Ashok R. Kelkar



Kashmiri: A Descriptive Sketch


The Language is its contemporary and historical setting.

            The State of Jammu and Kashmir stretches across three language families – Burushāskī language, which constitutes a family by itself, is spoken around Hunza and Nagir in the North-West; Bāltī, Ladākhī, and Burig in the snow-bound north-east and east are Tibeto-Burman in affiliation and indeed closely connected with west Tibetan dialects; the remaining area in the south – west and the south is covered by Indo-European languages divisible into four groups.  Around Punch on the south –western border Chhibhāllī and other varieties of Lahandā are spoken; around Jammu on the southern border Dogrī and other varieties closely related to Panjābī are spoken; further east near Himachal Praesh Padarī and Bhadrawāhī belong to the western Pahāī group are spoken.  These three Indo-Aryan groups of course interlock with the languages   of the plains to the south and of the Himalayan area to the south-east. The remaining area, namely, that from Gilgit in the north-west to the Pir Panjal range to the south (and this includes the Kashmir Valley watered by the upper reaches of the River Jhelum) is covered by the so-called Dardic group of languages of which Kashmīrī is the most widely spoken, the best known, and the only one possessing a written literature.  The Dardic area actually extends farther to the north-west into Chitral and Kafiristan and thus abuts upon the area covered by Pashto and other Indian languages.

            The Dardic languages undoubtedly belong to the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family and it is also certain that they do not belong to the Iranian   branch.  Their exact relation to the Indo-Aryan languages is a matter of some doubt and awaits further study.  Dardic languages of the west are more influenced by the Iranian languages- where they are not actually displaced by the latter at points.  Shiā spoken around Gilgit and further south presents a clearer picture of Dardic from the linguist’s point of view.  Kashmiri, possessing a written literature, is influenced by Sanskrit like all other literacy languages of South Asia (including the Tibeto – Burman Newari).  In the south it has border varieties showing the influence of the neighbouring  Lahnda, Panjabi, and western Pahari – the principal dialect is Kishtawarī bordering on western Pahari, though the 1961 Census of  India also mentions Pogulī, Bunjawalī and Sirājī.  According  to the 1961 Census, 19 14 446 persons returned Kashmiri as their mother tongue; the four dialects mentioned here account for another 41 669.   Out of the total of 19 56 115 persons 18 298 speakers are from Panjab and other parts of India, the remaining being from Jammu and Kashmir.  (The same Census shows 856 speakers for Shina, including Chilāsī, Gilgiī, and the Tibetan influenced Brokpa).  Grierson’s figure for Kashmiri based on the 1911 Census is 11 95 902 and this includes 8 145 speakers outside the State as also   52 780 speakers of Kishtawari, Poguli, Sirājī, Rāmbanī, and the mixed dialects of Riāsī.  The 1971 Census figure for Kashmiri is 24 38 360.  How much of the increase is normal population increase and how much is due to other factors such as a person reclassifying himself is not known.

            Kashmīrī (also Kāshmīrī in Hindi-urdu) is called Kä:šur or Kä:šir (respectively masculine or feminine forms of the   adjective)  by the Kashmiris themselves (who live in Käši:r the name of the Valley in their language).  At various times it has been reduced to writing in the Shāradā, the Devanāgarī the Gurmukhī, and the Perso – Arabic script  (the first three scripts being closely related).  Today kashmiri stands recognized in the language schedule (the Eighth) of the Constitution of India and is very gradually coming into its own.  It is being used on the radio, from the platform, and on the stage.  Books of fiction, poetry, and magazines (though no newspapers or until quite recently, no scholarly periodicals) are being printed and published in the Perso-Arabic script.  An academy of the name Lalitkala, Sanskriti va Sahitya Akademi Jammu Kashmir was founded in 1958.  However, Kashmiri speakers still favour Urdu as a language of literary and public life: Urdu and not Kashmiri is the official language of the State.

            The speech of educated people in Srinagar, the capital city, may be taken as the contemporary standard.  There are differences between the speech of Muslims and Hindus – Chiefly in the area of vocabulary, though these are nowhere very sharp unless we are thinking of the self-conscious speech of Arabic and Persian scholars on the one hand and of Sanskrit scholars on the other.  The speech of urban Muslims is more liable to show rural dialect influence than that of urban Hindus.

