Continuing in alphabetical order*, this week’s language of the week (TM) is Burushaski, an isolate spoken in the Hunza valley and the area around Gilgit in Northern Pakistan. The Ethnologue gives the current population at about 87,000, but who knows if that’s reliable. There are a couple of different varieties, and just going by the lexicostatistical cognates given in the ethnologue entry, it’s not clear how many languages come under the name ‘Burushaski’ – probably 3 or so.
There seems to be quite a lot of oldish data for Burushaski on JSTOR. For example, there is some of Lorimer’s work, including a text, and a few articles on aspects of Burushaski grammar, such as this one on split ergativity and this one by Joan Baart on features of tonal languages in Northern Pakistan.
Burushaski is one of these languages which, because it is an isolate, is often attributed to one language family or another. This is especially appealing because Burushaski is both ergative and a tone language. Burushaski has been linked to Indo-European, Basque, Sumerian, and no doubt others that I haven’t yet come across. Such links are especially appealing, because until recently, we didn’t have very much information about this language that was easily accessible. the law of linkages has followed the rule I developed the Tasmanian languages: the less information we have about the language, the more likely it is to be related to something very far away.
I haven’t mentioned any of the print publications on Burushaski, but they include, in addition to Lorimer’s book, a rather nice 3-volume set by H Berger called Die Burushaski-Sprache von Hunza und Nager.
*Apologies for the delay in posting this – normally the languages of the week will be posted on Monday, but I was moving house.