A language of India

Alternate Names
Apabhramsa, Bihari, Maitili, Maitli, Methli, Tirahutia, Tirhuti, Tirhutia

30,000,000 in India (2000 SIL). Population total all countries: 33,890,000. 12,000,000 monolinguals (1998).


Bihar, from Muzaffarpur on the west, past Kosi on the east to western Purnia district, to Munger and Bhagalpur districts in the south, and Himalayan foothills north. Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai. Many settled abroad. Cultural and linguistic centers are Madhubani and Darbhanga towns. Janakpur also important culturally and religiously.

Language Status

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


Bajjika, Central Colloquial Maithili (Sotipura), Dehati, Eastern Maithili (Khotta, Kortha, Kortha Bihari), Jolaha, Kisan, Southern Standard Maithili, Standard Maithili, Thetiya, Western Maithili. 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 and postpositions; verbal affixation marks person, number, gender, and honorificity of subject; split ergativity; 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; nontonal; 29 consonant and 11 vowel phonemes.

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. Hindi [hin] considered superior, Nepali [npi] generally accepted. 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 or Hindi, they can read Maithili. The educated read Hindi, Nepali, or English books for pleasure. Some literacy work in India. Poetry. Magazines. Newspapers. Radio programs. Films. TV. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar. NT: 2010.


Devanagari script [Deva], primary usage. Kaithi script [Kthi], used until the turn of the 20th century. Newar (Prachalit Nepal) script [Qabc], no longer in use, historic usage. Tirhuta script [Tirh], used until the turn of the 20th century.

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