Malto language

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Region Jharkhand; West Bengal; Bangladesh
Ethnicity Malto; Sauria Paharia
Native speakers
74,000 (2003)[1]
to 117,000 (2015)[2]
Bengali script, Devanagari script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
kmj – Kumarbhag Paharia
mjt – Sauria Paharia
Glottolog malt1248[3]

Malto /ˈmælt/[4] or Paharia /pəˈhɑːriə/[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. Being that 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 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. ^ Kumarbhag Paharia at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Sauria Paharia at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Krishnamurti (2015), p. 27.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Malto". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ "Malto". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ "Paharia". 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 


External links[edit]