Omkar N. Kaul
Excerpts: 'KASHMIRI PANDITS: A CULTURAL
HERITAGE' Edited by Prof. S. Bhatt
1. Kashmiri and its dialects
Kashmiri language is primarily spoken in the Kashmir valley of the state of
Jammu and Kashmir in India. It is called ke:shur or ke:shir zaba:n-by
its native speakers and the valley of Kashmir is called keshir. The
Kashmiri language is called kashmi:ri: or ka:shi:ri: in other
language. As per the census figures of 1981 there are 30, 76,398 native speakers
of the language.
There is no consensus of opinion regarding the origin
or genealogical classification of Kashmiri. There are basically two schools of
thought one places Kashmiri under the Dardic group of languages and the other
places it under the Indo-Aryan group of languages. Grierson (1919) has placed
Kashmiri under the 'Dardic or Pisacha' family of languages. He has classified
the Dardic language under three major groups: 1. The Kafir Group, 2. The Khowar
or Chitrali Group and 3. The Dard Group. According to his classification the
Dard Group includes Shina, Kashmiri, Kashtawari, Poguli, Siraji, Rambani, and
Kohistani- the last comprising Garwi, Torwali and Maiya.
Grierson considered the Dardic language a subfamily of
the Aryan languages "neither of Indian nor of Iranian origin, but (forming)
a third branch of the Aryan stock, which separated from the parent stem after
the branching forth of the original of the Indian languages, but before the
Eranian language had developed all their peculiar characteristics" (1906:
4). He has further observed that"Dardic" was only a geographical
convention. Morgenstierne (1961) also places Kashmiri under the Dardic Group of
languages along with Kashtawari and other dialects which are strongly influenced
by Dogri. Fussman (1972) has based his work on Morgenstierne's classification.
He has also emphasised that the Dardic is a geographic and not a linguistic
expression. It is only in the absence of reliable comparative data about Dardic
languages, a geographic or ethnographic label is frequently applied to a group
of languages or dialects.
According to Chatterjee (1963: 256) Kashmiri has
developed like other Indo-Aryan languages out of the Indo-European family of
languages and is to be considered as a branch of Indo-Aryan like Hindi, Punjabi
The classification of Dardic language has been reviewed
in some works (Kachru 1969, Strand 1973, Koul and Schmidt, 1984) with different
purposes in mind. Kachru laid stress on the linguistic characteristics of
Kashmiri. Strand presents his observations on Kafir languages. Koul and Schmidt
have reviewed the literature on the classification of Dardic languages and have
investigated the linguistic characteristics or features of these languages with
special references to Kashmiri and Shina. The classification of Kashmir under
the Dardic group of languages needs further elaborate investigation.
There has been no serious linguistically oriented
dialect research on Kashmiri. There are two types of dialects- (a) regional
dialects and (b) social dialects. Regional dialects are of two types- (1) those
regional dialects or variations which are spoken within the valley of Kashmir
and (2) those which are spoken in the regions outside the valley of Kashmir.
Kashmiri speaking area in the valley of Kashmir is
ethnosementically divided into three regions: (1) Maraz (southern and south
eastern region), (2) Kamraz (northern and north-western region) and (3) Srinagar
and its neighbouring areas. There are some minor linguistic variations in
Kashmiri spoken in these areas. The main variations being phonological, and in
the use of certain vocabulary items. Some of the main characteristics of these
speech variations are as follows:
(1) Kashmiri spoken in Maraz area retains the flap /R/
which is replaced by /r/ in Kashmiri spoken in Kamraz area and Srinagar.
(2) The progressive or Indefinite aspect suffix an
is added to the verb roots in the Kashmiri spoken in Mara:z which is
replaced by a:n in other two varieties.
(3) Kashmiri spoken in Kamraz distinguishes itself
from the variety spoken in the Maraz as well as Srinagar mainly in the use of
peculiar intonation and stress.
(4) A number of vocabulary items are different in
Kashmiri spoken in the above three regions.
All the above linguistic variations are not very
significant. Kashmiri spoken in the three regions is not only mutually
intelligible but quite homogeneous. These dialectical variations can be termed
as different styles of the same speech. Since Kashmiri spoken in Srinagar has
gained some social prestige, very frequent "style switching" takes
place from Marazi or Kamrazi styles to the style of speech spoken
in Srinagar. This phenomena of "Style switching" is very common among
the educated speakers of Kashmiri. Kashmiri spoken in Srinagar and surrounding
areas continues to hold the prestige of being the standard variety which is used
in mass media and literature. In the literature available on Kashmir (Grierson
1919, Kachru 1969, including the census reports, following regional dialects of
Kashmiri spoken outside the valley of Kashmir have been listed:
Out of these dialects indicated above, Rambani and Siraji
do not share any of the typically linguistic characteristics with Kashmiri.
Rambani and Siraji are closely related dialects which share features with Dogri
and other Pahari group of language. They do share some features such as the
semantic dimensions of the pronominal system, some morphology and a substantial
portion of their vocabulary (mostly borrowed from common sources) with Kashmiri.
The term "Kohistani" has no precise linguistic significance. It
probably refers to languages of the Shina group. It cannot be therefore
recognised as a dialect of Kashmiri. This leaves our Kashtawari and Poguli as
the only two regional dialects of Kashmiri which are spoken outside the valleys
(4) Siraji, and
Poguli is spoken in the Pogul and Paristan valleys
bordered on the east by Kashtawari, on the south by Rambani and Siraji, and on
the west by mixed dialects of Lahanda and Pahari. The speakers of Pogul are
found mainly to the south, south-east and south-west of Banihal. Poguli shares
many linguistic features including 70% vocabulary with Kashmiri. Literate Poguli
speakers of Pogul and Paristan valleys speak standard Kashmiri as well.
