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Review of  A Grammar and Dictionary of Indus Kohistani

Reviewer: Jan Heegård Petersen
Book Title: A Grammar and Dictionary of Indus Kohistani
Book Author: Claus Peter Zoller
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Lexicography
Subject Language(s): Burushaski
Kohistani, Indus
Language Family(ies): Iranian
Issue Number: 16.3477

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Date: Thu, 1 Dec 2005 23:05:58 +0100
From: Jan Heegård Petersen
Subject: A Grammar and Dictionary of Indus Kohistani -- Volume I:

AUTHOR: Zoller, Claus Peter
TITLE: A Grammar and Dictionary of Indus Kohistani
SUBTITLE: Volume I: Dictionary
SERIES: Trends in Linguistics. Documentation 21.1
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
YEAR: 2005

Jan Heegård, Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, Section
for Linguistics, University of Copenhagen.


This dictionary of the Northwest Indo-Aryan language Indus Kohistani
(henceforth IK), is the first of two volumes which presents the results
of the linguist Claus Peter Zoller's field work stretching from 1997 to
2001. The second volume, A Grammar of Indus Kohistani, is expected
to appear in 2007.

With this volume IK is included in the exclusive and small group of the
relatively little studied northwest Indo-Aryan (''Dardic''), Iranian and
Nuristani languages spoken in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountains
for which we have descriptive grammars and comprehensive
dictionaries. Zoller's two-volume description of IK will be highly
relevant for linguists working in the same area and for linguists
working with languages in the Indian and Iranian language areas. Due
to the very detailed information about word and morpheme cognates
and parallels in neighbouring languages and languages outside of the
Hindu Kush area the present work will also be of high value for
linguists with interests in language contact phenomena, in particular in
Central and South Asia.

Structure of the dictionary
The dictionary consists of a list of contents, acknowledgements, a map
of the area in Northern Pakistan where IK is spoken, an introduction
(20 pages), a chapter termed ''Technical aspects of the dictionary'' (23
pages), references (15 pages), the Indus Kohistani-English dictionary
(356 pages, about 8000 lemmata), an English - Indus Kohistani index
(60 pages), an Old Indo-Aryan (OIA) - Indus Kohistani index (20 pages
with those IK words for which the OIA origin is more or less clear), and
five appendices containing lists of selected numerals, days of the
week, months of the year, place names (72) near the Indus, and
(local) place and clan names.


Contents of the Parts of the Dictionary, Introduction
The introductory chapter is a detailed introduction to the language, its
genetic affiliation, its areal setting, the dialects, place name
morphology, and the history of research on the language, which goes
back to Leitner (1893). We are informed that IK is spoken in District
Kohistan in North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan. There are about
222.000 speakers (Hallberg 1992) who live on the west bank of the
Indus river and in westwards side valleys in the southern parts of the
Hindu Kush mountain range. Speakers are also found in big cities in
Pakistan and in two enclaves outside of District Kohistan.

Zoller's description of IK is mainly based on interviews with three
language consultants and on his work on traditional songs and oral
stories. It includes studies of the three varieties
called ''Jijaalii'', ''Gabaar'' (also ''Gowro''), and ''BhaTiise''
(also ''BaTera'') [double vowels symbolize long vowels, (non-initial)
capitol letters symbolize retroflex sounds, JH]. The Jijaalii variety
provides the main part of the lemmata.

Zoller devotes considerable space to a discussion of the term 'Dardic'
and its use as a denominator of the northwest Indo-Aryan languages.
Contrary to previous assumptions (for example, Morgenstierne 1961),
Zoller stresses the genetic unity of the Dardic languages by pointing
out that they all have preserved the distinction between the three OIA
sibilants 's, sh, S' ['sh' = palatal, 'S' = retroflex]; other New Indo-Aryan
(NIA) languages have only one or two sibilants.

Zoller suggests a family tree where ''Proto-Dardic'' have branched
off ''at a post-OIA stage from the rest of Indic'' (p. 11). The internal
branching of this proposed 'Dardic family' [my term, JH] is still only
possible to outline in a very rough way (op.cit.). This is due to the
many still imperfectly studied Dardic languages, and to the history of
the Dardic languages, which in Zoller's view are in an ''period of
equilibrium'' (op.cit.), characterized as a situation where ''the original
genetic relationships of the family tree diagram will become
progressively blurred, due to the diffusion of linguistic features''
(op.cit., quoting Dixon 1997: 73).

