The term “Pahari languages” (in Hindi, pahari is a mountain) includes a continuum of dialects spread in Nepal and India to the south of the Himalayas – the states of Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal), Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir.
Yuri Koryakov. Map from “Languages of the World: New Indo-Aryan Languages”
According the data of the project “The People’s Linguistic Survey of India”, India speaks 780 languages. The group of Pahari languages includes about 90 idioms (see the census of 1961).
Geographically, these languages are conveniently divided into the Western, Central and Eastern groups.
According to Ethnologue, the Eastern Pahari group includes Palpa, Jumla, Dotyali and Nepali. Some scholars (Zoller, 2011: 198) also include Rajbanshi spoken in South-Eastern Nepal. Nepali is spoken from the western border of Nepal in the vast part of the country to the eastern border, as well as in the Indian state of Sikkim. Jumla is common in Jumla District. Palpa is spoken in the city and district of the same names in Western Nepal. Rajbanshi is spoken in South-Eastern Nepal in Jhapa and Morang districts.
The Central group of Pahari includes two languages, Garhwali and Kumaoni (Kumauni), spread between the Yamuna River and Nepal’s eastern border, as well as within the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Ethnologue classification singles out Garhwali in a separate group.
The Western Pahari languages are spread in the Himalayas between the Chenab River and the Yamuna River, as well as in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir. The number of the Western group speakers exceeds 6 million people (Zoller: 2011, 199). This group includes, according to different estimates, 30 to 60 idioms, but none of them has the status of a literary language. They are the languages of verbal communication without any norms of a written language, they are not taught at school, therefore it is hard to make any division into “languages” and “dialects” within this group. Some idioms are known to have dialectal variants, and differences between geographically distant idioms can be so great that it can cause complete misunderstanding.
The western Pahari group of languages is actively used in daily communication as an important means of transferring oral tradition, and yet, they have been studied very poorly. Grammatical descriptions of individual Pahari languages are few and hard to obtain. The project on the description of languages and peoples of India (The People’s Linguistic Survey of India, PLSI), currently carried out in India, focuses on collecting sociolinguistic and ethnographic material rather than on linguistic descriptions. Thus, documentation and grammatical description of the Pahari languages remains a relevant task. Our group is presently studying the Kullui language belonging to the Western group.