Dardic languages

Eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan (Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), northern India (Jammu and Kashmir)
Linguistic classification:


Glottolog: None
indo1324  (Northwestern Zone)[1]

The Dardic languages (also Dardu or Pisaca[2]) are a sub-group of the Indo-Aryan languages natively spoken in northern Pakistan's Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northern India's Jammu and Kashmir, and eastern Afghanistan.[3][4] Kashmiri/Koshur is the most prominent Dardic language, with an established literary tradition and official recognition as one of the official languages of India.[3][5][6]

History of the idea

The terms "Dardic" and "Dardistan" were coined by G. W. Leitner in the late 19th century, based on the Greek and Latin term Daradae for the people of the region (Daradas in Sanskrit). These terms are not in current use in the region.[7]

George Abraham Grierson (1919), with scant data, postulated a family of "Dardic languages", which was characterised as an independent branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, separate from the Iranian and Indo-Aryan branches. His Dardic language family had three subfamilies, "Kafiri" (now called Nuristani), "Central" and "Dard" languages. Grierson's view is now considered obsolete and incorrect in its details. However, it continues to be often cited in works of reference.[8]

Georg Morgenstierne (1961), after a "lifetime of study," came to the view that only the "Kafiri" (Nuristani) languages formed an independent branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, the Dard languages were Indo-Aryan.[9] According to Morgenstierne,

Dardic languages contain absolutely no features which cannot be derived frm old IA [Indo-Aryan language]. They have simply retained a number of striking archasisms, which had already disappeared in most Prakrit dialects... There is not a single common feature distinguishing Dardic, as a whole, from the rest of the IA languages... Dardic is simply a convenient term to denote a bundle of aberrant IA hill-languages which, in their relative isolation, accented in many cases by the invasion of Pathan tribes, have been in varying degrees sheltered against the expand influence of IA Midland (Madhyadesha) innovations, being left free to develop on their own.[10]

This is the scheme generally accepted by recent scholarship.[11]

There is still some dispute regarding the ultimate classification of the Dardic languages. The grouping is acknowledged to be to some extent geographical,[4] and several different relationships between Indo-Aryan, Indo-Iranian, Dardic and Nuristani have been proposed.[12] Buddruss rejected the Dardic grouping entirely, and placed the languages within Central Indo-Aryan.[13]

According to a model by Asko Parpola, the Dardic languages are directly descended from the Rigvedic dialect of Vedic Sanskrit.[14]

Except for Kashmiri, all of the Dardic languages are small minority languages which have not been sufficiently studied. In many cases they are spoken in areas difficult to access due to mountainous terrain and/or armed conflicts in the region. All of the languages (including Kashmiri) have been historically influenced by more prominent (non-Dardic) neighboring languages.

While it is true that many Dardic languages have been influenced by non-Dardic neighbors, Dardic may in turn also have left a discernible imprint on non-Dardic Indo-Aryan languages, such as Punjabi[15] and allegedly even far beyond.[16][17] It has also been asserted that some Pahari languages of Uttarakhand demonstrate Dardic influence.[15][18] Although it has not been conclusively established, some linguists have hypothesized that Dardic may, in ancient times, have enjoyed a much bigger linguistic zone, stretching from the mouth of the Indus (in Sindh) northwards in an arc, and then eastwards through modern day Himachal Pradesh to Kumaon.[19][20][21]


Dardic languages have been organized into the following subfamilies:[22]

In other classifications, Pashai may be included within Kunar, and Kashmiri within Shina. Khetrani may be a remnant Dardic language in the Siraiki region.

Kohistan is a Persian word that means ‘land of mountains’; Kohistani can be translated as ‘mountain people’ or ‘mountain language’ and is popularly used to refer to several distinct languages in the mountain areas of Northern Pakistan, including Maiya, Kalami, and Torwali.

