Dardic languages

Dardic languages
eastern Afghanistan, Kashmir
Linguistic classification: Indo-European

The Dardic languages (Perso-Arabic: زبان‌ داردی, Devanagari: दार्दी भाषाएँ) are a sub-group of the Indo-Aryan languages spoken in northern Pakistan, eastern Afghanistan, and the Indian region of Jammu and Kashmir.[1] Kashmiri is the most prominent Dardic language, with an established literary tradition and official recognition as one of the national languages of India.[1][2][3]


Position in Indo-Iranian languages

The Dardic group has traditionally been defined as a sub-group of the Indo-Aryan languages which experienced strong influence from the Nuristani and East Iranian languages. Nuristani, a group of languages spoken in northeast Afghanistan, has sometimes been included in Dardic, but is today generally regarded as an independent group, as one of the three sub-groups of Indo-Iranian, following the studies of Georg Morgenstierne in 1973 to 1975.

There is still some dispute regarding the ultimate classification of the Dardic languages. The very existence of the family has been called into question by some, though the Dardic languages share common features different from Indo-Aryan, such as the so-called Dardic metathesis (karma => krama).

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[4] and allegedly even far beyond.[5][6] It has also been asserted that some Pahari languages of Uttarakhand demonstrate Dardic influence.[4][7] 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" (i.e. Sindh) northwards in an arc, and then eastwards through modern day Himachal Pradesh to Kumaon.[8][9][10]

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 aspiration

Virtually all Dardic languages have experienced a partial or complete loss of aspirated consonants.[11][12] Khowar uses the word buum for earth (Sanskrit: bhumi),1 Pashai uses the word duum for smoke (Hindi: dhuan) and Kashmiri uses the word dod for milk (Sanskrit: dugdha, Hindi: doodh).[11][12] Tonality has developed in some (but not all) Dardic languages, such as Khowar and Pashai, as a compensation.[12] 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).[11]

Dardic metathesis and epenthesis

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".[4][13] 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.[13] Modern-day Kalasha uses the word driga (Sanskrit: dirgha, meaning long).[13] Palula uses drubalu (Sanskrit: durbala, weak) and brhuj (Sanskrit: bhurja, birch tree).[13] Kashmiri uses drolid2 (Sanskrit: daridra, impoverished) and krama (Sanskrit: karma, work or action).[13] 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 in the Punjabi word drakhat (from Persian: darakht, tree).[4][14]

Dardic languages also display a tendency for consonantal epenthesis, where consonants are inserted or altered in a word. Kashmiri, for instance, has a marked tendency to switch k to ch and j to z (e.g. Sanskrit jan/person or living being, related to Persian cognate jān/life, is altered to zan/person in Kashmiri) .[4] Punjabi and Western Pahari share the epenthesis tendency also, though they are non-Dardic (e.g. compare Hindi dekho/look to Punjabi vekho and Kashmiri vuchiv).[4]

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 English.[15]

English (Germanic) This is a horse. We will go to Tokyo.
Kashmiri (Dardic) Yi chhu akh gur. As gachhav Tokyo.
Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan) Esha eka ashva asti.3 Vayaṃ Tokyo gacchāmaḥ.
Dari Persian In yak hasb ast. Maa ba Tokyo khaahem raft.
Hindi-Urdu (Indo-Aryan) Ye ek ghora hai.4 Hum Tokyo jaenge.
Punjabi (Indo-Aryan) Ae ikk kora ai. Assi Tokyo javange.

List of Dardic languages

Dardic languages can be organized into the following subfamilies:[11]

  • Pashai languages, which includes Pashayi
  • Kunar languages, which includes Gawar-Bati, Dameli, Shumashti and Nangalami (includes Grangali)
  • Chitral languages, which includes Khowar and Kalasha
  • Kohistani languages, which includes Kalami, Torwali, Kalkoti, Indus Kohistani, Bateri, Chilisso, Gowro, Wotapuri-Katarqalai and Tirahi
  • Shina languages, including Shina, Brokskad (the Shina of Baltistan and Ladakh), Ushojo, Domaaki, Palula and Savi
  • Kashmiri languages, including Kashmiri, Poguli, Rambani, and Kishtwari

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. Also, Sanskrit has two distinct sounds corresponding to 'sh', ष (phonetically represented as 'ṣ', as in eṣa/this) and श (phonetically represented as 'ś', as in aśva/horse). The 'a' shown at word endings here is the Sanskrit schwa, and pronounced 'ə' (similar to the ending 'e' in the German name, Nietzsche). So, the sentence Esha eka ashva asti is more correctly pronounced as Eshə ekə ashvə asti and, in actual Sanskrit literature, would usually be shortened to Eshə ekoshvosti (or, more correctly maintaining the distinction between the two 'sh' shounds, Eṣə ekośvosti).
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.[16] "Ye aik ghora hai" is the normal conversational form in Hindi-Urdu. "Ye hai aik ghora" 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.


