M.A. Theses in Linguistics at the University of North Dakota (Abstracts)
Losey, Wayne 2002
Writing Gojri: Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Constraints on a Standardized Orthography
for the Gujars of South Asia
Gojri belongs to the central group of the Indo-Aryan subfamily of Indo-European languages. Gojri (or Gujari) is spoken by the Gujars (or Gujjars), traditionally nomadic pastoralists, who are scattered widely throughout the northern Subcontinent. While remaining an “oral society” in the classic sense, Gujars in recent decades have begun attending school, organizing politically, and writing poetry and prose in their own language. Today, in part because of government sponsorship, the level of Gojri broadcasting and literary activity is higher than that for other minority languages in the region. To date, however, Gojri lacks an agreed-upon set of writing conventions. Writers and editors tend to write phonetically, and with wildly varying degrees of reference to the conventions of Urdu, the primary language of wider communication and the language of education in most communities.
This study presents descriptions of the phonology and morphology of the two major dialects of Gojri spoken in Pakistan, and compares the analysis of these dialects with the analysis of the Gojri spoken in Punch District of Indian-administered Kashmir (Sharma 1979, 1982). Next, in light of this comparative data and the implications for Gojri-to- Urdu literacy, it evaluates various orthographic conventions currently used by leading writers and institutions. This study explores Urdu-based spellings which are linguistically sound and otherwise conducive to transitional literacy, and which lend themselves to orthographic standardization across the east-west dialect continuum. It also includes an extended treatment of the challenge of representing Gojri tone.
This study will provide a foundation for orthographic decisions that take cross-dialectical considerations and the reality of a broader Urdu print environment fully into account, potentially enabling Gujars to read the pronunciations of their own dialects from a single text type while maximizing the ease of transfer to and from Urdu. The research presented here will also make the dialects of Gojri spoken in Pakistan accessible to linguists and other scholars, and call attention to the significance of the Western dialect within the greater language community.
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