Dardic languages

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Eastern Afghanistan, Northern India (Jammu and Kashmir), Northern Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
indo1324  (Northwestern Zone)[1]

The Dardic languages (also Dardu or Pisaca)[2] are a sub-group of the Indo-Aryan languages natively spoken in Northern Pakistan's Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Northern India's Jammu and Kashmir and Eastern Afghanistan.[3][4] Kashmiri/Koshur is the most prominent Dardic language, with an established literary tradition and official recognition as one of the official languages of India.[3][5][6]


The terms "Dardic" and "Dardistan" were coined by G. W. Leitner in the late 19th century, derived from the Greek and Latin term Daradae, which is itself derived from the Sanskrit term for the people of the region, Daradas. These terms are not in current use in the region.[7] In Vedic records, Daradas is identified to be the Gilgit region, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region (part of ancient Baloristan)[8][9] along the river Sindhu (Indus).

George Abraham Grierson (1919), with scant data, postulated a family of "Dardic languages", which he characterised as an independent branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, separate from the Iranian and Indo-Aryan branches. His Dardic language family had three subfamilies, "Kafiri" (now called Nuristani), "Central" and "Dard" languages. Grierson's view is now considered obsolete and incorrect in its details. However, it continues to be often cited in works of reference.[10]

Georg Morgenstierne (1961), after a "lifetime of study," came to the view that only the "Kafiri" (Nuristani) languages formed an independent branch of the Indo-Iranian languages separate from Indo-Aryan and Iranian families. He found the Dard languages to be Indo-Aryan.[11]

Dardic languages contain absolutely no features which cannot be derived from old [Indo-Aryan language]. They have simply retained a number of striking archasisms, which had already disappeared in most Prakrit dialects... There is not a single common feature distinguishing Dardic, as a whole, from the rest of the [Indo-Aryan] languages... Dardic is simply a convenient term to denote a bundle of aberrant [Indo-Aryan] hill-languages which, in their relative isolation, accented in many cases by the invasion of Pathan tribes, have been in varying degrees sheltered against the expand influence of [Indo-Aryan] Midland (Madhyadesha) innovations, being left free to develop on their own.[12]

This is the scheme generally accepted by recent scholarship.[13] The "Midland languages", such as Punjabi and Hindustani, are spoken in the plains whereas the Dardic languages are spoken in the mountains. The essential difference is between the plains languages and the mountain languages.[14]

The grouping is acknowledged to be to some extent geographical rather than linguistic.[4] Buddruss rejected the Dardic grouping entirely, and placed the languages within Central Indo-Aryan.[15]

The case of Kashmiri is peculiar. Its Dardic features are close to Shina, often said to belong to an eastern Dardic language subfamily. "The Kashmiri language used by Kashmiri Hindu Pandits has been powerfully influenced by Indian culture and literature and the greater part of its vocabulary is now of Indian origin and is allied to that of Sanskritic Indo-Aryan languages of northern India".[14]

According to a model proposed by Asko Parpola, the Dardic languages are directly descended from the Rigvedic dialect of Vedic Sanskrit.[16]

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[17] and allegedly even far beyond.[18][19] It has also been asserted that some Central Pahari languages of Uttarakhand demonstrate Dardic influence.[17][20] 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 (in Sindh) northwards in an arc, and then eastwards through modern day Himachal Pradesh to Kumaon.[21][22][23]


Dardic languages have been organized into the following subfamilies:[24]

In other classifications, Pashai may be included within Kunar, and Kashmiri within Shina. Khetrani may be a remnant Dardic language in the Siraiki region.

The term Kohistani is popularly used to refer to several distinct languages in the mountain areas of Northern Pakistan, including Maiya, Kalami, and Torwali. It can be translated as 'mountain language'.

Recording about the Torwals, a non-Pashtun tribe which with the Gabaris, occupied both lower and upper Swat prior to the invasion of Swat by the Yusufzai Pashtun in the sixteenth century AD.