Zoller sets up a ''central (or progressive)'' Dardic area versus ''a
peripheral (or conservative) area'' (p. 12), based on a diatopical study
of the number of stop consonants, ''vowel palatalization'' and the
expression for certain numerals (p. 12-13). The former group consists
of ''the Proto-Kohistani languages'', the latter of ''the other proto-
Dardic languages'' (p. 13). This hypothesis differs from Strand's
(1973) classification usually cited in many works on languages of this

Zoller also briefly touches on borrowings and substrata in IK. The
vocabulary of IK is basically derived from OIA, estimated 15% of the
vocabulary is Perso-Arabic, and 10% is shared with Burushaski. This
may be due to either a previous smaller distance between the two
languages, a common substratum, or influence from other language
groups (p. 16-17, with references to Tikkanen 1988, and Fussman

The chapter ''Technical aspects of the dictionary'' serves as a good
and detailed user's guide to the dictionary. The reader is informed
about the principles behind the well-developed comparative and
historical information and also about the basic principles and rules for
the pitch accent system of IK.

Also explained are the notational principles, the considerations behind
providing many verbs with full paradigms, and the alphabetical order
(following the Sanskrit principle, with Roman type letters). The
notational praxis is subphonemic, ''a middle way between the level of
phonetic transcription and the abstract systematic levels'' (p. 34).
Examples of phonemically redundant notations are word final
aspiration (with exponent h), word final ultrashort vowels (only in few
cases phonemic), and word final devoicing of voiced segments (+
release delay), nasalization between nasal consonants. This practice
demands extensive use of diacritics which in this reviewer's eyes has
the disadvantage that the type face occasionally becomes cramped
and the different symbols difficult to distinguish from each other. But
the notational praxis also reveals the author's fine sense of phonetic
accuracy, and it gives the reader important phonetic information 'on
the spot' so he does not have to look in the phonology part of the

The introductory chapter ends with a list of abbreviations and a list of
references that contains a large bulk of the literature written on the
Dardic languages.

The Indus Kohistani - English Wordlist: Macrostructure
The about 8000 lemmata are presented in two columns on each page.
The headword is written in italics, as are usage examples, cross-
references and words from other languages. Verbs for which verbal
paradigms are provided are written have their headwords in bold face.
All other information is given in plain type face.

The lines following the line introduced by the headword are moved to
the right, which should make it easy to identify the headword. There
are two exceptions to this principle: (1) conjunct verbs and
compounds with the headword as the first element (substituted by ''+'')
are written on line (vertically) with the headword; (2) verbs for which
finite and participial forms are given, which include most verbs in the
first third of the dictionary (some verbs have more than 20 different
forms in their paradigms). For verbs of the remaining part of the
dictionary mainly the irregular forms are given. This is an impressive
and very informative piece of work. But due to the graphic
presentation it disturbs the reader's overview because each verb form
is introduced by a grammatical abbreviation (in normal type script), on
line vertically with the headword. Also etymologies and other remarks
to these verbs or verb forms begin on a new line vertically on line with
the headword and the verbal forms. The deviation from the graphical
principle mentioned above makes it difficult to identify where the article
with the many verb forms ends and a new lemma begins, in spite of
the fact that only the headwords are in italics, and thus should be
easier to find. Alternatively, all headwords could have been in bold
type face and not just verbs with paradigms. Or the verbal paradigms
could have given in an appendix with a note of reference in the

Although it is difficult for this reviewer to give a reliable evaluation of
the vocabulary it seems that the dictionary covers a lot of ground.
Besides the basic vocabulary the dictionary contains many words for
animal and plants, many onomatopoeia and address words, many
words reflecting rural life, and different kinds of diseases, games and
weapon types, and many words covering matters of faith, to name but
a few of the many meaning domains that make up a vocabulary of a
language. Also the many specific geographical terms show that the
author is an attentive fieldworker, for example, ''dúr'' 'an area difficult
to walk along or traverse (for a Kohistani!)' [Zoller's insertion, JH;
acute accent symbolizes rising pitch, grave accent symbolizes falling

