Kashmiri Language

Kashmiri (कॉशुर, کأشُر Koshur) is a language from the Dardic sub-group and it is spoken primarily in the Kashmir Valley, in Jammu and Kashmir. There are approximately 5,554,496 speakers in Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Census of 2001. Most of the 105,000 speakers or so in Pakistan are émigrés from the Kashmir Valley after the partition of India. They include a few speakers residing in border villages in Neelum District.

The Kashmiri language is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India, and is a part of the Sixth 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. Some Kashmiri speakers frequently use Hindi as a second language, though the most frequently used second language is Urdu. Since November 2008, the Kashmiri language has been made a compulsory subject in all schools in the Valley up to the secondary level.


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.

The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica stated that "The language spoken in Kashmir is akin to that of the Punjab, though marked by many peculiarities. It possesses an ancient literature, which is written in a special character." Both Kashmiri and Punjabi are Aryan languages but Kashmiri is extremely far from Punjabi in use of words. Kashmiri and Shina are very close.

Writing system

There are three orthographical systems used to write the Kashmiri language—these are the Sharada script, the Devanagari script and the Perso-Arabic script; additionally, due to internet technology, the Roman script is sometimes used to write Kashmiri, especially online. The Kashmiri language was traditionally written in the Sharada script after the 8th Century A.D. This script however, is not in common use today, except for religious ceremonies of the Kashmiri Pandits. However, today, it is written in Devanagari script and Perso-Arabic script (with some modifications). Among languages written in the Perso-Arabic script, Kashmiri is one of the very few which regularly indicates all vowel sounds. This script has been in vogue since the Muslim conquest in India and has been used by the people for centuries, in the Kashmir Valley. However, today, 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, who employ the latter script.


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

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


Though Kashmiri has few loan words (mainly from Arabic etc.) due to the arrival of Islam in the Vale, however, it remains mainly a Dardic language close to Rigvedic Sanskrit. There is a minor difference between the Kashmiri spoken by a Hindu and a Muslim. A traditional Hindu will use the word Agun for fire while a Muslim more often will use the Arabic word Nar for fire. Shashishekhar Toshkhani, a scholar on Kashmir's heritage, 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 abhur, rain is roode (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.[25] 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. 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 only in Vedic Sanskrit texts. Classical Sanskrit and modern Indo-Aryan render the word as yadi. Certain words in Kashmiri even appear to stem from Indo-Aryan even predating the Vedic period. For instance, there was a 's' to '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.

First personal 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 term for this is believed to be "eghom", 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-Urdu 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 "moen" in Kashmiri. Other Indo-Aryan languages that preserve this feature are Dogri ("aun" vs "me-") and Gujarati ("hu-n" vs "ma-ri"). Pashto preserves it too ("za" vs "maa").

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