Kinnauri language

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Region Himachal Pradesh
Native speakers
65,000 (2001 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
kfk – Kinnauri proper
cik – Chitkuli
ssk – Sunam
jna – Jangshung (Thebor)
scu – Shumcho
Glottolog kinn1250[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Kinnauri, also known as Kanauri, Kanor, Koonawur, or Kunawar, is a Sino-Tibetan dialect cluster centered on the Kinnaur district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Kaike, once thought to be Kinnauri, is closer to Tamangic. Bhoti Kinnauri and Tukpa are Bodish (Lahauli–Spiti).

Geographical distribution[edit]

Ethnologue lists the following locations for Kinnauri and related varieties.

Kinnauri-speaking villages are located in the upper Ropa River valley, from Chauhra to Sangla and north along Satluj river to Morang. This area is located in Kinnaur district and Lahaul and Spiti district, Himachal Pradesh. Kinnauri is also spoken in the Shimla district and Rampur areas, and in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Kashmir.

Chitkuli Kinnauri is spoken in the Baspa river area of the Sangla valley in Nichar subdivision, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh (in Chitkul and Rakchham villages).

Jangshung is spoken in Morang tahsil, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh (in Jangi, Lippa, and Asrang villages).

Shumcho is spoken in Puh tahsil, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh (in Kanam, Labrang, Spilo, Shyaso, Taling, and Rushkaling villages).


This description is of the Pangi dialect of Kinnauri.


Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiced b d ɖ ɡ
voiceless p t ʈ k
aspirated ʈʰ
Affricate voiced dz
voiceless ts
aspirated tsʰ tʃʰ
Fricative s ʃ h
Trill r
Approximant l j w

Note on palatals: /dʒ/, /tʃ/, /tʃʰ/, and /ʃ/ are post-alveolar. /ɲ/ is alveolo-palatal.


Kinnauri has five pairs of long/short vowels:

Front Central Back
Close i ɨ
Mid e o
Open a


/h/, aspirated obstruents (i.e. /pʰ/, /tʰ/, /ʈʰ/, /kʰ/, /t͡sʰ/, /t͡ʃʰ/), and glides (i.e. /w/, /j/) do not occur in syllable codas.

All consonants may occur in onsets and word-medially.

Kinnauri has the following types of syllables:

  • (C)V(C)(C)(C)
  • CCV(C)


Kinnauri is SOV, V-Auxiliary, Postpositional, and has head-final noun phrases. It shows case marking with an ergative alignment in the past tense, nominative-accusative elsewhere. The ergative case is identical to the instrumental. There is no distinction between accusative and dative, and a genitive is partially syncretic with the accusative/dative. An ablative case is also recognized, normally attached outside the genitive but with different allomorphs for animate and inanimate referents. There is also a locative case, normally used only with inanimate nouns.


  1. ^ Kinnauri language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kinnauric". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 


  • Nagano, Yasuhiko; & LaPolla, Randy J. (Eds.). (2001). New research on Zhangzhung and related Himalayan languages. Bon studies 3, Senri ethnological reports 19. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.
  • Takahashi, Yoshiharu. (2001). A descriptive study of Kinnauri (Pangi dialect): A preliminary report. In Y. Nagano & R. J. LaPolla (Eds.), New research on Zhangzhung and related Himalayan languages. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.