Kashmiri language

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कॉशुर كأشُر kạ̄šur
Pronunciation [kəːʃur]
Native to

Jammu and Kashmir (India)[1]

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistan)[1]
Region Northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent
Native speakers
5.6 million  (2001)[2]
Kashtawari (standard)
Perso-Arabic script (contemporary),[3]
Devanagari script (contemporary),[3]
Sharada script (ancient/liturgical)[3]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ks
ISO 639-2 kas
ISO 639-3 kas
Glottolog kash1277[4]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Kashmiri /kæʃˈmɪəri/[5] (कॉशुर, کأشُر Kashur) is a language from the Dardic subgroup[6] of the Indo-Aryan languages and it is spoken primarily in the Kashmir Valley, in Jammu and Kashmir.[7][8][9] There are approximately 5,527,698 speakers throughout India, according to the Census of 2001.[10] Most of the 105,000 speakers in Pakistan are émigrés from the Kashmir Valley after the partition of India.[1][11] They include a few speakers residing in border villages in Neelam District.

The Kashmiri language is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India,[12] and is a part of the Sixth Schedule in the constitution of the Jammu and Kashmir. Along with other regional languages mentioned in the Sixth Schedule, as well as Hindi and Urdu, the Kashmiri language is to be developed in the state.[13] Most Kashmiri speakers use Urdu or English as a second language.[1] Since November 2008, the Kashmiri language has been made a compulsory subject in all schools in the Valley up to the secondary level.[14]


In 1919 George Abraham Grierson wrote that “Kashmiri is the only one of the Dardic languages that has a literature”. Kashmiri literature dates back to over 750 years, this is, more-or-less, the age of many a modern literature including modern English.[citation needed]

Writing system[edit]

There are three orthographical systems used to write the Kashmiri language: the Sharada script, the Devanagari script and the Perso-Arabic script. The Roman script is also sometimes informally used to write Kashmiri, especially online.[3]

The Kashmiri language is traditionally written in the Sharada script after the 8th Century A.D.[15] This script however, is not in common use today, except for religious ceremonies of the Kashmiri Pandits.[16]

Today it is written in Devanagari script and Perso-Arabic script (with some modifications).[17] Among languages written in the Perso-Arabic script, Kashmiri is one of the very few which regularly indicates all vowel sounds.[18] This script has been in vogue since the Muslim conquest in India and has been used by the people for centuries, in the Kashmir Valley.[19] However, today, the Kashmiri Perso-Arabic script has come to be associated with Kashmiri Muslims, while the Kashmiri Devanagari script has come to be associated with the Kashmiri Hindu community.[19][20]


Kashmiri has the following vowel phonemes:[21]


  Front Central Back
High i ɨ ɨː u
Mid e ə əː o
Low a ɔ ɔː


Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo
Velar Glottal
Nasal m




Fricative s z ʃ h
Approximant j w


Kashmiri, like German and Old English and unlike other Indo-Aryan languages, has V2 word order.[22]

There are four cases in Kashmiri: nominative, genitive, and two oblique cases: the ergative and the dative case.[23]


Though Kashmiri has thousands of loan words (mainly from Persian and Arabic) due to the arrival of Islam in the Valley, however, it remains basically an Indo-Aryan language. There are a few minor differences between the Kashmiri spoken by Pandits and Muslims. For 'fire', a traditional Hindu may use the Kashmiri word agun (derivative of Sanskrit Agni) while a Muslim more often will use the Arabic word naar.[24][25] Note that the use of agun by Kashmiri Hindus is limited to references to the 'fire' used in Hindu religious ceremonies. In quotidian parlance, however, naar is the word of choice for 'fire' for all Kashmiris.[citation needed]

Preservation of old Indo-Aryan vocabulary[edit]

First person pronoun[edit]

