Kashmiri language

कॉशुर Koshur كأشُر

Pronunciation [kəːʃur]
Native to Jammu and Kashmir (India)[1]
Region Kashmir valley
Native speakers
5.6 million (2001 census)[2]
  • Kashtawari (standard)
  • Poguli
  • Rambani
Perso-Arabic script (contemporary),[3]
Devanagari script (contemporary),[3]
Sharada script (ancient/liturgical)[3]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ks
ISO 639-2 kas
ISO 639-3 kas
Glottolog kash1277[5]

Kashmiri (/kæʃˈmɪəri/)[6] (कॉशुर, کأشُر), or Koshur, is a language from the Dardic subgroup[7] of the Indo-Aryan languages and it is spoken primarily in the Kashmir Valley and Chenab regions of Jammu and Kashmir.[8][9][10]

There are approximately 5,527,698 speakers throughout India, according to the Census of 2001.[11] According to the 1998 Census there were 132,450 Kashmiri speakers in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan.[12] According to Professor Khawaja Abdul Rehman the Kashmiri language, spoken in the Neelum Valley, is on the verge of dying out.[13]

Kashmiri is close to other Dardic languages spoken in Gilgit, Pakistan and in northern regions of Kargil, India. Outside the Dardic group, tonal aspects and loanwords of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit, especially its northern dialects.[14][15]

The Kashmiri language is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India,[16] and is a part of the eighth Schedule in the constitution of the Jammu and Kashmir. Along with other regional languages mentioned in the Sixth Schedule, as well as Hindi and Urdu, the Kashmiri language is to be developed in the state.[17] Most Kashmiri speakers use Urdu or English as a second language.[1] Since November 2008, the Kashmiri language has been made a compulsory subject in all schools in the Valley up to the secondary level.[18]


In 1919 George Abraham Grierson wrote that “Kashmiri is the only one of the Dardic languages that has a literature”. Kashmiri literature dates back to over 750 years, this is, more-or-less, the age of many a modern literature including modern English.

Writing system

There are three orthographical systems used to write the Kashmiri language: the Sharada script, the Devanagari script and the Perso-Arabic script. The Roman script is also sometimes informally used to write Kashmiri, especially online.[3]

The Kashmiri language is traditionally written in the Sharada script after the 8th Century A.D.[19] This script however, is not in common use today, except for religious ceremonies of the Kashmiri Pandits.[20]

Today it is written in Perso-Arabic and Devanagari scripts (with some modifications).[21] Among languages written in the Perso-Arabic script, Kashmiri is one of the very few which regularly indicates all vowel sounds.[22] The Kashmiri Perso-Arabic script has come to be associated with Kashmiri Muslims, while the Kashmiri Devanagari script has come to be associated with the Kashmiri Hindu community.[23][24]

Perso-Arabic alphabet

No. Name Transliteration IPA Isolated glyph
1 الف alif ā, ʾ, – /aː, ʔ, ∅/ ا
2 بے be b /b/ ب
3 پے pe p /p/ پ
4 تے te t /t̪/ ت
5 ٹے ṭe /ʈ/ ٹ
6 ثے se s /s/ ث
7 جیم jīm j /d͡ʒ/ ج
8 چے če č /t͡ʃ/ چ
9 بڑی حے baṛī he h /h, ɦ/ ح
10 خے khe kh /kʰ/ خ
11 دال dāl d /d̪/ د
12 ڈال ḍāl /ɖ/ ڈ
13 ذال zāl z /z/ ذ
14 رے re r /r/ ر
15 ڑے ṛe /ɽ/ ڑ
16 زے ze z /z/ ز
17 ژے ce c /t͡s/ ژ
18 سین sīn s /s/ س
19 شین šīn š /ʃ/ ش
20 صواد swād s /s/ ص
21 ضواد zwād z /z/ ض
22 طوئے toʾe t /t̪/ ط
23 ظوئے zoʾe z /z/ ظ
24 عین ʿain ā, ō, ē, ʿ, – /aː, oː, eː, ʔ, ∅/ ع
25 غین gain g /g/ غ
26 فے fe f /f, pʰ/ ف
27 بڑی قاف baṛī kāf k /k/ ق
28 كاف kāf k /k/ ك
29 گاف gāf g /ɡ/ گ
30 لام lām l /l/ ل
31 میم mīm m /m/ م
32 نون nūn n, ̃ /n, ̃/ ن
33 واؤ wāʾo w, ū, ō, ɔ̄ /w, uː, oː, ɔː/ و
34 هے he h /h, ɦ/ or /ʰ, ʱ/ ھ
35 همزہ hamzah ʾ, – /ʔ/, /∅/ ء
37 چھوٹی یے choṭī ye y, ī, ā /j, iː, aː/ ؠ
38 بڑی یے baṛī ye ɛ̄, e /ɛː, eː/ ے

The digraphs of Aspirated consonant are as follow.

