Northern Indo-Aryan languages

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Northern Indo-Aryan
Nepal and north-western India
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Major Indo-Aryan languages of South Asia; Northern Aryan languages are in purple

The Northern Indo-Aryan languages, also known as Pahāṛi languages, are a group of Indo-Aryan languages spoken in the lower ranges of the Himalayas, from Nepal in the east, through the Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, reaching as far west as the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir. The name Pahari (not to be confused with the various other languages with that name) is Grierson's term.[1]


The Pahari languages fall into three groups.

Eastern Pahari
  • Jumli is spoken by an estimated 40,000 people in the Karnali zone of Nepal.[2]
  • Nepali is spoken by an estimated 11,100,000 people in Nepal, 265,000 people in Bhutan, and 2,500,000 people in India. It is an official language in Nepal and India.[3]
Central Pahari
  • Kumaoni is spoken by an estimated 2,360,000 people in Uttarakhand.[4]
  • Garhwali is spoken by an estimated 2,900,000 people in Uttarakhand. Most of these are Garhwali people from the state's northwestern division of Garhwal.
  • Dotyali spoken by an estimated 1 million people in far west Nepal, although it is a hybrid language it is recognised as a dialect of Nepali, but also close to Kumaoni.
Western Pahari


Nepali alphabets, transliteration and pronunciation
Language Comparison
  Khas-kura Kumauni Kashmiri
  Masc Fem Masc Fem Masc Fem
I am chhu chhu chik chu chus ches
You are chhas chhes chai chi chukh chekh
He is chha chhe ch chi chuh cheh

In Eastern and Central Pahari the verb substantive is formed from the root ach, as in both Rajasthani and Kashmiri. In Rajasthani its present tense, being derived from the Sanskrit present rcchami, I go, does not change for gender. But in Pahari and Kashmiri it must be derived from the rare Sanskrit particle *rcchitas, gone, for in these languages it is a participial tense and does change according to the gender of the subject. Thus, in the singular we have: – Here we have a relic of the old Khasa language, which, as has been said, seems to have been related to Kashmiri. Other relics of Khasa, again agreeing with north-western India, are the tendency to shorten long vowels, the practice of epenthesis, or the modification of a vowel by the one which follows in the next syllable, and the frequent occurrence of disaspiration. Thus, Khas siknu, Kumauni sikno, but Hindi sikhna, to learn; Kumauni yeso, plural yasa, of this kind.

Materials regarding Western Pahari are not so complete. The speakers are not brought into contact with Tibeto-Burman languages, and hence we find no trace of these. But the signs of the influence of north-western languages are, as might be expected, still more apparent than farther east. In some dialects epenthesis is in full swing, as in (Churahi) khata, eating, fern, khaiti. Very interesting is the mixed origin of the postpositions defining the various cases. Thus, while that of the genitive is generally the Rajasthani ro, that of the dative continually points to the west. Sometimes it is the Sindhi khë. At other times it is jo, where is here a locative of the base of the Sindhi genitive postposition jo. In all Indo-Aryan languages, the dative postposition is by origin the locative of some genitive one. In vocabulary, Western Pahari often employs, for the more common ideas, words which can most readily be connected with the north-western and Pisaca groups.[citation needed]


The Himalayas run along Nepal, India and Pakistan. The word 'Pahar' means a 'mountain' in most local languages such as Nepalese, Hindi (Parbat being a synonym) as well as Urdu (Koh being a synonym). Due to its mass prevalence and usage in the Himalayan Region, the language is also known as Himalayan. Like all other languages of the region, the Pahari languages are also from the Indo-European, and in particular Indo-Iranian branch of languages. As mountains have the tendency of isolating communities from change, dialects in the mountains tend to have their own characteristics with some similarity to others mountain dialects while remaining isolated from one another – there does seem to be a dialect continuum. All of these dialects are commonly referred to as the 'Pahari' languages, and most people from the Himalayan range are known as Paharis.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pahari". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  1. ^ Masica, Colin P. (1991). The Indo-Aryan languages. Cambridge language surveys. Cambridge University Press. p. 439. ISBN 978-0-521-23420-7.
  2. ^ "Jumli". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. SIL International. Retrieved 23 December 2012.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Nepali". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. SIL International. Retrieved 23 December 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Kumaoni". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. SIL International. Retrieved 23 December 2012.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]

Himachali Pahari Language