Khowar language

Khowar (کهووار), also known as Chitrali, is an Indo-Aryan language of the Dardic group spoken in northern Pakistan.[3]

Khowar language.png
Khowar written in the Arabic script
Native toPakistan
RegionChitral District
Native speakers
290,000 (2004)[1]
Khowar alphabet (Arabic script)
Language codes
ISO 639-3khw
Khowar special letter

"Kho" means the people of Chitral, "War" means language. It is spoken by the Kho people in the whole of Chitral, as well as in Ghizer District of Gilgit-Baltistan (including the Gupis, Phander, Ishkoman, Yasin), in Punyal and in parts of Upper Swat (Mateltan Village).[citation needed]

Speakers of Khowar have also migrated heavily to Pakistan's major urban centres with Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, having significant populations. It is spoken as a second language in the rest of Gilgit and Hunza. There are believed to be small numbers of Khowar speakers in Afghanistan, China and Tajikistan.[citation needed]


The native name of the language is Khō-wār,[4] meaning "language" (wār) of the Kho people. During the British Raj it was known to the English as Chitrālī (a derived adjective from the name of the Chitral region) or Qāshqārī.[4] Among the Pathans and Badakshis it is known as Kashkār.[5] Another name, used by Leitner in 1880, is Arnyiá[6] or Arniya, derived from the Shina language name for the part of the Yasin (a valley in Gilgit-Baltistan) where Khowar is spoken.[4]


Morgenstierne noted that "Khowar, in many respects [is] the most archaic of all modern Indian languages, retaining a great part of Sanskrit case inflexion, and retaining many words in a nearly Sanskritic form."[7]:3


Khowar has a variety of dialects, which may vary phonemically.[8] The following tables lay out the basic phonology of Khowar.[9][10]


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

Khowar may also have nasalized vowels and a series of long vowels /aː/, /eː/, /iː/, /oː/, and /uː/. Sources are inconsistent on whether length is phonemic, with one author stating "vowel-length is observed mainly as a substitute one. The vowel-length of phonological value is noted far more rarely."[8] Unlike the neighboring and related Kalasha language, Khowar does not have retroflex vowels.[9]


Labial Coronal Retroflex Palatal Velar Post-
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless p t ʈ k (q)
voiced b d ɖ g
aspirated ʈʰ
Affricate voiceless ts ʈʂ
voiced dz ɖʐ
aspirated tsʰ (?) ʈʂʰ tʃʰ
Fricative voiceless f s ʂ ʃ x h
voiced z ʐ ʒ ɣ
Approximant l(ʲ) ɫ j w
Rhotic ɾ

The phonemic status of /tsʰ/ is unclear in the sources


Khowar, like many Dardic languages, has either phonemic tone or stress distinctions.[11]

Writing systemEdit

Since the early twentieth century Khowar has been written in the Khowar alphabet, which is based on the Urdu alphabet and uses the Nasta'liq script. Prior to that, the language was carried on through oral tradition. Today Urdu and English are the official languages and the only major literary usage of Khowar is in both poetry and prose composition. Khowar has also been occasionally written in a version of the Roman script called Roman Khowar since the 1960s.


  • Standard Khowar
  • Chitrali Khowar(Torkhow and Mulkhow Valley)
  • Chitrali Khowar (Chitral Town)
  • Swati Khowar (Swat Kohistan)
  • Lotkuhiwar (Lotkuh Valley/ Gramchashma Valley)
  • Gherzikwar (Ghizer Valley)
  • Gilgiti Khowar (Gilgit-Baltistan), spoken by a few families in Gilgit city.

Khowar mediaEdit

Television channelsEdit

TV Channel Genre Founded Official Website
Khyber News TV (خیبر نیوز ٹیلی ویژن) News and current affairs
AVT Khyber TV (اے وی ٹی خیبر) Entertainment
K2 TV (کے ٹو) Entertainment, news and current affairs
Zeal News (ذیل نیوز) News and Current Affairs 2016


These are not dedicated Khowar channels but play most programmes in Khowar.

Radio Channel Genre Founded Official Website
Radio Pakistan Chitral FM93 Entertainment
Radio Pakistan Peshawar Entertainment
Radio Pakistan Gilgit Entertainment
FM97 Chitral Entertainment


Newspaper City(ies) Founded Official Website
Chitral Vision (چترال وژن) Karachi, Chitral, Pakistan
Chitral Today


  1. ^ Khowar at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Khowar". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "DARDESTĀN – Encyclopaedia Iranica".
  4. ^ a b c Grierson, George A. (1919). Linguistic Survey of India. Volume VIII , Part 2, Indo-Aryan family. North-western group. Specimens of the Dardic or Piśācha languages (including Kāshmiri). Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India. p. 133.
  5. ^ O'Brien, Donatus James Thomond (1895). Grammar and vocabulary of the K̲h̲owâr dialect (Chitrâli). Lahore: Civil and military gazette press. p. i.
  6. ^ Leitner, Gottlieb William (1880). Kafiristan. Section 1: the Bashgeli Kafirs and their language. Lahore: Dilbagroy. p. 43. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  7. ^ Morgenstierne, Georg (1974). "Languages of Nuristan and surrounding regions". In Jettmar, Karl; Edelberg, Lennart (eds.). Cultures of the Hindukush: selected papers from the Hindu-Kush Cultural Conference held at Moesgård 1970. Beiträge zur Südasienforschung, Südasien-Institut Universität Heidelberg. Bd. 1. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner. pp. 1–10. ISBN 978-3-515-01217-1.
  8. ^ a b Edelman, D. I. (1983). The Dardic and Nuristani Languages. Moscow: Institut vostokovedenii︠a︡ (Akademii︠a︡ nauk SSSR). p. 210.
  9. ^ a b Bashir, Elena L. (1988), "Topics in Kalasha Syntax: An areal and typological perspective" (PDF), Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Michigan: 37–40
  10. ^ Bashir, Elena L., Maula Nigah and Rahmat Karim Baig, A Digital Khowar-English Dictionary with Audio
  11. ^ Baart, Joan L. G. (2003), Tonal features in languages of northern Pakistan (PDF), National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University and Summer Institute of Linguistics, pp. 3, 6

Additional referencesEdit

  • Bashir, Elena (2001) "Spatial Representation in Khowar". Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
  • Decker, D. Kendall (1992). Languages of Chitral. ISBN 969-8023-15-1.
  • L'Homme, Erik (1999) Parlons Khowar. Langue et culture de l'ancien royaume de Chitral au Pakistan. Paris: L'Harmattan

  • Morgenstierne, Georg (1936) "Iranian Elements in Khowar". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. VIII, London.
  • Badshah Munir Bukhari (2001) Khowar language. University publisher. Pakistan
  • Morgenstierne, Georg (1947) "Some Features of Khowar Morphology". Norsk Tidsskrift for Sprogvidenskap, Vol. XIV, Oslo.
  • Morgenstierne, Georg (1957) Sanskritic Words in Khowar. Felicitation Volume Presented to S. K. Belvalkar. Benares. 84–98 [Reprinted in Morgenstierne (1973): Irano-Dardica, 267–72]
  • Mohammad Ismail Sloan (1981) Khowar-English Dictionary. Peshawar. ISBN 0-923891-15-3.
  • Decker, Kendall D. (1992). Languages of Chitral (Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, 5). National Institute of Pakistani Studies, 257 pp. ISBN 969-8023-15-1.
  • Zeal News,lived%20together%20peacefully%20for%20centuries.

External linksEdit