Malto language

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RegionJharkhand; West Bengal; Bangladesh
EthnicityMalto; Sauria Paharia
Native speakers
234,991 (2011 census)[1]
Bengali script, Devanagari script
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
kmj – Kumarbhag Paharia
mjt – Sauria Paharia

Malto /ˈmælt/[3] or Paharia /pəˈhɑːriə/[4] or, rarely, archaically, Rajmahali[5] is a Northern Dravidian language spoken primarily in East India.


There are two varieties of Malto that are sometimes regarded as separate languages, Kumarbhag Paharia (Devanagari: कुमारभाग पहाड़िया) and Sauria Paharia (Devanagari: सौरिया पहाड़िया). The former is spoken in the Jharkhand and West Bengal states of India, and tiny pockets of Orissa state, and the latter in the West Bengal states of India, and some pockets of Bangladesh. The lexical similarity between the two is estimated to be 80%.

Although there is a high lexical similarity between the two languages, inherent intelligibility is inadequate. The similarities of the two sister languages do not translate into their current states being comparable. For instance, Sauria Paharia has thousands more speakers of the language and thus can sustain four different dialects: Litipara, Godda, Hiranpur, and Sahibganj. Since the population of speakers of Kumarbhag Paharia is relatively miniature, the language has no prominent dialects. However, the language, where used, is used in all domains and the speakers have a positive attitude about the cultural ties of the language as well as its continued existence.

Mal Paharia language may have a Malto-based substrate.[6]

The 2001 census found 224,926 speakers of Malto, of which 83,050 were labelled as speaking Pahariya, and 141,876 spoke other mother tongues (dialects).[7]


Malto has a typical Dravidian vowel system of 10 vowels: /a, e, i, o, u/ and their lengthened forms. Malto also does not have any vowel clusters or diphthongs.[8]

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Stop voiceless p ʈ c k q
voiced b ɖ ɟ g
Fricative ð s ʁ h
Nasal m ɲ ŋ
Approximant l
Trill r
Flap ɽ


The general grammar of the language is not dissimilar from that of the surrounding communities. One interesting aspect of their culture influencing the syntax of the language is present in its assignment of gender to nouns.


The gender of words in the Malto language is classified as either being masculine, feminine, or neutral. The masculine form is present when denoting anything related to man or vicious deities. Likewise the feminine form is present for nouns denoting women, the Supreme Being, and minor deities. Although the colloquial term for father 'abba' is a traditionally feminine noun, it is meant to show respect. Coupled with the Supreme Being also being feminine, the respect for the women of the community is evident through their grammar. Otherwise nouns are referred to with neutral gender, which by far makes it the most popular form.

Writing system[edit]

Seeing as how the literacy rates amongst the Malto people is very low, it makes sense that the language is not a traditionally written language. When the language had first been memorialized in writing (by Ernest Droese in 1884) it shared the Devanagari writing system as with many languages in India. The written portion of the language being supplemented much later on in its life, gives the effect of Malto remaining authentic through the dialogue of their culture.


  1. ^ "Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India". Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Malto". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Malto". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ "Paharia". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ "Rajmahali". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ Masica, Colin P. (1993), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Cambridge Language Surveys, Cambridge University Press, pp. 26–27, ISBN 0521299446
  7. ^ "Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues". Census of India. 2001.
  8. ^ Steever, Sanford B. (2015-04-15). The Dravidian Languages. Routledge. ISBN 9781136911644.


External links[edit]