I History

Kashmiri language is an Indo-Aryan language with its core vocabulary drawn from 'proto-Sanskrit' and 'Sanskrit'. Kashmir has been a seat of highest learning in South and Central Asia for several centuries. Shaivism and Buddhism, the major religions, flourished in this area. The 14th century paved the way for Islam Invaders into the valley, which in turn resulted in the increase in Muslim population. The oldest record of Kashmiri language dates back to the 9th century, when poetry of Chumma Sampraday was in vogue. The followers of this sect wrote verses in old Kashmiri or Apabhramsa. This is followed by Shitikanth’s Mahanaya Prakash, which is a philosophical work on Kashmir Shaivism. Its language is similar to that of Chumma pads. Avtar Bhat in Banasurvadh katha of 15th century employed old Kashmiri and the same was followed by Ruupa Bhawani in her verses which owes its origin to 17th century. But Laleshwari in the 14th century and her disciple Nund Rishi alias Sheikh-ul-Alam used common man’s language in their poetry, which are the first attested forms of modern Kashmiri. In the 16th and 18th centuries, Habba khatoon alias Zoon and Arnimaal employed modern Kashmiri in their love songs.

From the 14th century onwards- Sufi poetry brought in a large body of Perso-Arabic lexis into the language, which eventually enriched the Kashmiri language.

In the 20th-21st centuries devotional songs, love songs, modernist poetry , short stories, plays, essays, novels and other literary genres enriched the language further.

It was during the 14th century that Laleshwari, the first modern Kashmiri poetess provided the native tongue to Kashmir Shaivism. Her hymns (Vakh) are the first attested poetic rendering in Kashmiri language. Persian gradually made its way into the king’s court and Islam spread to remote villages. Consequently, Perso-Arabic vocabulary made its way into the native tongue. Kashmiri, thus, has borrowed extensively from Persian and Arabic and its vocabulary is rich with synonyms, antonyms, idioms and proverbs drawn from these sources.

Linguistic studies of the language began in the 19th century when European scholars studied and analyzed indigenous languages and cultures. Edgworth (1841), Leech(1844) did the pioneering work with regard to Kashmiri. However, the first descriptive grammar of Kashmiri was prepared by Ishwara Kaula. His Kashmirashabdamrita is the first Kashmiri grammar written in Sanskrit in 1879. It is written in the Paninian grammatical format. George A. Grierson calls it ‘an excellent grammar of Kashmiri’. Based upon this work, Grierson published his Standard Manual of Kashmiri Language in 1911. He has given a sketch of kashmiri grammar in his monumental Linguistic Survey of India, Vol.8, Part 2 (1919).

Braj B. Kachru’s Reference Grammar of Kashmiri published from the University of Illinois, USA in 1969 was followed by a host of scholars who worked out various aspects of the language.

Omkar N. Koul, Kashi Wali, Peter E.Hook, Roop Krishen Bhat, Boris Zakharyan etc. have published books and articles on various aspects of Kashmiri phonology, morphology and syntax. They have also prepared a series of teaching materials in the language. Somnath Raina, M.L.Sar, J.L. Handoo, Lalita Handoo, Rakesh Mohan Bhatt, Achala Misri Raina, Ashok Koul, Satyabhama Razdan, R.L.Talashi, Raj Nath Bhat, Vijay Koul, Maharaj Koul, Adil Kak, Shafi Shauk, Nazir Dar, A. Indrabi etc. are the other scholars who have made notable contribution to the study of Kashmiri language.

Various attempts have been made, from the early 19th century, to present grammars and grammatical studies related to different aspects of Kashmiri. The grammatical literature of Kashmiri comprises a variety of materials written in the form of brief notes, articles, monographs, dissertations and independent grammatical sketches and grammars. A Brief survey of some of the prominent works is presented below.

Some of the earlier works on Kashmiri grammar are important and deserve attention of scholars. They include Edgeworth (1841) and Leech (1844). Leech is a first complete sketch of Kashmiri grammar, written by an European scholar, from pedagogical point of view.

A first serious attempt was made by Ishvara Kaul to present a complete grammatical description of Kashmiri in his Kashmira Shabdamritam (Grammar of Kashmiri Language) written in Sanskrit in 1879. This grammar was edited by George A. Grierson and published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1889.

