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Nepal Bhasa ( , also known as Newah Bhaye and Newari) is one of the major languages of Nepalmarker. It is one of roughly five hundred Sino-Tibetan languages, and belongs to the Tibeto-Burman branch of this family. It is the only Tibeto-Burman language to be written in the Devanāgarī script. It is spoken mainly by the Newars, who chiefly inhabit the towns of the Kathmandu Valleymarker. Although Nepal Bhasa is classified as a Sino-Tibetan language, it has been greatly influenced by the Indo-Aryan languages.

Geographic distribution

The language is spoken by roughly around a million people in Nepal according to 2001 census; a few thousand people outside Nepal also speak the language. In terms of speakers, it ranks similar to Jumli, another language spoken mainly in western Nepal.
  • In Nepal: Kathmandu valley i.e. (Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Lalitpur Sub Metropolitan City, Bhaktapur Municipality, Kirtipur Municipality, Thimi Municipality), Dolakha, Banepa, Dhulikhelmarker, Bhimphedi (Makwanpur), Panauti, Palpa, Trishuli, Nuwakot, Bhojpur, Biratnagar, Baglung, Bandipur, Birgunj, Hetaunda and other chief cities.
  • In India: Sikkimmarker, West Bengalmarker
  • In Tibet: Khasa


With an increase in emigration, various bodies and societies of Nepal Bhasa-speaking people have emerged in countries like the USmarker, the UKmarker and Japanmarker.

History and development

250x
Little is known about the origins of Nepal Bhasa except that the language has evolved with continued influences from Nepali, Tibetan, Kirati, Maithali, Pali, Sanskrit, Khas, Hindi and other languages of the region. The language largely replaced Sanskrit as the official language of medieval Nepal as the language used in the shilalekh or stone scripture.

Nepal Bhasa has undergone continuous change through time. The language can be classified into old era and new era language. Although there is no specific demarcation between the two, mid-Rana regime of Nepal i.e. around 966 to 1061 N.S. is taken as the period of demarcation between the two.

Modern Nepal Bhasa is the most Indianized of the Tibeto-Burman languages. It has had many centuries of contact with neighboring Indic languages.

Ancient era

The earliest known (dated) document in Nepal Bhasa is called "The Palmleaf from Uku Bahal" which dates back to 1114 AD (235 NS). A few lines from the script read:

छीन ढाको तृसंघष परिभोग। छु पुलेंग कीत्य बिपार वस्त्र बिवु मिखा तिवु मदुगुन छु सात दुगुनव ल्है।
(chīna ḍhākō tr̥saṃghaṣa paribhōga, chu pulēṃga kītya bipāra vastra bivu mikhā tivu maduguna chu sāta dugunava lhai.)

which is a general discussion of business transactions. This document dates from Lichchhivi period. Hence, it can be inferred that although the official language of the period was Sanskrit, Nepal Bhasa was already in use.

Medieval era

The language continued growing in the Medieval period, and enjoyed royal patronage. Noted royal writers include Mahindra Malla, Siddhinarsingh Malla, Jagatprakash Malla etc. An example of the language used in that period is provided by lines of Mooldevshashidev written by Jagatprakash Malla

धु छेगुकि पाछाव वाहान
तिलहित बिया हिङ लाहाति थाय थायस
(dhu chēguki pāchāva vāhāna : tilahita biyā hiŋa lāhāti thāya thāyasa)

which is a description of Shiva, and the use of a tiger skin as a seat for Shiva.

The language replaced Sanskrit as the administrative language during this period.

Dark ages

The language faced a setback after the unification of Nepal in 17th century, as the language of the hill people became the court language.

Furthermore, the literature and scripts of the language were put into shadow during the 104 years of aristocratic "Rana rule" (1846-1950 AD). During this time, legal documents written in Nepal Bhasa were declared unenforceable and any evidence in Nepal Bhasa was declared null and void. There was no state support thereafter.

