Saturday, September 3, 2011

Multi/Bilingualism in Pakistani Punjab

The motive was to highlight the bilingual attitude of local Pakistani especially Punjabi Urban Speakers regarding three languages they use in daily life i.e. English, Urdu, Punjabi. I was pre-mature at that time, but the effort was done to create quality content. Of course it was an assignment.

Bilingual or multilingual is a person who can speak two or more than two languages with equal or less equal proficiency.
A society is called bilingual or multilingual if the people there speak more than one language.

            Bilingualism and multilingualism are referred to same thing mostly. Bilingualism may mean that the users of language are using more than two languages and multilingualism may also mean that the speakers are using two languages in the community or society.
            About half of the world's population is multi/bilingual. It is, in fact, very hard to find a monolingual community or society like Japan etc. While talking about sub continent in general and specially Pakistan we come to know that we are a multilingual community. We use Urdu as a language of communication between different domestic language speakers, thus Urdu working as a lingua franka, we use domestic languages at local level such as Punjabi, Hindko, Barahwi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Saraiki, Kashmiri etc and we use English also as a foreign language. People of Pakistan are bilingual/trilingual or generally multilingual.
            Bilingualism is believed to be a gradeable system so we can distinguish among its various kinds. Here it will be tried to discuss some concepts relating to multilingualism and then it will be tried to relate them to the local context of Pakistan specially Punjab. As the assignee is a Punjabi, Urdu and English speaker so the examples will be related to these languages mostly, although they will be almost valid for other domestic languages also.
            First distinction can be made in bilingualism is that the speaker have equal proficiency in both or all the languages he can speak or write. Such a bilingual is called a balanced bilingual or equilingual. This is not the absolute criteria, there may be some situations where a bilingual's abilities in a given language suffer due to pressure of situation etc. There may also be a situation of more receptive knowledge of once language and more active knowledge of another i.e. he may understand a language but may not speak it and he may speak and understand other language very well. There are also some situations in which bilingual is familiar with the spoken system of one language and written system of another.
            If we compare this kind of bilingualism distinction with our situation we can find certain similarities. Punjabi and Urdu are two languages which are believed  to be known by a person living in Punjab. A Punjabi speaking child learns Urdu along with Punjabi at almost same age. Exposure of both languages at the same time enables him to be proficient in both languages almost equally. But here we come to the point of above para. The difference of reading and writing system hinders here.  A Punjabi speaking child is not necessarily believed to learn writing Punjabi also. He writes in Urdu and it is considered sufficient for him/her. In particular situations where the learner optionally learns Punjabi at school enable him/her to read and write it otherwise it is seen that young speakers of Punjabi avoid reading or writing Punjabi and they feel it convenient to do it in Urdu. So their proficiency suffers here in Punjabi in writing and reading while in Urdu they are proficient in all fields reading, writing, speaking and listening.
            Second kind of distinction in bilingualism can be drawn by the acquisition of language. There are two main processes to learn a language. Acquisition and learning are two methods to learn languages, former is natural and primary while the later is artificial and secondary. A language acquired by a person interacting with his parents, sisters, brothers and friends etc at home will be the native language. Another language he learns at some institute by formal education will be called a foreign or a 2nd or 3rd language. Former bilingual will be called primary and later will be called secondary bilingual.
            In case of Urdu and Punjabi we are primary bilinguals. We learn these languages at home, from our surroundings in typical natural situations. While in case of Urdu and English or Punjabi and English we are secondary bilinguals because we learn former from home and later from an institute usually a school.
            A third kind of bilingualism distinction is socio-psychological distinction. The people may feel it additive having another language which enrich their ideas and knowledge. And they may feel it subtractive or loss of their language and culture by another languages (usually a dominant language). In our context this thing is applied to Urdu and English connection in both ways. People feel it additive to their knowledge, considering English as a language of latest knowledge and information and thus enriching their knowledge. People also feel it subtractive in a sense that English is acquiring the place of Urdu in our local life, its words are used and those of Urdu are ignored. So it can be a cause of loss of our culture and identity and there are people who are against its usage.
            A very useful way to describe the bilinguals is the domain specification. A domain is an empirically determined cluster of consisting a location, a set of role relationships and a set of topics. For each domain the bilingual has a pre-defined language to be used. We can see it in this table

Mother, Father, Son, Daughter etc
Domestic, Personal etc
Neighbour, Shop-keeper, street-cleaner
Weather, Shopping, social greetings
Teacher, student, principal
Social greetings, educational
Mosque and Religious Places
Imam, Muqtadee, Listener of Sermon etc
Sermons, Prayers, Social talks etc
Boss, Subordinate, Peer
Professional Matters etc


            By comparing this theory with our practical use of language we can see what languages we use at each domain. Most likely we use Punjabi at home, talking with parents and other family members on different domestic and even non-domestic issues. With neighbours we also use Punjabi talking with them in different relations. At school the language changes to Urdu, when we talk to our teachers, co-teachers, principle or junior staff and peers etc. At mosque and religious gathering once again we use Urdu usually, sometimes local language is used for better interaction (specially in villages Punjabi is used). At work level or at higher education institutes our talks are a mixture of Urdu and English switching to English when talking in meetings and very formal sittings.