            Contemporary Kashmiri literature dates from the 1930s and is heavily indebted to Urdu literature.  One of the earliest written records of Kashmiri is in the form of passages embedded in the Sanskrit text Mahāanayaprakāśa by Shitikantha on Tantrist-Shaivist doctrine (dated variously from the 13th to the 15th centuries).  But Apabhramsha, Sanskrit, Persian, and more recently Urdu remained from time to time the popular media of cultivated expression: there is no clear, steady unified Kashmiri literary tradition as such, though works of undoubted importance have been produced from about the 14th century onwards.  We can only mention here the three strands.  The Shaiva – Sufi mystic synthesis of the earliest period is best seen in the aphoristic pieces of the poetess   Lal Ded which were brought together under the Sanskrit title Lallā vā kyāni, and which still remain popular among the educated and the uneducated alike.  The mystic and lyric strain is continued by two other poetesses later – Haba Khatoon (16th century) and Arrni Mal (18th Century).  Secondly, there is the Pandit tradition represented by long narrative poems on Hindu mythological themes modified by the local folk versions, the language being progressively more highly Sanskrit zed (15th to 19th centuries).  Finally, direct Persian influence in narrative themes, literary and metrical forms, and language is seen in the Muslim poets (18th to 19th Centuries).  There is no literary prose to speak of till the contemporary period.  Kashmiri is rich in folklore which remains uncollected for the large part, though some editorial activity has already started.

            The language has been studied and grammars and dictionaries have been prepared by European missionaries, officials, and academic scholars (who are also responsible for the few editions of older texts that have been published) since the middle of the 19th Century Pandit Ishwar Kaul (who died in 1893) left behind him the grammar Kāšhmīra śabdāmrtam (written in Sanskrit, published and later made use of by Grierson) and the materials of a dictionary (forming the nucleus of Grierson’s Kashmiri-English dictionary) A full scale historical study of Kashmiri phonology, grammar, and vocabulary still remains a desideratum.

            The remaining three sections present a descriptive sketch of the contemporary standard variety with occasional references to older stages or non-standard varieties of Kashmiri.


Word Phonology:

            The consonant, the semivowel, and the vowel phonemes of Kashmiri may be tabulated as follows.  (See 1.).

            To these may be added the phoneme of nasalization /n/ that accompanies the vowel, whose symbol precedes it.

            Phonetic notes: (1) The lamina–alveolar and the laminopalatal stops are affricated.  All six of these as well as the corresponding fricatives are sulcated (grooved).  (2) The nasal /n/ is alveolar unless modified by the consonant following.  (3) All consonants acquires a [t] – color before front ungrounded semivowels and vowels and a [w] –colour before /u u u:/ - especially the consonants /n l r / in the former case and /k kh g/ in the latter case, (4) The semivowels /i u / are consonant like before or after vowels - /u/ does not occur in such positions.  The semivowels / i u / are liked extra-short vowels or vowel-colourings of preceding consonants when not followed or preceded by vowels -- /u/ does not occur in such positions in contemporary Kashmiri though it survives in the Devanagari spelling and has to be reckoned with in Sandhi rules as an abstract unit. (5) The vowels /ü ü:/ are not  rounded like the German umlaut vowels ü and ǒ but ungrounded like  the Russian  bi or the Tamil u of adu ‘that’. The semivowel /ü/ corresponds to these.  (6) The vowels /ää:/ correspond roughly to the normal pair a and a in Hindi; /ä:/ is a longer version of a and /a/ is a shorter version of ā.  The sign /:/ is of course a sign of length.











Stop voiceless unaspirated









Stop voiceless aspirated









Stop voiced (unaspirated)









Nasal (voiced)









Fricative (voiceless)









Laternal (voiced)









Trill (voiced)









Friction vocoid











Front unrounded

Non-front unrounded

Back rounded










Vowel high short/long









Vowel mid short/long









Vowel low short/long









            It will be observed that Kashmiri lacks the voiced aspirated stops there are no bh dh and so forth.  In words in which one would expect them the voiced unaspirated stops occur compare Ka. /gur / with Hindi ghor,ā ‘horse’.  The voiceless aspirated stops should be distinguished from sequences of a voiceless unaspirated stop followed by /h/ -- contrast /makhür/ pretence with /ukho:y / ‘they ate for you.’

