Forum for Language Initiatives (FLI) held a 5-day workshop to support the writing system development in Shekhani language last week. It was held in Shekhandeh, in Bamburet valley of Chitral. About 12 people who represented more than three dialects of the language participated in the event. They included students, teachers, and activists who were committed to continue learning about language strengthening. They identified vowels and consonants in their language; they discovered unique sounds, and placed characters to represent them; they developed a spelling guide and a method to deal with borrowed and guest words.
The Kataviri language which is locally called Shekhani, Bashgaliwar or Nooristani in Chitral is spoken by a sizeable number of people both in Chitral, Pakistan, and in Nooristan in Afghanistan. Linguists use the word Shekhani both for Kataviri and Kamviri languages. The speakers of this language claim to be third largest language group in Chitral after Khowar and Palula. Its speakers, especially those in Nooristan, have made attempts to produce literature in the language but they could not follow a standardized way of writing.
In 2019, FLI conducted a survey to find out the strength of the language using FLI’s own tool Sustainable Use Model or SUM. The Shekhani or Kati language turned out to be strong on two scales – Identity and Spoken. However, it did not rank high on one scale – literacy.
There are about 10 thousand speakers of this language in Chitral. They are settled in Gobor, Shekhandeh, Rumbur, Badogar, and Urstsun. Their forefathers had migrated from Nooristan in Afghanistan. They are surrounded by Khowar speaking and Pashto speaking communities. Hence, their children are often bilingual. However, they have a strong desire to keep their language and culture alive.