Code Mixing and Code Switching
            In a situation, community or a society where there are bilinguals and they interact with each other in more than one languages, due to the factor of language contact a situation arises which is called code mixing and code switching. This situation can lead towards the language interference in which a language is influenced by another language on the levels of semantics, grammar and phonology.
            A bilingual can talk to another bilingual in each language common between them. He can also use the words of one language into other, knowing that the listener  understands the other language as well. Such kind of mixing is called code mixing.
            Code mixing is also called conversational code switching. Code mixing takes place usually in spoken language as we are less conscious about our language and we have not much time to replace foreign words with native ones. We take it forgranted that other person is understanding us. Code mixing is not only the mixing of words but clauses are also included in it, a part of sentence from one language and other part from other language, and in similar syntactic structured languages such as English and Spanish the grammatical inflexions are also mixed.  It is very much related to domains and situations. At a very formal situation bilinguals can use a mixed code of formal and informal variety in their leisure time. The language in which education is received also influence the choice of words from another language and people tend to code mix who are high educated and specially in a foreign language. It is observed in many countries that teachers having degree from a foreign institute mix their code while delivering lecture.
            If we consider our situation we can find that domains related to education, media and profession are those where people use to mix the code. This code mixing is of two high level formal languages of the community i.e. Urdu and English. Teachers while talking in classroom use frequently the terms of the discipline from English. Media men and specially hosts at TV and radio etc mix the code frequently. They use a blend of Urdu with English and English with Urdu in talk shows and live programmes. An example of a female host from government tv channel PTV is quoted here.
اس وقت آپ کو لگ رہا ہوگا کہ میں بہت ہائپر ہورہی ہوں بڑی ایکسائٹڈ ہورہی ہوں ویسے تو میں ہر وقت ہورہی ہوتی ہوں  نہیں بھی ٹی وی کے سامنے ہوتی تو ہر وقت باتیں کررہی ہوتی ہوں لیکن ہمارے سٹوڈیوز میں بڑے سپیشل دو گیسٹس موجود ہیں انھیں میں سلیبریٹی کپل بھی کہوں  گی تو بالکل بھی غلط نہیں ہوگا۔

            She is mixing English noun, adjectives and verbs in Urdu frequently. We can see the plurals as well used as they are  in Urdu from English.
            Code switching is the umbrella term as compared to code mixing. It involves code mixing as well as the switching of language. Code switching is distinguished from code mixing as here people switch to other language for relatively large chunks of language.
            In our context, if we see, even in classrooms of heigher education levels, the teachers switch to and from the native to foreign language  during their lecture. Similarly media men, professionals also mix and switch their code highly while talking. Here is an example from Pakistani filmstar Javed Sheikh's interview. He is mixing the code and at the end totally shifts to English.
جن کو مجھ پہ کانفیڈنس ہے میرے لیے یہ بہت ضروری تھا کہ ان کا یہ کانفیڈنس برقرار رہے۔ اللہ تعالٰی کا کرم ہے کہ میں نے جو بھی کام کیا ہے “کھلے آسمان کے نیچے” میں   انشاءاللہ Every Pakistani will be proud of it

            Borrowing is very closely related to code mixing and switching. A single person using a foreign word is code mixing while lots of people doing this is called borrowing. Borrowing is to get a foreign language word into native language. In this process its pronunciation may be changed or it can be kept as in Urdu we use English word Policy as palicy. Borrowing can be at semantic level translating certain concepts from foreign to native language. It can be at syntactic level or morphological level to adopt certain language systems in native language.
            Borrowing has a very interesting problem. The meanings of words are changed some times from native meanings and word is used in local language in a different sense. An EFL teacher at Korea reports such problem on his blog. He says that people are using English words in Korean in different sense, these words are when spoken to native speakers of English in local meaning create problems of understanding. In Urdu we have some examples of change in meaning of a borrowed word. Committee is an English noun used in Urdu also as a noun but it is used as a verb also. کمیٹی ڈالنا is a verb which has totally different meanings as compared to the native meaning.
            Code mixing, switching and borrowing is also taking place in domestic languages but it is relatively rare as compared to Urdu. But we can find such examples while traveling in a local bus or standing at a stop.
            اینہوں کنٹرول چ کر
            This is utterance of an old man, who is using an English borrowed verb in Punjabi as a verb and applying the grammar of Punjabi very unconsciously.
            Inter language mixing of Urdu and domestic languages is also taking place. People in cities are tending to use Urdu words to purify  their domestic language. Specially in cities like Karachi it is reported that words of Urdu are frequently spoken in domestic languages like Pashto. The young Pakhtoons are marked by their Urdu-mixed Pushto when they visit Peshawar or the domestic areas of their parents. 
            Considering our language situations a diglossic community we can make a continuum of languages according to their formality level.

 Sociolinguistics by R.A. Hudson
 Sociolinguistics by Bernard Spolsky
 The Linguistics Encyclopedia edited by Kristen Malmkjer
 Introducing Language and Society by Peter Trudgill


Saraqayyum1 said...

very interesting article, as a student of sociolinguistics, this writing was greatly beneficial to me.

Muhammad Shakir Aziz said...

Thanks Sara, it was the intention of putting it online. Hopefully you'll find more on my blog useful to your needs.

Amer Mahmood Yousaf said...

good attempt

Muhammad Shakir Aziz said...

superb xplanation .. thumbs up!

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