Kashmiri (locally known as KOSHUR) speaking community is a close-knit community. The language is mainly spoken in the valley of Kashmir in the J&K state of India. As per the latest census figures available, 98.5% of the speakers of the language reside in J&K. The language is even spoken in the Doda district of the Jammu region. Besides smaller pockets like Gulgulabgarh, the Kashmiri speaking population can mostly be found in the towns of Banihal and Doda.

The valley of Kashmir has three regional areas, maraaz (the southern and south-eastern), kamraaz(the north and north-western) and the central, i.e. Srinagar and the surrounding areas called yamraaz (the sarcastic term given to the area). The Kashmiri spoken in these areas have slightly different variation in the form of phonetic, lexemic and accentual. However, the mutual intelligibility is almost hundred percent.

In Kishtawar area, which is situated outside the valley, the dialect of Kashmiri, known as Kishtwari is spoken. Kishtwari can authentically be called as a true dialect of Kashmiri, spoken outside the Kashmir valley. This dialect has however; preserved certain archaic features of old Kashmiri.

5.1 Identity Group:

Above 98% of the total population of the valley speak Kashmiri as mother tongue. The remaining two percent of the population, which mainly comprise the Sikh population of the valley and others, who are the latter settlements in the valley of Kashmir, speak their own mother languages/ dialects at home and in intercommunity communication domains. This 2% of the population are bi/multilinguals.

A literate (and even in some cases the illiterate) Kashmiri speaker is essentially a bilingual, since Kashmiri had no status in education or literacy. They speak Urdu/Hindi and English besides their mother tongue, Kashmiri.

5.2 Functional Group:

The above mentioned 2% of the population who speak their respective mother languages/ dialects in home and in intercommunity communication domains, speak a dialect of Punjabi (in case of the Sikhs and other Punjabi speaking communities settled in Kashmir), Gujjari and Bakawali (in case of nomadic tribes of the mountainous regions), Shina (in case of Shina speakers, Pahari (in case of Dogarwals, a particular dialect of Pahari (in case of Shupy Watals, a professional group). A dialect of Dogri (in case of Laash watals) Dogri/Pahari (in case of Miyaas, the Dogras of the Jammu region, who were given some land holdings by the Dogra rulers). However, these communities speak Kashmiri elsewhere. There is however, a strong assimilation happening to the Muslim functional group, like Dogarwals, Shupy watals etc., whereas the Sikhs, Miyaans , Gujjars and Bakarwals maintain their respective mother languages / dialects.

Except for these communities, the majority of the functional group is predominantly Muslims and belong to certain professional groups, speaking Kashmiri in most of the work domains. In a microscopic minority, these functional groups are duly recognized within the population of Kashmir. At the macro level this population except for Dogri and Punjabi speakers even hesitate to declare any other language, other than Kashmiri as their mother tongue.

5.3 Diaspora of IG:

Given the geo-socio-economic situation of Kashmir, the Kashmiri speaking population has been over a period of time migrating to other parts of India or the world, either for the job prospect (mostly in case of the Hindu population) and for business prospect (mostly in case of the Muslim population). All these cases of Diaspora (for pleasure) were too individualistic or unit family based. Such population in Diaspora usually maintains their language for very personal communication, with the people back home, or in some cases, inter-community communication, and usually would not pass on their language (Kashmiri) as an obligation to their second generation. Consequently the second generation would normally adopt the major language of the area they would normally be settled in Hindi in most cases of settlement in India and English in the cases of abroad.

In India such cases of settlements can be found in various parts, particularly in the cities of UP and Delhi. Such communities who had voluntarily forgone their language (Kashmiri) and held on to certain hollow traditions, are better known as puraanee Kashmiri (old Kashmiris). This Kashmiri also maintain distinctiveness from other Kashmiri speaking people in either suffering with linguistic complexity or considering their mother tongue (Kashmiri) insignificant in their given linguistic environment.

The mass exodus of Kashmiri speaking Hindu population during 1989-90 onwards has presented a typical linguistico-cultural scenario. Since this mass exodus is a net result of terrible compulsion, a different, rather a complex situation is presented. The population is mainly settled in the cities of Jammu (the winter capital of the J&K state) or Delhi (the capital of India). This population, which fell prey to compulsive circumstances, is caught in a strange linguistic compulsion. Although in Jammu and in some parts of Delhi there is a considerable Kashmiri speaking population settlement pockets, the opportunities to speak Kashmiri are more in these two cities. But the children population, who were passing through the natural process of language acquisition during their exodus, or the ones who were born outside the valley, haven’t acquired Kashmiri as the mother tongue (first language), or again like puraanee Kashmiri do not see any point to get stuck with a language, which particularly doesn’t have any value in education or administration. So this generation is at the verge of losing Kashmiri as their mother tongue. However, there are some efforts on, the community basis to save this disastrous loss. There are also the awareness efforts for language conservation. What degree of success would these efforts achieve is the matter the time only would tell.



The Kashmiri speaking population settled in and around Kashmir can be safely termed as sedentary, although a smaller proportion of the population (both rural and urban) moved out to other parts of India for (petty) time bound jobs and business. But this is limited to the winter months, when it is the leanest period of agricultural and other business activities.