Grierson describes this work as 'an excellent grammar of Kashmiri'. This book is now available in a new edition with Hindi translation by Anatan Ram Shastri (Delhi, 1985).

Grierson has contributed to Kashmiri by his numerous works. He has written articles entitled On pronominal suffixes in the Kashmiri language, (JASB, Vol. 64, No.1), On secondary suffixes in Kashmiri (JASB Vol. 67, No.1), based on the work of Ishvara Kaul. Grierson has also written Standard manual of the Kashmiri language (2 Volumes) comprising grammar, English-Kashmiri sentences and Kashmiri-English vocabulary.

This was originally published in Oxford in 1911 and reprinted by Light and Life Publishers, Rohtak in 1973. It presents a brief grammatical sketch of Kashmiri. He has also provided a brief grammatical sketch of Kashmiri in his Linguistic Survey of India (originally) published in 1919), Vol 8, Part 2.

Burkhand (1887-1889) has written on different grammatical aspects of Kashmiri in German. Some of his works have been translated into English by Grierson. Grierson’s articles on different aspects of Kashmiri linguistics published earlier were also published in a book form under the title Essays on Kashmiri language in 1899 in the present Kolkata.

It is only for the last three decades or so that some serious work on grammatical studies in Kashmiri has been carried out. This work is available in the form of research articles, dissertations and independent grammatical sketches or grammars. Trissal’s doctoral dissertation (1964) provides a first descriptive grammar of Kashmiri written in Hindi. It describes Kashmiri phonology, morphology and syntax in the traditional descriptive framework.

Kachru (1969) provides a detailed grammatical description of Kashmiri. This grammar contains an introduction and chapters dealing with phonetics, phonology, word formation, word clauses, the noun phrase, the verb phrase, the adverbial phrase, and sentence types. It is the first attempt at a comprehensive treatment of Kashmiri. It is mimeographed and has a very limited circulation. Kachru (1968) provides a description of some syntactic and semantic aspects of copula verb in Kashmiri. His Kashmiri and other Dardic language (In Sebeok(ed), Current trends in linguistics Vol. 5. The Hague : Mouton), mainly reviews earlier classifications of Kashmiri and other Dardic languages and mentions some linguistic characteristics of Kashmiri. Another important work of Kachru (1973) primarily contains lessons for learning Kashmiri as a second or foreign language. It has grammatical and cultural notes on Kashmiri. He has elaborated the discussion of various grammatical aspects which was done by him earlier. This book also has a limited circulation.

Koul (1977) provides a first detailed description of certain morphological and syntactic aspects of the Kashmiri language. It has chapters on the noun phrase, the adjective phrase, the auxiliary, the verb phrase, questions, coordinate conjunction, reduplication, kinship terms and lexical borrowings. Koul (1985, 1987) provides description of all the basic grammatical structures of Kashmiri along with lessons. These courses have been prepared and are being used for teaching Kashmiri as a second language to in-service teachers at the Northern Regional Language Centre, Patiala, and also to the civil service officers at the LBS National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.

So far, two grammars on Kashmiri, have been written by Naji Munawar and Shafi Shauq (1976), and Nishat Ansari(1979). Both these grammars provide a very brief description of traditional grammatical terms in Kashmiri. Their main contribution has been in introducing Kashmiri terms for the traditional grammatical terms used in Urdu.

A few doctoral dissertations submitted to various universities are devoted to different grammatical aspects of Kashmiri. R.K. Bhat’s doctoral dissertation (1980) now published in book-form (1986) describes phonology and morphology of Kashmiri in detail. Mohan Lal Sar 1981) describes verbal inflections of Kashmiri in detail. Sushila Sar (1977) critically examines the description of the Kashmiri language as made by Ishvar Kaul. Raj Nath Bhat (1981) describes pragmatic aspects of Kashmiri. Maharaj Krishen Koul’s dissertation (1982) now available in book form (1986) provides description on certain grammatical aspects of Kashmiri. Andrabi (1984) presents description of reference and co-reference in Kashmiri. Dar (1984) provides the discussion of certain phonological and grammatical aspects of Kashmiri spoken in the district of Baramulla in the Kashmir valley and makes comparison of certain grammatical characteristics of Kashmiri from sociolinguistic point of view. Vijay Kumar Koul (1985) attempts to provide the description of compound verbs in Kashmiri. Kartoo (1985) provides the contrastive study of certain grammatical features with special reference to certain minority languages of Kashmiri. Somnath Raina’s dissertation (1985) now available in print form (1990) has discussed pedagogical problems in the teaching of Kashmiri as a second language. Rakesh Mohan Bhatt (1994) has worked on Word Order and Case in Kashmiri with comprehensive details. As may be seen from the titles and contents of these dissertations, various grammatical aspects related to Kashmiri have attracted the attention of research scholars. Most of these dissertations are unpublished. The topics dealt by the researchers have been pursued by other scholars as well.

