The Hindukush, Karakoram, and Western-most Himalayan mountain region – comprising northern Pakistan, northeastern Afghanistan and the territories of Kashmir on both sides of the LOC – is characterized by great linguistic and cultural diversity. The 40-50 distinct language varieties spoken in the region belong to various genera (Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Nuristani, Tibeto-Burman, Turkic and the isolate Burushaski) and a number of different languages serve as lingua franca. It is also a transit zone between the cultural spheres of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Himalayas.
On the one hand, there are linguistic features shared by a large number of the region’s languages (Bashir 2003, 821–823; Tikkanen 1999; 2008), in some cases as the result of prolonged language contact, in others – such as in the so-called “Dardic” group of Indo-Aryan – due to shared retention (Morgenstierne 1961, 139; Strand 2001). On the other, there is also a good deal of structural diversity. Instead of trying to simplify the picture by proposing another Linguistic Area (or Sprachbund), this presentation aims at outlining a more nuanced, fine-tuned, and typologically-enlightened, profile of this region, a region that I henceforth will refer to as the Greater Hindukush Region. Certain features are identified as macroareal (i.e. as characteristic of a much larger area which this region forms only a small part of), other features as linking features (i.e. linking a part of the region with a geographically adjacent area), yet others as essentially regional (i.e. Hindukush-specific), or features with a significant sub-regional scope. The framework and the terms used are largely the ones proposed by Masica (2001).
Arriving at the present, yet tentative, “profile”, an empirical study was undertaken, whereby a substantial number of traits (phonological, morphological, syntactic, and lexical—many of them overlapping with those of WALS (Haspelmath 2005), the World Atlas of Language Structure) were taken into account, drawing from the author’s own fieldwork in the region, collaboration with several native-speaker consultants, as well as from studies undertaken in the past by other scholars. Among the features discussed are: a tripartite differentiation within the affricate and fricative subsets (Tikkanen 2008, 255), the emergence of tonal contrasts (Baart 2003; Liljegren 2013), the display and degree of ergativity (Liljegren 2014), the presence vs. absence of gender distinctions, vigesimal numeral systems, multi-dimensional deictic contrasts, shared derivational pathways in kinship differentiation, double-marked contrastive constructions, and the prevalence of complex predicates (Liljegren 2010).
While the treatment is primarily a synchronic one, we will also have to assume several layers of settlement and highly complex patterns of language contact even in a distant past. In addition, there are strong indications that several ancient substrata (the proto-language of Burushaski most likely one of them) have made important contributions to shaping the present-day typologies (Tikkanen 1988, 304; Zoller 2005, 16–18; Bashir 1996, 203).
Muzaffarabad: University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir , 2015.
The Second Kashmir International Conference on Linguistics, May 04-05, 2015