The Kashmiri speaking population, who have their job or business settlements (on full year basis) can be termed as migrant population. However, their language contact and compulsions are not that severe when compared to the population in diaspora. This population is less vulnerable to losing their mother tongue to any other language. Ironically, the population which fell prey to the forcible (exodus) ethnic cleansing are also termed as MIGRANTS by the government of India and other government machineries of the J&K.


The nomadic population of the J&K does not comprise of Kashmiri speaking population. However, the local Pohal ‘the shepherd’ move with their cattle (mainly sheep) to the higher pastures during the summer months when it is the lean period for agricultural activities.


Geographical situation: It is only in the valley part of Kashmir that travel and communication is easier. Travel between the valley and its surrounding regions is difficult and subject to seasonal interruptions, due to the natural barriers of western Himalayas. Thus Kashmiri has evolved in comparative isolation, mostly unaffected by its neighboring language.

The only contact it has is with Urdu/ Hindi and presently and historically it has contact with Persian which happened to be the official language before Urdu replaced it during Sikh rule.


The code mixing process is usually with Urdu, English and some times with Persian. For example, the sentence: me chhi p’va:n az kal s’aTha prablimIz phe:s karIni 'I have to face a lot of problems these days', may not sound awkward in everyday speech of a Kashmiri speaker.


The similar cases can be observed with code switching. The switching happens between Kashmiri and Urdu/ Hindi and English.


Other minor languages and dialects spoken in the Kashmir valley tend to converge with Kashmiri. In particular, the smaller professional groups like Dogarwal and Shupy Watal, who profess Islam as religion, seem to be losing their mother tongue/ dialects to Kashmiri. Similarly on the out skirts of the Kashmir valley, some locally spoken dialects, spoken by the Muslim population, like Poguli and Paristani, are also converging with Kashmiri.


Kashmiri over a period of time has borrowed from several languages, particularly from the languages, which remained the official languages of the state. Evidently, some of the words can be traced back to Persio-Arabic. In the later stage the borrowing has taken place from Urdu/ Hindi and English. On the other hand, the smaller languages/ dialects spoken in the valley, particularly the vocabulary of daily use has been borrowed from Kashmiri. Besides borrowing from Kashmiri, these languages and dialects borrow from Urdu/ Hindi and English.


Despite the fact that Kashmiri has been denied its rightful place in education and administration, its force can be felt in social organization. Inside the Kashmir valley where Kashmiri is the majority language it serves as a spoken medium at all occasions. The binding force of Kashmiri in social organization is as strong as any other language of India and of the world. As a common language of the masses it serves a powerful unifying force. The use of Kashmiri in religious addresses, prayers and rituals is interesting, considering the fact that the religious languages are Arabic for Muslims and Sanskrit for Hindus.


Kashmiri, however, with a little or no role in education and administration, is the language of everyday communication. All the public addresses are made in Kashmiri. Currently the greatest use of Kashmiri is in the mass media. In addition, it serves as the language of communication in religious institutions. It is the language of rituals and market place.



The language identity bond appears to be very strong, particularly in the present linguistic scenario in Kashmir where Kashmiri language is almost reduced to the status of domestic speech, with no role in education or administration. A Kashmiri is recognized as a Kashmiri only if he speaks Kashmiri.


Kashmiri speaking population in Kashmir have remained under foreign yoke for over six hundred years. Its mainly the colonized consciousness which govern their attitudes and behavior, policies and programs regarding the place and use of this language. With hundred percent loyalty towards their language, which the population considers an asset, Kashmiri continues to be the language of intimacy. But over a period of time, a mentality has developed that Kashmiri as such is unable to serve the chief executive. As a written language the marginal use of Kashmiri has added to this inferiority complex. Consequently the attitude towards the language is absolutely positive, of course, with certain reservations. Even the educated population who is aware of the language’s long history of literary tradition is often unsure about the suitability of the language for increased educational responsibility. They hold that the language has 'incomplete grammar', is 'only a dialect' and needs to sort out 'the script problems'.


Kashmiri has always functioned as a regional language in Kashmir, with only limited or no official roles. History contains no mention of Kashmiri ever having been used as a language of administration in Kashmir, even when the language has a very rich literary history.

In the traditional arenas of Kashmiri life, Kashmiri is more dominant in oral as opposed to written communication. The Sufi mysticism and Kashmiri Shaivism, produced a substantial body of devotional and mystical teachings in verse in Kashmiri. This traditional poetry is still sung at devotional gatherings and it belongs both to Kashmiri literature and music. Likewise Friday discourse in the mosque is given in Kashmiri.

Kashmiri is also the predominant language of the market place. It is spoken as mothertongue and it is the language of mental arithmetic, dreams, reflection and prayer, and a language of rituals like marriage.


With no role in education and administration, Kashmiri doesn’t tag with it the power component. Knowing only Kashmiri in the valley is by no means a guarantee to power politics or economic development. The economy of the valley heavily depends on agriculture, particularly horticulture, cottage industry and on tourism, where knowing a second language or being bilingual with knowledge of (particularly spoken) Hindi/ Urdu and English is essential.


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