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Nepali language

Nepali language

Overview
Nepali or Nepalese is a language in the Indo-Aryan branch
Indo-Aryan languages
The Indo-Aryan languages constitutes a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family...

 of the Indo-European language family
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

.

It is the official language and de facto lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 of Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

 and is also spoken in Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

, parts of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Myanmar
Myanmar
Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

 (Burma). In India, it is one of the country's 23 official languages: Nepali has official language status in the formerly independent state of Sikkim
Sikkim
Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayan mountains...

 and in West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

's Darjeeling district
Darjeeling district
Darjeeling District is the northernmost district of the state of West Bengal in eastern India in the foothills of the Himalayas. The district is famous for its beautiful hill stations and Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling is the district headquarters...

.
The influence of the Nepali language can also be seen in Bhutan and some parts of Burma.
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Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Nepali or Nepalese is a language in the Indo-Aryan branch
Indo-Aryan languages
The Indo-Aryan languages constitutes a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family...

 of the Indo-European language family
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

.

It is the official language and de facto lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 of Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

 and is also spoken in Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

, parts of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Myanmar
Myanmar
Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

 (Burma). In India, it is one of the country's 23 official languages: Nepali has official language status in the formerly independent state of Sikkim
Sikkim
Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayan mountains...

 and in West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

's Darjeeling district
Darjeeling district
Darjeeling District is the northernmost district of the state of West Bengal in eastern India in the foothills of the Himalayas. The district is famous for its beautiful hill stations and Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling is the district headquarters...

.
The influence of the Nepali language can also be seen in Bhutan and some parts of Burma. Nepali developed in proximity to a number of Tibeto-Burman languages
Tibeto-Burman languages
The Tibeto-Burman languages are the non-Chinese members of the Sino-Tibetan language family, over 400 of which are spoken thoughout the highlands of southeast Asia, as well as lowland areas in Burma ....

, most notably Nepal Bhasa
Nepal Bhasa
Nepal Bhasa is one of the major languages of Nepal, and is also spoken in India, particularly in Sikkim where it is one of the 11 official languages. Nepal Bhasa is the mother tongue of about 3% of the people in Nepal . It is spoken mainly by the Newars, who chiefly inhabit the towns of the...

 (Newari), and shows Tibeto-Burman influences.

Historically, the language was first called Khaskura (language of the khas
Khas
Originally the Khas / Khasas or Khasiyas are the mountain dwellers living in the southern shadow of the Himalayan range from Kashmir to Bhutan, but mostly in Nepal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, North Bengal, Sikkim and Bhutan,...

'rice farmers'), then Gorkhali or Gurkhali (language of the Gurkha
Gurkha
Gurkha are people from Nepal who take their name from the Gorkha District. Gurkhas are best known for their history in the Indian Army's Gorkha regiments, the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas and the Nepalese Army. Gurkha units are closely associated with the kukri, a forward-curving Nepalese knife...

) before the term Nepali was taken from Newari. Other names include Parbatiya ("mountain language", identified with the Parbatiya people of Nepal) and Lhotshammikha (the "southern language" of the Lhotshampa
Lhotshampa
Lhotshampa, or Lhotsampa, means "southerners" in Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. The term refers to the heterogeneous ethnic Nepalese population of Bhutan.-History:...

 people of Bhutan). The name 'Nepali' is ambiguous, as it was originally a pronunciation of Newari, the Tibeto-Burman language of the capital Kathmandu.

Script and literature


Nepali is commonly written in the Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

 script, as are Hindi and Sanskrit. There is some record of using Takri script
Takri script
The Takri script is an abugida writing system of the Brahmic family of scripts. It is closely related to, and derived from, the Sharada script employed by Kashmiri. It is also related to the Gurmukhī script used to write Punjabi. Until the late 1940s, Takri was the official script for writing the...

 in the history of Nepali, especially in western Nepal, Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand , formerly Uttaranchal, is a state in the northern part of India. It is often referred to as the Land of Gods due to the many holy Hindu temples and cities found throughout the state, some of which are among Hinduism's most spiritual and auspicious places of pilgrimage and worship...

, and Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh is a state in Northern India. It is spread over , and is bordered by the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir on the north, Punjab on the west and south-west, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on the south, Uttarakhand on the south-east and by the Tibet Autonomous Region on the east...

