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Omkar N. Koul
- Transcription
- Introduction
- References
- Lesson 1
Lesson 2
- Lesson 3
- Lesson 4
- Lesson 5
- Lesson 6
- Lesson 7
- Lesson 8
- Lesson 9
- Lesson 10
- Lesson 11
- Lesson 12
- Lesson 13
- Lesson 14
- Lesson 15
- Lesson 16
- Lesson 17
- Lesson 18
- Lesson 19
- Lesson 20
- Appendix
- PDF format
Spoken Kashmiri: A Language Course

NOTE: Click on any image to listen to its audio clip.


Area and Speakers

The Kashmiri language is called  or by its native speakers. It is primarily spoken in the Kashmir Valley of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. According to the 1981 census there are 30,76,398 speakers of the language. The census was not conducted in the year 1991. Keeping in view the rise of the population over last many years, the current number of its speakers will be around four million. Kashmiri is also spoken by Kashmiris settled in other parts of India, and other countries. The language spoken in and around Srinagar is regarded as the standard variety. It is used in literature, mass media and education.

Classification and Dialects

There is a general consensus amongst historical linguists that Kashmiri belongs to the Dardic branch of the Indo-Aryan family. Grierson (1919), Morgenstierne (1961), Fussman (1972) classify Kashmiri under Dardic group of Indo-Aryan languages. The t.mp3 Dardic is stated to be only a geographical convention and not a linguistic expression. The classification of Kashmiri and other Dardic languages has been reviewed in some works (Kachru 1969, Strand 1973, Koul and Schmidt 1984) with different purposes in mind. Kachru points out 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 reference of Kashmiri and Shina.

Kashmiri has two types of dialects: (a) Regional dialects and (b) Social dialects. Regional dialects are further of two types: (i) those regional dialects or variations which are spoken in the regions inside the valley of Kashmir and (ii) those which are spoken in the regions outside the valley of Kashmir. Kashmiri speaking area in the valley is ethno-semantically divided into three regions: (1) Maraz (southern and south-eastern region), (2) Kamraz (northern and north-western region) and (3) Srinagar and its neighboring areas. There are some minor linguistic variations mainly at the phonological and lexical levels. Kashmiri spoken in the three regions is not only mutually intelligible but quite homogeneous. These dialectical variations can be t.mp3ed as different styles of the same speech. Since Kashmiri, spoken in and around Srinagar has gained some social prestige, very frequent ‘style switching’ takes places from Marazi or Kamrazi styles to that of the style of speech spoken in Srinagar and its neighboring areas. 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.

There are two main regional dialects, namely Poguli and Kashtawari spoken outside the valley of Kashmiri (Koul and Schmidt 1984). Poguli is spoken in the Pogul and Paristan valleys bordered on the east by Rambani and Siraji, and on the west by mixed dialects of Lahanda and Pahari. The speakers of Poguli are found mainly to the south, south-east and south-west of Banihal. Poguli shares many linguistic features including 70% vocabulary with Kashmiri (Koul and Schmidt 1984). Literate Poguli speakers of Pogul and Pakistan valleys speak standard Kashmiri as well. Kashtawari is spoken in the Kashtawar 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 Tibetan speaking region of Zanskar. Kashtawari shares most of the linguistic features of standard Kashmiri, but retains some archaic features which have disappeared from the latter. It shares about 80% vocabulary with Kashmiri (Koul and Schmidt 1984).

No detailed sociolinguistic research work has been conducted to study different speech variations of Kashmiri spoken by different communities and speakers who belong to different areas, professions and occupations. In some earlier works beginning with Grierson (1919: 234) distinction has been pointed out in two speech variations of Hindus and Muslims, 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 variations in pronunciation, morphology and vocabulary 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 Person-Arabic sources. On considering the phonological and morphological variations (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 clear-cut. 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 professional levels. Koul (1986) and Dhar (1984) have presented co-relation between certain linguistic and social variations of Kashmiri at different social and regional levels. The socio-linguistic variations of the language deserve a detailed study.

Unique Characteristics

Kashmiri is closely related to Shina and some other languages of the North-West frontier. It also shares some morphological features such as pronominal suffixes with Sindhi and Lahanda. However, Kashmiri is different from all other Indo-Aryan languages in certain phonological, morphological and syntactic features. For example, Kashmiri has a set of central vowels, and dental affricates /ts/ and /tsh/ which are not found in other Indo-Aryan languages. In a similar way, in Kashmiri the finite verb always occurs in the second position with the exception in relative clause constructions. The word order in Kashmiri, thus, resembles the one in G.mp3an, Dutch, Icelandic, Yiddish and a few other languages. These languages f.mp3 a distinct set and are currently known as Verb Second (V-2) languages. Note that the word order generated by V-2 languages is quite different from Verb middle languages such as English. In a V-2 language, any constituent of a sentence can precede the verb. It is worth mentioning here that Kashmiri shows several unique features which are different from the above mentioned other V-2 languages.


