Some words recorded from the elderly speakers of the language in 2002 are no longer used, and in some instances even remembered, by fluent speakers.

Moreover, exchange of firing and shelling across the Line of Control from 1990-2003 between the Pakistani and Indian armies, and the devastating earthquake of 8 October 2005, has aggravated the situation and accelerated the language shift. The depositor’s research evidences the status of KS as a Severely Endangered Language (Rehman 2012, 2011b). There are just two household where the language is, to some extent, actively spoken. The community, however, continues to express a positive attitude towards the language.


Language information

The Kundal Shahi language [shd] is spoken in the village of Kundal Shahi, a village located in the Neelam valley 74 kilometers upstream from Muzaffarabad, capital city of Pakistani administered Kashmir. In 2009, the village had an estimated population of 4523 (Rehman 2012). Apart from the Kundal Shahi language (KS); Hindko, Kashmiri, Gojri, two varieties of Shina and Pashto are also spoken in the Neelam Valley (Rehman 2006). The total number of active KS speakers is less than 700 individuals.

KS speakers do not have any specific name for their language. Therefore, in his earlier research, the depositor chose to name the language after the village, i.e. “Kundal Shahi” No other closely related variety of KS is known so far. A wordlist of 199 items of KS was compared with the wordlists of Shina, Hindko, Gojri and Kashmiri as found in O’Leary (1992). The results show that KS shares a 49% lexical similarity with Shina, 47% with Hindko and 45% with Kashmiri (Rehman and Baart 2005).


Collection contents

The Kundal Shahi language [shd] is spoken in the village of Kundal Shahi, in the Neelam Valley of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. It belongs to the North Western zone of the Indo-Aryan language family. The total number of active speakers is less than 700 individuals. The language is severely endangered as it is increasingly being replaced by Hindko. The language is under-documented. The documentation project aims to collect a range of text materials in audio and video format, translated with annotations.


Collection history

The depositor, Khawaja Rahman, is a native of Khawaja Seri, a village in the Neelam Valley which is 45km upstream from the Kundal Shahi village. He is proficient in Hindko, the predominant language of the local region.

The depositor started working on Kundal Shahi (KS) in 2002 with Joan Baart, and as a result of their joint research a paper on KS appeared in 2005 (Rehman and Baart). This was the very first description of any language spoken in the Neelam Valley. Later in 2005, the depositor did a comparative study of ergative marking in Kundal Shahi, Hindko and Kashmiri , and the findings were presented at the 11th Himalayan Languages Symposium. An adapted version of the paper appeared in April 2011 in a book entitled Himalayan Languages and Linguistics: Phonology, Semantics, Morphology and Syntax, published by Brill Academic.

The researcher carried out the first brief survey of the languages of the Neelam Valley in 2006. Subsequently, he presented the findings at the 19th ECMSAS (Rehman 2006). He was since awarded his PhD from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. The title of his thesis was ‘Language Shift In the Neelam Valley: A Case Study of the Kundal Shahi Language’. The thesis described and analyzed the status of KS and causes of language shift in the KS community; one of the chapters was devoted to linguistic description and analysis including the syntax, morphology and phonology of KS. During the many years of his research on KS, he developed close relationships with the KS community members.

The current project’s objective is to create translated and annotated Kundal Shahi texts. The database for the KS texts will consist of 10-12 hours of audio and video recordings of a wide range of language events in many settings and from different genres including:

• traditional stories

• myths and legends

• historical accounts

• personal narratives

• personal experiences

• descriptions

• natural conversations.

This project will disseminate all materials including data, description of data, texts, sound files, recordings and metadata to the KS community – in print, DVD, CD, portable hard drives, etc, and archive for future use of the KS community and local researchers in the library of the Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Khawaja Rehman as the principal investigator, the data collector and the researcher. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) as the funder of the project. Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by respective name(s). Any other contributor who has collected, transcribed or translated the data or was involved in any other way should be acknowledged by name. All information on contributors is available in the metadata.

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Rehman, Khawaja. 2015. Documentation of the Kundal Shahi Language, Kundal Shahi, Pakistan. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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