Kashtawari is spoken in the Koshtawar valley lying to
the south-east of Kashmir. It is bordered on the south by Bhadarwahi, on the
west by Chibbali and Punchi, and on the east by the Tibetan speaking region of
Zanskar. According to Grierson (1919: 233) Kashtawari is "one true
dialect" o Kashmiri. It shares most linguistic features of standard
Kashmiri but retains some archaic features which have disappeared from the
latter. It shares about 80 per cent vocabulary with Kashmiri (Koul and Schmidt
No detailed sociolinguistic research work has been
conducted to study different speech variations of Kashmiri spoken by different
communities and people who belong to different professions and occupations. In
some earlier works beginning with Grierson (1919: 234) distinction has been
pointed out in the speech variations of Hindus and Muslims - the two major
communities who speak Kashmiri natively. Kachru (1969) has used the terms Sanskritized
Kashmiri and Persianized Kashmiri to denote the two "style
differences" on the grounds of some variation in pronunciation morphology
and vocabulary common among Hindus and Muslims. It is true that most of the
distinct vocabulary is common among Hindus and Muslims. It is true that most of
the distinct vocabulary used by Hindus is derived from Sanskrit and that used by
Muslims is derived from Perso-Arabic sources. On considering the phonological
and morphological variation (besides vocabulary) between these two dialects, the
terms used by Kachru do not appear to be appropriate or adequate enough to
represent the two socio dialectical variations of styles of speech. The
dichotomy of these social dialects is not always significant. One can notice a
process of style switching between the speakers of these two dialects in terms
of different situations and participants. The frequency of this "style
switching" process between the speakers of these two communities mainly
depends on different situations and periods of contact between the participants
of the two communities at various social, educational and other levels.
2. Linguistic Characteristics
Some of the important phonological and grammatical
characteristics of Kashmiri are pointed out in this section.
Kashmiri has following vowel phonemes:
(1) Front Vowels: / i, i:, e and e:/ (2) Central Vowels
/ 1, 1: e, e:, a and a: /: and back vowels / u, u:, o, o: and c /. The
nasalization is phonemic in Kashmir. All the nasals can be nasalized. The high
and mid central vowels in Kashmiri / 1,1:, e and e: / are not found in any other
Indian languages. Kashmiri has also developed unrounded back vowels / U. U: and
0: / which are not found in any other lndo-Aryan or Dravidian Language.
Kashmiri has following consonant phonemes:
(1) Stops: Bibabial / p, ph and b /, dental / t, th and
d /, retroflex / T. Th and D/, Velar / K kh and g /;
It may be observed that Kashmiri does not have voiced
aspirated stops. Palatalization is an important feature of Kashmiri. All the
consonants excepts the palatals, can be palatalized. The denial affricates / ts
and tsh / are not found in Hindi-Urdu and many other Indian Languages.
(2) Affricates: dental / ts and tsh /, Palato-al veolar
/ c, ch and j ;
(3) Nasals / m n and N /
(4) Fricatives, / s, z, sh and h / ,
(5) Lateral /1 /, (6) Trill /r/ and (7) Semi-vowels / v
Kashmiri has borrowed, with adaptation, a large number
of vocabulary items from Sanskrit, Perso-Arabic sources and most recently from
English. These borrowings have resulted in various phonological changes and the
development of certain morphological characteristics and registers as well (Knul
Kashmiri shares a number of grammatical features with
other Dardic languages (Koul and Schmidt 1984), but it also shares some
characteristics with modern Indo-Aryan languages. Some of the peculiar
morphological and syntactic characteristics are pointed out here. Nouns are
declined for number, gender and case. There are four cases : a direct or
nominative and three oblique cases - a dative, an ergative and an ablative.
Different case markers are added to the nouns in oblique cases. Various
postpositions govern two different oblique cases : dative and ablative.
Pronouns are declined for person, number gender and
case. There is a three term distinction in the demonstrativec pronouns: (1)
proximate (2) remote (within sight) and (3) remote (out of sight). Pronominal
suffixes are very frequently suffixed to finite verbal forms to indicate
personal pronouns. The usage of pronominal suffixes is optional in the case of
first and third person but their use is obligatory in the second person.
There are two sets of adjectives (1) declinable and (2)
indeclinable. Declinable adjectives are declined for number, gender and case,
and indeclinable adjectives do not decline for number and gender. A distinction
is being maintained between the base adjectives and derived adjectives.
Verbs are inflected for person, number, gender and
tense. All verbs are conjugated and can be classified in different sets
according to the sentence patterns. All but seven verb roots end in consonant.
In the conjugation of past tense, three distinctions
(1) simple or proximate past,
They are formed by adding different past participles to
(2) indefinite past and
(3) remote past.
Main verbs are classified into copulative, intransitive
and transitive. Verbs are causativized by adding causative suffixes to the verb
stems. Conjunct and compound verbs are very frequently used in Kashmiri.
Compound verbs have their own characteristics.
Kashmiri has a different word order from other Indian
languages at the surface level. The verb in Kashmiri always comes in the second
position in a sentence. Kashmiri is therefore characterized as a verb 2
Various scripts have been used for Kashmiri. The main
scripts are: Sharda, Devanagri, Roman and Persio-Arabic. The Sharda script,
developed around the 10th century, is the oldest script used for Kashmiri. It is
now being used for very restricted purposes (for writing horoscopes etc.) by the
priestly class of the Kashmiri Pandit community. The Devanagri script with
additional diacritical marks has also been used for Kashmiri and is still being
used by some writers. The Roman script has also been used for Kashmiri but could
not become popular. The Persio-Arabic script with additional diacritical marks
has been recognized as the official script for Kashmiri by the Jammu and Kashmir
Government and is now being widely used. Most of the books are being printed in