Dardic languages

The Dardic languages (also Dardu or Pisaca)[1] are a subgroup of the Indo-Aryan languages natively spoken in northern Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northern India's Kashmir Valley and Chenab Valley and parts of eastern Afghanistan.[2][3] Kashmiri is the most prominent Dardic language, with an established literary tradition, alongside official recognition as one of India's 22 scheduled languages.[2][4][5]

EthnicityDardic peoples
parts of Eastern Afghanistan, Northern India (Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh), Northern Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
indo1324  (Northwestern Zone)
Dardic Language.png
Dardic languages by Georg Morgenstierne
(note: Nuristani languages such as Kamkata-vari (Kati), Kalasha-ala (Waigali), etc. are now separated)


The terms "Dardic" and "Dardistan" were coined by G. W. Leitner in the late nineteenth century; derived from the Greek and Latin term Daradae, which is itself derived from the Sanskrit term for the people of the region, Daradas.[6] In Vedic records, Daradas is identified to be the Gilgit region, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region (part of ancient Baloristan)[7][8] along the river Sindhu (Indus). However, these terms are not used endonymically by Dardic people.

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. Grierson's Dardic language family originally encompassed three subfamilies; "Kafiri" (now called Nuristani), "Central" and "Dard" languages. However, Grierson's formulation of Dardic is now considered to be incorrect in its details, and has therefore been rendered obsolete by modern scholarship. However, it continues to be cited as a reference, in various publications.[9]

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, and determined that the Dardic languages were unmistakably Indo-Aryan in character.[10]

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.[11]


According to a model proposed by Asko Parpola, the Dardic languages are directly descended from the Rigvedic dialect of Vedic Sanskrit.[12]

In general, however, Morgenstierne's scheme corresponds to recent scholarly consensus.[13] As such, Dardic's position as a legitimate genetic subfamily has been repeatedly called into question; it is widely acknowledged that the grouping is more geographical in nature, as opposed to linguistic.[3] Indeed, Buddruss rejected the Dardic grouping entirely, and placed the languages within Central Indo-Aryan.[14] Other scholars, such as Strand[15] and Mock,[16] have similarly voiced doubts in this regard.

However, Kachru contrasts "Midland languages" spoken in the plains, such as Punjabi and Urdu, with "Mountain languages", such as Dardic.[17] Kogan has also suggested an 'East-Dardic' sub-family; comprising the 'Kashmiri', 'Kohistani' and 'Shina' groups.[18][19]

The case of Kashmiri is peculiar. Its Dardic features are close to Shina, often said to belong to an eastern Dardic language subfamily. Kachru notes that "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".[17]

While it is true that many Dardic languages have been influenced by non-Dardic languages, Dardic may have also influenced neighbouring Indo-Aryan lects in turn, such as Punjabi,[20] the Pahari languages, including the Central Pahari languages of Uttarakhand,[20][21] and purportedly even further afield.[22][23] Some linguists have posited that Dardic lects may have originally been spoken throughout a much larger region, stretching from the mouth of the Indus (in Sindh) northwards in an arc, and then eastwards through modern day Himachal Pradesh to Kumaon. However, this has not been conclusively established. [24][25][26]


Dardic languages have been organized into the following subfamilies:[27]

In other classifications, Pashai may be included within Kunar; and Kashmiri within Shina.

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'.

Poguli has been judged to be intermediate between Kashmiri and Western Pahari (Kaul 2006).


The languages of the Dardic group share some common defining characteristics, including the loss of aspirated sounds, in addition to word order that is seemingly unique for Indo-Iranian languages.

Loss of voiced aspirationEdit

Virtually all Dardic languages have experienced a partial or complete loss of voiced aspirated consonants.[27][28] 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).[27][28] Tonality has developed in some (but not all) Dardic languages, such as Khowar and Pashai, as a compensation.[28] 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).[27]

Dardic metathesis and other changesEdit

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".[20][29] 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.[29] Modern-day Kalasha uses the word driga 'long' (Sanskrit: dirgha).[29] Palula uses drubalu 'weak' (Sanskrit: durbala) and brhuj 'birch tree' (Sanskrit: bhurja).[29] Kashmiri uses drolid2 'impoverished' (Sanskrit: daridra) and krama 'work' or 'action' (Sanskrit: karma).[29] 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][30]

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]

Verb position in DardicEdit

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 subject-object-verb (SOV) pattern, similar to Japanese.[31]

Language First example sentence Second example sentence
English (Germanic) This is a horse. We will go to Tokyo.
Kashmiri (Dardic) Yi chu akh gur./ Yi thu akh gur. (Kishtwari Kashmiri) As' gatshav Tokiyo.
Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan) Ayám eka 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.
Urdu 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. Hami 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 alsoEdit


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.[32] 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.


Academic literature from outside South Asia

  • 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.

Academic literature from South Asia

  • The Comparative study of Urdu and Khowar. Badshah Munir Bukhari National Language Authority Pakistan 2003. [No Reference]
  • National Institute of Pakistani Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University & Summer Institute of Linguistics


  1. ^ "Dardic languages".
  2. ^ a b Peter K. Austin (2008), One thousand languages: living, endangered, and lost, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-25560-9, 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 ...
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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) ...
  5. ^ 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 ...
  6. ^ Dardestan, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Retrieved 2016-06-10].
  7. ^ Jettmar, Karl. "Petroglyphs as Evidence for Religious Configurations?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-07-15. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  8. ^ Jettmar, Karl (1980), Bolor & Dardistan, National Institute of Folk Heritage.
  9. ^ Masica 1993, p. 461.
  10. ^ Masica 1993, p. 462.
  11. ^ Koul 2008, p. 142.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ a b c Masica 1993.
  14. ^ Buddruss, Georg (1985). "Linguistic Research in Gilgit and Hunza". Journal of Central Asia. 8 (1): 27–32.
  15. ^ Strand, Richard (2001), "The Tongues of Peristân"
  16. ^ Mock, John (2011), "http://www.mockandoneil.com/dard.htm"
  17. ^ a b Kachru, Braj B. (1981), Kashmiri Literature, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, pp. 4–5, ISBN 978-3-447-02129-6
  18. ^ Kogan, Anton (2013), "https://jolr.ru/index.php?article=130"
  19. ^ Kogan, Anton (2015), "https://jolr.ru/index.php?article=157"
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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)
  22. ^ 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 ...
  23. ^ Gulam Allana (2002), The origin and growth of Sindhi language, Institute of Sindhology, ISBN 9789694050515, ... 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 ...
  24. ^ 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 ...
  25. ^ 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 ...
  26. ^ 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) ...
  27. ^ a b c d S. Munshi, Keith Brown (editor), Sarah Ogilvie (editor) (2008), Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world, Elsevier, ISBN 978-0-08-087774-7, 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)
  28. ^ a b c George Cardona; Dhanesh Jain (2007), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-77294-5, retrieved 2010-05-11, In others, traces remain as tonal differences (Khowar buúm, 'earth', Pashai dum, 'smoke') ...
  29. ^ 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 ...
  30. ^ Amar Nath Malik (1995), The phonology and morphology of Panjabi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, ISBN 81-215-0644-1, retrieved 2010-05-26, ... drakhat 'tree' ...
  31. ^ 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 ...
  32. ^ 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 ...