A recent entrant into the list of the official languages of Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmiri is a language from the Dardic subgroup of Indo-Aryan languages, spoken by about 50% of J&K’s population. Around 7 million Kashmiris in the Kashmir region speak this language, and it is among the 22 scheduled languages of India. Kashmiri is considered as one of the oldest languages used in the Indian subcontinent.
Origin and History of Kashmiri
How old is Kashmiri language? Kashmiri literature is 750 years old. The origin of Kashmiri is not exactly known but it is widely considered as a Sanskritic language which sounds valid considering the fact that before its conversion to Islam, most of the Kashmir Valley was inhabited by Brahmins.
What do scholars say about the origin and development of the Kashmiri language? N.L.Chatta in his writings on Kashmiri Language has stated that this language has a Paschachi base. Paschachi group of languages is presently called the Dard group. Sir George Grieson was the first European scholar who stated that Kashmiri belongs to the Dardic group, and that it developed in Dardistan, the region between North West of Punjab and Pamir. According to him as well, Kashmiri is highly influenced by Sanskrit.
Professor Ersnt Kuhn of Germany, a research scholar, was the first to state that dialects of Hindukush region and Kashmiri form a different group in Indo-Aryan languages. According to some scholars, Kashmiri is Indo-Aryan and not Dardic. Some other scholars are of the view that Kashmiri originated from Saryani and Abrani, the language of Jews who came to Kashmir around 2000 years ago.
Kashmiri Language Family
The tree model of the origin of Kashmiri looks like this:
Indo-European language family is native to western and southern Eurasia, consisting of languages of Europe, northern Indian subcontinent and the Iranian plateau. One of the branches of the Indo-European family is Indo-Iranian. Indo-Aryan languages, also called Indic languages, are a branch of Indo-Iranian languages.
Indo-Aryan languages are spoken by more than 800 million people, mainly in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal. There are more than 200 known Indo-Aryan languages. Dardic is a subgroup of these languages.
Dardic languages are spoken in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, some parts of Afghanistan, and in the Kashmir Valley and Chenab Valley in India.
Kashmiri, Shina, Chitral, Kohistani, Pashayi and Kunar are the subfamilies of Dardic languages. The Kashmiri subfamily includes the languages Kashmiri, Kishtwari and Poguli.
Kashmiri Language Trivia
- Kashmiri is a fusional language.
- Verb-second word order is a distinct feature of Kashmiri.
- There are no articles in this language.
- Sanskrit influences can be easily seen in Kashmiri. When Muslims ruled Kashmir, the Kashmiri language borrowed many Persian words. In the recent years, Hindustani and Punjabi have influenced Kashmiri vocabulary.
- Three scripts are used in Kashmiri. They include Perso-Arabic, Devanagari and Sharada. Roman script is also sometimes used.
- Since the 8th century AD, Kashmiri was written in the Sharada script. This script is not used today, except for religious ceremonies of Kashmiri Pandits.
- Today, Perso-Arabic and Devanagari scripts are used, wherein Perso-Arabic is recognized as the official script of the Kashmiri language and it is used by Kashmiri Hindus and Kashmiri Muslims alike.
- Unlike other Indo-Aryan languages, many old features of the Old Indo-Aryan have been retained in the Kashmiri language.
- Kashmiri has two dialects, namely, Kishtwari and Pogali. Kishtwai is a conservative dialect, used mostly in the Kishtwar Valley. Pogali is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in some parts of Jammu, and is intermediate between Kashmiri and Western Pahari.
Thus, we can see that Kashmiri is a very old and a rich language having its own unique characteristics due to which it stands out from other languages. Spoken by a majority of people in J&K, Kashmiri got the special status of official language of Jammu and Kashmir in 2020. This decision was greeted by Kashmiris the world over and has served as an important step in promoting this language.