Native Speakers – 2.3 million
The language spoken by the people belonging to the Kumaon division of Uttarakhand is known as Kumaoni which is distinct from Garhwali language. The Kumaon regions include places like Almora, Nainital, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh, Champawat, Rudrapur etc where this language is primarily spoken by the natives along with it being spoken in limited parts of Himachal Pradesh and even Nepal. Kumaoni dialect have a number of different dialects that are used for speaking in different parts of Uttarakhand like central Kumaoni is utilized in Almora and northern Nainital. Everyone who communicate in Kumaoni can also speak and understand Hindi easily. Some other alternate names of this dialect are – Askoti (Askot), Bhabari (Rampur), Johari (Nalla Talla Johar), Danpuriya (Danpur), Phaldakotiya (Phaldkot), Sirali (Sirakot) and are most closely related to Nepali and Garhwali dialects. It is also 1 of the 325 recognised languages in India.
History of Kumaoni Language
The origin of the word ‘Kumaoni’ can be traced back to the region around Champawat in the district of Pithoragarh which was formerly known as ‘Kumu’ and the language that was spoken there was ‘Kumaiyya’. With the domain expansion of the rulers of ‘Kumu’ the entire territory under their control came to be known as Kumaon. Therefore all the languages that were being spoken in this region came to be known as Kumaoni. This word is also inspired by kurmanchal which literally translates into ‘mountain of Kurma’ that refers to the legendary incarnation of Lord Vishnu known as ‘Kurma’.
The root source of Kumaoni language can be traced back to the Suraseni Prakrit which is also considered the source for Rajasthani and Braj Bhasha. The outside and foreign settlers in Kumaon regions then added on new words to the vocabulary. Some people link Kumaoni language to Dardokhas Prakrit while others say that it is a synthesis of the languages spoken by Aryans and Yakshas. However with time Kumaoni was influenced by various other languages of the immigrants who made their way to Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand.
Kumaoni language is a part of the indo Aryan dialect sphere which shares its grammar with its other indo Aryan languages, especially Nepali, Hindi, Kashmiri, Gujarati etc. the grammar is also shared with other languages of the central Pahadi regions of Garhwali and Jaunsari. The difference in grammar between Kumaoni and its other central Pahadi languages exist only because of the influence of Khasas which is now extinct and was spoken by the 1st inhabitant of the region. In this case the verb is formed from the root ach which is the same in case of Rajasthani and Kashmiri.
Kumaoni is Now Officially Endangered
According to UNESCO’s atlas of the world’s language, has put Kumaoni language in an officially unsafe category. Due to a lot of reasons including negligence about its importance by the authorities, not being the official language, migration to the towns and cities etc. Kumaoni is quickly becoming a forgotten language and is now primarily being spoken only by the local natives of Kumaon but sadly, nowhere else. However there are still a few people who speak in their mother tongue and have managed to keep the sanctity of their language intact. There are also other modes through which the value is being maintained like songs, movies, folklore etc.
Difference between Kumaoni and Garhwali Languages
Although for a Hindi speaking individual there may not seem any difference from the two languages but here are a few differences in languages like:
- First of all, the accent of speaking between both the regions is quite different and distinct from each other.
- Their words are also a little different between them.
- The pronunciation of words differs from each other and is not similar in any way.
- For example – Kumaoni use the word ‘Thehra’ whereas in Garhwali they use the word ‘Bal’ which is not at all similar to the Kumaoni word.
- The speaking style of the Garhwali population sounds more like Himachali while the Kumaoni language sounds somewhat similar to Nepali.
These are just a few noticeable differences between them in a huge list of variations in between these two languages.