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Carina Jahani: The Swedish Linguist Who is Trying to Save the Balochi Language

“I asked God to guide my life. That’s how I got connected to Balochi.”

Carina Jahani is a linguist at Uppsala University, Sweden. A devout Christian, she is on a mission to rescue the Balochi language from extinction. In 1979, she visited Iran for the love of exploring Persian culture but had to flee to Pakistan to escape the turmoil of the revolution.

She then heard of the Balochi language, and how it was similar to Persian.

Years later, after she had mastered Persian and was looking for a topic for her PhD research, she recalled the mental note on similarity between Persian and Balochi languages. In 1984, Carina started working on Balochi — and fell in love with it. Ever since, she has been working towards the development of Balochi language.

“I hadn’t met any Baloch, I had no interaction with Balochi. That’s why I think it was from God.”

Threat to a Cultural Language

Carina is concerned that the Balochi language will die in another three generations. It is already being used less frequently in Iranian Balochistan, and is only used in traditional and informal conversation by those on the other side of the border. She suggests that Balochi should be used by political organizations and taught in schools. It has to be made official to become important.

Weak Foundations

There is no recorded written literature in Balochi before the 1950s. Carina identifies this as the core problem. Because Balochi is not compulsory in schools, or economically valuable, it is barely learned. This causes a disparity between dialects and a lack of agreement over grammar.

Identity

Jahani believes that Balochi should be learned for the sole purpose of cultural heritage and identity.  She gives the example of Kurds, who did not achieve prominence until they had been united in language. Pastoral nomadic culture and tribal affiliations of Balochis prevent unity. But if Balochistan is to gain any identity at all, it is to be done with the standardization of its language.

“I mean, after all, there must be some sort of pride in being a Baloch and in the fact that a Baloch is as much a human being as anyone else.”

Carina’s Efforts

Carina has authored 3 books on the subject, two of which were co-authored. She has appealed to Swedish research funds in an attempt to make them understand the importance of rescuing this beautiful and rich language.

She is currently working on a Balochi translation dictionary and grammar books (to help organize the language). Carina and is also trying to publish a number of Balochi books.

But things have not been going well. Last year, she did not gain enough support to progress, and she thinks this year is going to be worse. 

I applied for a research project in 2016. But it was not taken into account. It was not even evaluated. I was a bit discouraged that whatever I do they don’t even look at it. But next year I’m going to apply again.

Her relentless efforts are hope for Balochis — and the fuel of her optimism.

My hope and desire for Balochi is that there will be a way ahead. That the language will find its shape as a written language. That there will be more unity among intellectuals. That there will be a way to promote a standard language which doesn’t necessarily need to be perfect but a standard that the people can agree upon.


  • Mohammad Baig

    All most all Pakistani languages are facing acute threat by their users who are mixing other languages with Urdu,punjabi, Pashto,Baluchi and Saraiki, and Sndhi too.We mus not be ashamed or wonder of knowing that the bitter enemies of the languages are the well -read and the media oriented people and the people engaged with the educational institutions who frequently using the other languages with, making the hotchpotch of Urdu and the other languages.It was hope that these well read people will fight against the cultural killing campaigns but it happened reversely and the main killers were identified the well read mummy daddy people and the elites who just fashionably trying this vulture exercise.In such a situation if some people are fighting for the safety and the security of the Pakistani languages they are doing a great job and be praised worthily.

  • Zeeshan Saeed

    nothing better to do i guess, who pays for her travels and espionage. Baloch language is maybe 500 years young they dont need any foreign to rescue this culture and language as non is needed, she needs to be booted back.