. Bhujimol
Bhujimol
Bhujimol is the name of the most ancient form of the Nepal script. It is used to write Nepal Bhasa.-Etymology:The word "Bhujimol" comes from Nepalbhasa words "bhuji" meaning housefly and "mol" a word written at the end of scripts ....

 is an older script native to Nepal, while Ranjana script
Ranjana script
The Rañjanā script is an abugida writing system which developed in the 11th century. It is primarily used for writing Nepal Bhasa but is also used in monasteries of India, Tibet, coastline China, Mongolia, and Japan. It is usually written from left to right but the Kutakshar form is written from...

 is another writing system historically used.

Nepali developed a significant literature within a short period of hundred years in the 19th century, fueled by Adhyatma Ramayana
Adhyatma Ramayana
Adhyatma Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit work extolling the spiritual virtues of the story of Ramayana. It comprises around 4200 double verses embedded in the latter portion of Brahmānda Purana and is traditionally believed to be authored by Vyasa...

; Sundarananda Bara (1833); Birsikka, an anonymous collection of folk tales; and a version of the South Asian epic Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

 by Bhanubhakta. The contribution of trio-laureates Poudyal, Devkota
Devkota
Devkota is a surname used by some Nepalese people. Devkota are found mostly in Gorkha District in villages as Amppipal, Luintel, Palungtar, Gaikhur and on several places around nation as Jumla, Jhapa, Birgunj, Pokhara and other many places. One of the most famous people with this surname is Laxmi...

, and Sama
Sama
Sama may refer to:* A verse from the Samaveda, one of the Vedas* Sama , a part of Harstad city in northern Norway* Sama, Asturias, a parish in the municipality of Langreo in northern Spain...

 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.
In the past decade, there are many contributions to Nepalese literature from Nepalese diaspora in Europe, America and other Asian countries.

Number of speakers


Almost one-third of the population of Nepal speak Nepali as a mother tongue. The Ethnologue website counts more than 17 million speakers worldwide, including 11 million within Nepal (from the 2001 census).

Nepali is traditionally spoken in the Hill Region of Nepal (Pahad, पाहाड), especially in the western part of the country. It is also the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 in the Kathmandu valley, although the historically dominant language in this valley was Nepal Bhasa
Nepal Bhasa
Nepal Bhasa is one of the major languages of Nepal, and is also spoken in India, particularly in Sikkim where it is one of the 11 official languages. Nepal Bhasa is the mother tongue of about 3% of the people in Nepal . It is spoken mainly by the Newars, who chiefly inhabit the towns of the...

 (also known as Newari). Nepali is now used in government and as the everyday language of a growing portion of the local population. Nevertheless the exclusive use of Nepali in the courts and government of Nepal is being challenged. Recognition of other ethnic languages in Nepal was one of the objectives of the Maoist insurgency.

In Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

 those who speak Nepali (known as Lhotshampa
Lhotshampa
Lhotshampa, or Lhotsampa, means "southerners" in Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. The term refers to the heterogeneous ethnic Nepalese population of Bhutan.-History:...

) are estimated at about 35 percent of the population if all displaced Bhutanese refugees are counted (unofficial estimates of the ethnic Nepalese population ran as high as 30 to 40 percent, constituting a majority in the south), or about 242,000 people. Since the late 1980s, over 100,000 Lhotshampas have been forced out of Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

, accused by the government of being illegal aliens. A large fraction them were expelled in a mostly nonviolent "ethnic cleansing" campaign and presently live in refugee camps in eastern Nepal.

In India, there are a large number of Nepali-speaking people. There are an estimated 500,000 Nepali speakers in Sikkim
Sikkim
Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayan mountains...

. In Darjeeling
Darjeeling district
Darjeeling District is the northernmost district of the state of West Bengal in eastern India in the foothills of the Himalayas. The district is famous for its beautiful hill stations and Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling is the district headquarters...

 and Jalpaiguri
Jalpaiguri District
Jalpaiguri district is the largest district of North Bengal, covering an area 6,245 km2. It is situated between 26° 16' and 27° 0' North latitudes and 88° 4' and 89° 53' East longitudes...

 districts of West Bengal, there are about 1,400,000 Nepali speakers. In North-East India
North-East India
Northeast India refers to the easternmost region of India consisting of the contiguous Seven Sister States, Sikkim, and parts of North Bengal...