Various scripts have been used for Kashmiri. The main scripts are: Sharda, Devanagari, Roman and Perso-Arabic. The Sharda script, developed around the 10th century, is the oldest script used for Kashmiri. The script was not developed for writing Kashmiri. It was primarily used for writing Sanskrit by the local scholars at that time. Besides a large number of Sanskrit literary works, old Kashmiri works were written in this script. This script does not represent all the phonetic characteristics of the Kashmiri language. It is now being used for very restricted purposes (for writing horoscopes) by the priestly class of the Kashmiri Pandit community. The Devanagari script with additional diacritical marks is used for Kashmiri by writers and researchers in representing the data from Kashmiri texts in their writings in Hindi related to language, literature and culture. It is also used as an additional script (besides Perso-Arabic) or alternate script in certain literary works, religious texts including devotional songs written by Hindu writers outside the valley of Kashmir after their migration from the valley. It is being used by a few journals namely Koshur Samachar, Kshir Bhawani Times, Vitasta, and Milchar on regular basis. Certain amount of inconsistency prevails in the use of diacritic signs. The diacritic signs for writing Kashmiri in this script have recently been standardized and the computer software is available for it. It is not yet used in all the publications. The Roman script is also used for Kashmiri but is not very popular. The Roman script with phonetic diacritic signs is used in the presentation of data from Kashmiri in the linguistic and literary works related to the Kashmiri language and literature written in English. It is also used in instructional materials for teaching and or learning Kashmiri as a second/foreign language through the medium of English. However, there is no unif.mp3ity in the use of diacritic signs.

The Perso-Arabic script with additional diacritical marks now known as Kashmiri script has been recognized as the official script for Kashmiri by the Jammu and Kashmir Government and is now widely used in publications in the language. It still lacks standardization (Koul 1996). The computer software is available for writing Kashmiri in this script.

Learning of Kashmiri as a second/foreign language

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in learning Kashmiri as a second/foreign language. Kashmiri is being taught as a second language at the Northern Regional Language Centre (CIIL) Patiala since 1971. A limited number of pedagogical materials in the from of language courses and supplementary materials have been produced in Kashmiri so far. Kachru (1969,1973) has made first serious attempt in this regard. Koul (1985,1995) has prepared two textbooks for teaching basic and int.mp3ediate level courses in Kashmiri at the NRLC Patiala. They introduce all major structures of the Kashmiri language. Bhat (1982) and Raina(1995) have prepared readers in for teaching Kashmiri at the first two levels at the sochool level. They contain lessons on the Kashmiri script and some structures. Bhat (2001) has prepared an audio-cassette course in Kashmiri with a manual useful for the second language learners of Kashmiri.

The present book is essentially a self-instructional course. It contains 20 lessons presenting basic structures of the Kashmiri language. Each lesson contains usually one major structure along with related patterns. All the lessons consist of text, mostly in the f.mp3 of dialogues, followed by drills, exercises, vocabulary and notes on grammar. Texts are given with equivalent English translations. It is to be noted that these English translations have no one to one correspondence with Kashmiri, either structurally or stylistically but are intended, only to convey the general meaning.

Drills are provided for the oral practice of the structure and teachable items introduced in each lesson. The types of drills introduced are: Substitution drill, Repetition drill, Transformation drill, and Response drill. The main types of exercises used in this book are: Fill in the blanks using suitable words, completion of sentences, answering of questions, using of words and phrases in sentences etc. The drills and exercise are designed to help the development of learners’ linguistic competence in the language systematically. The vocabulary section lists lexical items, which occur in the lesson for the first time. The English meanings given for the lexical items are generally restricted to the context they occur in the lesson. The notes on grammar are provided from the functional point of view and the use of technical terms is kept to the minimum. The learners may consult other sources (Kachru 1969, 1973, Koul 1977, 1985, Koul and Hook 1984, Bhat 1986, and Wali and Koul 1997) for more detailed grammatical descriptions. The appendix provides a list of classified vocabulary in Kashmiri. The learners who use this book as a self-instructional course must ensure that they practice drills and attempt exercises given in each lesson with the assistance of a native speaker of Kashmiri or from the lessons recorded, to be obtained from the publishers.

This book was first published in 1987. It is reprinted with minor revisions. I would like to thank Mr. Sunil Fotedar for making it available on net and encouraging me to bring out its second reprint.

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