Nepali language

Nepali (;[3] Devanagari: नेपाली, [ˈnepali]) is an Indo-Aryan language of the sub-branch of Eastern Pahari. It is the official language and lingua franca of Nepal and one of the 22 scheduled languages in India. It is spoken throughout Nepal and by about a quarter of the population in Bhutan.[4] In India, Nepali has official status in the state of Sikkim and in the Darjeeling District and Kalimpong district of West Bengal. It has a significant number of speakers in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Uttarakhand. It is also spoken in Myanmar by the Burmese Gurkha and by the Nepali diaspora in the Middle East and worldwide.[5] Nepali developed in proximity to a number of Indo-Aryan languages, most notably the other Pahari languages.

The origin of the modern Nepali language is believed to be from Sinja valley of Jumla. Historically, the language was only spoken by the Khas people of the Karnali Region. An archaic dialect of the language is spoken in Karnali.[6]

The initial name of Nepali language is Khasa Bhāṣā (: खस भाषा), which literally means Khas language. The language is known as Khasa Bhāṣā in the Karnali where an archaic dialect of the language is spoken.[7] The indigenous nationalities refer to the language as Khasa Bhāṣā.[8][9][10][11] The language was also named as Gorakhā bhāṣā (: गोरखा भाषा), which literally means Language of Gorkhas, during the Shah dynasty.[12][13][14][15][16] Gorkha Bhasa Prakashini Samiti (Gorkha Language Publishing Committee), a government institution established in 1913 (B.S. 1970) for advancement of Gorkha Bhasa, renamed itself as Nepali Bhasa Prakashini Samiti (Nepali Language Publishing Committee) in 1933 (B.S. 1990), which is currently known as Sajha Prakashan.[16] The language is also known as Parvate Kurā (: पर्वते कुरा), which literally means talks of the hills.[13][17][18][19][20] The name Pāṣyā Bolī (: पाष्या बोली) was also briefly used during the regime of Jung Bahadur Rana.[21]

Nepali language is known as Khae Bhāe (Nepal Bhasa: 𑐏𑐫𑑂 𑐨𑐵𑐫𑑂‎, खय् भाय्) in the Newar community,[22] Jyārdī Gyoī (Tamang:ज्यार्दी ग्योई) or Jyārtī Gyot (Tamang:ज्यार्ती ग्योत्) in the Tamang community,[23][24] Khasanta (Chepang:खस्‌अन्‍त) in the Chepang community,[25] Roṅakeka (Lhowa:रोङकेक) in the Lhowa community[26] and Khase Puka (Dungmali:खसे पुक) in Dungmali community.[9] In Bhutan, the language is known as Lhotshamkha in Dzongkha.[27]

In 1955 (B.S. 2012), a publication Nepāla ki ? Goraṣā ! opposed adoption of the name Nepal for Gorakhā bhāṣā.[28] In Nepal, there have been efforts to revert the name of the language as Khas, citing that the term Nepali refers to the people of Nepal and referring Khas language as Nepali discriminates indigenous and Madeshi with the label of non-Nepali.[29] The term Nepali languages can be used to refer all languages of Nepal's origin. There are campaigns in Nepal demanding all languages of Nepal to be named under the umbrella term Nepali.[30] Indian Gorkhas have also opposed the name Nepali for the language, campaigning that the name Gorkha be re-instated.[31]

The earliest evidences and inscriptions of dialects related to Nepali language supports the theory of a linguistic intrusion from West or Northwest Himalayas into Central Himalayas at the present day regions of Western Nepal during the rule of Khasas, an Indo-Aryan speaking group, who migrated from Northwest.[32] The oldest discovered inscription in the Nepali language is believed to be the Dullu Inscription, which is believed to have been written around the reign of King Bhupal Damupal around the year 981. Based on changes of phonological patterns indicates that Nepali is related to other Northwest Indian languages like Sindhi, Punjabi, and Lahnda. Comparative reconstructions based on vocabulary have substantiated the relations of Nepali language to proto-Dardic, Pahari, Sindhi, Lahnda, and Punjabi.[33] Archaeological and historical investigations shows that modern Nepali language descends from the language spoken by the ancient Khasha people. There is some mention of the word "Khasha" in Sanskrit legal, historical, and literary texts like Manusmriti (circa 100 CE), Puranas (350–1500) and the Rajatarangini (1148).[33] The Khashas were documented to have ruled over a vast territory comprising what is now western Nepal, parts of Garhwal and Kumaon in northern India, and some parts of southwestern Tibet. King Ashoka Challa (1255–1278) is believed to have proclaimed himself Khasha-Rajadhiraja (emperor of the Khashas) in a copper-plate inscription found in Bodh Gaya, and several other copper-plates in the ancient Nepali language have been traced back to the descendants of the King.[33] The Ashoka Challa inscription of 1255 is an earliest example of the modern Nepali language. The languages on these early inscriptions are considered to be a dialect of Jumla and West Nepal rather than a predecessor of the dialect of Gorkha that became the modern Nepali language.[34]