 (states of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh), there are several million Nepali speakers. A considerable number of Nepali-speaking people are also present in many Indian cities such as Kolkata
Kolkata
Kolkata , formerly known as Calcutta, is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, it was the commercial capital of East India...

, Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

, Bangalore
Bangalore
Bengaluru , formerly called Bengaluru is the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka. Bangalore is nicknamed the Garden City and was once called a pensioner's paradise. Located on the Deccan Plateau in the south-eastern part of Karnataka, Bangalore is India's third most populous city and...

, Visakhapatnam
Visakhapatnam
Visakhapatnam is a major sea port on the south east coast of India. With a population of approximately 1.7 million, it is the second largest city in the state of Andhra Pradesh and the third largest city on the east coast of India after Kolkata and Chennai. According to the history, the city was...

, Chennai
Chennai
Chennai , formerly known as Madras or Madarasapatinam , is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal. Chennai is the fourth most populous metropolitan area and the sixth most populous city in India...

, Mumbai
Mumbai
Mumbai , formerly known as Bombay in English, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the most populous city in India, and the fourth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of approximately 20.5 million...

 and Hyderabad.

Combining the Ethnologue figures with strong population growth in Nepal, the assumption of 20 million people with Nepali as their mother tongue is a reasonable estimate for 2006.

History of the language


Around 500 years ago, Khas
Khas
Originally the Khas / Khasas or Khasiyas are the mountain dwellers living in the southern shadow of the Himalayan range from Kashmir to Bhutan, but mostly in Nepal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, North Bengal, Sikkim and Bhutan,...

 from the Karnali-Bheri-Seti basin migrated eastward, bypassing inhospitable Kham
Kham Magar
Kham Magar and Northern Magar are descriptive terms invented by academic linguists and anthropologists for a nationality in the Middle Hills of mid-western Nepal inhabiting highlands extending through eastern Rukum and northern Salyan, Rolpa and Pyuthan Districts in Rapti Zone as well as adjacent...

 highlands to settle in lower valleys of the Gandaki basin that were well suited to rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 cultivation. One notable extended family settled in Gorkha
Gorkha District
Gorkha District of 288,134. It is the location of the Manakamana Temple. Also, the temples of great sage Gorakh Nath and goddess Gorakh Kali temple is located in district, after which the district got its name. Four major rivers run within and along it, they are Chepe, Daraudi, Marsyangdi and...

, a small principality about halfway between Pokhara
Pokhara
Pokhara Sub-Metropolitan City is the second largest city of Nepal. Pokhara is city of close to 350,000 inhabitants in central Nepal located at 28.25°N, 83.99°E, which is the centre of the country from east to west or from north to south, 198 km west of Kathmandu or 90 km west of Mugling, and...

 and Kathmandu. In 1559 AD a Lamjunge prince Dravya Shah established him in the throne of Gorkha with the help of local Khas and Magars. He raised an army of khas with the commandership of Bhagirath Panta. Later, in the late 18th century his heir Prithvi Narayan Shah
Prithvi Narayan Shah
Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Nepal was the first king of the House of Shahs to rule Nepal. He is credited for starting the campaign for a unified Nepal, which had been divided and weakened under Malla confederacy. He was the ninth generation descendant of Dravya Shah , the founder of the ruling...

 raised and improvised an army of Khasa (Chhetri), Thakuri, Gurung
Gurung
The Gurung people, also called Tamu, are an ethnic group that migrated from Mongolia in the 6th century to the central region of Nepal. Gurungs, like other east Asian featured peoples of Nepal such as Sherpa, Tamang, Thakali, Magar, Manaaggi, Mustaaggi, and Walunggi, are the indigenous people of...

s, and Magars and possibly other hill tribesmen and set out to conquer and consolidate dozens of small principalities in the Himalayan foothills. Since Gorkha had replaced the original Khas homeland as thary initiative, Khaskura was redubbed Gorkhali, i.e. language of the Gorkhas.