Recording about the Torwals, a non Pashtun tribe which with the Gabaris, occupied both lower and upper Swat prior to the invasion of Swat by the Yusufzai Pashtun in the sixteenth century AD.

The Pathans call them, and all other Muhammadans of Indian descent in the Hindu Kush valleys, Kohistanis.[23]

Characteristics of Dardic languages

The languages of the Dardic group share some common defining characteristics, including the loss of aspirated sounds and word ordering that is unique for Indo-Iranian languages.

Loss of voiced aspiration

Virtually all Dardic languages have experienced a partial or complete loss of voiced aspirated consonants.[22][24] Khowar uses the word buum for 'earth' (Sanskrit: bhumi),1 Pashai uses the word duum for 'smoke' (Hindi: dhuan, Sanskrit: dhum) and Kashmiri uses the word dod for 'milk' (Sanskrit: dugdha, Hindi: dūdh).[22][24] Tonality has developed in some (but not all) Dardic languages, such as Khowar and Pashai, as a compensation.[24] Punjabi and Western Pahari languages similarly lost aspiration but have virtually all developed tonality to partially compensate (e.g. Punjabi kar for 'house', compare with Hindi ghar).[22]

Dardic metathesis and other changes

Both ancient and modern Dardic languages demonstrate a marked tendency towards metathesis where a "pre- or postconsonantal 'r' is shifted forward to a preceding syllable".[15][25] This was seen in Ashokan rock edicts (erected 269 BCE to 231 BCE) in the Gandhara region, where Dardic dialects were and still are widespread. Examples include a tendency to misspell the Sanskrit words priyadarshi (one of the titles of Emperor Ashoka) as priyadrashi and dharma as dhrama.[25] Modern-day Kalasha uses the word driga 'long' (Sanskrit: dirgha).[25] Palula uses drubalu 'weak' (Sanskrit: durbala) and brhuj 'birch tree' (Sanskrit: bhurja).[25] Kashmiri uses drolid2 'impoverished' (Sanskrit: daridra) and krama 'work' or 'action' (Sanskrit: karma).[25] Western Pahari languages (such as Dogri), Sindhi and Lahnda (Western Punjabi) also share this Dardic tendency to metathesis, though they are considered non-Dardic, for example cf. the Punjabi word drakhat 'tree' (from Persian darakht).[11][26]

Dardic languages also show other consonantal changes. Kashmiri, for instance, has a marked tendency to shift k to ch and j to z (e.g. zan 'person' is cognate to Sanskrit jan 'person or living being' and Persian jān 'life').[11] Punjabi and Western Pahari share this tendency also, though they are non-Dardic (e.g. compare Hindi dekho 'look' to Punjabi vekho and Kashmiri vuchiv).[11]

Verb position in Dardic

Unlike most other Indo-Aryan (or Iranian) languages, several Dardic languages present "verb second" as the normal grammatical form. This is similar to many Germanic languages, such as German and Dutch, as well as Uto-Aztecan O'odham and Northeast Caucasian Ingush. Most Dardic languages, however, follow the usual Indo-Aryan SOV pattern.[27]

English (Germanic) This is a horse. We will go to Tokyo.
Kashmiri (Dardic) Yi chhu akh gur. As gachhav Tokyo.
Dari Persian (Iranian) In yak hasb ast. Maa ba Tokyo khaahem raft.
Pashto (Iranian) Masculine: Dā yo ās day / Feminine: Dā yawa aspa da. Mūng/Mūnẓ̌ ba Ṭokyo ta/tar lāṛshū.
Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan) Eṣah eka aśvah asti.3 Vayaṃ Tokyo gacchāmaḥ.
Hindi-Urdu (Indo-Aryan) Ye ek ghora hai.4 Ham Tokyo jāenge.
Punjabi (Indo-Aryan) Ae ikk kora ai. Assi Tokyo jāvange.