Digraph Transcription IPA
پھ ph [pʰ]
تھ th [t̪ʰ]
ٹھ ṭh [ʈʰ]
چھ čh [t͡ʃʰ]
ژھ ch [t͡sʰ]
کھ kh [kʰ]



Letter च़छ़ज़ज़
IPA [k][kʰ][g][t͡ʃ][t͡ʃʰ][d͡ʒ][t͡s][t͡sʰ][z][ʈ][ʈʰ][ɖ][t][tʰ][d][n][p][pʰ][b][m][j][l][w][ʃ][s][h][z]
Transliteration kkhgččhjcchzṭhtthdnpphbmylwšshz


Letter अॅए'अ'आ'उ'ऊ'ओ'
IPA [a][aː][ɔ][ɔː][e][eː][ə][əː][i][iː][ɨ][ɨː][u][uː][o][oː][ ̃]
Transliteration aāɔɔ̄eēǝǝ̄iīɨɨ̄uūoō ̃


Kashmiri has the following vowel phonemes:[25]


  Front Central Back
High i ɨ ɨː u
Mid e ə əː o
Low a ɔ ɔː


Bilabial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo
Velar Glottal
Nasal m
Stop /
plain p b ts ʈ ɖ k ɡ
aspirated t̪ʰ tsʰ ʈʰ tʃʰ
Fricative s z ʃ h
Approximant j w


Kashmiri, like German and Old English and unlike other Indo-Aryan languages, has V2 word order.[26]

There are four cases in Kashmiri: nominative, genitive, and two oblique cases: the ergative and the dative case.[27]


Though Kashmiri has thousands of loan words (mainly from Persian and Arabic) due to the arrival of Islam in the Valley, however, it remains basically an Indo-Aryan language close to Rigvedic Sanskrit. There is a minor difference between the Kashmiri spoken by a Hindu and a Muslim. For 'fire', a traditional Hindu will use the word agun while a Muslim more often will use the Arabic word nar.[14][15] Shashishekhar Toshkhani, a scholar on Kashmir's heritage,[10][28] provides a detailed analysis where he shows extensive linguistic relationship between the Sanskrit language and the Kashmiri language, and presents detailed arguments contesting George Grierson's classification of the Kashmiri language as a member of the Dardic sub-group (of the Indo-Aryan group of languages). Kashmiri has strong links to Rigvedic Sanskrit. For example, 'cloud' is obur, 'rain' is ruud (from the Rigvedic Aryan god Rudra).

Preservation of old Indo-Aryan vocabulary

Kashmiri retains several features of Old Indo-Aryan that have been lost in other modern Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi.[29] For instance, it preserves the dvi- form for prefixes in numbers which is found in Sanskrit, but has been replaced entirely by ba-/bi- in other Indo-Aryan languages. Seventy-two is dusatath in Kashmiri and dvisaptati in Sanskrit, but bahattar in Hindi-Urdu and Punjabi.[29] Some vocabulary features that Kashmiri preserves clearly date from the Vedic Sanskrit era and had already been lost even in Classical Sanskrit. This includes the word-form yodvai (meaning if), which is mainly found in Vedic Sanskrit texts. Classical Sanskrit and modern Indo-Aryan render the word as yadi.[29] Certain words in Kashmiri even appear to stem from Indo-Aryan even predating the Vedic period. For instance, there was an /s/ → /h/ consonant shift in some words that had already occurred with Vedic Sanskrit (this tendency is even stronger in the Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian), yet is lacking in Kashmiri equivalents. The word rahit in Vedic Sanskrit and modern Hindi-Urdu (meaning excluding or without) corresponds to rost in Kashmiri. Similarly, sahit (meaning including or with) corresponds to sost in Kashmiri.[29]

