Research Seminars

Research seminars

“It’s definitely not Urdu”: why we need a (phonological) description of the Mirpur Pahari language

Sam Hellmuth (University of York)

Mirpur Pahari (or ‘Mirpuri’) is a dialect of the Pahari/Pothwari language, spoken in north-west Pakistan and in the UK. It is an Indo-Aryan language in the Western Punjabi branch and has no written form (Stow, Pert, & Khattab, 2012).

There are an estimated half a million Mirpuri speakers living in the UK, who have migrated from the Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir, starting in the 1960s but continuing to the present day. By some estimates, up to half of the total population of Mirpuri speakers live in the UK (Lothers & Lothers, 2012). There are a number of related Pahari dialects, but limited research on the phonology of any of them, and Pahari is under-represented in research on UK minority languages (Hussain, 2015).

This talk presents preliminary results from two studies carried out with English-Mirpuri bilinguals in the UK. First, we show how a study of the pronunciation of English words borrowed into Mirpuri can be used to confirm details of our working description of the phonology of Mirpuri, including its phoneme inventory, syllable structure and stress patterns (Shafi & Hellmuth, 2017). Secondly, we highlight the need for re-calibration of standardised English tests for use with bilingual speakers, in a pilot study exploring language transfer effects on scores obtained by English-Mirpuri bilinguals in a clinical test of expressive prosody (Fawcett & Hellmuth, 2017). Overall, the aim is to demonstrate the potential benefits to be gained from further study of the multilingual competencies of Mirpuri speakers in the UK, and the need for description and documentation of the Mirpuri language itself. 


Fawcett, S. & Hellmuth, S. (2017). Distinguishing diversity from disorder in English-Mirpuri bilinguals' PEPS-C scores. Ms., University of York.

Hussain, S. (2015). Missing from the 'minority mainstream': Pahari-speaking diaspora in Britain. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 36, 483-497.

Lothers, M. & Lothers, L. (2012). Mirpuri immigrants in England: A sociolinguistic survey. SIL Electronic Survey Report, 12.

Shafi, S. & Hellmuth, S. (2017). Variable adaptation of stress placement in English loanwords in Mirpur Pahari. Ms., University of York.

Stow, C., Pert, S., & Khattab, G. (2012). Translation to practice: Sociolinguistic and cultural considerations when working with the Pakistani heritage community in England, UK. Multilingual Aspects of Speech Sound Disorders in Children, 6, 24.