During the autocratic Panchayat rule of King Mahendra, which followed the coup d'êtat that deposed the democratically elected bodies of Nepal, a new policy of "Ek Bhasa, Ek Rashtra" (One language, one nation) was enforced. This policy made Nepali language the only state language, and the other languages were in shadow as "ethnic" or "local" languages. The implementation of this policy made Nepali the state language. The continued primacy of the language over 30 years made Khas or Nepali language the lingua franca as well. Oher languages, including Nepal Bhasa, were cast aside, as the population could not use it for official, educational or legal purposes.

Renaissance era

The era between B.S. 1965 to B.S. 1997 is considered as the renaissance era of Nepal Bhasa. During this era, people like Pandit Nisthananda Bajracharya, Siddhidas Mahaju, Jagatsundar Malla, Yogbir Singh Kansakar, Shukraraj Shastri, Dharmaditya Dharmacharya started writing, translating, educating, and restructuring the language.

The publication of a modern grammar, reader, and children's story books by Shukraraj Shastri, translation of the ancient epic Ramayan, writing about the morals and ethics by Siddhidas Mahaju, "education in mother tongue" movement by Jagatsundar Malla and other literary activities in the era marked the renaissance. Also, research on the language began in this period. It was proven that this language was a Sino-Tibetan language and not Indo-Aryan language (as was believed) in this era. Also, the renaissance marked the revival of the word "Nepal Bhasa" to name the language rather than the Khas imposed term "Newari".

Some of the lines of Siddhidas Mahaju (N.S. 987 - N.S. 1050) read as follows

सज्जन मनुष्या संगतनं मूर्ख नापं भिना वै
पलेला लपते ल वंसा म्वति थें ल सना वै
(sajjana manuṣyā saṃgatanaṃ mūrkha nāpaṃ bhinā vai / palēlā lapatē la vaṃsā mvati thēṃ la sanā vai)

which state that even a moron can improve with the company of good people just like even a drop of water appears like a pearl when it descends upon the leaves of a lotus plant.

Modern Nepal Bhasa

A lot of writers and thinkers have contributed to the modern form of Nepal Bhasa. These include Chittadhar "Hridaya", Durga Lal Shrestha etc..

During the Panchayat era, under the slogan of "एक देश, एक भाषा नीति" (ēka dēśa, ēka bhāṣā nīti) (one nation, one language), Nepal Bhasa (and other languages of Nepal) was prevented from being broadcasted in Radio Nepal or other government media. As the Government did not allow private broadcasting in Nepal, this prevented the language from mass media. Also, the term Newari was used to address the language instead of "Nepal Bhasa" which met fierce criticism and resistance. This marked the beginning of Nepal Bhasa movement. Instead of using mass media, people started producing audio cassettes. Also, the first Nepal Bhasa movie "Silu" marked the beginning of movies in Nepal Bhasa. Nepal Bhasa movement aimed to end the one nation, one language policy. Some lines from the famous poet Durga Lal Shrestha of this era are as follows-

घाः जुयाः जक ख्वइगु खः झी
स्याःगुलिं सः तइगु खः
झी मसीनि ! झी मसीनि !
धइगु चिं जक ब्वैगु खः
(ghāḥ juyāḥ jaka khvaigu khaḥ jhī / syāḥguliṃ saḥ taigu khaḥ / jhī masīni ! jhī masīni ! / dhaigu ciṃ jaka bvaigu khaḥ)

which translate as "We are crying because we are wounded, we are shouting because of the pain, all in all we are demonstrating signs that we are not dead yet".

The restoration of democracy marked the privatization of media. Various concerned people and organizations are working on the development of Nepal Bhasa by themselves. Nepal Bhasa has several newspapers, a primary level curriculum, several schools, several F.M. stations (selected time for Nepal Bhasa programs), regular TV programs and News (in Image TV Channel), Nepal Bhasa Music Award (a part of Image Award), several websites (including Nepal Bhasa wikipedia) etc.

