Torwali language

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RegionKhyber Pakhtunkhwa
Native speakers
110,000[1][2] (2001)[3]
Arabic script
Language codes
ISO 639-3trw
Minor languages of Pakistan as of the 1998 census.png
Torwali is a minor language of Pakistan which is mainly spoken in Central Swat District, it is given a space in this map.
Bahrain, the main town of the Torwali community

Torwali (Urdu: توروالی‎) is a Dardic[4] language of the Northwestern Indo-Aryan family mainly spoken in the Bahrain and Chail areas of the Swat District in Northern Pakistan.[5] It is said to have originated from the pre-Muslim Dardic communities of Pakistan.[6] It has two dialects, Bahrain and Chail.[7] The language and its community, like other communities, Gawri in Swat and in Dir, and the ones in Indus Kohistan, is often referred to as "Kohistani" which is a name given by the Swat Pashtuns. Fredrik Barth says "By the Swat Pashtuns, the people are known as Kohistanis, together with the other non-Pashtun peoples given that name; together with the Torwalis, Kohistanis of Swat Kohistan". The Afghans call them 'Kohistani'--a name everywhere given by Pashtuns to 'the Musulmans of Indic descent living' in Hindu Kush.[8][9] Close to 30-35% of its speakers have migrated permanently to the bigger cities of Pakistan where their language is either being replaced by the national language Urdu, or by other languages of wider communication such as Pashto or Punjabi. The language Torwali is said to have originated from the pre-Muslim Dardic communities of Swat.[10]

Torwali is an endangered language: it is characterised as "definitely endangered" by UNESCO's Atlas of Endangered Languages,[11] and as "vulnerable" by the Catalogue of Endangered Languages.[12] There have been efforts to revitalize the language since 2004, and mother tongue community schools have been established by Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT).[13]


Although descriptions of Torwali phonology have appeared in the literature, some questions still remain unanswered.[14][15]


Vowels According to Edelman[14]
Front Central Back
Close i iː u uː
Mid e eː o oː
Open a aː

Edelman's analysis, which was based on Grierson and Morgenstierne, shows nasal counterparts to at least /e o a/ and also found a series of central (reduced?) vowels, transcribed as: ⟨ä⟩, ⟨ü⟩, ⟨ö⟩.[14]

Vowels According to Lunsford[15]
Front Central Back
Close i ĩ (ɨ̙) u ũ
Mid e ẽ (e̙) ə (ə̙) o õ
Open æ æ̃ a ã

Lunsford had some difficulty determining vowel phonemes and suggested there may be retracted vowels with limited distribution: /ɨ/ (which may be [i̙]), /e̙/, /ə̙/.[15] Retracted or retroflex vowels are also found in Kalash-mondr.[16]


The phonemic status of the breathy voiced series is debatable.

Sounds with particularly uncertain status are marked with a superscript question mark.

Labial Coronal Retroflex Post-alv./
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n (ɳ) ŋ
Stop p
Affricate ts


s z ʂ ʐ ʃ ʒ x ɣ h
j w
Rhotic r ɽ?


  1. ^ Khan, Amber. "Timeline of Torwali Speaker Estimates". Amber Khan for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  2. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2014). "Vestiges of Torwali culture". Bahrain Swat: Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT). p. 4. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.2272.1049. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  3. ^ Torwali at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  4. ^ Kreutzmann, Hermann (2005). "Linguistic diversity in space and time: A survey in the Eastern Hindukush and Karakoram". Himalayan Linguistics. Center for Development Studies, Free University of Berlin. 4: 7.
  5. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2016). "Reversing Language Loss through an Identity Based Educational Planning: The Case of Torwali language" (PDF). Eurasian Journal of Humanities. 1 (2): 24. ISSN 2413-9947.
  6. ^ Inam-ur-Rahim; Viaro, lain M. (2002). Swat: An Afghan Society in Pakistan. Karachi and Geneva: City Press and Graduate Institute of Developmental Studies. ISBN 9698380558. OCLC 603642121.
  7. ^ Ullah, Inam (2004). "Lexical database of the Torwali Dictionary", paper presented at the Asia Lexicography Conference, Chiangmai, Thailand, May 24–26
  8. ^ Biddulph, John (1880). Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh (PDF). Graz, Austria: 1971 edition Akadmeische Druck u Verlagasasntalt. p. 69.
  9. ^ Barth, Fredrik (1956). Indus and Swat Kohistan: an Ethnographic Survey. Oslo. p. 52. . The Pathans call them, and all other Muhammadans of Indian descent in the Hindu Kush valleys, Kohistanis.
  10. ^ Torwali, Zubair. "Revitalization of Torwali poetry and music". We Mountains – Regional Website of North Pakistan. IBT. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  11. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2016). "Reversing Language Loss through an Identity Based Educational Planning: The Case of Torwali language" (PDF). Eurasian Journal of Humanities. 1 (2): 24.
  12. ^ Hammarström, Harald. "Torwali". Glottolog. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  13. ^ Lilgegren, Henrik (March 2018). "41". Supporting and sustaining language vitality in northern Pakistan. Routledge. p. 431.
  14. ^ a b c Edelman, D. I. (1983). The Dardic and Nuristani Languages. Moscow: Institut vostokovedenii︠a︡ (Akademii︠a︡ nauk SSSR).
  15. ^ a b c Lunsford, Wayne A. (2001), "An overview of linguistic structures in Torwali, a language of Northern Pakistan" (PDF), M.A. Thesis, University of Texas at Arlington: 26–30
  16. ^ Kochetov, Alexei; Arsenault, Paul (2008), Retroflex harmony in Kalasha: Agreement or spreading? (PDF), NELS, 39, Cornell University, p. 4


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