            Note that we have spelt the last mentioned example as /turkho:y / and not as /ukho:i/ We have adopted the convenient practice of writing /iu/ as /yu/ when adjacent to vowels with which they form diphthongs, reserving the symbols / i ü / for the extra-short-so-called mātrā -vowels.  Some commonly occurring diphthongs are / ay av yu yu: ya va va:/ the last three are especially noteworthy in that the neighboring vowel /a/ (or /a:/) is coloured by the semivowel - /khyal’ lotus leaf /dvad/ milk, /sva:d/ one – and – a – quarter’ have the English vowels in yap, wash, wall respectively.  Not that the sequences of a lamino alveolar stop or fricative followed by the semivowel / y i/ should be distinguished from the lamino palatal stop or fricative (which is automatically followed by [y] in pronunciation): consider /cyaph) ‘evading tolerance’, /paci / they believed.

            The typical Perso-Arabic loan consonants of Urdu are missing in Kashmir phonology except possibly an initial /f/ in careful pronunciation.  In English loanwords like bank (financial sense), some may prefer in English-like front ungrounded low long vowel to the more common /a:/ saying /bæ:nk/rather than /bä:nk/.

            Vowels before sequences of the type /mp nka nj / are automatically nasalised, as in /amb/ mango, /pa:nch_/ ‘five’, /rang / ‘colour’.  The symbol /n/ needs to be used only in items like /ka:nh/ ‘someone’.


            The Hindi-Urdu distinction between and r is not contrastive in standard Kashmiri.  The phoneme // is rendered rather lightly finally or before a non-retroflex consonant unless it is preceded by /n/.  Consider /ka/ ‘take out’, /gvani:/ ‘at first’, but /arun/ ‘to fear’, /mvan/’widow’ (with /n/ rendered as [])  Kashmiri has no /ḍḍ/ or for that matter  no other double consonants.  (The double semivowel /vv/ occurs.)  In substandard speech [,,¤] may be used in some items where standard speech would have /r/. as in /ku:ru/ ‘girl, daughter.’

The Devanagari Writing System:

            The system as such is common to both Kashmiri written in Devannagari and in Sharada.  The Roman transliterations in this section, therefore, stand equally for the corresponding Devanagiri and  Sharada characters.  The full Sanskrit alphabet is used – including r, the superscript bindu, the postscript visarga, and the subscript virama stroke (conveying the absence of a vowel) but excluding gh, jh, dh, dh, bh.  The laminopalatal stop  /č / is written either as c or as cy, and so with the other two /čh j/.  The lamino-alveolar stops are written c, ch, j with the addition of a subscript dot.  The lamino – palatal : stop /Š / is rendered as Š but sometimes as ṣ, if traceable to a Sanskrit.  The mā trā vowels / i ü  / and the now silent /u / (not adjacent to a vowel) are as a rule rendered by combining the virāma with i, ū, and u respectively.  The semivowels /i u/ when adjacent to a vowel are rendered as y, v respectively except in the sequences /a i a u/ which are rendered as ai, au respectively.  The vowels / ü ü :/ are rendered by u ū accompanied by a diacritic (a vertical stroke above or less commonly by or below or by above).  The vowels /ä ä:/ are as a rule rendered by a a: accompanied by a vertical stroke above: the vowels /a a:/ are rendered by a a without any diacritic.  The vowels /e e:/ are   both rendered s a e and /o o:/ are both rendered as o.  Nasalization /n/ is rendered by the bindu.

            The daa (a single vertical bar) is used by way a sentence closing punctuation mark.  Spacing is used between words.  Western punctuation marks may also be used.

The Perso – Arabic Writing System:

The consonants are as in Urdu.  Thus--

            Pe with chaī he, fe are both /ph/

            te, foy are borh /./

            se, sīn, svād are all /s/

            barī he, cho ī he are both /h/

            khe, kä f with choī he are both /kh/

            z ā l, ze, Že, žv ā d, zoy are all /j/

            ghain, g äf are both /g/

            qäf, käf are both /k/

            The letter ‘ain is silent.  After ce (for /č/), a new letter is inserted in the alphabet to represent /c/ with four dots in place of the usual three.  (Some persons have suggested the use of the very rare letter Že for this purpose).  Final voiceless aspirated stops are regularly written with the corresponding symbols for voiceless unaspirated stops.

