Khowar language

Last updated

Khowar language.png
Khowar written in the Arabic script
Native to Pakistan
Region Chitral District
Ethnicity Kho
Native speakers
290,000 (2004) [1]
Khowar alphabet (Arabic script)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 khw
Glottolog khow1242
ELP Khowar
Linguasphere 59-AAB-aa
Minor languages of Pakistan as of the 1998 census.png
Khowar is a minor language of Pakistan which is mainly spoken in Chitral, it is given a space in this map.
Khowar special letter U+076E Naskh style.svg
Khowar special letter

Khowar (کهووار), is an Indo-Aryan language of the Dardic group spoken in Chitral and Gilgit region of Pakistan. [2]


Khowar is spoken by the Kho people in the whole of Chitral, as well as in the Gupis-Yasin and Ghizer districts of Gilgit, and in parts of Upper Swat (Mateltan Village).[ citation needed ] Speakers of Khowar have also migrated heavily to Pakistan's major urban centres with Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, having significant populations. It is also spoken as a second language by the Kalash people.


The native name of the language is Khō-wār, [3] meaning "language" (wār) of the Kho people. During the British Raj it was known to the English as Chitrālī (a derived adjective from the name of the Chitral region) or Qāshqārī. [3] Among the Pathans and Badakshis it is known as Kashkār. [4] Another name, used by Leitner in 1880, is Arnyiá [5] or Arniya, derived from the Shina language name for the part of the Yasin (a valley in Gilgit-Baltistan) where Khowar is spoken. [3]


Georg Morgenstierne noted, "Khowar, in many respects [is] the most archaic of all modern Indian languages, retaining a great part of Sanskrit case inflexion, and retaining many words in a nearly Sanskritic form". [6] :3


Khowar has a variety of dialects, which may vary phonemically. [7] The following tables lay out the basic phonology of Khowar. [8] [9] [10]


Front Central Back
Close iu
Mid ɛɔ
Open ɑ

Khowar may also have nasalized vowels and a series of long vowels /ɑː/, /ɛː/, /iː/, /ɔː/, and /uː/. Sources are inconsistent on whether length is phonemic, with one author stating "vowel-length is observed mainly as a substitute one. The vowel-length of phonological value is noted far more rarely." [7] Unlike the neighboring and related Kalasha language, Khowar does not have retroflex vowels. [8]


Labial Coronal Retroflex Palatal Velar Post-
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless p t ʈ k q
voiced b d ɖ g
aspirated ʈʰ
Affricate voiceless ts ʈʂ
voiced dz ɖʐ
aspirated tsʰʈʂʰtɕʰ
Fricative voiceless f s ʂ ɕ x h
voiced z ʐ ʑ ɣ
Approximant ʋ l (ʲ) ɫ j ( w )
Rhotic ɾ

Allophones of /x ɣ h ʋ ɾ/ are heard as sounds [χ ʁ ɦ w ɹ]. [10]


Khowar, like many Dardic languages, has either phonemic tone or stress distinctions. [11]

Writing system

Since the early twentieth century Khowar has been written in the Khowar alphabet, which is based on the Urdu alphabet and uses the Nasta'liq script. Prior to that, the language was carried on through oral tradition. Today Urdu and English are the official languages and the only major literary usage of Khowar is in both poetry and prose composition. Khowar has also been occasionally written in a version of the Roman script called Roman Khowar since the 1960s.



Television channels

TV ChannelGenreFoundedOfficial Website
Khyber News TV (خیبر نیوز ٹیلی ویژن)News and current affairs
AVT Khyber TV (اے وی ٹی خیبر)Entertainment
K2 TV (کے ٹو)Entertainment, news and current affairs
Zeal News (ذیل نیوز)News and Current Affairs2016


These are not dedicated Khowar channels but play most programmes in Khowar.