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 voiced aspiration[edit]

Virtually all Dardic languages have experienced a partial or complete loss of voiced aspirated consonants.[24][26] Khowar uses the word buum for 'earth' (Sanskrit: bhumi),1 Pashai uses the word duum for 'smoke' (Hindi: dhuan, Sanskrit: dhum) and Kashmiri uses the word dod for 'milk' (Sanskrit: dugdha, Hindi: dūdh).[24][26] Tonality has developed in some (but not all) Dardic languages, such as Khowar and Pashai, as a compensation.[26] 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).[24]

Dardic metathesis and other changes[edit]

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".[17][27] 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 spell the Classical Sanskrit words priyadarshi (one of the titles of Emperor Ashoka) as instead priyadrashi and dharma as dhrama.[27] Modern-day Kalasha uses the word driga 'long' (Sanskrit: dirgha).[27] Palula uses drubalu 'weak' (Sanskrit: durbala) and brhuj 'birch tree' (Sanskrit: bhurja).[27] Kashmiri uses drolid2 'impoverished' (Sanskrit: daridra) and krama 'work' or 'action' (Sanskrit: karma).[27] 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 cf. the Punjabi word drakhat 'tree' (from Persian darakht).[13][28]

Dardic languages also show other consonantal changes. Kashmiri, for instance, has a marked tendency to shift k to ch and j to z (e.g. zon 'person' is cognate to Sanskrit jan 'person or living being' and Persian jān 'life').[13] Punjabi and Western Pahari share this tendency also, though they are non-Dardic (e.g. compare Hindi dekho 'look' to Punjabi vekho and Kashmiri vuchiv).[13][clarification needed]

Verb position in Dardic[edit]

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 German and Dutch, as well as Uto-Aztecan O'odham and Northeast Caucasian Ingush. Most Dardic languages, such as Indus Kohistani, however, follow the usual Indo-Iranian SOV pattern, similar to Japanese.[29]

English (Germanic) This is a horse. We will go to Tokyo.
Kashmiri (Dardic) Yi chu akh gur. As gachav Tokyo.
Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan) Ayám áśvaḥ ásti. Vayám Tokyaṃ gámiṣyāmaḥ.
Japanese (Japonic) Kore wa uma de aru. Watashitachi wa Tōkyō ni ikimasu.
Kamkata-vari (Nuristani) Ina ušpa âsa. Imo Tokyo âćamo.
Dari Persian (Iranian) In yak asb ast. Mâ ba Tokyo khâhem raft.
Shina (Dardic) Anu ek aspo han Be Tokyo et bujun
Pashto (Iranian) Masculine: Dā yo as day / Feminine: Dā yawa aspa da. Mūng/Mūnẓ̌ ba Ṭokyo ta/tar lāṛshū.
Indus Kohistani (Dardic) Sho akh gho thu. Ma Tokyo ye bum-thu .
Sindhi (Indo-Aryan) Heeu hiku ghoro aahe. Asaan Tokyo veendaaseen.
Hindustani (Indo-Aryan) Ye ek ghora hai.5 Ham Tokyo jāenge.
Punjabi (Indo-Aryan) Ae ikk kora ai. Assi Tokyo jāvange.
Nepali (Indo-Aryan) Yo euta ghoda ho. Aami Tokyo jānechhau.
Garhwali (Indo-Aryan) Seey/Si/Yi/Ai Yakh Guntt Chh Aami Tokyo Jaula.
Kumaoni (Indo-Aryan) Yo ek ghoda Chhu Aami Tokyo Jaal.

See also[edit]


