Language vitality and development among the Wakhi people of Tajikistan

Statement of Responsibility:
Tiessen, Calvin, Elisabeth Abbess, Katja Müller and Gabriela Tiessen

The Wakhi homeland spans four countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Tajikistan. The research presented in this paper deals with the results of sociolinguistic research conducted in 2003 and 2004. This research was carried out in two stages. Our goal in the first stage was to assess language vitality of different Wakhi communities. In the second stage of research, we concentrated on levels of proficiency in Tajik and access to Tajik. We tried to identify different levels of Tajik proficiency throughout the community and factors that influence levels of proficiency in Tajik.

Wakhi is found to be a highly vital and strong language in most of the communities in which it is spoken. The only communities in which the use of Wakhi is declining are those in which ethnic Wakhi are a minority. Currently, this is the case in only three out of twentythree communities. In the other twenty communities, Wakhi is the language of the community and those who come to live in these communities learn it.

Tajik is respected as the national language but in Wakhi-dominant or homogenous Wakhi communities Tajik plays only a minor role in the daily life of the people. Though most speakers of Wakhi between the ages of 31 and 55 have attained professional or full proficiency in Tajik, these levels have not been passed on to the younger ones.

25 pages
Language surveys
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