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Lyrics, Scripts and Languages. Religious verse and song in a multilingual setting Dr Andrey Rosowsky – University of Sheffield. Sociology of Language and Religion Conference: A Decade after Roehampton. NYU Kimmell Center – July 18 2013. ‘translocal’ and ‘translocalities’.

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lyrics scripts and languages

Lyrics, Scripts and Languages

Religious verse and song in a multilingual setting

Dr Andrey Rosowsky – University of Sheffield

Sociology of Language and Religion Conference: A Decade after Roehampton

NYU KimmellCenter– July 18 2013

translocal and translocalities
‘translocal’ and ‘translocalities’

...those social processes and settings which link, via electronic mass media and mass human movement, localities ... suffused with those ‘ethnoscapes’ (Appadurai 1996: 33) which inevitably lead to multilingual and multicultural practices...

linguistic resources and repertoire
Linguistic resources and repertoire
  • Mirpuri-Panjabi (Pahari, Pothwari)
  • Panjabi (H-variety)
  • Urdu
  • Farsi
  • Classical Arabic
  • English
  • Naat
  • Nasheed
  • ‘co-sanctified varieties’ (Fishman 2006)
  • ‘translingual’ (Garcia 2007)
  • ‘transidiomatic’ (Jacquemet 2005)
  • naat

Models of Reversing Language Shift

Charles Ferguson (1982)

Joshua Fishman (1991 & 2001)

two datasets
two datasets
  • Transcribed words from a series of interviews carried out with naat/nasheed participants in 2010
  • Tallied answers to a set of questions given out to sixty-six young (11 - 25) male and female British Muslims, predominantly of Pakistani-heritage background living in a northern UK town

Linguistic repertoires

(Gumperz and Hymes 1986)

Linguistic resources

(Blommaert 2010; Blackledge & Creese 2010)


I never understood but I liked the tone or the expressions of the person reciting or the reaction of the audience. What is this person saying that is getting so many people smiling? (Latif)

  • I started with the local radio, Radio Ramadan. They started playing the naat and I really enjoyed them. I went down to the local bookshop and bought some CDs ...At first my interest was in the sounds. (Akhtar)
  • Even if we don’t understand it, we can see the love coming out. (Akhtar)

The listeners can go either way. They may listen and not understand and withdraw from that [practice]. Others may have the opposite effect and say ‘right, I want to understand that, what he’s reciting’ and take that step forward to try and learn about the language. So it can go either way. (Shazad)

  • Reciting naat in Urdu is not developing speaking and listening skills but it is picking up key words...but you wouldn’t be able to have a conversation with a person. (Aisha)

You get the feelings, special feelings through the words that you can’t get in English. Maybe in 50 years or so there will be a poet who writes naat in English...that when people read it they will feel that love coming out of the words...but you can’t get in English at the moment what you get in Urdu or Arabic. (Shahid)

  • Our parents do not really understand that there is such a thing as naat/nasheed in English. All their lives they’ve heard naat in Urdu. They’ve never thought someone could be praising the Prophet in English also.’ (Hamid)

Specific languages are related to specific cultures and to their attendant cultural identities; and that ‘the specificity of the linguistic bond of most cultural doings...makes the very notion of a ‘translated culture’ so inauthentic and even abhorrent’ (2001, 3).

Joshua Fishman 2001

  • Asad
  • Wajid

I may need to ask about verse 3 of a particular naat for example. This can be followed by a discussion, ‘I think it means this’, ‘I think it means that’. There can be totally different meanings. It’s good for sharing and checking understanding because the Urdu word can have two or three different meanings. (Shazad)

  • We’re talking about the internet, but what about mobile phones? All the young Muslims have their music and they share their nasheeds...That’s really powerful as well. (Tanveer)
  • Whenever you come to a mehfil (gathering) you’ll always see some kids at the back blu-toothing each other, blu-toothingnaats to each other or blu-toothingnasheeds. (Tariq)


  • Rosowsky, A. (2011) Heavenly Singing: the practice of naat and nasheed and its possible contribution to reversing language shift among young Muslim multilinguals in the UK. International Journal of Sociology of Language. 212.
  • Rosowsky, A. (2010) "Writing it in English": script choices among young multilingual Muslims in the UK. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 31, 2.