            The semivowels and the vowels are even more clumsily symbolized than they are in Urdu.  The vowels /I I: e: u u: o: a:/ are treated like Urdu, i, ī, e, u ū o, ā respectively.  For short /e o/, a postscript crescent – like sukũn added to a e, o has been suggested.  /a/ is like Urdu a except that the zabar is used with alif also.  /a/ is symbolized like /a/ - alternatively, the use of hamza in place of the zabar has been suggested.  /a:/ is symbolized like /a:/ except that the madd is   retained over the conjoint form of alif as well–alternatively, a superscript hamza over the madd in all positions has been suggested.  / ü ü:/ are symbolized like /i.e/ respectively, - alternatively, it has been suggested that they be symbolized like /u u:/ respectively except that a subscript hamza take the place of the superscript peš.  The semivowel /i/ is symbolized like /e:/ after vowels, but like /i/ before vowels and semivowel /u/ is symbolized like /o:/ after vowels, but like /u/ before vowels.  (It will be seen that /ai/au/ - that is /ay av/ - will be like Urdu ai, au.)

            Punctuation and spacing will be as in Urdu.

Sentence Phonology:

            Phonological features other than the phonemes listed so far --- consonants,  semivowels, vowels, and nasalization – enter into the picture when words strung together as sentences are examined.  There is no word accent (as in English) or word tone (as in Punjabi) in Kashmiri.  There is an automatic light stress on the initial syllable of a word.

            At the sentence level, Kashmiri probably has word final sentence – medial, and sentence – final junctures, sentence accents; and sentence tones.  But all these remain to be properly studied.  We shall use hyphens and plusses in this study purely for indicating grammatical boundaries for convenience sake.

Sandi and other Adjustments:

            We have already hinted in connection with the non-occurrence of /u/ when there is no adjacent vowel not only that it did occur in an earlier period and does survive in the Devanagari writing system but that it still has to be reckoned at a relatively more abstract level of phonology to account for certain phenomena.  The present account does not propose such an abstract phonology but rather indicates the sort of phenomena which will needed to be accounted for in any such proposal.

            The coming together of a (semi) vowel and another (semi) vowel sometimes gives rise to Sandi.  The different types may be illustrated as follows:

1)      The loss of the first of the two (semi) vowels, as /i/ or /i/ lost before /i:/ or /:/;/u/ lost before any vowel.

2)      The replacement of a vowel by a semivowel as /v/ for /u/ before /a/ or /a:/, /y/ for /i/ before /a/ or /a:/.

3)      The intrusion of a semi vowel between two vowels, as /y/ between /I:/ and any other vowel, /v/ in some cases, between /a:/ and any other vowel, /v/ in some cases: between /a:/ and other vowels.

4)      More drastic replacements such as the sustitution of /ay/ for the sequence /u/ followed by / ü y/, of /i:/ for the sequence /i/ followed by /uy/ or /yey/ for the sequence /i/ followed by / ü y/

If two like consonants come together a single consonant remains.  The semi vowel /i/ (or /y/) coming after a lamino palatal consonant will of course drop out as redundant.  If /s/ is followed by /h/, the latter is lost.

            Along with sandhi, there are certain phonological adjustments to consider.

1)      Some words ending in /u/ followed by a consonant lose that vowel before a vowel ending. /ogun/’fire’, but /ogn-as/’to fire’.

2)      The distinction between the voiceless unaspirated stops and the corresponding voiceless aspirated stops is not very stable word-finally.  (We have already seen how the Perso Arabic writing system uses only the unaspirated characters in that position).  The same is the case with the distinction between the absence and the presence of /h/ after the last vowel in a word.  The different possibilities arising out of this are illustrated below.

/ kap~kaphn/ ‘cup’: /kap-as ~ kaph-as / ‘to the cup’

/ kaph / ‘kapha, phlegm’ : /kapr-as / ‘to phlegm’

/ mot / ‘madman’: / m ä t-is/’to the madman’

/ lu:k ~ lu:kh / ‘people’ : /lu:k-an / ‘to people’

/ a : gya: ~ a:gya:h/’command’: /a:gya:h- ü /’commands’

/ ha:h /’breath’:/ha:h-as/’to breath’

            By far the most important phonologic alternation types of Kashmiri are those associated with vowel harmony and consonant assimilation (which is closely associated with it).  Some idea of the kind of complicated relationships that can arise can be gained from the following inflectional paradigm of the adjective meaning ‘great’, (Table 2).