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: for instance, word-final 'ah' plus word-initial 'a' merge into 'o'. In actual Sanskrit literature, with the effects of sandhi, this sentence would be expected to appear as Eṣá ékóśvósti. Also, word-final 'a' is Sanskrit is a schwa, [ə] (similar to the ending 'e' in the German name, Nietzsche), so e.g. the second word is pronounced [éːkə]. Pitch accent is indicated with an acute accent in the case of the older Vedic language, which was inherited from Proto-Indo-European.
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.[30] Yeh ek ghoṛā hai is the normal conversational form in Hindi-Urdu. Yeh hai ek ghoṛā 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]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Indo-Aryan Northwestern zone". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ http://www.britannica.com/topic/Dardic-languages
  3. ^ a b Peter K. Austin (2008), One thousand languages: living, endangered, and lost, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-25560-7, Kashmiri is one of the twenty-two official 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 ...
  4. ^ a b Bashir, Elena (2007). Jain, Danesh; Cardona, George (eds.). The Indo-Aryan languages. p. 905. ISBN 978-0415772945. 'Dardic' is a geographic cover term for those Northwest Indo-Aryan languages which [..] developed new characteristics different from the IA languages of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Although the Dardic and Nuristani (previously 'Kafiri') languages were formerly grouped together, Morgenstierne (1965) has established that the Dardic languages are Indo-Aryan, and that the Nuristani languages constitute a separate subgroup of Indo-Iranian.
  5. ^ Hadumod Bussmann; Gregory Trauth; Kerstin Kazzazi (1998), Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-415-20319-8, ... Dardic Group of about fifteen Indo-Iranian languages in northwestern India; the most significant language is Kashmiri (approx. 3 million speakers) ...
  6. ^ 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 2-7637-7186-6, Among all the languages of the Dardic group, Kashmiri is the only one which has a long literary tradition ...
  7. ^ Dardestan, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Retrieved 2016-06-10].
  8. ^ Jettmar, Karl. "Petroglyphs as Evidence for Religious Configurations?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-07-15. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  9. ^ Jettmar, Karl (1980), Bolor & Dardistan, National Institute of Folk Heritage.
  10. ^ Masica 1993, p. 461.
  11. ^ Masica 1993, p. 462.
  12. ^ Koul 2008, p. 142.
  13. ^ a b c d Masica 1993.
  14. ^ a b Kachru, Braj B. (1981), Kashmiri Literature, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, pp. 4–5, ISBN 978-3-447-02129-6
  15. ^ Buddruss, Georg (1985). "Linguistic Research in Gilgit and Hunza". Journal of Central Asia. 8 (1): 27–32.
  16. ^ Parpola, Asko (1999), "The formation of the Aryan branch of Indo-European", in Blench, Roger & Spriggs, Matthew, Archaeology and Language, vol. III: Artefacts, languages and texts, London and New York: Routledge.
  17. ^ a b c Masica 1993, p. 452: ... [Chaterji] agreed with Grierson in seeing Rajasthani influence on Pahari and 'Dardic' influence on (or under) the whole Northwestern group + Pahari. Masica 1993, p. 209: Throughout the northwest, beginning with Sindhi and including 'Lahnda', Dardic, Romany and West Pahari, there has been a tendency to [the] transfer of 'r' from medial clusters to a position after the initial consonant.
  18. ^ Dayanand Narasinh Shanbhag; K. J. Mahale (1970), Essays on Konkani language and literature: Professor Armando Menezes felicitation volume, Konkani Sahitya Prakashan, ... Konkani is spoken. It shows a good deal of Dardic (Paisachi) influence ...
  19. ^ Gulam Allana (2002), The origin and growth of Sindhi language, Institute of Sindhology, ... must have covered nearly the whole of the Punjabi ... still show traces of the earlier Dardic languages that they superseded. Still further south, we find traces of Dardic in Sindhi ...
  20. ^ Arun Kumar Biswas (editor) (1985), Profiles in Indian languages and literatures, Indian Languages Society, ... greater Dardic influence in the western dialects of Garhwali ...CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  21. ^ Irach Jehangir Sorabji Taraporewala (1932), Elements of the science of language, University of Calcutta, 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 ...
  22. ^ Sharad Singh Negi (1993), Kumaun: the land and the people, Indus Publishing, ISBN 81-85182-89-2, 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 ...
  23. ^ Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya (1973), Racial affinities of early North Indian tribes, Munshiram Manoharlal, 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) ...
  24. ^ a b c d S. Munshi, Keith Brown (editor), Sarah Ogilvie (editor) (2008), Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world, Elsevier, ISBN 0-08-087774-5, retrieved 2010-05-11, Based on historical sub-grouping approximations and geographical distribution, Bashir (2003) provides six sub-groups of the Dardic languages ...CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Denzil Ibbetson, Edward MacLagan, H.A. Rose "A Glossary of The Tribes & Casts of The Punjab & North-West Frontier Province", 1911 AD, Page 472, Vol II1,
  26. ^ a b c George Cardona; Dhanesh Jain (2007), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-77294-X, retrieved 2010-05-11, In others, traces remain as tonal differences (Khowar buúm 'earth', Pashai dum 'smoke') ...
  27. ^ 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 0-295-98308-6, 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 ...
  28. ^ Amar Nath Malik (1995), The phonology and morphology of Panjabi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, ISBN 81-215-0644-1, retrieved 2010-05-26, ... drakhat 'tree' ...
  29. ^ Stephen R. Anderson (2005), Aspects of the theory of clitics: Volume 11 of Oxford studies in theoretical linguistics, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-927990-6, 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 ...
  30. ^ Hindi: language, discourse, and writing, Volume 2, Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, 2001, retrieved 2010-05-28, ... the verbs, positioned in the middle of the sentences (rather than at the end) intensify the dramatic quality ...