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About Nepali Language

Nepali (नेपाली) is a language in the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is official language and de facto lingua franca of Nepal and is also spoken in Bhutan, parts of India and parts of Myanmar (Burma). In India, it is one of the country's 23 official languages: Nepali has official language status in the formerly independent state of Sikkim and in West Bengal's Darjeeling district. Similarly, it is widely spoken in the state of Uttaranchal, as well as in the state of Assam.

Geographically, Nepali is the easternmost of the Pahari languages, a group of related languages spoken across the lower elevations of the Himalaya range, from eastern Nepal through the Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The influence of the Nepali language can also be seen in Bhutan and some parts of Burma. Nepali developed in proximity to a number of Tibeto-Burman languages, most notably Nepal Bhasa, and shows Tibeto-Burman influences. Nepali is closely related to the Hindi-Urdu complex (macrolanguage) and is sometimes considered mutually intelligible to some extent, yet is more conservative with more Sanskritic derivations and fewer Persian or English loan words.

Nepali is commonly written in the Devanagari script, as are Hindi and Sanskrit. There is some record of using Takri script in the history of Nepali, especially in western Nepal, Uttarakhand, and Himanchal. Bhujimol is an older script native to Nepal, while Rajana script is another writing system historically used.

Nepali developed a significant literature within a short period of hundred years in the nineteenth century, fueled by Adhyatma Ramayana; Sundarananda Bara (1833); Birsikka, an anonymous collection of folk-tales; and a version of the South Asian epic Ramayana by Bhanubhakta. The contribution of trio-laureates Poudyal, Devkota, and Sama took Nepali to the level of other world languages.Template:Clarification The contribution of expatriate writers outside Nepal -- especially in Darjeeling and Varanasi -- is also notable.

Historically, the language was first called Khaskura, then Gorkhali or Gurkhali (after the Gurkha ethnic group before the term Nepali became dominant. Other names include Parbatiya ("mountain language", identified with the Parbatiya people of Nepal) and Lhotshammikha (the "southern language" of the Lhotshampa people of Bhutan).

Scholars Kamal Malla and Tej. Kansakar comment of the Sanskrit derivation of Nepali: Janaka, Yajnavalkya, Valmiki, Kapila and Gautama Buddha have greatly contributed to the Sanskrit and Prakrita from which the Nepali language seeks its origins.

Number of speakers

Almost one-thirds of the population of Nepal speak Nepali as a mother tongue. The Ethnologue website counts more than 17 million speakers worldwide, including 11 million within Nepal (from the 2001 census).

Nepali is traditionally spoken in the Hill Region of Nepal (Pahar), especially in the western part of the country. It is also the lingua franca in the Kathmandu valley, although the historically dominant language in this valley was Nepal Bhasa (also known as Newari). Nepali is now used in government and as the everyday language of a growing portion of the local population. Nevertheless the exclusive use of Nepali in the courts and government of Nepal is being challenged. Recognition of other ethnic languages in Nepal was one of the objectives of the Maoist insurgency. A Cabinet Minister, Matrika Yadav, recently took a ministerial oath in the Maithili language, rather than Nepali.

In Bhutan those who speak Nepali (known as Lhotshampa) are estimated at between 40 percent and 50 percent of the population, or about 1 million people. A large fraction them were expelled in a mostly nonviolent "ethnic cleansing" campaign and presently live in refugee camps in eastern Nepal.

In India there are also people who speak Nepali, especially in the state of Sikkim and in the adjacent Darjeeling district in West Bengal. There are an estimated 500,000 Nepali speakers in Sikkim, and somewhat more than that in Darjeeling. In all there are millions of Nepali speakers in India.

Combining the Ethnologue figures[3] with strong population growth in Nepal, the assumption of 20 million people with Nepali as their mother tongue is a reasonable estimate for 2006.

History of the language

Around 500 years ago, Khas from the Karnali-Bheri-Seti basin migrated eastward, bypassing inhospitable Kham highlands to settle in lower valleys of the Gandaki basin that were well suited to rice cultivation. One notable extended family settled in Gorkha, a small principality about halfway between Pokhara and Kathmandu. In the late 1700s Gorkha's ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah raised an army of Gurungs, Magars and possibly other hill tribesmen and set out to conquer and consolidate dozens of small principalities in the Himalayan foothills. Since Gorkha had replaced the original Khas homeland as thary initiative, Khaskura was redubbed Gorkhali, i.e. language of the Gorkhas.

The most notable military achievement of Prithvi Narayan was conquest of the urbanized Kathmandu Valley, on the eastern rim of the Gandaki basin. This region was also called Nepal at the time. Kathmandu became Prithvi Narayan's new capital, from which he and his heirs extended their domain east across the Koshi basin, north to the Tibetan Plateau, south into the plains of northern India, and west across the Karnali/Bheri basin and beyond.

Expansion, particularly to the north, west, and south brought the growing state into conflict with the British and Chinese. This led to wars that trimmed back the territory to an area roughly corresponding to Nepal's present borders. Both China and Britain understood the value of a buffer state and did not attempt to reduce the territory of the new country further. Since the Kathmandu Valley or Nepal had become the new center of political initiative, this word gradually came to refer to the entire realm and not just the Kathmandu Valley. And so Gorkhali, language of Gorkha, again came to be known as Nepali.

Khaskura/Gorkhali/Nepali is spoken indigenously over most of Nepal west of the Kaligandaki River, then progressively less further to the east.

 

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