Table – 2






M. Sing

bo d, -(u)

bad, -is



M. Pl.

bad,  -

baj-(y) an

baj-(y) av


F. Sing.

bad, – ü


baǰ -i


F. Pl.

baǰ – i

baǰ – (y) an

baǰ -(y)av


            Note that the parenthesized semivowels drop out only after the relevant rules of vowel harmony and consonant assibilation have applied.

            In order to work out the rules of vowel harmony and consonant assibilation three kinds of environments need to be recognized : (1) Before certain occurrences of /ryii: u/ (the high ungrounded vocoids), (2) Before certain occurrences of / i y i i : ü/ (the high rounded non-long vocoids), (3) Generally,   The alternations that could occur across these three environments can be displayed as follows.  The third is placed in the middle as the neutral environment.

Table – 3


Environment 1

Environment 3

Environment 2

Set 1



Yu, yu:


Set 2

Set 3


ä ä:



a, a:




Set 4

Set 5


vä     e



va,     ya:


o,     yo


Set 6

Set 7

Set 8

ü    ü:


c, c n,  ǰ



u, u

t, t h,: 




Set 9 

č,  čh      ǰ



ṭ , ṭ h


Set 10

č,  čh      ǰ



k, kh


Set 11

ǰ        š




Set 12

t, th  d,kh


, kh, g, I,


Looking back at the illustrative adjectival paradigm one can see that the stem-vowel and the stem-final consonant belong to sets 3 and 9 respectively (Table 3).  The starting point will thus be the stem /bad-/.


Classes of Word-Stems:

Kashmiri stems can be classified as follows:

1)      Nominals

(1.1)         Nouns (all declinable for number and case and assignable to some gender)

(1.2)         Pronouns (all declinable for number and case and assignable to some person and gender)

(1.3)         Adjectives (only some declinable for gender, number and case – the rest being not declinable)

(1.4)         Pro-adjectives (all declinable for gender, number, and case)

2)      Verbs (all conj gable – yielding non-finite forms and finite forms grouped into sets further classifiable according to their selection of a sentence pattern)

3)      Particles (neither declinable nor conj gable further classifiable into postpositions and other sub-classes depending on their functions in a sentence)

Some stems can function as members of more than one stem-class.  In particular, note (a) that all pro-adjectives are also k pronouns (though not vice versa); (b) that all adjectives of quality and degree are also adverbial particles (in which case a declinable stem will appear in the masculine singular nominative form when used adverbially).



Formation of Stems:

            Stems may be either simple or complex.  Complex stems are formed either through derivation from other stems by the addition of endings or from compounding of two stems.

            Some­ typical derivational formations can be illustrated as follows:

            /maju:r/ ‘labourer’ (noun) : /mojr-en-i)/ ‘female laborer’ (noun)

            /modur / ‘sweet’ (adjective): /modr-e: r/ ‘sweetness (noun)

            /čvakh) ‘pain’ (noun): /čvak-ulad/ ‘suffering from pain’ (adjective)

            / päri:/ ‘fairy’ (noun) : /päriy-I:hn/ ‘little fairy’ (noun)

            /cu:r /’four (adjective) : /cu:r-yum ./’fourth’ (adjective)

            / vyoh/ ‘fat’ (adjective) : /vyäṭh-ürun/ ‘to make fat’ (verb)

            /vuph_-un/’to fly’ (verb) : /vuph-na:v-un/ ‘to cause to fly’ (verb)

            /kar-un/’to do’ (ver); /kar-na:v-un/’to cause to be done (verb)

            Some typical compounding formations can be illustrated as follows:

            / muj /’radish’: /bod/ ‘bundle’: / mujibod/ ‘bundle of radishes’ (all three nouns)

            /on/ ‘blind’ (adjective): /gagur/ ‘mouse’ (noun): / änüg agur/ ‘grey musk shrew, Suncus murinus, Linnaeus, chuchundar (Sanskrit), (noun)

            /tre/ ‘three’:/ še:h’sixty’: / truhä: h/ ‘sixty-three’ (all three adjectives)

            At this point we must also note the existence of sets of pronominal such as the following (which could be regarded as compound stems)

Table – 4

                        ‘this’    ‘that’   ‘yonder’       Inter-    Relative            Inde-

                                                                    ragative                                    finite

Pronoun and             yimu            humu            timu                  kamü            yimmü              kenh

Proadjective                                                                                         (also any

Of identity                                                                                            other

(animate                                                                                               plural)

fem. pl)

Pronoun and            yu:t                        tyu:t                  ku:t            yu:t                              


Of quantity


Averbial            yeti            huti            tati                    kati            yeti                               ….