See also


1.^ The Khowar word for 'earth' is more accurately represented, with tonality, as buúm rather than buum, where ú indicates a rising tone.
2.^ The word drolid actually includes a Kashmiri half-vowel, which is difficult to render in the Urdu, Devnagri and Roman scripts alike. Sometimes, an umlaut is used when it occurs in conjunction with a vowel, so the word might be more accurately rendered as drölid.
3.^ Sandhi rules in Sanskrit allow the combination of multiple neighboring words together into a single word: for instance, word-final 'ah' plus word-initial 'a' merge into 'o'. In actual Sanskrit literature, with the effects of sandhi, this sentence would be expected to appear as Eṣa ekośvosti. Also, word-final 'a' is Sanskrit is a schwa, [ə] (similar to the ending 'e' in the German name, Nietzsche), so e.g. the first word is pronounced [eːʂə].
4.^ Hindi-Urdu, and other non-Dardic Indo-Aryan languages, also sometimes utilize a "verb second" order (similar to Kashmiri and English) for dramatic effect.[28] Yeh ek ghoṛā hai is the normal conversational form in Hindi-Urdu. Yeh hai ek ghoṛā is also grammatically correct but indicates a dramatic revelation or other surprise. This dramatic form is often used in news headlines in Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi and other Indo-Aryan languages.



