Introduction to Saraiki

Introduction of Saraiki Language

Language is intrinsically connected with ethnic identity and it ‘interweaves the
individual’s personal identity with his or her collective ethnic identity’ (Liebkind, 1999:
143). Among the multitude of markers of group identity, like age, sex, social class and
religion, language is considered essential to the maintenance of group identity. The
issue of language and identity is extremely complex: the terms language and identity
are open to discussion and their relationship fraught with difficulties (Edwards, 1985).
Liebkind (1999: 150) observes that in the mainstream perspective, language is not seen
as an, ‘essential component of identity. But language and ethnicity are seen as negotiable
commodities to the extent that they hinder a person’s security and well being.’ From the
early 1980s, however, this notion has been challenged and different studies have shown
the importance of language for many ethnic minorities (ibid). Ethnicity is defined as a
‘sense of group identity deriving from real or perceived common bonds such as
language, race or religion’ (Edwards, 1977: 254) and ethnic identity is defined as
‘allegiance to a group ... with which one has ancestral links’ (Edwards, 1985:10). He
further states that for the continuation of a group ‘some sense of boundary must
persist. This can be sustained by shared objective characteristics (language, religion,
etc.)’.
Two theories regarding language and ethnicity are quite relevant here, the
Instrumentalist and the Primordialist theory of ethnicity. According to the
instrumentalist theory of ethnicity, language-based ethnicity is meant to pursue political
power (Deutsch, 1953; Williams, 1984). This theory holds that the leaders, who aspire
for the power to obtain a larger share of goods, consciously choose language as a
symbol of group identity. Mobilizing the masses in the name of ethnicity in terms of
language and culture can fulfil their desire for power. The Instrumentalists see languages
as ‘instruments, tools only, and mother tongues…in no way…special’ and for them
‘Language is socially constructed learned (or acquired) behaviour, possible to
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* Assistant Professor, Department of English, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan.
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Journal of Research (Faculty of Languages & Islamic Studies) 2005 Vol.7
manipulate situationally, almost like an overcoat you can take on and off at will’
(Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000:136-137). The Primordialist theory of ethnicity (Conner, 1993;
Shils, 1957), on the other hand, states that people form ethnic groups to resist being
assimilated in the other culture because of their deep, extra-rational, and primordial
sentiments for their language or other aspects of identity. For primordialists, the mother
tongue is ‘more like your skin and later languages like the overcoats (Skutnabb-Kangas,
2000:137). Primordial arguments are often labelled by the instrumentalists as ‘emotional,
romantic, and traditional, and pre-rational or irrational’ (ibid). In the light of these two
theories it will be seen whether the Siraikis’ awakening (Shackle, 1977) was motivated
by instrumental or sentimental reasons or both or whether something else was the
cause of this phenomenon.