The most notable military achievement of Prithvi Narayan was conquest of the urbanized Kathmandu Valley, on the eastern rim of the Gandaki basin. This region was also called Nepal at the time. Kathmandu became Prithvi Narayan's new capital, from which he and his heirs extended their domain east across the Koshi
Koshi River
The Kosi River or Koshi —also Saptakoshi for its seven Himalayan tributaries—is a trans-boundary river flowing through Nepal and India. Some of the rivers of the Koshi system, such as the Arun, the Sun Kosi and the Bhote Koshi, originate in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China...

 basin, north to the Tibetan Plateau, south into the plains of northern India, and west across the Karnali/Bheri basin and beyond.

Expansion, particularly to the north, west, and south brought the growing state into conflict with the British and Chinese. This led to wars that trimmed back the territory to an area roughly corresponding to Nepal's present borders. Both China and Britain understood the value of a buffer state
Buffer state
A buffer state is a country lying between two rival or potentially hostile greater powers, which by its sheer existence is thought to prevent conflict between them. Buffer states, when authentically independent, typically pursue a neutralist foreign policy, which distinguishes them from satellite...

 and did not attempt to reduce the territory of the new country further. Since the Kathmandu Valley or Nepal had become the new center of political initiative, this word gradually came to refer to the entire realm and not just the Kathmandu Valley. And so Gorkhali, language of Gorkha, again came to be known as Nepali.

Khaskura/Gorkhali/Nepali is spoken indigenously over most of Nepal west of the Kaligandaki River, then progressively less further to the east. This is shown graphically in detailed language maps of western http://www.ethnologue.com/show_map.asp?name=NP&seq=30 and eastern http://www.ethnologue.com/show_map.asp?name=NP&seq=20 Nepal as language number 73.

See also: Lhotshampa
Lhotshampa
Lhotshampa, or Lhotsampa, means "southerners" in Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. The term refers to the heterogeneous ethnic Nepalese population of Bhutan.-History:...

 as Nepali is called in Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

.

See also

  • Languages of Nepal
    Languages of Nepal
    There are some 120 native languages of Nepal, belonging to the Indo-Aryan, Sino-Tibetan, Austro-Asiatic and Dravidian language families.The official language of Nepal is Nepali , formerly called Khaskura then Gorkhali. The 2001 census counted 11 million native speakers in Nepal and it is spoken as...

  • Nepali calendar
    Nepali calendar
    The Nepali Calendar is a traditional solar calendar used in Nepal for both civil and religious purposes. The year begins in the month Baishakh; usually around 14 April....

  • Nepali literature
    Nepali literature
    Nepali Literature refers to the literature written in the Nepali language and should not be confused with Nepalese literature; a work that is classified as Nepali literature does not necessarily have to be written by a Nepalese/ written in Nepal. Much of today's Nepali literature is widely written...

  • Nepali phonology
    Nepali Phonology
    Nepali is the national language of Nepal. Besides being spoken as a mother tongue by more than 48% of the population of Nepal, it is also spoken in Bhutan and India. The language is recognized in the Nepali constitution as an official language of Nepal....


Further reading

, . . (2000), , , ।
  • Schmidt, R. L. (1993) A Practical Dictionary of Modern Nepali.
  • Turner, R. L.
    Ralph Lilley Turner
    Sir Ralph Lilley Turner MC was an English Indian languages philologist and university administrator. He is also the author of some publications concerning the Romani language....

    (1931) A Comparative and Etymological Dictionary of the Nepali Language.
  • Clements, G.N. & Khatiwada, R. (2007). “Phonetic realization of contrastively aspirated affricates in Nepali.” In Proceedings of ICPhS XVI (Saarbrücken, 6–10 August 2007), 629- 632. http://www.icphs2007.de/conference/Papers/1650/1650.pdf
  • Hutt, M. & Subedi, A. (2003) Teach Yourself Nepali.
  • Khatiwada, R. (2009), Nepali. Journal of International Phonetic Association, 39:3, 337-380.Cambridge University Press.
  • Manders, C. J. (2007) A Foundation in Nepali Grammar.
  • Nepali linguistics spoken in Darjeeling-Sikkim (Dr. Dashrath Kharel)

External links