Radio ChannelGenreFoundedOfficial Website
Radio Pakistan Chitral FM93Entertainment
Radio Pakistan PeshawarEntertainment
Radio Pakistan GilgitEntertainment
FM97 ChitralEntertainment


NewspaperCity(ies)FoundedOfficial Website
Chitral Vision (چترال وژن)Karachi, Chitral, Pakistan
Chitral Today

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Chitral Town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

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Dardistan is a term coined by Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner that refers to a region comprising Northern Pakistan, parts of Indian Kashmir and parts of Northeastern Afghanistan. It is inhabited by various Dards, who speak Dardic languages. It includes Chitral, the upper reaches of the Panjkora River, the Kohistan (highland) of Swat and the upper portions of the Gilgit Agency. Mentioned by the classical historians Pliny the Elder, Ptolemy and Herodotus, the Dards are said to be people of Aryan origin who ascended the Indus Valley from the Punjab plains, reaching as far north as Chitral. They converted to Islam in the 14th century and speak three distinct dialects of Gilgit: Khowar, Burushaski and Shina—employing the Persian script in writing.

Dameli is a Dardic language spoken by approximately 5,000 people in the Domel Valley, in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.


Kalasha is an Indo-European language in the Indo-Aryan branch spoken by the Kalash people, further classified as a Dardic language in the Chitral group. The Kalasha language is phonologically atypical because it contrasts plain, long, nasal and retroflex vowels as well as combinations of these.

Palula language

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Chitrali may refer to:

Shina people Ethnic group in Pakistan and India

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The Kho or Chitrali people are an Dardic ethnolinguistic group associated with the Dardistan region. They speak Khowar, which is a member of the Dardic subgroup of the Indo-Aryan language family. Many Kho people live in the Chitral, Ghizer in Gilgit-Baltistan, of Pakistan.

Kalash people Ethnic group of Chitral, Pakistan

The Kalasha, or Kalash, also called Waigali or Wai, are a Dardic Indo-Aryan indigenous people residing in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

Chitrali usually refers to:

Gupis (Goopechh) Valley is located about 112 kilometers to the west of Gilgit on the bank of River Gilgit, District Ghizer, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The Gupis is 2176 meters above sea level. This fort was once used by the military for defence purposes. Later the king (Raja) of the time lived in this fort for several years.


  1. Khowar at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. "DARDESTĀN – Encyclopaedia Iranica".
  3. 1 2 3 Grierson, George A. (1919). Linguistic Survey of India . Volume VIII, Part 2, Indo-Aryan family. North-western group. Specimens of the Dardic or Piśācha languages (including Kāshmiri) . Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India. p. 133.
  4. O'Brien, Donatus James Thomond (1895). Grammar and vocabulary of the K̲h̲owâr dialect (Chitrâli). Lahore: Civil and military gazette press. p. i.
  5. Leitner, Gottlieb William (1880). Kafiristan. Section 1: the Bashgeli Kafirs and their language. Lahore: Dilbagroy. p. 43. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  6. Morgenstierne, Georg (1974). "Languages of Nuristan and surrounding regions". In Jettmar, Karl; Edelberg, Lennart (eds.). Cultures of the Hindukush: selected papers from the Hindu-Kush Cultural Conference held at Moesgård 1970. Beiträge zur Südasienforschung, Südasien-Institut Universität Heidelberg. Bd. 1. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner. pp. 1–10. ISBN   978-3-515-01217-1.
  7. 1 2 Edelman, D. I. (1983). The Dardic and Nuristani Languages. Moscow: Institut vostokovedenii︠a︡ (Akademii︠a︡ nauk SSSR). p. 210.
  8. 1 2 Bashir, Elena L. (1988), "Topics in Kalasha Syntax: An areal and typological perspective" (PDF), Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Michigan: 37–40
  9. Bashir, Elena L.; Nigah, Maula; Baig, Rahmat Karim, A Digital Khowar-English Dictionary with Audio
  10. 1 2 Liljegren, H.; Khan, A. (2017). "Khowar". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 47: 219–229.
  11. Baart, Joan L. G. (2003), Tonal features in languages of northern Pakistan (PDF), National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University and Summer Institute of Linguistics, pp. 3, 6

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