THE SARAIKI LANGUAGE
The Saraiki language is part of the Indo Aryan group of the Lahnda branch of the Indo European group. As Punjabi, it is one of the official provincial dialects of Pakistan. We can find it spoken in South West Punjab. While it ranks only 4th in Pakistan, 26 million people speak it in there.
As we could expect, it is to a high degree very close to standard Punjabi and shares with it a large portion of its lexicon and syntax. At the same time, its phonology is very different (lack of tones, voiced aspirates and development of implosive consonants). Plus, it has important grammar features in common with the Sindhi language spoken to the south.
At first, the Saraiki language refered to the dialect of immigrants coming from the north. And mainly to Baloch tribes who settled there from the 16th to the 19th century.
In fact, its identity is very recent since it arose in the 1960s. On a one hand, it includes more narrow local earlier identities. On another hand, it is different than broader ones like that of Punjabi.
Schools and colleges at higher secondary, mid and degree level teach Saraiki as a subject. To that, the Allama Iqbal Open and the Al-Khair University at Bhimbir offer M.Phil. and Ph.D in Saraiki. Also, the Associated Press of Pakistan has launched a Saraiki version of its website. Finally, some media provide their programmes in Saraiki.
Saraiki includes diverse such as Multani, South Saraiki, Sindhi Saraiki, North Saraiki, Thali or and East Saraiki. About the latter, most of its speakers tend to feel closer to Punjabi than Saraiki.
Borders of Pakistan were often altered in the past. Also, its regions are divided into districts. Linguists often describe a dialect area according to the districts. Since the founding of Pakistan in 1947, several of them have been subdivided, a couple of times.
Under the British colonial time, people saw it as a dialect of Punjabi. By the way, it is still seen as such by many Punjabis. However, Saraikis see it as a language in its own right and reject the use of the term "dialect". In the 1960s, a language movement build a script and promote the language. Also, since 1981, the country tabulates Saraiki speakers.
Stop consonants have the four fold contrast between voiced and voiceless, aspirated and non. This is typical for Indo Aryan dialects. Second, there are five contrast points for the stops: velar, palatal, retroflex, dental and bilabial.
First, there are no tone. We can double all consonants, except /h j ɳ ɽ/. The latter occur only after stressed vowels, and are much less marked than in the rest of the Punjabi area.
Second, the length allows to highlight a stressed syllable. Indeed, if the vowel is peripheral /i ɛ a o u/, we then lengthen it. Also, if it is a central vowel (/ɪ ʊ ə/) we then double the consonant. Normally, stress falls on the first syllable of a word. But it will fall on the second syllable of a two syllable word in case of central vowel in the first syllable and if the second syllable contains either a diphthong or a peripheral vowel followed by a consonant.
Finally, we can find implosive consonants with the following series: /ɓ ᶑ ʄ ɠ/:
- First, we pronounce the "palatal" /ʄ/ further forward than most other palatals.
- Second, we pronounce the "retroflex" /ᶑ/ with the tip or the underside of the tongue, further forward in the mouth than the plain retroflex stops.
- Third, we pronounce the dental implosive (/ɗ̪/) with the tongue that fully cover the upper teeth.
- Fourth, the aspirated (breathy voiced) is not phonemic. But it covers the whole syllable and results from an underlying /h/ that follows the vowel.
The Saraiki language uses Arabic script, derived from the Urdu's one. To the latter, it added seven modified letters to represent the implosives and the extra nasals. Also, the writing styles used are Naskh and Nastaʿlīq.
Before, traders or bookkeepers wrote in a script known as kiṛakkī or laṇḍā, although its use decreased in recent times. Likewise, Multani is another script previously used to write Saraiki, too.