The earliest example of the modern Nepali language is the literary manuscript "Svastanivratakatha" dated 1648. Other such early literary texts in modern Nepali language includes the anonymous version of the "Khandakhadya" (dated 1649), the "Bajapariksha" (1700) and "Jvarotpatticikitsa" written by Banivilas Jytoirvid (1773) and "Prayascittapradipa" written by Premnidhi Pant (1780).[34] The 1670 Rani Pokhari inscription of King Pratap Malla is also one of the early example of modern Nepali language which also indicates the significant increment of Nepali speakers in Kathmandu valley.[34] The currently popular variant of Nepali is believed to have originated around 500 years ago with the mass migration of a branch of Khas people from the Karnali-Bheri-Seti eastward to settle in lower valleys of the Karnali and the Gandaki basin that were well-suited to rice cultivation. Over the centuries, different dialects of the Nepali language with distinct influences from Sanskrit, Maithili, Hindi and Bengali are believed to have emerged across different regions of the current-day Nepal and Uttarakhand, making Khasa the lingua franca.

However, the institutionalisation of the Nepali language is believed to have started with the Shah kings of Gorkha Kingdom, in the modern day Gorkha district of Nepal. In 1559, a prince of Lamjung, Dravya Shah established himself on the throne of Gorkha with the help of local Khas and Magars. He raised an army of khas people under the command of Bhagirath Panta. Later, in the late 18th century, his descendant, Prithvi Narayan Shah, raised and modernised an army of Chhetri, Thakuri, Magars and Gurung people among others and set out to conquer and consolidate dozens of small principalities in the Himalayas. Since Gorkha had replaced the original Khas homeland, Khaskura was redubbed Gorkhali "language of the Gorkhas".[citation needed]

One of the most notable military achievements of Prithvi Narayan Shah was the conquest of Kathmandu Valley. This region was called Nepal at the time. After the overthrowing of the Malla rulers, Kathmandu was established as Prithvi Narayan's new capital. The Khas people originally referred to their language as Khas kurā ("Khas speech"), which was also known as Parbatiya (or Parbattia or Paharia, meaning language of the hill country).[35][36] The Newar people used the term "Gorkhali" as a name for this language, as they identified it with the Gorkhali conquerors.[citation needed] The Gorkhalis themselves started using this term to refer to their language at a later stage.[37] The census of India prior to independence used the term Naipali at least from 1901 to 1951, the 1961 census replacing it with Nepali.[38][39]

Historically, Sanskrit has been a significant source of vocabulary for the Nepali language.[40] According to exclusive phonological evidences observed by lexicographer Sir Ralph Turner, Nepali language is closely related to Punjabi, Lahnda, Hindi and Kumaoni while it appears to share some distinguishing features with the other Indo-Aryan languages like Rajasthani, Gujarati and Bangla.[40] Ethnologist Brian Houghton Hodgson stated that the Khas or Parbattia language is an "Indian Prakrit" brought by colonies from south of the Nepalese hills, and the whole structure including the eighth-tenth portion of the vocabulary of it is "substantially Hindee" due to the influences and loanwords it shares with Arabic and Farsi.[41]

Expansion – particularly to the north, west, and south – brought the growing state into conflict with the British and the Chinese. This led to wars that trimmed back the territory to an area roughly corresponding to Nepal's present borders. After the Gorkha conquests, the Kathmandu valley or Nepal became the new center of politics. As the entire conquered territory of the Gorkhas ultimately became Nepal, in the early decades of the 20th century, Gorkha language activists in India, especially Darjeeling and Varanasi, began petitioning Indian universities to adopt the name 'Nepali' for the language.[42] Also in an attempt to disassociate himself with his Khas background, the Rana monarch Jung Bahadur Rana decreed that the term Gorkhali be used instead of Khas kurā to describe the language. Meanwhile, the British Indian administrators had started using the term "Nepal" to refer to the Gorkha kingdom. In the 1930s, Nepal government also adopted this term fully.[citation needed] Subsequently, the Khas language came to be known as "Nepali language".[1] The earliest Nepali grammar to have survived was written by Veerendra Keshari Aryal entitled "Nepali Vyakaran" and it is dated around 1891 to 1905. The grammar is based on Panini model and it equates Nepali with Prakrit and labels it as "the mountain Prakrit".[43] However, later the official institution established in 1912 for formalizing Nepali language, the "Gorkha Bhasha Prakashini Samiti", accepted the 1920 grammar text entitled Candrika Gorkha Bhasha Vyakaran by Pandit Hemraj Pandey as the official grammar of the Nepali language.[43]

Nepali is spoken indigenously over most of Nepal west of the Gandaki River, then progressively less further to the east.[44]

Nepali developed a significant literature within a short period of a hundred years in the 19th century. This literary explosion was fuelled by Adhyatma Ramayana; Sundarananda Bara (1833); Birsikka, an anonymous collection of folk tales; and a version of the ancient Indian epic Ramayana by Bhanubhakta Acharya (d. 1868). The contribution of trio-laureates Lekhnath Paudyal, Laxmi Prasad Devkota, and Balkrishna Sama took Nepali to the level of other world languages. The contribution of expatriate writers outside Nepal, especially in Darjeeling and Varanasi in India, is also notable.