Particle of


            Note the distinction between proximate, cis-distant, and trans-distant demonstratives.  We shall come across formal differentiation between a proximate demonstrative and a relative only in very few sets.  The trans-distant demonstrative also functions as the correlative to the relative.

Formation of Words through Declension:

            Apart from the highly irregular pronominal declensions all nominals fall into one of four declensions, namely, M1, M2 F1, F2, where M and F refer to artificial genders. (Kashmiri has no neuter gender.) The declinable adjectives consistently pattern like M1 and F1 nouns.

            The regular declensions can be set out with the help of four typical noun stems -ur-/ M1 ‘child’ offspring’. /cu:r-/ M2 ‘thief’, /ko:r-/ F1 ‘girl, daughter’,  ma:1/ F2 ‘garland’, Note that the nominative also functions like the vocative (Table 5).

Table – 5






M1. Sing.



š ur-4


M1 P1.





M2. Sing.




Cu:r- ü

M2 Pl.





F1 Sing.





F1 Pl.





F2 Sing.





F2 Pl.

Ma:1 – ü




            Note that the parenthesized portion will drop out after the relevant rules of phoneme alternation have applied.  Some F1 nouns take /-i/ and not u in the nominative singular.  Some M2, F2 nouns have certain declensional irregularities.  Some nouns appear in both the genders--- gur-(u) M1 horse’ (nom.sg.), gur-u F2 ‘mare’ (nom sg.); kyul-(u) M1, kiǰ- ü ü (F1 ‘nail’ nom,sg.) (for  the stem alternations refer to sets  1 and 11).  An example of a declinable adjectival stem (/bad-/ M1, F1 ‘great’) has already been presented in the last section.  Examples of indeclinable adjectival stems are /budü/ ‘old’, mi:r/ rich’, Ordinal numeral adjectives of identity are regularly declined.  Cardinal numeral adjectives of quantity are irregularly declined.

            The irregular pronominal declension of the 1st person and the 2nd person stems (these are pronouns, never proadjectives), can e set out as follows.

Table – 6











1st person M./F





2nd person M..F.





            The declension of the reflexive pronoun stem can be set out as follows.


Table – 7




Agentive Ablative

Reflexive sg. M./F.

Pa:n ü


Pa:n ü

Reflexive Pl.M./F.

Pa:n ü


Pa:n ü

The declension of the stem meaning ‘other’ (bya: khbeyi) will not be taken here.

The remaining six stems (which are both pronouns and proadjectives of identity)  have already been listed under compounding stem-formation.  The declension of one of them – the trans-distant demonstrative (‘yonder (distant  and out of sight)’) which also functions as the correlative to  the relative – can be set out as typical. (Table – 8)






Sg. Inanimate M/F

Su~ ti

t ät



Sg. Animate M.



T ämi


Sg. Animate F


Tas~ tamis



Pl. Inanimate M/F

Pl. Animate M

Pl. Animate F









            The oblique as the personal pronouns functions indifferently as the objective, the Agentive and the Ablative.  These three Kashmiri cases roughly correspond to Hindi Ko (direct object, patient, recipient), -ne, and –se, (source, instrument).

            In case – forms can function by themselves.  The objective and the ablative of the noun may also take on either postpositions or the so-called genitive stem declined according to M1 and F1.

            The genitive stem takes on three different shapes according to the type of noun to which it is added.  A singular inanimate masculine noun takes /-uk-/ after the ablative; a singular animate masculine proper noun takes /-un-/ after the ablative; any other singular noun or any plural noun takes /-hund-/ after the objective.  (The /h/ is course subjects to loss after /s/.) The pronominals are quite irregular in that the pronoun plus the genitive sequence yields an irregular shape, for example, continuing with the pronominal stems illustrated so far:

            1st Sg.  Myo:n- ‘my’;  1st Pl.   sa:n-            ‘our’

            2nd Sg. čo:n- ‘thy’; 2nd Pl. tuhund – ‘your’

            Reflexive Sg.Pl. panun- ‘of self/selves, apn ā (Hindi)’

            Trans-distant demonstrative Sg. Inanimate M/F tamyuk-

            ‘its’; Sg. Animate M/F tasund ~ tamsund ‘his/her’;

            Pl. Inanimate/animate M/F tihund - ~ t ä minhund – ‘their’.