Even after the restoration of democracy and the Loktantra revolution, the state owned media address the language as Newari. Also, after the Supreme court banned the use of Nepal Bhasa and any other language of Nepal in any administrative activities, Nepal Bhasa movement merged with other languages movements to fight for the right of language.

Dialects

The main dialects are :-

Dolkhali (Dolakha)

This is the most preserved form of language and resembles the old Nepal Bhasa.

Sindhupalchowk Pahri (Pahri, Pahari)

This dialect has similar vocabulary as the Yala subdialect of Yen-Yala-Kyepu dialect. However, the language is spoken with a Tamang language tone.

Totali

Chitlang

This dialect is used in Chitlang, a place south of Kathmandu valley in Makawanpur district.

Kathmandu-Patan-Kirtipur

Also known as Ye-Yala-K-pu Bhaaye (ञ - यल - क्येपु भाय्), this is the most dominant form of language. It is the most evolved form of language and is very close to the standard form of language used in academics and media. This is also the most widely used dialect. Variations are seen in the use of the words, specially nouns, amongst the Buddhists and Hindus. The pronunciation also differ from place to place. Eg: the people in Kathmandu Say La (ल) for water while the people in bhaktapur says Na which means muddy water for the people of kathmandu.

Bhaktapur

Also known as Khwapa Bhaaye (ख्वप: भाय्), this form of language is more close to the old form than the standard form. Variations exist in the use of this form of language in Bhaktapur, Banepa, Panauti and Dhulikhel.

Other dialects

In addition to these dialects, there are few sub-dialects spoken in Kathmandu valley and other parts of Nepal. These sub-dialects are spoken in surrounding villages of Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur, Chitlang and Dolakha. The dialect spoken in Bandipur is the oldest form of Khwapa Bhaaye. The dialect spoken in Chainpur, Bhojpur, Terathum, Palpa is related to Kathmandu and Patan. The dialect spoken in Ridi, Baglung, Arughat (Gorkha) is closer to Bhaktapur.

Sounds

The sounds are traditionally listed in the order vowels, diphthongs, anusvara and visarga, stop and nasal (starting in the back of the mouth and moving forward), and finally the liquid and fricatives, written in IAST as follows (see the tables below for details):

;
;


Writing systems and grammar

Shukraraj Shastri's Grammar book


Nepal Bhasa has been written in a variety of abugida scripts. The scripts which have been used to write this language are:

Over the centuries, Nepal Bhasa has been written in many scripts, all of which are descended from the Brahmi script. All the scripts proceed from left to right, and include two separate sets of characters - a vowel set and a consonant set. Devanagari is the most widely-used script at the present, as it is the official script of Nepal as well as is used widely in neighbouring India. Ranjana script was the most widely-used script for Nepal Bhasa in ancient times, and is experiencing a sort of a revival due to recent cultural awareness. The Prachalit script, being similar to Devanagari, is also in use. The Brahmi and Golmol scripts are rarely used in present.

In overall writing system of Nepal Bhasa, there are four form of alphabets:
  • Vowels called Ma Akha
  • Consonants called Ba Akha
  • Complex consonants called China Akha
  • Numericals called Lyaa Akha


Vowels

The vowels, called MaAkha (माआखः) used in Nepal Bhasa are

Orthography अं अः
Roman a aa i ii u uu e ai o au am aha ru Ru lru lRuu
IPA


Even though ऋ, ॠ, ऌ, ॡ are present in Nepal Bhasa, they are rarely used. Instead, some of the experts are suggesting to include अय्(aya)and आय्(aaya) in the list of vowels .

Consonants

The consonants, called BaAkha(बाआखः), used in Nepal Bhasa are:

k

kha

g

gh

gn

ch

chh

j or z

jh or zh

tra

t

th

d

dh

n

t

th

d

dh

n

p
/p/
f

b
/b/
bh

m
/m/
y

r
/r/
l
/l/
v
/v/
sh

sh

s
/s/
h

क्ष त्र ज्ञ
ksh

tra

gny



The use of ङ and ञ was very common in the old form of language. However, in the new form, specially in written, the use of these characters has diminished. The use of ण, त, थ, द, ध, न, श, ष, क्ष, त्र, ज्ञ are limited by the new Grammar books to the loan words only.