According to the 2011 national census, 44.6% of the population of Nepal speaks Nepali as the first language.[45] and 32.8% speak Nepali as a second language.[46] The Ethnologue reports 12,300,000 speakers within Nepal (from the 2011 census).[46]

Nepali is traditionally spoken in the hilly regions of Nepal.[47] The language is prominently used in governmental usages in Nepal and is the everyday language of the local population. The exclusive use of Nepali in the court system and by the government of Nepal is being challenged. Gaining recognition for other languages of Nepal was one of the goals of the decades-long Maoist insurgency in Nepal.[48]

In Bhutan, native Nepali speakers, known as Lhotshampa, are estimated at 35% [49] of the population. This number includes displaced Bhutanese refugees, with unofficial estimates of the ethnic Bhutanese refugee population as high as 30 to 40%, constituting a majority in the south (about 242,000 people).[50]

As per the 2011 Census of India, there were a total of 2,926,168 Nepali language speakers in India.[51]

Dialects of Nepali include Acchami, Baitadeli, Bajhangi, Bajurali, Bheri, Dadeldhuri, Dailekhi, Darchulali, Darchuli, Gandakeli, Humli, Purbeli, and Soradi.[46] These dialects can be distinct from Standard Nepali. Mutual intelligibility between Baitadeli, Bajhangi, Bajurali (Bajura), Humli, and Acchami is low.[46] The dialect of Nepali language spoken in Karnali Province is not mutually intelligible with Standard Nepali. The language is known with its old name as Khas Bhasa in Karnali.[7]

Nepali distinguishes six oral vowels and five nasal vowels. /o/ does not have a phonemic nasal counterpart, although it is often in free variation with [õ].

Nepali has ten diphthongs: /ui̯/, /iu̯/, /ei̯/, /eu̯/, /oi̯/, /ou̯/, /ʌi̯/, /ʌu̯/, /ai̯/, and /au̯/.

[j] and [w] are nonsyllabic allophones of [i] and [u], respectively. Every consonant except [j], [w], and /ɦ/ has a geminate counterpart between vowels. /ɳ/ and /ʃ/ also exist in some loanwords such as /baɳ/ बाण "arrow" and /nareʃ/ नरेश "king", but these sounds are sometimes replaced with native Nepali phonemes.

Final schwas may or may not be preserved in speech. The following rules can be followed to figure out whether or not Nepali words retain the final schwa.

1) Schwa is retained if the final syllable is a conjunct consonant. अन्त (anta, 'end'), सम्बन्ध (sambandha, 'relation'), श्रेष्ठ (śreṣṭha, 'greatest'/a last name).
Exceptions: conjuncts such as ञ्च ञ्ज in मञ्च (mañc, 'stage') गञ्ज (gañj, 'city') and occasionally the last name पन्त (panta/pant).

2) For any verb form the final schwa is always retained unless the schwa-cancelling halanta is present. हुन्छ (huncha, 'it happens'), भएर (bhaera, 'in happening so; therefore'), गएछ(gaecha, 'he apparently went'), but छन् (chan, 'they are'), गईन् (gain, 'she went').

Meanings may change with the wrong orthography: गईन (gaina, 'she didn't go') vs गईन् (gain, 'she went').

3) Adverbs, onomatopoeia and postpositions usually maintain the schwa and if they don't, halanta is acquired: अब (aba 'now'), तिर (tira, 'towards'), आज (āja, 'today') सिम्सिम (simsim 'drizzle') vs झन् (jhan, 'more').

4) Few exceptional nouns retain the schwa such as: दुख(dukha, 'suffering'), सुख (sukha, 'pleasure').

Note: Schwas are often retained in music and poetry to facilitate singing and recitation.

Nepali is an SOV (subject–object–verb) language. There are three major levels or gradations of honorific: low, medium and high. Low honorific is used where no respect is due, medium honorific is used to signify equal status or neutrality, and high honorific signifies respect. There is also a separate highest level honorific, which was used to refer to members of the royal family, and by the royals among themselves.[52] Like all modern Indo-Aryan languages, Nepali grammar has syncretized heavily, losing much of the complex declensional system present in the older languages. Instead, it relies heavily on periphrasis, a marginal verbal feature of older Indo-Aryan languages.[53]

In the section below Nepali is represented in Latin transliteration using the IAST scheme and IPA. The chief features are: subscript dots for retroflex consonants; macrons for etymologically, contrastively long vowels; h denoting aspirated plosives. Tildes denote nasalised vowels.

The following is a sample text in Nepali, of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:


धारा १. सबै व्यक्तिहरू जन्मजात स्वतन्त्र हुन् ती सबैको समान अधिकार र महत्व छ। निजहरूमा विचार शक्ति र सद्विचार भएकोले निजहरूले आपसमा भातृत्वको भावनाबाट व्यवहार गर्नु पर्छ।

The numbering system has roots in Vedic numbering system, found in the ancient scripture of Ramayana.