            The whole sequence of the noun or pronoun along with the genitive stem then functions like a normal stem (typically an adjective stem), and is declined accordingly.  The masculine singular ablative of this can also take on some postpositions (of. The Hindi-Urdu constructions lie ke pās, ke badle).

Formation of Words through Conjugation

            The full paradigm of a Kashmiri verb is formidably complex.

            The verbs can be grouped into three conjugations:

            V1 all transitive (un-un ‘to eat’, vuphna:v-un ‘to cause to fly’), some intransitives (as-un ‘to laugh’)

            V 2 some intransitives (vup-un ‘to burn’)

            V3 most intransitives (vuphun ‘to fly’)

            The formation of non-finite forms (the most important of which are the verbal – noun stem ending in –un-, the imperfective participle ending in-a:n, and the perceptive participle ending in –mut- with declension ) and of the radical finite-sets (namely  the future tense, the conditional mood, the imperative mood, the polite imperative mood, the past imperative mood – this last conveys a sort of counterfactual wish about a past state of affairs) is uniform for the three conjugations and can be summarized as follows (G, No, P stand for gender, number, person respectively; ʘ stands for zero ending):

            V1, 2,3 + one of the Non-finite ending

            V1, 2,3 + Subject –ending of No, P (+ Object-endings of No, P)

            The subject – ending sets differ according to the finite set chosen and, to a lesser degree, according to the object-ending that follows or its absence.  By way of a sample, we exhibit here the subject-ending set for the future when object-endings are absent and the object-ending set that applies in any of the finite sets (Table 9).


Table – 9

Subject –ending-set for future

Object – ending – set

























            These No and P endings are historically connected with the pronominal system. Note that throughout the verbal conjugation, when the subject-ending and the object-ending are both present, the two are never both of first person or both of second person.  For the three imperative moods, there are no first person subject endings.  The object-endings must be constructed as indirect object (oblique complement) reference with intransitive verbs; they may be so construed in the first and the second person with transitive verbs; elsewhere they will be construed as direct object reference.

            The conjugational differences come into play in the so-called participial finite-sets (namely, the first, the second, the third, and the fourth perceptive) in   contrast with the radical finite sets mentioned earlier.  The formation of the participial finite sets can be summarized as follows:

            V1, 2,3 + Participial endings with G, No+ (subject-endings of No, P ( + Object endings of No, P))

            The pronominal subject and object endings may both drop out after V1 verbs only with expressed nominal subjects in the agentive case.  Again, they may drop out after V2 and V3 verbs only when a third – person subject is intended.  The object ending set is the same as with the radical finite-sets.  The subject-ending sets differ according to the conjugation and, to a lesser extent, according to the object-ending that follows or its absence. By way of a sample, we exhibit here the subject-ending set first for V1 and then for V2 or V3 (object-endings are absent after these sets). (Table 10)

Table 10


Subject-ending –set for V1 perfectives


Subject-ending-set  for V22 or V3 perfective
























            The participial endings with G, No for the four perfective differ according to the three conjugations. (Table 11).

Table – 11


M. Sg.

M. Pl.

F. Sg

F. Pl.

First Perfective with V1, V2





Second perfective with yo:(v)

V1, V2, V3

Yo: (v)

ye : (y)



Third Perfective with V1

Ya : (v)




Third perfective with V2, V3


ya: (y)



Fourth Perfective with iya:(y)

iya : (v)




            The first alternatives in the top row and the alternatives retaining the semivowels in the other rows are used only before zero pronominal endings  a few verbs belonging to V1, V2, have irregular stem-variants in from of the perfectives participial endings.  Thus:

            Dy-un V1 ‘to give’: dit-u first perf. M. sg. : die-yo:v  second perf.  M. sg. A: -ya:v third perf, m. sg. (the stem is di-)

            y-un V2 ‘to come’: a:-v first perf. M. sg.: a:-yo:v second perf. M. sg. A: -ya:v third perf. M. sg. (the stem is yi-).

