Khowar language

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Khowar in Nastaliq.png
Khowar written in the Khowar alphabet in Nastaliq style.
Native toPakistan
RegionChitral District
Native speakers
332,200 (2016)[1]
Khowar alphabet (In Nastaliq style.)
Official status
Regulated byAssociation for the Promotion of Khowar[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3khw
Minor languages of Pakistan as of the 1998 census.png
Khowar is a minor language of Pakistan which is mainly spoken in Chitral, it is given a space in this map.

Khowar (کھووار) or Chitrali, is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken in Chitral and surrounding areas in Pakistan.[3]

Khowar is the lingua franca of Chitral,[4] and it is also spoken in the Gupis-Yasin and Ghizer districts of Gilgit-Baltistan, as well in the Upper Swat district.[5]

Speakers of Khowar have also migrated heavily to Pakistan's major urban centres, with Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi having significant populations. It is also spoken as a second language by the Kalash people.


The native name of the language is Khō-wār,[6] meaning "language" (wār) of the Kho people. During the British Raj it was known to the English as Chitrālī (a derived adjective from the name of the Chitral region) or Qāshqārī.[6] Among the Pashtuns and Badakhshanis it is known as Kashkār.[7] Another name, used by Leitner in 1880, is Arnyiá[8] or Arniya, derived from the Shina language name for the part of the Yasin (a valley in Gilgit-Baltistan) where Khowar is spoken.[6] Lastly, the Wakhis and Sanglechis refer to the language and its speakers as Kivi.[9]


Georg Morgenstierne noted, "Khowar, in many respects [is] the most archaic of all modern Indian languages, retaining a great part of Sanskrit case inflexion, and retaining many words in a nearly Sanskritic form".[10]: 3 


Khowar has a variety of dialects, which may vary phonemically.[11] The following tables lay out the basic phonology of Khowar.[12][13][14]


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid ɛ ɔ
Open ɑ

Khowar may also have nasalized vowels and a series of long vowels /ɑː/, /ɛː/, /iː/, /ɔː/, 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."[11] Unlike the neighboring and related Kalasha language, Khowar does not have retroflex vowels.[12]


Labial Coronal Retroflex Palatal Velar Post-
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless p t ʈ k q
voiced b d ɖ g
aspirated ʈʰ
Affricate voiceless ts ʈʂ
voiced dz ɖʐ
aspirated tsʰ ʈʂʰ tɕʰ
Fricative voiceless f s ʂ ɕ x h
voiced z ʐ ʑ ɣ
Approximant ʋ l(ʲ) ɫ j (w)
Rhotic ɾ

Allophones of /x ɣ h ʋ ɾ/ are heard as sounds [χ ʁ ɦ w ɹ].[14] /q x ɣ f/ are restricted to Perso-Arabic loanwords in most IA languages but they occur natively in Khowar.[15]


Khowar, like many Dardic languages, has either phonemic tone or stress distinctions.[16]

Writing system[edit]

Since the early twentieth century Khowar has been written in the Khowar alphabet, which is based on the Urdu alphabet and uses the Nasta'liq script. Prior to that, the language was carried on through 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 occasionally written in a version of the Roman script called Roman Khowar since the 1960s.


  • Standard Khowar
  • Chitrali Khowar(Torkhow and Mulkhow Valley)
  • Chitrali Khowar (Chitral Town)
  • Swati Khowar (Swat Kohistan)
  • Lotkuhiwar (Lotkuh Valley/ Gramchashma Valley)
  • Gherzikwar (Ghizer Valley)
  • Gilgiti Khowar (Gilgit-Baltistan), spoken by a few families in Gilgit city.


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
Zeal News (ذیل نیوز) News and Current Affairs 2016


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

Radio Channel Genre Founded Official Website
Radio Pakistan Chitral FM93 Entertainment
Radio Pakistan Peshawar Entertainment
Radio Pakistan Gilgit Entertainment
FM97 Chitral Entertainment


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


  1. ^ "Khowar".
  2. ^ Faizi, Inayatullah. "Development of Khowar as a Literacy Language, Results of interaction between linguists and language community: Case study in Chitral, Northern Pakistan" (PDF). NWFP-Pakistan: Govt Degree College Chitral. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Jain, Danesh; Cardona, George (26 July 2007). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. p. 843. ISBN 978-1-135-79711-9.
  4. ^ Jain, Danesh; Cardona, George (26 July 2007). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. p. 843. ISBN 978-1-135-79711-9.
  5. ^ Cardona, George (2007). The Indo-Aryan Languages. p. 843.
  6. ^ a b c Grierson, George A. (1919). Linguistic Survey of India. Vol. VIII, Part 2, Indo-Aryan family. North-western group. Specimens of the Dardic or Piśācha languages (including Kāshmiri). Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India. p. 133.
  7. ^ O'Brien, Donatus James Thomond (1895). Grammar and vocabulary of the K̲h̲owâr dialect (Chitrâli). Lahore: Civil and military gazette press. p. i.
  8. ^ Leitner, Gottlieb William (1880). Kafiristan. Section 1: the Bashgeli Kafirs and their language. Lahore: Dilbagroy. p. 43. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  9. ^ Morgenstierne, George (1932). "Report on a Linguistic Mission to North-Western India" (PDF). Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning: 47.
  10. ^ Morgenstierne, Georg (1974). "Languages of Nuristan and surrounding regions". In Jettmar, Karl; Edelberg, Lennart (eds.). Cultures of the Hindukush: selected papers from the Hindu-Kush Cultural Conference held at Moesgård 1970. Beiträge zur Südasienforschung, Südasien-Institut Universität Heidelberg. Vol. Bd. 1. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner. pp. 1–10. ISBN 978-3-515-01217-1.
  11. ^ a b Edelman, D. I. (1983). The Dardic and Nuristani Languages. Moscow: Institut vostokovedenii︠a︡ (Akademii︠a︡ nauk SSSR). p. 210.
  12. ^ a b Bashir, Elena L. (1988), "Topics in Kalasha Syntax: An areal and typological perspective" (PDF), Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Michigan: 37–40
  13. ^ Bashir, Elena L.; Nigah, Maula; Baig, Rahmat Karim, A Digital Khowar-English Dictionary with Audio
  14. ^ a b Liljegren, H.; Khan, A. (2017). "Khowar". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 47 (2): 219–229. doi:10.1017/S0025100316000220. S2CID 232348235.
  15. ^ Cardona, Jain (2003), p. 932.
  16. ^ Baart, Joan L. G. (2003), Tonal features in languages of northern Pakistan (PDF), 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.
  • Zeal News,lived%20together%20peacefully%20for%20centuries.

External links[edit]