Besides various dissertations completed on various aspects of Kashmiri, the scholars have independently worked on various grammatical aspects of Kashmiri following different theoretical frameworks. Most of these works are published in different journals or are compiled in certain volumes devoted to linguistic studies of Kashmiri. These papers raise various significant issues and seek solutions to various problems. Hook (1976) has argued for V2 word order for Kashmiri. This paper has generated great interest among various scholars who chose to discuss the word order of Kashmiri in their works. Certain works have supported the argument. Koul and Hook have co-edited a volume on Kashmiri (1984) which includes research articles on different grammatical aspects of Kashmiri.

Wali and Koul (1997) have provided a detailed description of Kashmiri grammar covering syntax, morphology, phonology etc. The syntax is dealt in detail. Hook and Koul (2001) also dealt with various syntactic aspects. Most of the earlier works on Kashmiri are out of print and are not easily available, they need to be reprinted. There is no comprehensive or pedagogical grammar of Kashmiri to cater to the needs of the second language learners of the language.

Linguistic Classification

The Kashmiri language is primarily spoken in the Kashmir valley of the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India. It is called kA:shur or kA:shir zaba:n by its native speakers and the valley is called kAshi:r. As per the census figures of 1981 there were 30,76,398 native speakers of the language. No census was conducted in 1991.

Grierson has placed Kashmiri under the Dardic group of languages. He has classified Dardic languages under three major groups: 1. The Kafir Group, 2. The Khowar or Chitrali Group and 3. The Dard Group. According to his classification the Dard Group includes Shina, Kashmiri, Kashtawari, Poguli, Siraji, Rambani and Kohistani – the last comprising Garwi, Torwali and Maiya. Grierson considered the Dardic languages to be a sub-family of the Aryan languages "neither of Indian nor or Iranian origin, but (forming) a third branch of the Aryan stock, which separated from the parent stem after the branching forth of the original of the Indian languages, but before the Iranian languages had developed all their peculiar characteristics" (1906:4). He has further observed that ‘Dardic’ is only a geographical convention. Morgenstierne (1961) has placed Kashmiri under the Dardic Group of Indo-Aryan languages along with Kashtawari and other dialects, which are strongly influenced by Dogri. Fussman (1972) has based his work on that of Morgenstierne’s classification. He has also emphasized that the Dardic is a geographic and not a linguistic expression. According to Chatterjee (1963:256) Kashmiri has developed like other Indo-Aryan languages out of the Indo-European family of languages and is to be considered as a branch of Indo-Aryan like Hindi, Punjabi etc. There has been little linguistically oriented dialect research on Kashmiri.

Dialects are of two types : (a) Regional dialect, and (b) Social dialect. Regional dialects are of two types (1) those regional dialects or variations which are spoken within the valley of Kashmir, and (2) those which are spoken in the regions outside the valley of Kashmir.

Kashmiri speaking area in the valley of Kashmir is divided into three regions: (1) Maraz (southern and south eastern region), 2. Kamraz (northern) and northern-western region), and 3. Srinagar and its neighboring areas. There are some minor linguistic variations in Kashmiri spoken in these areas. The main variations are, being phonological and the usage of certain vocabulary items.

Since Kashmiri spoken in Srinagar has gained some social prestige, very frequent style switching takes place from Marazi or Kamarazi styles to the style of speech spoken in Srinagar. 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 and is used in education, mass media and literature.


Copyright CIIL-India Mysore