A language of Nepal

Alternate Names
Newa Bhaye, Newaah Bhaae, Newaah Bhaaye, Newah, Newal Bhaye, “Newari” (pej.)
नेपाल भाषा‎ (Nepal Bhasa), नेवाः भाय्‎ (Newah Bhaaye)

879,600 in Nepal, all users. L1 users: 847,000 in Nepal (2011 census), decreasing. L2 users: 32,600 (2011 census). Many women are monolingual. Ethnic population: 1,260,000. Includes 1,245,000 Newar and 11,500 Pahari. Total users in all countries: 893,600 (as L1: 861,000; as L2: 32,600).


Bagmati zone: Kathmandu valley; many other urban areas. Fewer far west.

Language Maps
Language Status

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


Dolkhali (Dolakha), Sindhupalchok Pahari (Pahri), Totali, Citlang, Kathmandu-Patan-Kirtipur, Bhaktapur, Baglung, Badikhel Pahari (Pahri, Pihi), Gopali, Balami, Pyang Gaon (Gamal). Kirtipur and Lalitpur are reportedly similar to Kathmandu. Some vocabulary differences between Hindus and Buddhists. Bhaktapur people mostly understand Kathmandu despite some lexical differences. Balami and Citlang reported to not understand Kathmandu Newar. The Eastern Newar dialects, including at least Dolakha and Tauthali are not fully intelligible to the speakers of Kathmandu Valley where the language has a simple conjunct-disjunct agreement. Other dialects are also mutually unintelligible with Kathmandu Valley, including Pahari, Pyangaun, and perhaps other varieties as well. Dolakha variety has complex person-number verb agreement with residue reflex in the Pahari dialect of Badikhel. Pahari considered separate language within own communities.


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. Used by all. 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. Literature. Newspapers. Periodicals. Radio. TV. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar. Texts. NT: 1986–2015. Agencies: Nepal Bhasa Academy; Newar National Forum.


Devanagari script [Deva], primary usage. Newa script [Newa], 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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