The Kashmiri language is the widely spoken language of Kashmir division of Jammu And Kashmir State. About 80 Percent of people in Kashmir spoke Kashmiri. Kashmiri language which is popularly Known as ‘Kashur’ according to the census of 1981 had about 30, 76,398 speakers. Now the Speakers of Kashmiri language has increased to about 5 million according to the 2011 census. The speakers got increasing with the population increase in the Kashmir division. But unfortunately census about the increase of speakers of Kashmiri language was not conducted. Kashmiri is included in the list of languages of the constitution of India and exists in the constitution from its adoption. It is one of the recognised languages of Indian Constitution which consist of 22 languages of India as recognised languages and they are included in the Eighth Schedule of Indian Constitution. Though the language spoken across the Kashmir division does not have much difference dialects of people vary from north to south, east and west. The most beautiful dialect of Kashmiri language is considered of the Srinagar city and its surrounding areas.
The Kashmir Language is considered as a Dardic language. A Dardic Language is one which is expressed as derived from only geographical convention and not of linguistic expression. That is it has developed due to the geographical conventions of the people of Kashmir. There are a number of famous poets in Kashmir who have given a new taste and new life to this language namely Rosul Mir, Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor etc. Mehjoor is considered as one of the famous poets of Kashmiri language. He had expressed all his strong emotions, his depth of poems and hardships of Kashmiri people during different periods in his poems. Besides him, Raj Begum, Habba Khatoon was also famous poetess of Kashmiri language.
Kashmiri Language has two major of Dialects First is regional dialect and the second one is a regional dialect. While there is not so much difference between the two but there are different styles of speakers of the same speech. There are also further two types of the regional dialect of Kashmiri language first one is those people who speak the Kashmiri language and are living inside the valley and the second one are those who speak Kashmir language and living outside the valley. People speaking Kashmiri inside the valley are divided into three groups first Marzi; People living in the south and south-eastern parts of Kashmir speak this type of Kashmiri second is Kamarzi; north and north-western parts of the people speak this type of Kashmiri language and the third one are the people living in The Srinagar (the summer Capital of Jammu and Kashmir state) and its surrounding areas. Since these are different dialects of the same speech all types are Kashmiri but their styles are different. A recent study about the Kashmir language has shown that most modern and suitable style of Kashmir language is spoken in Srinagar city and its surrounding areas as these are the most business and educational places of Kashmir so the standard the Kashmiri which is spoken here is considered of superior quality.
Outside the Kashmir, the style of speech of this language is not same and it also varied from different parts of the state outside Kashmir valley. Outside the Kashmir valley, two main dialects of Kashmiri language exist. these are Poguli and Kashtwari. Poguli is spoken in the valleys of Pogal and Paristan valleys of Jammu Division. Their border meets on the east with the dialects of Rambani and Siraji and on the west by Lahandi and Pahari. The speakers of Poguli are found in the directions of South, south-east and south-west of Banihal region of the state. Poguli shares many Linguistic features including 70 per cent vocabulary with Kashmiri (Koul and Shamdt 1984).Literate people of Poguli and Paristan speak the Kashmiri language very well. Kashtwari is spoken Kashtwar valley which lies to the south of Kashmir valley.Kashtwari shares most of the linguistic features of Kashmiri, but retains some archaic features which have disappeared from the latter. It shares about 80% vocabulary with Kashmiri (Koul and Schmidt 1984).