  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Northwestern Zone". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. http://www.britannica.com/topic/Dardic-languages
  3. 1 2 Peter K. Austin (2008), One thousand languages: living, endangered, and lost, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-25560-7, Kashmiri is one of the twenty-two official languages of India, and belongs to the Dardic group, a non-genetic term that covers about two dozen Indo-Aryan languages spoken in geographically isolated, mountainous northwestern parts of South Asia ...
  4. 1 2 Bashir, Elena (2007). Jain, Danesh; Cardona, George, eds. The Indo-Aryan languages. p. 905. ISBN 978-0415772945. 'Dardic' is a geographic cover term for those Northwest Indo-Aryan languages which [..] developed new characteristics different from the IA languages of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Although the Dardic and Nuristani (previously 'Kafiri') languages were formerly grouped together, Morgenstierne (1965) has established that the Dardic languages are Indo-Aryan, and that the Nuristani languages constitute a separate subgroup of Indo-Iranian.
  5. Hadumod Bussmann; Gregory Trauth; Kerstin Kazzazi (1998), Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-415-20319-8, ... Dardic Group of about fifteen Indo-Iranian languages in northwestern India; the most significant language is Kashmiri (approx. 3 million speakers) ...
  6. H. Kloss; G.D. McConnell; B.P. Mahapatra; P. Padmanabha; V.S. Verma (1989), The Written Languages of the World: A Survey of the Degree and Modes of Use, Volume 2: India, Les Presses De L'Université Laval, ISBN 2-7637-7186-6, Among all the languages of the Dardic group, Kashmiri is the only one which has a long literary tradition ...
  7. Dardestan, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Retrieved 2016-06-10].
  8. Masica 1993, p. 461.
  9. Masica 1993, p. 462.
  10. Koul 2008, p. 142.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Masica 1993.
  12. Hegedűs, Irén; Blažek, Václav (2010). On the position of Nuristani within Indo-Iranian. Sound of Indo-European 2 (Opava, Oct 2010). Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  13. Buddruss, Georg (1985). "Linguistic Research in Gilgit and Hunza". Journal of Central Asia. 8 (1): 27–32.
  14. Parpola, Asko (1999), "The formation of the Aryan branch of Indo-European", in Blench, Roger & Spriggs, Matthew, Archaeology and Language, vol. III: Artefacts, languages and texts, London and New York: Routledge.
  15. 1 2 3 Masica 1993, p. 452: ... [Chaterji] agreed with Grierson in seeing Rajasthani influence on Pahari and 'Dardic' influence on (or under) the whole Northwestern group + Pahari. Masica 1993, p. 209: Throughout the northwest, beginning with Sindhi and including 'Lahnda', Dardic, Romany and West Pahari, there has been a tendency to [the] transfer of 'r' from medial clusters to a position after the initial consonant.
  16. Dayanand Narasinh Shanbhag; K. J. Mahale (1970), Essays on Konkani language and literature: Professor Armando Menezes felicitation volume, Konkani Sahitya Prakashan, ... Konkani is spoken. It shows a good deal of Dardic (Paisachi) influence ...
  17. Gulam Allana (2002), The origin and growth of Sindhi language, Institute of Sindhology, ... must have covered nearly the whole of the Punjabi ... still show traces of the earlier Dardic languages that they superseded. Still further south, we find traces of Dardic in Sindhi ...
  18. Arun Kumar Biswas (editor) (1985), Profiles in Indian languages and literatures, Indian Languages Society, ... greater Dardic influence in the western dialects of Garhwali ...
  19. Irach Jehangir Sorabji Taraporewala (1932), Elements of the science of language, University of Calcutta, retrieved 2010-05-12, At one period, the Dardic languages spread over a very much wider extent, but before the oncoming 'outer Aryans' as well as owing to the subsequent expansion of the 'Inner Aryans', the Dards fell back to the inaccessible ...
  20. Sharad Singh Negi (1993), Kumaun: the land and the people, Indus Publishing, ISBN 81-85182-89-2, retrieved 2010-05-12, It may be possible that the Dardic speaking Aryans were still in the process of settling in other parts of the western Himalaya in the Mauryan times ...
  21. Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya (1973), Racial affinities of early North Indian tribes, Munshiram Manoharlal, retrieved 2010-05-12, ... the Dradic branch remained in northwest India – the Daradas, Kasmiras, and some of the Khasas (some having been left behind in the Himalayas of Nepal and Kumaon) ...
  22. 1 2 3 4 S. Munshi, Keith Brown (editor), Sarah Ogilvie (editor) (2008), Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world, Elsevier, ISBN 0-08-087774-5, retrieved 2010-05-11, Based on historical sub-grouping approximations and geographical distribution, Bashir (2003) provides six sub-groups of the Dardic languages ...
  23. Denzil Ibbetson, Edward MacLagan, H.A. Rose "A Glossary of The Tribes & Casts of The Punjab & North-West Frontier Province", 1911 AD, Page 472, Vol II1,
  24. 1 2 3 George Cardona; Dhanesh Jain (2007), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-77294-X, retrieved 2010-05-11, In others, traces remain as tonal differences (Khowar buúm 'earth', Pashai dum 'smoke') ...
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 Timothy Lenz; Andrew Glass; Dharmamitra Bhikshu (2003), A new version of the Gandhari Dharmapada and a collection of previous-birth stories, University of Washington Press, ISBN 0-295-98308-6, retrieved 2010-05-11, ... 'Dardic metathesis,' wherein pre- or postconsonantal 'r' is shifted forward to a preceding syllable ... earliest examples come from the Aśokan inscriptions ... priyadarśi ... as priyadraśi ... dharma as dhrama ... common in modern Dardic languages ...
  26. Amar Nath Malik (1995), The phonology and morphology of Panjabi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, ISBN 81-215-0644-1, retrieved 2010-05-26, ... drakhat 'tree' ...
  27. Stephen R. Anderson (2005), Aspects of the theory of clitics: Volume 11 of Oxford studies in theoretical linguistics, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-927990-6, The literature on the verb-second construction has concentrated largely on Germanic ... we can compare with the Germanic phenomena, however: Kashmiri ... in two 'Himachali' languages, Kotgarhi and Koci, he finds word-order patterns quite similar ... they are sometimes said to be part of a 'Dardic' subfamily ...
  28. Hindi: language, discourse, and writing, Volume 2, Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, 2001, retrieved 2010-05-28, ... the verbs, positioned in the middle of the sentences (rather than at the end) intensify the dramatic quality ...


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