Complex/compound consonants

Besides the consonants mentioned above, some complex consonants called China Akha (चिना आखः) are also used. These China Akha represent the Sino-Tibetan characteristics of the language. The most used of these complex consonants, which by some are considered individual letters, are :
  • न्ह
  • म्ह
  • ल्ह
  • ह्र


Numericals

The numericals used in Nepal Bhasa have ten digits from 0-9. The numericals used in Ranjana script are as follows (from 0 to 9)



The same numericals in Devnagari are:In Devanāgarī
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


The earliest form of written grammar were developed by Shukraj Shastri and Nisthananda Bajracharya. Shukraraj Shastri's grammar is very similar to Sanskrit. He had studied Sanskrit, English and Hindi grammar before creating his masterpiece called Nepal Bhasa Wyakarana which is based largely on Sanskrit but with great study of Nepal Bhasa as well.

Literature

250x
Main article: Nepal Bhasa literature

Nepal Bhasa literature has a long history. It has the fourth-oldest literature of the Sino-Tibetan languages (the first, second and third being Chinese, Tibetan and Burmese respectively).

Drama

Dramas are traditionally performed in open Dabu (stage). Most of the traditional dramas are related to deities and demons. Masked characters are central to such dramas. Music forms an important part of drama. Most of them are narrated with the help of songs sang at intervals. The drama as such resembles dance in many cases. The theme of most of the drama is to create a social wellbeing with morals illustrating the rise, turbulence and fall of evil. There are fixed dates in the Nepal Sambat (Nepal Era) calendar for performance of specific drama. Most of the dramas are carried out by specific Guthis.

Poetry

Poetry writing constituted a pompous part of medieval Malla aristrocracy. Many of the kings were well renowned poets. Siddhidas Mahaju and Chittadhar Hridaya are two great poets in the language.

Prose fiction

This is a relatively new field of literature compared to other fields. Most of the fiction were written in poetry form till the medieval era. So, almost all of prose fiction belong to the modern Nepal Bhasa. Collective short stories in Nepal Bhasa are more popular than novels.

Story

The art of verbal story telling is very old in Nepal Bhasa. There are a variety of mythical and social stories that have aided in establishing the norm of Kathmandu valley. Stories ranging from the origin of Kathmandu valley to the temples of the valley and the important monuments have been passed down verbally in Nepal Bhasa and very few are present in written form. However, with an increase in literacy rate and an awareness amongst the people, those stories have been penned down. Stories on other topics have also taken root.

Nepal Bhasa and Newar community

A wall slogan of Maoists using Nepal Bhasa
Nepal Bhasa is the mother tongue of Newars. Newars form a very diverse community with people from the Mongolian, Aryan and—according to some—even Dravidian races. Newars follow Hinduism and Buddhism, and are subdivided into 64 castes. The language therefore plays a central unifying role in the existence and perpetuation of Newar community. The poet Siddhidas Mahaju concluded that the Newar community and its rich culture can only survive if Nepal Bhasa survives (भाषा म्वासा जाति म्वाइ).

Relative to many other languages of Nepal, Nepal Bhasa enjoyed promotions in various areas since Kathmandu become the capital of the country, as the Newar community rose in ranks throughout the government, royal courts and businesses.

Nepal Bhasa faced a decline during the Shah era when this language was replaced by Khas Kura (later renamed Nepali) as the national language and after the introduction of the "One nation, one language" policy of King Mahendra. The then Royal Nepalese Government spent a lot for Sanskrit education and a Sanskrit University was approved during those times—although Sanskrit is virtually not spoken by anyone in Nepal—because Khas Kura's roots lie in Sanskrit. There were very few resources available then for even primary-level education in Nepal Bhasa. There were no programs broadcast in Nepal Bhasa in the state radio, Radio Nepal. Even after programs in Nepal Bhasa began to be broadcast, the language was referred to as "Newari", a term considered derogatory by Newars. Even today, there are no programs in Nepal Bhasa in the state television, Nepal Television, although it broadcasts a Bollywood Hindi movie every Saturday (although it is used as lingua franca in Terai, Hindi is mother tongue of less than 1% population in Nepal) and often Pakistani serials (in Urdu) as well. The Supreme Court of Nepal has also banned any use of Nepal Bhasa even for trivial matters in official purposes of any part of Nepal. These factors have led to a resentment among Newar community and a feeling of "second class" citizen in one's own state.

This fact has been used for political advantages by many parties of Nepal. Many slogans are translated into Nepal Bhasa, although very few important documents of political parties are ever translated into Nepal Bhasa.

Grammar

Sentence structure

Statement sentence-

This language is a SOV (Subject Object Verb) language. For instance, "My name is Bilat (Birat)" is "Jigu Na'aa Bilat Khaa'a " which word by word translation becomes, "My(Jigu) Name(Na'aa) Bilat is(Khaa'a)".

Interrogative sentence-

Wh-question:

In case of Newari language, Wh-questions are rather "G-questions" with "what/when/which" being replaced by "Gay/Gublay/Gugu" respectively. A S-word "Soo" is used for "who". However, there is an additional "Guli" which is used for "How much/many".

2. Affixes

i. Suffix- "Chaa" and "Ju" are two popular suffixes. "Chaa" is added to signify "junior" or "lesser". But when added to a name, itis used derogatorily. For example, kya'ah-chaa means nephew where "chaa" is being added to kya'ah(son). When added to name like Biratfor "Birat-chaa", it is being used derogatorily. The suffix "ju" is added to show respect. For example, "Baa-ju" means "father-in-law"where "ju" is added to "Baa(father)". Unlike "chaa", "ju" is not added to a first/last name directly. Instead, honorific terms like"Bhaaju" is added for males and "Mayju" for females. Example, "Birat bhaaju" for a male name (Birat) and "Suja Mayju" for a female name (Suja).

ii. Prefix - "Tap'ah" is added to denote "remote" or "distant" relative ('distance' in relationship irrespective of spatial extent). A distant (younger) brother (kija) becomes "tap'ah-kija". "Tuh" is added to denote "higher". Father (baa)'s senior brother is referred to as "Tuh-baa".

Some common phrases and terms

English Devanagari Roman script Khas Bhasa (Nepali)
Hello ज्वजलपा Jwajalapa Namaste
What is your name? छिगु नां: छु खः ? Chhigu naa chhu kha? Tapa'ee'ko naam k' ho?
My name is ___ जिगु नां: ___ ख: Jigu naa___ kha Mero naam ___ ho
Happy New Year न्हूदँया भिंतुना Nhugu dan yaa bhintunaa Na'ya barsh'a ko'o shubkamana
Thank You शुभाय् Subhaaye Dhandyabad
Welcome लसकुस LasaKusa Swagat chha
Yes खः Kha Ho
No मखु Makhu Ho'eena
Okay ज्यु Jyu'oo Thik chha
Not Okay मज्यु Ma Jyu'oo Thik chha'ee'na
Friend पासा Paasaa Saathi
Organization गुथि Guthi Sansthan
House छें Chhen Ghar
Human मनु Manu Manaw
Medicine वास: Waasa Owkhati/ Owsadhi
News बुखं Bukhan Samachar
Dance प्याखं Pyakhan Naach
Man मि:जं Mijan (nasalised 'n') Manchhe
Woman मि:शा Misahh Aa'ee'maa'ee
Young Man ल्याम: Lyam'uh Yuwa'a
Young Lady ल्यासी Lyaa'c Yuwa'ati
Song म्ये Mey Geet
Stage दबली / दबू: Dabalee / Daboo
Palace लाय्‌कू Layaku Durbar
Office ज्यास: Jyaasa Karyalaya
Shop पस: Pasa/Pasal Pasal
Courtyard चूक Chooka Chowk
Brain न्ह्यपु Nhepu Dimag
Heart नुगः Nugah Mutu
Water लः / ना Lah / Naa Pani
Rain वा Wa'a Warsha'aa
Wife's parents place Suh'suh Suhsurali
I don't understand Nepal Bhasa जित: नेपाल भाषा मवः Jita Nepal Bhasa mawa Ma'laee Nepal Bhasa aa'un'da'een'a


