Khowar language

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"Khowar" redirects here. For the ethnic group, see Khowar people.
"Chitrali language" redirects here. For other Chitrali languages, see Languages of Chitral.
Native to Pakistan
Region Chitral District
Ethnicity Khowar people
Native speakers
240,000  (1992–2000)[1]
Khowar alphabet Nastaʿlīq script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 khw
Glottolog khow1242[2]
Linguasphere 59-AAB-aa

Khowar (کھوار), also known as Chitrali, is an Indo-Aryan language of the Dardic branch, spoken by 240,000 people in Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in the Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan (including the Yasin Valley, Phandar Ishkoman and Gupis), and in parts of Upper Swat. Speakers of Khowar have also migrated heavily to Pakistan's major urban centres with Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, having sizeable populations. It is spoken as a second language in the rest of Gilgit and Hunza. There are believed to be small numbers of Khowar speakers in Afghanistan, China, Tajikistan and Istanbul.

Khowar has been influenced by Iranian languages to a greater degree than other Dardic languages, and less by Sanskrit than Shina or the Kohistani languages. John Biddulph (Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh) was among the first westerners to study Khowar and claimed that further research would prove Khowar to be equally derived from "Zend" (Avestan, Old Persian) and Sanskrit.[this quote needs a citation]

The Norwegian Linguist Georg Morgenstierne wrote that Chitral is the area of the greatest linguistic diversity in the world. Although Khowar is the predominant language of Chitral, more than ten other languages are spoken here. These include Kalasha-mondr, Palula, Dameli, Gawar-Bati, Nuristani, Yidgha, Burushaski, Gojri, Wakhi, Kyrgyz, Persian and Pashto. Since many of these languages have no written form, letters are usually written in Urdu, Pakistan's national language.

Khowar is designated as one of 14 regional languages of Chitral, Pakistan.[citation needed]


Khowar has a variety of dialects which may vary phonemically.[3] The following tables lay out the basic phonology of Khowar.[4][5]


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

Khowar may also have nasalized vowels and a series of long vowels /aː/, /eː/, /iː/, /oː/, and /uː/. Sources are inconsistent on whether length is phonemic, with one author stating "vowel-length is observed mainly as a substitute one. The vowel-length of phonological value is noted far more rarely."[3] Unlike the neighboring and related Kalasha language, Khowar does not have retroflex vowels.[4]


Labial Coronal Retroflex Palatal Velar Post-
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless
aspirated ʈʰ
Affricate voiceless

aspirated tsʰ (?) ʈʂʰ tʃʰ
Fricative voiceless
j w
l(ʲ) ɫ
Rhotic ɾ

The phonemic status of /tsʰ/ is unclear in the sources


Khowar, like many Dardic languages, has either phonemic tone or stress distinctions.[6]

Comparative Vocabulary[edit]

The names of the days of the week, in Khowar, are compared with their equivalents in Shina, Sanskrit, and English.[citation needed]

English Shina Sanskrit Khowar
Sunday Adit Aditya var yak shambey
Monday Tsunduro Som var du shambey
Tuesday Ungaroo Mangal var sey shambey
Wednesday Bodo Budh var char shambey
Thursday Bressput Brihaspati var panch shambey
Friday Shooker Shukra var Adina
Saturday Shimshere Sanisch var shambey


  • Standard Khowar

Writing system[edit]

Khowar has been written in the Nasta'liq script since the early twentieth century. Prior to that, the administrative and literary language of the region was Persian and works such as poetry and songs in Khowar were passed down in oral tradition. Today Urdu and English are the official languages and the only major literary usage of Khowar is in both poetry and prose composition. Khowar has also been written in the Roman script since the 1960s.

Khowar media[edit]

Television channels[edit]

TV Channel Genre Founded Official Website
Khyber News TV (خیبر نیوز ٹیلی ویژن) News and current affairs
AVT Khyber TV (اے وی ٹی خیبر) Entertainment
K2 TV (کے ٹو) Entertainment, news and current affairs


These are not dedicated Khowar channels but play most programmes in Khowar.

Radio Channel Genre Founded Official Website
Radio Pakistan Chitral Entertainment
Radio Pakistan Peshawar Entertainment
Radio Pakistan Gilgit Entertainment


Newspaper City(ies) Founded Official Website
Chitral Vision (چترال وژن) Karachi, Chitral, Pakistan


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Khowar at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Khowar". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b Edelman, D. I. (1983). The Dardic and Nuristani Languages. Moscow: Institut vostokovedenii︠a︡ (Akademii︠a︡ nauk SSSR). p. 210. 
  4. ^ a b Bashir, Elena L. (1988), "Topics in Kalasha Syntax: An areal and typological perspective", Ph.d Dissertation, University of Michigan: 37–40 
  5. ^ Bashir, Elena L., Maula Nigah and Rahmat Karim Baig, A Digital Khowar-English Dictionary with Audio 
  6. ^ Baart, Joan L. G. (2003), Tonal features in languages of northern Pakistan, National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University and Summer Institute of Linguistics, pp. 3, 6 

Additional references[edit]

  • Bashir, Elena (2001) Spatial Representation in Khowar. Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
  • Decker, D. Kendall (1992). Languages of Chitral. ISBN 969-8023-15-1. 
  • L’Homme, Erik (1999) Parlons Khowar. Langue et culture de l’ancien royaume de Chitral au Pakistan. Paris: L’Harmattan
  • Morgenstierne, Georg (1936) Iranian Elements in Khowar. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. VIII, London.
  • Badshah Munir Bukhari (2001) Khowar language. University publisher. Pakistan
  • Morgenstierne, Georg (1947) Some Features of Khowar Morphology. Norsk Tidsskrift for Sprogvidenskap, Vol. XIV, Oslo.
  • Morgenstierne, Georg (1957) Sanskritic Words in Khowar. Felicitation Volume Presented to S.K. Belvalkar. Benares. 84–98 [Reprinted in Morgenstierne (1973): Irano-Dardica, 267-72]
  • Mohammad Ismail Sloan (1981) Khowar-English Dictionary. Peshawar. ISBN 0-923891-15-3.
  • Decker, Kendall D. (1992). Languages of Chitral (Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, 5). National Institute of Pakistani Studies, 257 pp. ISBN 969-8023-15-1.

External links[edit]