The Indus Kohistani - English Wordlist: Microstructure
For all words the header gives information about pronunciation in the
Gabaar and BhaTiise varieties (if deviant). Nouns are supplied with
specification about gender and with information about plural forms and
irregular oblique endings. Adjectives are specified for masculine and
feminine forms. Verbs are specified for transitivity and their mood
realization patterns. Again, the reader feels on safe ground due to the
thoroughness that is reflected by the detailed information.

In the body of the articles we find the English equivalents to the IK
words; if there are more meanings these are separated by a
semicolon. Equivalents are followed by word cognates in other
languages. If possible, the origin of the IK word is given, whether a
loanword or indigenous Indo-Aryan. The Indo-Aryan etymologies are
given with a reference to the word forms and their index number in
Turner (1966), but the meanings of the OIA word forms are
unfortunately not given (also not in the OIA - IK index).

Many words are supplied in a comprehensive fashion with information
about their internal make up and their cognates in other languages
and etymons including other scholars' suggestions, as well as Zoller's
evaluation hereof. The treatment of the cognates to ''maCúu'', 'pupil of
the eye' (p. 328) does not stand alone in this respect, and it serves in
all its length as an illustration of the wealth of comparative information
that the reader is provided with:
''[Cf.] Kal. ''écani mocík'' 'pupil of the eye'. The Kohistanis say that
the ''maCúu'' is the place from where light emits that lights up the
surroundings. < mártyua- (9888) plus ''-Túu'' dimin. suffix, thus lit. 'little
man (of the eye)' (cf. the different etymological interpretation for Kal.
suggested by Bashir (2001: 9). Prob. the same meaning 'little man'
also in Phal. ''maanuSToól'' 'eyeball' (this meaning given by Strand is
prob. not quite correct) with final syllable < ''*Tulla'' (5470). Cf. the
meaning 'man of the eye' also in Pers. ''mardumi cashm''.
[''Kal.'' and ''Phal.'' = Kalasha and Phalula, respectively, two other
Dardic languages; ''Pers. = Persian; numbers in brackets refer to entry
numbers in Turner 1966.]

This part of the articles reflects the author's impressing work and
insight into historical and comparative linguistics, and it is probably the
most impressive of all the dictionary's merits.

The English equivalents and in particular the elaborated word
explanations are also a very strong characteristic. The reader
becomes well-informed about many aspects of the Indus Kohistani
way of life, whether it has to do with botanics and medical use of
plants, with gastronomy, with matters of faith, or with cultural-
economic practice, as, for example, with respect to ''qʌlàang'' 'a
seasonal tax paid by Gujars to villagers for use of pastures' (presently
15 Rs per goat and 20 Rs. per cow or water buffalo''. Rules of games
are also explained: ''Tòk-Tokh'' 'name of a children's game: several
children sit behind each other with outstretched legs, the first puts his
arms round the trunk of a tree, the second puts his arms around the
first child, etc. Then a child comes near who is dressed like an adult
and who ... sings ... . Then the child tears away the last child of the
row, and the same is repeated' ''. Not only do explanations like this
show that the author is a careful and vigilant fieldworker and
lexicographer. They also make the dictionary enjoyable and
fascinating to study, as, for example, when reading
about ''maaSmaarìi'': 'the ''rare'' form of bloody vendetta in which only
men are allowed to be killed (it is not so common because it is said
that vendettas are usually very tough, implying extreme emotions;
therefore ''qatlìaam'' is practiced much more frequently'' [''qʌtlìaam''
is 'the common kind of vendetta in which men, women, children, and
animal are allowed to be killed', JH].

Also definitions of place adverbs reflect careful linguistic investigation
with differentiation according to parameters such as exact vs. non-
exact position, visible vs. non-visible position, position down vs. up
from speaker, etc.