Although the types of Kashmiri Language spoken by different regions in the valley is known and had been studied by different scholars. But on the other hand, no Sociolinguistic research study has been conducted to know the different speech variations and styles of Kashmiri language spoken by people who belong to different communities and other speakers who belong to different professions like teachers, doctors lawyers etc. In some earlier works beginning with Grierson (1919: 234) distinction has been pointed out in two speech variations of Hindus and Muslims, two major communities who speak Kashmiri natively. Kachru (1969) has used the terms Sanskrit zed Kashmiri and Personalized Kashmiri to denote the two style differences on the grounds of some variations in pronunciation, morphology and vocabulary common among Hindus and Muslims. It is true that most of the distinct vocabulary used by Hindus is derived from Sanskrit and that used by Muslims is derived from Person-Arabic sources. On considering the phonological and morphological variations (besides vocabulary) between these two dialects, the terms used by Kachru do not appear to be appropriate or adequate enough to represent the two socio-dialectical variations of styles of speech. The dichotomy of these social dialects is not always clear-cut. One can notice a process of style switching between the speakers of these two dialects in terms of different situations and participants. The frequency of this ‘style switching’ process between the speakers of these two communities mainly depends on different situations and periods of contact between the participants of the two communities at various social, educational and professional levels. Koul (1986) and Dhar (1984) have presented co-relation between certain linguistic and social variations of Kashmiri at different social and regional levels.
The Kashmiri language is closely related to Shina and some other languages of the North-West frontier. It also shares some morphological features such as pronominal suffixes with Sindhi and Lahanda. However, Kashmiri is different from all other Indo-Aryan languages in certain phonological, morphological and syntactic features. The Perso-Arabic script with additional diacritical marks now known as Kashmiri script has been recognized as the official script for Kashmiri by the Jammu and Kashmir Government and is now widely used in publications in the language. It still lacks standardization (Koul 1996). The computer software is available for writing Kashmiri in this script.
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in learning Kashmiri as a second/foreign language. Kashmiri is being taught as a second language at the Northern Regional Language Centre (CIIL) Patiala since 1971. A limited number of pedagogical materials in the form of language courses and supplementary materials have been produced in Kashmiri so far. Kachru (1969, 1973) has made first serious attempt in this regard. Koul (1985,1995) has prepared two textbooks for teaching basic and intermediate level courses in Kashmiri at the NRLC Patiala. They introduce all major structures of the Kashmiri language. Bhat (1982) and Raina (1995) have prepared readers in for teaching Kashmiri at the first two levels at the school level. They contain lessons on the Kashmiri script and some structures. Bhat (2001) has prepared an audio-cassette course in Kashmiri with a manual useful for the second language learners of Kashmiri.
Now the sad demise about the Kashmiri language
While talking to different students who belong to different communities in Kashmir who study the Kashmiri language said that the scholars who taught the Kashmiri language do not even dare to speak Kashmiri in their homes, in offices want to speak Kashmir.
“Kashmiri is a neglected language and its use is declining even in Kashmir. Over the years no attempt has been made to preserve to preserve the language or its literature,” Said Sashi Shekar Toskhani, a Scholar who has done extensive research on Kashmiri language, literature and culture.
The students who study Kashmiri at their Masters level do not find same social status which others have. The material which is provided is not updated about the Kashmiri language.
Even though the government has made this subject compulsory up to class 9th and is included as an optional subject up to 12th class but the irony is that students do not even dare to talk in Kashmiri language at their schools. The reason behind this is that the social stigma which is associated with the students who want to speak Kashmiri language but cannot do that. A detailed review of government offices, School particularly in Srinagar city reveals that the Kashmiri language speaking people are considered as low-status people. Instead of this, people who spoke Kashmiri in Kashmir should be considered as respectable people. So it the primary duty of both the people of Kashmir and more duty of government to take immediate measures to protect this language. If steps were not taken its protection then the time is not far away from us when we lost our own language.
We cannot deny the contribution of government in preserving the Kashmir language and literature. In fact, the decision of making this subject compulsory at the secondary level of education in the state 2013. Somehow, sow the seeds of its preservation. The results were good and students were taking keen interest to take lesion of science and other subjects in their own mother tongue. It made two things first to learn the Kashmiri language for Kashmiri students is easy and to learn other subjects in their mother tongue make them understand better. Another problem with the Kashmiri introduction in schools is that Urdu science teachers are used to teach Kashmiri which is totally injustice. As there are hundreds of Post Graduate students in the Kashmiri Language who are coming out of the Kashmir University every year and some even have qualified NET and JRF in this subject.