Languages of Nepal

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Languages of Nepal
Nepal ethnic groups.png
Official languages Nepali (Gorkhali)[1]
Regional languages include Nepal Bhasa (Newari), Maithili, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang, Magar, Sherpa, Kiranti, Bhojpuri, language
Sign languages Nepali Sign Language
Jhankot Sign Language, Jumla Sign Language, Ghandruk Sign Language

The 2011 National census lists 123 language spoken as a mother tongue (first language) in Nepal.[2] Most belong to the Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetan language families. An overview of Nepali languages is found in the work of Toba, Toba, and Rai.[3]

The official language of Nepal is Nepali (नेपाली), formerly called Khaskura then Gorkhali. According to the 2011 national census, the percentage of people with Nepali as the mother tongue is 44.6%.[4]


Three quarters of the hundred or so languages native to Nepal belong to the Tibeto-Burman language family; this includes Nepal Bhasa (Newar) (the original language of Kathmandu), the Tamang, Magar and various Rai and Limbu languages.

However, the official and numerically most important language, Nepali, belongs to the Indo-Aryan (Indic) branch of the Indo-European family, so that Indic languages constitute 79% of the population to Tibeto-Burman's 18%, even though most languages of both families are spoken by small numbers of people.

The Dravidian languages are represented by Kurux, and the Munda languages of the Austroasiatic family by Santali and Mundari.

The indigenous languages of Nepal that predated the influx of Indic, Tibeto-Burman, and other families barely survive in the Kusunda language, which is nearly extinct today.

Nepal also has at several indigenous village sign languages, Jhankot Sign Language, Jumla Sign Language, and Ghandruk Sign Language, in addition to the Nepali Sign Language designed for national use.


As per Part 1, Section 5 of Interim Constitution of Nepal 2063 (2007):[5]

  1. All the languages spoken as the mother tongue in Nepal are the national languages of Nepal.
  2. The Nepali Language in Devanagari script shall be the official language.
  3. Notwithstanding anything contained in clause (2), it shall not be deemed to have hindered to use the mother language in local bodies and offices. State shall translate the languages so used to an official working language and maintain record thereon.

Major languages[edit]

The following languages are some of the major languages spoken as mother tongue:[6]

Nepali is spoken as a lingua franca.

English is taking over as the lingua franca of the educated population as English is sole language of higher education in all the technical, medical, scientific studies and some of the economics and trade. There is a significant rise in the number of English-medium schools throughout the nation and a decline in Nepali-medium schools. Except for the government-funded schools, there are very few Nepali-medium schools.

Other languages[edit]


  1. ^ According to Interim Constitution, Nepali is only the official language (article 5, point 2). Other languages spoken as the mother tongue in Nepal are national languages (article 5, point 1). According to article 5, point 3, all languages are accepted as official languages at the regional level. This part of the article is about native names and not about official language.[clarification needed]Nepal_Interim_Constitution2007
  2. ^ Official Summary of Census (2011), Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal
  3. ^ Diversity and Endangerment of Languages in Nepal
  4. ^ "Major highlights". Central Bureau of Statistics. 2013. p. 4. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Interim Constitution Nepal Interim Constitution 2007
  6. ^ Official Summary of Census (2011), Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal
  7. ^ Official Summary of Census (2011).
  8. ^ Official Summary of Census (2011), Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal
  9. ^ Official Summary of Census (2011), Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal
  10. ^ National Census (2011), Mother Tongue, Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal