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Kashmiri, also known as Keshur or Koshur, belongs to the Northwestern group of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is the largest of the Dardic languages, and the only language in the Dardic group that boasts an early literary tradition. It is spoken primarily in the Jammu and Kashmir state of India. According to the 2001 census, it has 5.4 million speakers in India, with a total total of about 5.6 million speakers worldwide (Ethnologue).  Kashmir map


Kashmiri is one of the 22 official languages of India. Even though Urdu is the official language of the multilingual and multi-ethnic state of Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmiri is the majority language used as a medium of instruction in primary and middle schools. It serves as the medium of much of mass communication, such as newspapers, radio programs, and films. Most speakers of Kashmiri are fluent in a second language, typically Hindi/Urdu. Many Kashmiris also speak English.


Although there has been no definitive research on the dialects of Kashmiri, they are usually divided into two groups based on the extent to which the language is affected by geography and by religious and social differences between Hindus and Muslims, as well as between the cities and the countryside.

Geographical dialects  There are four major regional dialects which are listed below.

  • Kashtawari (Kistwardi) spoken in the capital of Srinagar serves as basis for Standard Kashmiri.
  • Rambani and Siraji are closely related to each other, but do not share a number of features with standard Kashmiri.
  • Poguli is mutually intelligible with Standard Kashmiri.


Social dialects Social, or user-defined dialects, depend on the extent to which they were affected by either Sanskrit  Perso-Arabic influence.



Due to its separation from other Indo-Aryan languages and its geographical proximity to the Perso-Arabic world, Kashmiri has developed some features that distinguish it from other Indian languages. These features involve both the sound system as well as the morphological and syntactic structure of the language.

Sound system

In general, the sound system of Kashmiri shares many features with the sound systems of other Indo-Aryan languages, all of which have large inventories of vowels and consonants. Kashmiri syllables typically consist of a vowel preceded and followed by one or two optional consonants.


Kashmiri has a a large inventory of vowels which can be short or long. Some long vowels (/i:/, /e:/, /ə:/, /u:/, /o:/) and some short vowels (/e/, /o/, /ə/, /a/) can also be nasalized. Vowel length and nasalization distinguish word meaning. In romanization, long vowels are usually marked by a colon (a:), while nasalized vowels are marked by a tilde (ã).

i, i:
ɨ, ɨ:
u, u:
e, e:
ə, ə:
o, o:
Open ɔ
  • /i/ = ea in peat
  • /ɨ/ has no equivalent in English
  • /e/ = e in pet
  • /ə/ = a in ago
  • /a/ = a in bar
  • /u/ = oo in too
  • /o/ = o in token
  • /ɔ/ = o in bog (occurs only in a few words)

Consonants Unlike other Indian languages, Kashmiri does not have aspirated voiced stops.

Labial Dental Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Stops voiceless p, pʰ t, tʰ ʈ, ʈʰ k, kʰ
voiced b d ɖ g
Fricatives voiceless s ʃ
voiced z h
Affricate voiceless ts, tsʰ tʃ, tʃʰ
Nasal m n,
Lateral l
Rhotic r
Semi-vowel w j
  •  There is a contrast between aspirated vs. unaspirated stops and affricates, e.g., /p—pʰ, t—tʰ, k—kʰ,  ts—tsʰ, tʃ—tʃʰ. Aspirated consonants are produced with a strong puff of air.
  • There is a contrast between and apical vs. retroflex consonants, e.g., /t/ – /ʈ/, /d/ – /ɖ/. Apical consonants are produced with the tip of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth, whereas retroflex consonants are produced with the tongue curled, so that its underside comes in contact with the roof of the mouth.
  • /ʃ/ = sh in shop
  • /tʃ/ = ch in chop
  • /dʒ/ = j in job
  • /w/ can be realized as /w/ or /ʋ/
  • /j/ = y in yet



Stress alone does not distinguish the meaning of words in Kashmiri. It typically falls on the heaviest syllable of the word. Syllables that contain Consonant + Vowel (CV) are heavier than syllables consisting of a single vowel (V), and Consonant + Vowel + Vowel (CVV) syllables are heavier than Consonant + Vowel (CV) syllables.  


Kashmiri is a highly inflected language that uses suffixes and postpositions to mark grammatical relations. It is an ergative language which means that the subjects of transitive verbs appear in the nominative case, while subjects of intransitive verbs appear in the ergative case.


Kashmiri nouns are marked for the following grammatical categories:



  • Adjectives belong to two categories: declinable, and indeclinable.
  • Declinable adjectives are declined like nouns.



  • Pronouns are declined like nouns.
  • Third person personal pronouns and demonstratives have a three-way distinction between proximal ‘this’, remote ‘that’, and distal ‘yonder’.



Kashmiri verbs agree with their subjects in person and number and with their objects in gender and number. Grammatical functions of verbs are expressed by suffixes. Verbs are inflected for the following categories:


Word order

The normal word order in Kashmiri sentences is Subject-Verb-Object. However, other word orders are possible to mark emphasis.


Kashmiri has more words from Vedic Sanskrit than other Indian languages. Hindu Kashmiri has borrowed many words from Sanskrit than other Indian languages. Muslim Kashmiri, on the other hand, has many borrowings from Persian and Arabic. Below are a few words and basic phrases in Kashmiri.

Hello Assalām ‘alaikum (talking to a Muslim); Namaskār (talking to a Hindu);informal halo
Khuda hāfiz (talking to a Muslim); Namaskār (talking to a Hindu)
Thank you Meherbaeni
 Yes Ên
 No  Na

Numerals 1-10 in Kashmiri.

1 2 3


5 6 7 8 9 10
Akh Trê


Pāņçh Shê Sath Äţh Nav Dāh


Kashmiri uses its own writing system. The traditional script of Kashmiri is the Indian Sharada, a script that was developed around the 10th century AD. It is currently being used for very restricted purposes by select classes of Kashmiri society. The main writing system of Kashmiri today is a modified Perso-Arabic alphabet which is widely used for official and mass communication purposes. The language is known for its rich literary tradition, particularly, for its poetry, dating back to the 12 century AD. Kashmiri language and literature experienced two major influences. The earliest was that of Vedic Sanskrit.  The later influences came from Persian and Arabic which began after the Muslim invasions and large-scale conversion to Islam.The language is known for its rich literary tradition, particularly for its poetry, dating from the 12th century A.D.

  • Sharada (Sharda, Sarda) This script which was developed around the 10th century AD. It is the oldest script Kashmiri script. Today, it is used by a small group for religious purposes. Sharada symbols are different from the Devanagari script.
  • Devanagari This script was used by Kashmiri Hindus for writing Kashmiri literature until 1947, and is still in use today.
  • Perso-Arabic It is recognized as the official script for writing Kashmiri and is used by both Hindus and Muslims.



Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Kashmiri? There is no data on the difficulty level of Kashmiri for speakers of English.

9 Responses to Kashmiri

  1. kashmir tour packages

    There is certainly a great deal to find out about this subject.

    I love all of the points you’ve made.

  2. NativeKoushurSpeaker

    Examples in grammar portion will be very helpful.

    • Irene Thompson

      Help us provide some.

      • Mohtasim Syed

        Kashmiri would probably be a Category III language in terms of difficulty for English speakers

        • Irene Thompson

          Could be, but we don’t have any data to support it.

  3. Graham Howe

    I assume that the sound chart and the remarks immediately following it have been copied from another Indian language, such as Hindi or Gujarati; you state immediately before it that “Unlike other Indian languages, Kashmiri does not have aspirated voiced stops” – you then promptly reproduce a sound chart which contains several aspirated stops and them remark that “….There is a contrast between aspirated vs. unaspirated stop”. Could you please clarify this. In addition, it would be helpful – particularly in the case of languages from the Indian subcontinent – if the sample phrases consisted of something other than “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you”, as these phrases tend to be the same – or almost the same – in nearly all Northern Indian languages, and tend to depend on the speaker’s religion rather than serve as a helpful illustration of the structure and grammar of the language. A few simple examples of basic phrases – such as “The house is big”, “I have a book”, or a few examples of verb conjugations would be far more helpful and interesting.

    • Irene Thompson

      Your suggestion about Kashmiri is well taken. The page needs an overhaul. However, there is a method behind the madness. The same words/phrases are used throughout the website for the sake of consistency across languages. The website is designed to educate the general public, not specialists not interested in the conjugation of verbs or 1st year language primer staples such as the ones you suggest. This is much better handled by other resources, that can provide more targeted answers to questions raised by a variety of readers. Finally, if the some of the common words/phrases are similar across many languages of the Indian subcontinent, it only shows to illustrate that these languages share a common ancestry and cultural base.

  4. Karim Sheikh

    While this is good, I must add that Kashmiri is not as popular as this writes. I hate to be the one to say it but Kashmiri is not used really by the younger generation (under 30) and is not a mass media communication language. In fact, several of my cousins can understand very little and it seems to lag behind Hindi/Urdu and English

    • Irene Thompson

      Thank you. Interesting to hear that young people tend to use languages of mass communication such as Hindi/Urdu and English, instead of the local language. That seems to be happening in many other countries. Is this globalization?


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