First person pronoun

Both the Indo-Aryan and Iranian branches of the Indo-Iranian family have demonstrated a strong tendency to eliminate the distinctive first person pronoun ("I") used in the nominative (subject) case. The Indo-European root for this is reconstructed as *eǵHom, which is preserved in Sanskrit as aham and in Avestan Persian as azam. This contrasts with the m- form ("me", "my") that is used for the accusative, genitive, dative, ablative cases. Sanskrit and Avestan both used forms such as ma(-m). However, in languages such as Modern Persian, Baluchi, Hindi and Punjabi, the distinct nominative form has been entirely lost and replaced with m- in words such as ma-n and mai. However, Kashmiri belongs to a relatively small set that preserves the distinction. 'I' is bi/ba/boh in various Kashmiri dialects, distinct from the other me terms. 'Mine' is myoon in Kashmiri. Other Indo-Aryan languages that preserve this feature include Dogri (aun vs me-), Gujarati (hu-n vs ma-ri), and Braj (hau-M vs mai-M). The Iranian Pashto preserves it too (za vs. maa).[30]

See also



  1. 1 2 "Kashmiri: A language of India". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  2. Kashmiri at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. 1 2 3 4 Sociolinguistics. Mouton de Gruyter. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
  4. "Kashmiri: A language of India". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  5. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kashmiri". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  6. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  7. "Kashmiri language". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  8. "Koshur: An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri". Kashmir News Network: Language Section (koshur.org). Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  9. "Kashmiri Literature". Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  10. 1 2 S. S. Toshkhani. "Kashmiri Language: Roots, Evolution and Affinity". Kashmiri Overseas Association, Inc. (KOA). Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  11. Abstract of speakers’ strength of languages and mother tongues – 2001, Census of India (retrieved 17 March 2008)
  12. Shakil, Mohsin (2012). "Languages of Erstwhile State of Jammu Kashmir (A Preliminary Study)".
  13. "Up north: Call for exploration of archaeological sites". June 5, 2015.
  14. 1 2 Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie, Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world, Elsevier, 2008, ISBN 978-0-08-087774-7, ... Kashmiri occupies a special position in the Dardic group, being probably the only dardic language that has a written literature dating back to the early 13th century ...
  15. 1 2 Krishna, Gopi (1967). Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. Boston: Shambhala. p. 212. ISBN 978-1-57062-280-9.
  16. "Scheduled Languages of India". Central Institute of Indian Languages. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  17. "The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir (India)" (PDF). General Administrative Department of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir (India). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 7, 2012. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  18. "Kashmiri made compulsory subject in schools". One India. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  19. "Sarada". Lawrence. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  20. "The Sharada Script: Origin and Development". Kashmiri Overseas Association. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  21. "Kashmiri (कॉशुर / كٲشُر)". Omniglot. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  22. Daniels & Bright (1996). The World's Writing Systems. pp. 753–754.
  23. "Valley divide impacts Kashmiri, Pandit youth switch to Devnagari". Indian Express. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  24. "Devnagari Script for Kashmiri: A Study in its Necessity, Feasibility and Practicality". Kashmiri Overseas Association. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  25. "Koshur: Spoken Kashmiri: A Language Course: Transcription". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  26. Concerning V2 order in Kashmiri, see Hook (1976:133ff).
  27. Edelman (1983). The Dardic and Nuristani Languages.
  28. "Dr. Shashishekhar Toshkhani: The Literary Works". Kashmir News Network. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  29. 1 2 3 4 K.L. Kalla, The Literary Heritage of Kashmir, Mittal Publications, ... Kashmiri alone of all the modern Indian languages preserves the dvi (Kashmiri du) of Sanskrit, in numbers such as dusatath (Sanskrit dvisaptati), dunamat (Sanskrit dvanavatih) ... the latter (Yodvai) is archaic and is to be come across mainly in the Vedas ...
  30. John D. Bengtson, Harold Crane Fleming, In hot pursuit of language in prehistory: essays in the four fields of anthropology, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2008, ISBN 978-90-272-3252-6, ... However, Gujarati as well as a Dardic language like Kashmiri still preserve the root alternation between subject and non-subject forms (but they replaced the derivative of the Sanskrit subject form ahám by new forms) ...

Further reading

Kashmiri edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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