by Mohammad Ismail Sloan, 152 pp., $14.95
Khowar is spoken by approximately 250,000 native speakers in Chitral, which is in the far North West corner of Pakistan. It is also spoken in parts of Gilgit, including Gupis, Ghizar and Yasin. Khowar is classed as an Indo-European language of the Dardic Group. However, "Dardic" is simply a geographical collection of Indo-European languages spoken in the Hindu Kush and Himalaya Mountains. Among them, only Kalashamun, the language of the Kalash tribe, is closely related to Khowar. Kalashamun has only 3,000 speakers.

Apart from being an Indo-European language, Khowar is vastly different from any other major language in the area. Pashto and Urdu speakers will hardly be able to understand even one word of Khowar. Khowar does have a few loan words from Farsi, such as "mez" for "table", as well as Islamic based words, such a "khagaz" meaning "paper" and "kitab" meaning "book". Khowar is believed to be an old language, and is certainly much older than Farsi or Urdu. It is believed that the modern day Chitralis are the descendants of some of the earliest Indo-European invaders of the Indian Sub-Continent. Nearly 4,000 years ago, the present day Chitralis took a wrong left turn at Jalalabad, went up the Kunar River and got stuck in the high isolated mountain valley of Chitral.

It can be easily demonstrated that Khowar is an Indo-European Language. For example, "awa asum" means "I am", "tu asus" means "you are" and "hes asur" means "he is." "Asusi" means "we are", "asumi" means "you (plu.) are" and "asuni" means "they are".

Khowar has 42 phonemes. Several of these are not found in any other language of the region. The letters /t/, /th/, /d/, /l/, /sh/, /ch/, /chh/, and /j/ all have two different forms, one retroflexed and the other dential-veolar non-retroflexed. Every Chitrali who learned the language on his mother's knee can readily distinguish these forms, whereas others can never learn them, regardless of how long they have lived in Chitral.

Among these the most interesting are the /chh/ aspirated and /ch/ non-aspirated sounds, of which the word Chitral itself is an example. This word is never pronounced correctly by outsiders. The word "chuchi" meaning "tomorrow morning" has two completely different 'ch' sounds. The first is aspirated palato-alveolar and the second is unaspirated palato-alveolar. "Chuy" meaning "night" is palato-alveolar whereas "chuy" meaning "hungry" is retroflex. "Char" meaning "a cliff" is unaspirated palato-alveolar whereas "char" meaning "a dry leaf" is unaspirated retroflex.

Perhaps due to the close proximity of China, there are six examples of tonality in Khowar. For example, "mik" (short) means "uncle" but "mik" (long) means urine. "Miko biman" means "I am going to urinate." "Mik asur" means "Uncle is here."

Khowar does not have a written form in common use. Before 1947, written communications in Chitral were in Farsi, which explains the large number of Farsi loan words. Nowadays, written communications are in Urdu. Several attempts have been made to introduce a Urdu or Roman based writing script into Khowar, but these have never gained widespread acceptance. As a result, the author developed his own Roman based writing system for the purpose of publishing this first ever dictionary of nearly 5,000 Khowar words.

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