A language of India

Alternate Names
Apabhramsa, Bihari, Maitili, Maitli, Methli, Tirahutia, Tirhuti, Tirhutia
मैथिली‎ (Maithilī)

30,000,000 in India (2000 SIL). 12,000,000 monolinguals (1998). Total users in all countries: 34,085,000 (as L1: 33,890,000; as L2: 195,000).


Bihar state: Muzaffarpur west, past Kosi east to west Purnia district, to Munger and Bhagalpur districts south, and Himalayan foothills north; Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai. Cultural, religious, and linguistic centers are Janakpur, Madhubani and Darbhanga. Many settled abroad.

Language Status

2 (Provincial). Statutory language of provincial identity in Bihar State (1992, Constitution, Amendment 71).


Standard Maithili, Southern Standard Maithili, Eastern Maithili (Khortha, Khotta, Kortha, Kortha Bihari), Western Maithili, Jolaha, Central Colloquial Maithili (Sotipura), Kisan, Dehati, Bajjika, Thetiya (Thati). Caste variation more than geographic variation in dialects. Functional intelligibility among all dialects, including those in Nepal. Reportedly most similar to Magahi [mag]. Lexical similarity: 91% between Brahmin and non-Brahmin dialects.


SOV; postpositions; noun head final; 11 noun classes or genders; content q-word in situ; genitives, articles, numerals before noun heads, adjectives before and after noun heads; 1 prefix, up to 5 suffixes; clause constituents partially indicated by case-marking (6 cases) and postpositions; verbal affixation marks person, number, gender, and honorificity of subject; nominative-accusative; object marked by position; person, gender, animate distinguished, obligatory for subject; transitives; both tense and aspect; passives and voice; causatives; comparatives; V, VC, VCC, CV, CVC, CVV, CCV, CVCC, CCVCC; non-tonal; 26 consonant and 16 vowel phonemes; stress on penultimate syllable.

Language Use

Used by Brahmin and other high caste or educated Hindus, who influence the culture and language, and other castes. There is a Maithili Academy. Linguistics and literature taught at Patna University and at L. N. Mithila University in Darbhanga. Home, community. Mixed attitudes. Influenced by caste, ranging from superiority to resentment; non-Brahmin speech viewed as inferior. Also use Bengali [ben], Bhojpuri [bho], English [eng], Hindi [hin], Nepali [npi].

Language Development

Literacy rate in L1: 25%–50%. Literacy rate in L2: 25%–50%. If they can read Nepali [npi] or Hindi [hin], they can read Maithili. The educated read Hindi, Nepali, or English books for pleasure. Some literacy work in India. Literature. Newspapers. Periodicals. Radio. TV. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar. NT: 2010.


Devanagari script [Deva], primary usage. Kaithi script [Kthi], used until the turn of the 20th century. Newa script [Newa], no longer in use, historic usage. Tirhuta script [Tirh], used until the turn of the 20th century.

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