Relationship

English Devanagari Roman script Khas Bhasa (Nepali)
Mother मां Maa Aa'maa
Father अबु Abu Ba'aa
Grandmother अजी Ajee Ba'jya'ee
Grandfather अजा Ajaa Baaj'ey
Brother (Elder) Daju Dai
Brother (younger) Kija Bhai
Sister (elder) Tuhta Didi
Sister (younger) Keyhn (nasalised 'n') Bahini
Uncle (Mother's brother) Paju (Pau) Mama
Uncle (Father's brother) Tuh-abaa (elder brother) / Kuh'ka (younger brother) Thool-buwa (elder brother) / Kaka (younger brother)
Uncle (Father's sister's husband) Paju Phoophajyu
Aunty (Father's sister) Ninih Phoophoo
Aunty (Mother's sister) Tuh-maa(elder sister) /Chidhi-maa (younger sister) Thool-ama (elder sister)/Kanchhi amaa (younger sister)
Aunty (Father's elder brother's wife) Tuh-maa Thooli-ama
Aunty (Father's younger brother's wife) Kaki Kaki
Aunty (Mother's brother's wife) Malju Maijyu
Son K'yah Chhora
Daughter Mhyah Chhori
Nephew (Brother's son) K'yah-chaa Bhanij
Niece (Brother's daughter) Mhyah-chaa Bhatiji
Nephew (Sister's son) Bhincha Bhanja
Niece (Sister's daughter) Bhincha Bhanji
Grandchild Chheyh Nati/Natini (male/female)
Daughter-in-law Bauh Buhari
Son-in-law Jilajan (nasalised 'n') Jwaeen (nasalised 'n')
Wife's parent Suh'suhbaa (Father) / Suh'suhmaa (Mother) Suhsurobaa (Father) / Saasoo (Mother)
Husband's parent Baa-ju (Father)/Maa-ju (Mother) Suhsura (Father) / Saasoo (Mother)


Animal names

English Devanagari Roman script Khas Bhasa (Nepali)
Ant E'mu Kamila
Cat Bhaow Biralo
Cow San (silent "n") Gai
Crow Koh Kag
Dog Kheecha Kukur
Eagle Emaa Cheel
Elephant Kisi Hatti
Fish Nyah Machha
Horse sul'uh ghoda
Kite Emaa Cheel
Monkey माक Maaqah Bandar
Mouse Chhoon (nasalised 'n') Musa
Pigeon Bakhun (nasalised 'n') Parewa
Sparrow Chuhkhun (nasalised 'n') Bhangero (nasalised 'n')


Few words--origin--meaning

(From the review article on "Dictionary of classical Newari compiled from manuscript sources. Nepal Bhasa Dictionary Committee. Cwasā Pāsā. Kathmandu: Modern Printing Press, Jamal 2000, pp. XXXV, 530. ISBN 99933-316-0-0" by Siegfried Lienhard (SpringerLink),for the full list)

Words Origin (orig. word) Meaning
La:h Pali (Jala:h) Water
Kaa:sa Pali Bronze
Kaji Arabic leader
Khaapaa Pali Door (Original meaning in Pali was "door panel")
Kimi Sanskrit (Krmi) Hookworm
Adha:vata Persian Malice
Ka:h Pali (Kana) Blind (Original meaning in Pali was "one-eyed")
Dya:h Pali (Dev) Deity
Nhya:h Pali (Na:sika) Nose
Mhu:tu Pali (Mukhena) Mouth
Khicha: Pali (Kukkura) Dog


References

External links




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