  • Morgenstierne, G. Irano-Dardica. Wiesbaden 1973;
  • Morgenstierne, G. Die Stellung der Kafirsprachen. In Irano-Dardica, 327-343. Wiesbaden, Reichert 1975
  • Decker, Kendall D. Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, Volume 5. Languages of Chitral.
  • The Comparative study of Urdu and Khowar. Badshah Munir Bukhari National Language Authority Pakistan 2003.
  • National Institute of Pakistani Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University & Summer Institute of Linguistics [1]
  • Dardic language tree


  1. ^ a b Peter K. Austin (2008), One thousand languages: living, endangered, and lost, University of California Press, ISBN 0520255607, http://books.google.com/books?id=Q3tAqIU0dPsC, "... Kashmiri is one of the twenty-two national 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 ..." 
  2. ^ Hadumod Bussmann, Gregory Trauth, Kerstin Kazzazi (1998), Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0415203198, http://books.google.com/books?id=rhvDiOxOUe4C, "... Dardic Group of about fifteen Indo-Iranian languages in northwestern India; the most significant language is Kashmiri (approx. 3 million speakers) ..." 
  3. ^ 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 2763771866, http://books.google.com/books?id=yU8nq-C6wnoC, "... Among all the languages of the Dardic group, Kashmiri is the only one which has a long literary tradition ..." 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Colin P. Masica (1993), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521299446, http://books.google.com/books?id=Itp2twGR6tsC, "... he agreed with Grierson in seeing Rajasthani influence on Pahari and "Dardic" influence on (or under) the whole Northwestern group + Pahari ...[]... Sindhi and including "Lahnda", Dardic, Romany and West Pahari, there has been a tendency to transfer of 'r' from medial clusters to a position after the initial consonant ..." 
  5. ^ Dayanand Narasinh Shanbhag, K. J. Mahale (1970), Essays on Konkani language and literature: Professor Armando Menezes felicitation volume, Konkani Sahitya Prakashan, http://books.google.com/books?id=BkqgAAAAMAAJ, "... Konkani is spoken. lt shows a good deal of Dardic ( Paisachi ) influence ..." 
  6. ^ Gulam Allana (2002), The origin and growth of Sindhi language, Institute of Sindhology, http://books.google.com/books?id=bt5jAAAAMAAJ, "... must have covered nearly the whole of the Punjabi ... still show traces of the earlier Dardic languags that they superseded. Still further south, we find traces of Dardic in Sindhi ..." 
  7. ^ Arun Kumar Biswas (editor) (1985), Profiles in Indian languages and literatures, Indian Languages Society, http://books.google.com/books?id=lOsvAAAAIAAJ, "... greater Dardic influence in the western dialects of Garhwali ..." 
  8. ^ Irach Jehangir Sorabji Taraporewala (1932), Elements of the science of language, University of Calcutta, http://books.google.com/books?id=QhBCAAAAIAAJ, 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 ..." 
  9. ^ Sharad Singh Negi (1993), Kumaun: the land and the people, Indus Publishing, ISBN 8185182892, http://books.google.com/books?id=HfR_AAAAMAAJ, 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 ..." 
  10. ^ Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya (1973), Racial affinities of early North Indian tribes, Munshiram Manoharlal, http://books.google.com/books?id=bLGZ1DMYkHkC, 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) ..." 
  11. ^ a b c d S. Munshi, Keith Brown (editor), Sarah Ogilvie (editor) (2008), Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world, Elsevier, ISBN 0080877745, http://books.google.com/books?id=F2SRqDzB50wC, retrieved 2010-05-11, "... Based on historical sub-grouping approximations and geographical distribution, Bashir (2003) provides six sub-groups of the Dardic languages ..." 
  12. ^ a b c George Cardona, Dhanesh Jain (2007), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Routledge, ISBN 041577294X, http://books.google.com/books?id=C9MPCd6mO6sC, retrieved 2010-05-11, "... In others, traces remain as tonal differences (Khowar buúm 'earth', Pashai dum 'smoke') ..." 
  13. ^ a b c d e 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 0295983086, http://books.google.com/books?id=ALZnXwZYlckC, 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 ..." 
  14. ^ Amar Nath Malik (1995), The phonology and morphology of Panjabi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, ISBN 8121506441, http://books.google.com/books?id=IbBjAAAAMAAJ, retrieved 2010-05-26, "... /drakhat/ 'tree' ..." 
  15. ^ Stephen R. Anderson (2005), Aspects of the theory of clitics: Volume 11 of Oxford studies in theoretical linguistics, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780199279906, http://books.google.com/books?id=i68PtEWIEd4C, "... 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 ..." 
  16. ^ Hindi: language, discourse, and writing, Volume 2, Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, 2001, http://books.google.com/books?id=YMZjAAAAMAAJ, 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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