Newar

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A language of Nepal

Alternate Names
Nepal Bhasa, Newaah Bhaaye, Newal Bhaye, “Newari” (pej.)
Population

847,000 in Nepal (2011 census), decreasing. Population total all countries: 861,000. Many women are monolingual. Ethnic population: 1,260,000. Includes 1,245,000 Newar and 11,500 Pahari.

Location

Bagmati Zone, Kathmandu valley; many other urban areas. Fewer far west.

Language Status

4 (Educational). Language of recognized indigenous nationality: Newar.

Dialects

Badikhel Pahari, Baglung, Balami, Bhaktapur, Citlang, Dolkhali (Dolakha), Gopali, Kathmandu-Patan-Kirtipur, Pyang Gaon, Sindhupalchok Pahri (Pahari, Pahri), Totali. The Dolakhae dialect of Dolakha has complex person-number verb agreement with residue reflex in the Pahari dialect of Badikhel. These two dialects are not fully intelligible to the speakers of Kathmandu Valley where the language has a simple conjunct-disjunct agreement. Kirtipur and Lalitpur are reportedly similar to Kathmandu. Bhaktapur people mostly understand Kathmandu despite some lexical differences. The Eastern Newar dialects, including at least Dolakha and Tauthali, are mutually unintelligible with the dialects of the Kathmandu Valley. The same may also be true of Pahri of Sindhupalchok and other varieties. Some vocabulary differences between Hindus and Buddhists.

Typology

SOV; postpositions; genitives, adjectives, demonstratives before noun heads; noun heads final; 4 noun classes: animate, inanimate, common, honored; content q-word in situ; relatives before and without noun heads; in polar questions there is a particle sentence finally; 1 prefix, up to 3 suffixes; clause constituents indicated by case-marking; verbal affixation marks person and number (in Dolakha and Badikhel dialects); affixes or clitics indicate case of noun phrases; ergative; causatives; comparatives; tense and aspect; no passives or voice; V, VC, CV, CVC, CCV, CCVC; nontonal; 28 consonant and 6 vowel phonemes.

Language Use

Language shift greater among Hindus than Buddhists. Home, religion; mixed use: Friends, work, education. Children, young adults and older. Some use among adolescents. Also use Central Tibetan [bod], English [eng], Hindi [hin], Nepali [npi].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: 60% (1991 census). Literacy rate in L2: 60% (1991 census). Youth more literate than older; men more than women. Taught in primary and secondary schools. Poetry. Magazines. Newspapers. New media. Radio programs. Films. TV. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar. NT: 1986.
Writing

Devanagari script [Deva], primary usage. Newar (Prachalit Nepal) script [Qabc], in common use during the Malla period and earlier, recent efforts to revive usage. Ranjana (Lantsa, Wartu) script [Qabb], no longer in use.

Other Comments

One of the principal languages of Nepal; historically an official language of the Newar Malla Kings of the three cities of Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu is the prestige dialect with most published materials. English [eng] highly valued; mixed feelings about Hindi [hin]; Tibetan [bod] does not have high prestige. People learn whichever language will help them economically: Nepali [npi], English [eng], Hindi [hin], and others. Hindu, Buddhist, traditional religion.

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