Both the Indo-Aryan and Iranian branches of the Indo-Iranian family have demonstrated a strong tendency to eliminate the distinctive first person pronoun ("I") used in the nominative case. The Indo-European root for this is reconstructed as *eǵHom, which is preserved in Sanskrit as aham and in Avestan Persian as azam. This contrasts with the m- form ("me", "my") that is used for the accusative, genitive, dative, ablative cases. Sanskrit and Avestan both used forms such as ma(-m). However, in languages such as Modern Persian, Baluchi, Hindi and Punjabi, the distinct nominative form has been entirely lost and replaced with m- in words such as ma-n and mai. However, Kashmiri belongs to a relatively small set that preserves the distinction. 'I' is bi/ba/boh in various Kashmiri dialects, distinct from the other me terms. 'Mine' is myoan (rhyming with English 'loan') in Kashmiri. Other Indo-Aryan languages that preserve this feature include Dogri (aun vs me-), Gujarati (hu-n vs ma-ri), and Braj (hau-M vs mai-M). The Iranian Pashto preserves it too (za vs. maa).[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Kashmiri: A language of India". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  2. ^ Kashmiri at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ a b c d Sociolinguistics. Mouton de Gruyter. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  4. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kashmiri". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  5. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  6. ^ "Kashmiri language". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  7. ^ "Koshur: An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri". Kashmir News Network: Language Section (koshur.org). Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  8. ^ "Kashmiri Literature". Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  9. ^ S. S. Toshkhani. "Kashmiri Language: Roots, Evolution and Affinity". Kashmiri Overseas Association, Inc. (KOA). Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  10. ^ Abstract of speakers’ strength of languages and mother tongues – 2001, Census of India (retrieved 17 March 2008)
  11. ^ "The Kashmir Dispute – a cause or a symptom?". Stockholm University. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  12. ^ "Scheduled Languages of India". Central Institute of Indian Languages. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  13. ^ "The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir (India)". General Administrative Department of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir (India). Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  14. ^ "Kashmiri made compulsory subject in schools". API News. Retrieved 2007-06-02. [dead link]
  15. ^ "Sarada". Lawrence. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  16. ^ "The Sharada Script: Origin and Development". Kashmiri Overseas Association. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  17. ^ "Kashmiri (कॉशुर / كٲشُر)". Omniglot. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  18. ^ Daniels & Bright (1996). The World's Writing Systems. pp. 753–754. 
  19. ^ a b "Valley divide impacts Kashmiri, Pandit youth switch to Devnagari". Indian Express. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  20. ^ "Devnagari Script for Kashmiri: A Study in its Necessity, Feasibility and Practicality". Kashmiri Overseas Association. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  21. ^ "Koshur: Spoken Kashmiri: A Language Course: Transcription". Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  22. ^ Concerning V2 order in Kashmiri, see Hook (1976:133ff).
  23. ^ Edelman (1983). The Dardic and Nuristani Languages. 
  24. ^ Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie, Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world, Elsevier, 2008, ISBN 978-0-08-087774-7, "... Kashmiri occupies a special position in the Dardic group, being probably the only dardic language that has a written literature dating back to the early 13th century ..." 
  25. ^ Krishna, Gopi (1967). Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. Boston: Shambhala. p. 212. ISBN 978-1-57062-280-9. 
  26. ^ John D. Bengtson, Harold Crane Fleming, In hot pursuit of language in prehistory: essays in the four fields of anthropology, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2008, ISBN 978-90-272-3252-6, "... However, Gujarati as well as a Dardic language like Kashmiri still preserve the root alternation between subject and non-subject forms (but they replaced the derivative of the Sanskrit subject form ahám by new forms) ..." 

Further reading[edit]

  • Chapter on Indo-Persian Literature in Kashmir in "The Rise, Growth And Decline Of Indo-Persian Literature" by R. M. Chopra, 2012, published by Iran Culture House, New Delhi. 2nd Edition 2013.
  • Koul,Omkar N & Kashi Wali Modern Kashmiri Grammar Hyattsville, Dunwoody Press, 2006.

External links[edit]