Nepali is an Indo-Aryan language that is spoken in Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. Why is it considered an official language among the twenty two languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution? This is because it is the official language of the State of Sikkim and is also spoken partially in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. It is also widely spoken in the State of Uttaranchal and Assam. Nepali is also known as `Khaskura’. Nepal is named after the Kathmandu valley and the term `Nepali’ is used historically for the language of that valley.
Nepali is the official language of Nepal and Sikkim. Half the population of Nepal speaks Nepali as its mother tongue. Many other Nepalese speak it as a second language. It is also called `Gurkhali’ or the language of the Gurkhas or `Parbatiya’ which means the language of the mountains. `Khaskura’ is the oldest term which literally means speech of the `Khas’ people who were Indo-Aryan settlers in the Karnali-Bheri basin of far western Nepal since early historic times. Their main occupation was to grow rice.
The Indian government has given an international recognition to the Nepalese language. Ethnologue reports that there are more than seventeen million speakers of Nepali worldwide, eleven million being Nepalese themselves. In India too, there are a large number of Nepali speaking people. There are an estimated half a million Nepali speakers in Sikkim alone. In both Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts of West Bengal, there are about one and a half million Nepali speakers. A sizeable number of Nepali speaking people are also present in places like Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad.
About five hundred years ago, the `Khas’ people migrated to the eastern part of Nepal from the western regions, crossing the rough terrains of the Kham highlands to settle down in the lower valleys of the Gandaki Basin which was suitable for the cultivation of rice. Out of this group came the Gurkhas, named after Gorkha, a principality halfway between Pokhara and Kathmandu.
About three hundred years ago, a ruler named Prithvi Narayan built an army of Gurungs and other tribesmen from the hills and set out to annexe many principalities in the Himalayan foothills. As the Gorkhas had replaced the original Khas tribe and their homeland as the centre of military initiative, Khaskura came to be known as Gurkhali. Prithvi Narayan’s special military achievement was the annexure of the urbanised Kathmandu valley on the eastern section of the Gandaki Basin. This region came to be known as Nepal during these times.
Kathmandu became Prithvi Narayan’s new capital and the following generations extended their lands eastward into the Kasi Basin, north to the Tibetan plateau and southward into the northern Indian plains and west to the Karnali-Bheri Basin. The expansion to the north and west brought a lot of tussle with the British and the Chinese territorial aspirations. This led to many wars and these tribes were pushed back to form what is roughly Nepal’s present borders. Around this time, Gurkhali came to be known as Nepali.
Nepali is the eastern most of the Pahadi languages. They are a group of related languages that are spoken across the lower Himalayan 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 Myanmar. Nepali began its development in close relationship with a number of Tibeto-Burmese languages. Nepal Bhasha shows a lot of Tibeto-Burman influence. Nepali is also closely related to Hindi but sounds more conservative, borrowing few words from English and Farsi and also using more Sanskrit derivations. No other modern language is close to Sanskrit than Nepali.
Nepali settlers who lived in the southwest of Bhutan started speaking a variant of Nepali and called it `Lhotshampa’. They were generally classified as Hindus. Some were even Buddhists. Both these groups abstained from beef and later became total vegetarians. Their main festivals were Tihar and Diwali.
The Nepali language has been popular in its continuity of communication between all language speakers since the creation of greater Nepal. The Nepali language had spread into use among the Brahmaputra regions in the east and Kashmir in the west. The linguists regard the stone inscription of Adityabanshi King Damupal, which dates back to 1040 BC, as the official source of Nepali language. An inscription on the copper plate of 1280 BC is historical evidence of King Krachalya’s victory to create the Sija regime.
Bhujimol is an older script that is native to Nepal. Today, Nepali is commonly written in the Devanagiri script. There is a record of using the Takri script in the history of Nepali, particularly in western Nepal, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Ranjana script is another writing system used historically.
Nepali developed its literature during the latter half of the nineteenth century and includes great works like the `Adhyatma Ramayana’ by Sundarananda Bara in 1833. Another famous work is `Birsikka’ which is an anonymous compendium of folk tales. Ramayan by Bhanubhakta is also famous. There were many translations of works from Sanskrit and a translation of the Bible in Nepali.
The Nepali language being used in the Kirat era until 1380 BC indicates King Simrangaud Harisingh Dev’s book, `Barnaratnakar as the earliest form of literary Nepali. The kings and rulers of Nepal relied on the Nepali language for interstate use as in sending of letters, agreements and treaties.
Nepali is a language which gives a subject-object-verb word order and uses postpositions instead of prepositions. It has a limited grammatical gender and in many cases, the gender agreement is limited to the written form of the language. In Nepali, some of the adjectives are inflected as per the genders.
Nepali nouns do not inflect for cases, but there are a number of postpositions that have a case-like function. These postpositions are known as clitics. They are affixes which are attached to an entire phrase rather than a single word. Nepali has an expansive pronouns system depending on the distance, gender and number of the referent. With the third person pronouns, the low grade is used when the person is not present. It is also used for small children and animals. The middle grade is used primarily for women although one of the plurals of the middle grade pronouns is also commonly used for groups. It is also used for adolescents and teens. The high grade form is used for people who are present and for older people. There is an additional form for extremely formal situations.
The Nepali verbs are highly inflected and they agree with the subject in gender, number and person. They also inflect for aspect, mood and tense. There are a large number of participial forms in addition to these inflected finite forms. Nepali has two infinitives. The first is the citation form of the verb and is used in several constructions, the most important being the construction expressing obligation. The second infinitive is used in a wide variety of situations and can be used generally in a similar fashion to how an infinitive is used in the English language.
There are only three initial consonant clusters found in Nepali. Such consonant sequences are found only in the onomatopoetic words. These initial consonant sequences within a syllable show that in typical Nepali syllable structure, sonority increases from the first consonant to the syllable nucleus. The second consonant is a lateral liquid sonority. The third consonant is the high front glide whose sonority is still higher. The syllable nuclear sound vowel after the glide has the highest sonority peak.
Nepali has syllable-timed rhythm. It has iambic foot and the metre is from left to right. There are a dozen vowels in the Nepali language. Nepali words with nasal vowels may initially prove to be a bit difficult.
Medial clusters are made up of sequences of consonants between two vowels in the word-medial position. Nepali follows the generalization of Halliday hinting that the speaker is confident of the proposition of the sentence. No significant research has been done on the intonation system in Nepali in detail.
With the advancement of technology, many applications and letters, particularly in the government sectors, are printed in Nepali Font. So, for such governmental activities as well as for own knowledge and use, it has become necessary to know how to type in Nepali Font.
For this purpose, many Nepali fonts such as Preeti, Sagarmatha and Kantipur are available. But, they might be hard to learn at the beginning as it is difficult to figure out which English key in your keyboard represents what character of Nepali Language. So, to make it easy, Romanized Nepali Unicode is available on the web. The main feature of this Romanized Nepali Unicode is that it is very easy to figure out which English key means which Nepali character. You have to just Romanize the Nepali world you want to type.