But to turn from very strong features of the dictionary to two aspects
that are not as developed and detailed: (1) usage examples (i.e.,
examples that illustrate the use of the lemmata in a natural context);
and (2) information about use of postpositions (or case endings) in
marking complements or adverbials to predicates (for example, in
marking direct or indirect, 'dative', objects). One of the few articles that
I have come upon that contain both of these is the adjective ''paʌ́n-
váalaa'' 'liked', for which we are given the information that it is ''[c]
onstructed with genitive'', followed by a usage example (with a literal
translation in English; sometimes the literal translation is in Urdu). This
valuable information is unfortunately not very frequent throughout the
dictionary. For 581 lemmata including sub-lemmata starting with ''m'' I
counted 14 usage examples (2,5%). Of the 581 lemmata there are 83
verbs and only for one of these (1,2 %) are we given information
about complement-marking. The scores for lemmata starting with ''t''
are similar. Somewhat better are the numbers for the 359 lemmata
starting with ''a''. Of these 37 (10,3%) have usage examples. Of the 34
verbs 4 (11,8%) contain information about complement-marking. Of
course, not all verbs require or allow marking of adverbial or
complements but by going through the ''m'' and ''t'' words I wondered
whether or not the 'dative complements' to the following verbs would
be marked, as they may be in other Dardic languages: 'kill', 'speak/say
(to someone)', 'remove', 'love someone', 'have a meeting (with
someone), 'thank (someone)', 'shoot at', 'give instruction (to
someone)', and 'explain (to someone)'. A remark in the introduction
about this partially lacking grammatical information would have been
nice to have. Alternatively, usage examples could have been used to
clarify this aspect, like in the article ''Cl diyav'' 'to throw or drive
away, ...' where it appears that an ablative postposition is used to
mark the source. More usage examples could also have helped in
clarifying the use of lemmata which are provided with two or more
word classes. For example, ''aTkCl'' 'adv.; n.m. 'according to one's
estimate; ...' and ''khún'' 'adv, postp; 'in, inside; at/towards 'the
mountainside' (of a valley)'.

These last critical remarks do not, however, in any way reflect my
general impression of the dictionary. Zoller's dictionary of a hitherto
poorly described language is stuffed with insightful and important
information not just about IK but also about IK's relationship to
neighbouring languages. The dictionary is highly valuable and
recommendable and not to be missed for scholars with interests in
languages of that part of the world.


Bashir, Elena L. 2001b. Khowar-Wakhi Contact Relationships. In
Tohfa-e-Dil. Festschrift Helmut Nespital, ed. Dirk W. Lönne, 3-17.
Reinbek: Dr. Inge Wezler Verlag für Orientalistische

Dixon, Robert M.W. 1997. The Rise and Fall of Languages.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fussman, Gérard. 1989. Languages as a source for history. In History
of Northern Areas of Pakistan, ed. Ahmad Hasan Dani, 43-58.
Islamabad: National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research.

Hallberg, Daniel G. 1992. The languages of Indus Kohistan. In
Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan 1: Languages of Kohistan,
ed. Clare F. O'Leary, 83-141. Islamabad: National Institute of Pakistan
Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, and Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Leitner, G.W. 1985(1893). Dardistan in 1866, 1886 and 1893.
Karachi: Indus Publications.

Morgenstierne, Georg. 1961. Dardic and Kafir languages. In
Encyclopedia of Islam, ed. Breill, 138-139.

Strand, Richard F. 1973. Notes on the Nûristânî and Dardic
Languages. Journal of the American Oriental Society 93:297-305.

Tikkanen, Bertil. 1988. On Burushaski and other ancient substrata in
Northwestern South Asia. Studia Orientalia 64:303-325.

Turner, Ralph L. 1966. A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan
Languages. London: Oxford University Press.

The reviewer is a PhD student at the Department of Nordic Studies of
Linguistics, Section for Linguistics, University of Copenhagen. Before
beginning his current research he worked four years as a
lexicographer. His research on Kalasha, an Indo-Aryan ("Dardic")
language with about 4000 speakers, is based on fieldwork. His
publications include studies of the phonetics and grammar of Kalasha.
His PhD dissertation, a study of the case endings and postpositions in
Kalasha, will will be finished in mid 2006.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 3110179474
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Pages: x, 507
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