            The uses of the four perfectives can be set out as follows: Table 12.

Table – 12


V1                                V2


Proximate Past

First perfective

Second perf.

Indefinite past

Second perfective

Third perf.

Remote Past

Third perfective

Fourth perf.

Declinable adjective (with –mut- added)

First perfective

Second perf.

            The gender and number of the participial ending has a subject reference with V2 and V3 (intransitive) verbs; the gender and number is invariantly masculine singular with V1 intransitive verbs; but the gender and number has an object reference with (V1) transitive verbs.  The situation is some what reminiscent of Hindi and other languages.

            Apart form the regular verb /a:s-un/ V2 ‘to be’, there is also the defective stem /čh-/ which takes V firs perfective endings of G, No followed by the appropriate subject-ending set of No. P. Thus - /čh-u-s. 1st person M. Sg., /čhr-i_-ʘ_/ 1st person M. Pl. and the like.  These function however like the Hindi hai as the copula and the auxiliary of the present tense.  There is n other present tense in the conjugation system as such.

            When /a:s-un/ is used as an auxiliary, it conjugates as V1 with  the main verb being V1 and as V2 with the main verb being V2 or V3.  Moreover, /a:s-un/as a V1 verb takes on one more participial finite set, namely, the second conditional mood,  in the following manner:

            /a:s-/as V1 + Participial ending in No+Subject-ending of No. p.

The combination endings are as follows: (Table 13)




Table – 13


Participial Sg + Subject-ending of No, P


Participal Pl + Subject-ending of No, P

























            The uses of the auxiliary verbs will be taken up under the Verbal Phrase.

Formation of the Noun Phrase:

            As its simplest a noun phrase consists of a noun or a pronoun, the noun can be expanded in the following manner:

            (Genitive formation) (+ proadjective) (+ Adjective) + Noun

            /tamisund + su + ǰa:n + mohnyuv/

            his              that    good       man

            ‘that good man of his’

            The adjective in turn may be expanded yielding a complex adjective phrase in the following manner:

            (Postpositional phrase) (+ Adverbial Particle of degree)

            + Adjective

            /mya:ni + kho:u   + Syaha:h  + ǰa:n  + mohnyur/

              me         than          much       good        man

‘man much better than I am’

            Some adjectives are exceptional in that they never stand alone but are always attached to a noun or a pronoun in the objective or the ablative case, as: the genitive stem ‘belonging to, made of’, /kit-/ ‘useful for’, /hih-/’resembling’.

            The adjective phrase in the example given is of course shown inserted within a noun phrase.  But this need not always be the case.  An adjective phrase may enter directly into the formation of a sentence as we shall see presently.

            Some pronouns admit of expansion after them, as:

            /bu + pa:nü/ ‘I myself’ (1st person + reflexive)

            /yus + ka:nh/ ‘whoever (relative + indefinite yielding a relative)

            /kus + tani/ ‘no matter who’ (interrogative + transdistant demonstrative yielding an indefinite)

            /kus + sanal:/ ‘who possibly’? (interrogative + doubt particle yielding an interrogative)

Formation of Verbal Phrase:

            As its simplest the verbal phrase consists of a verb stem with finite conjugational endings.  At their simplest the endings are seen in the imperative 2nd singular subject-ending with no object ending – this is realized by the bare verb stem.

            The verbal phrases (not to be confused with the so-called verb phrase in the sense of the predicate phrase with or   without the so-called ‘Aux’ element) can be expanded in one or more out of three ways.

            First, one may add certain particles after the finite conjugational ending in the following manner.

            Verb + finite conjugational ending (+ /ti/ ‘also, indeed’)

            (+ /nü/ with imperatives /mu/not) x

            /a:/ with masculine address, /ay/ with feminine

            addressee ‘eh?” ) ( + /sana : / ‘I doubt it’)

The polarity – question particle and the doubt particle cannot be added after the imperatives, while the emphasis particle and the negation particle can be added even after the imperatives.

            Secondly, one may replace the finite conjugational ending by the so-called periphrastic constructions with the auxiliary  ‘be’)

            (/as-/ and the defective /čh -/) in the following manner:

            be – stem + finite conjugational ending + verb + the imper-

            fective /-a:n/ or the perfective with /-mut-/ participal non finite endings.

            This incidentally, is the only way of conveying the present tense with a verb other than be.

            /su + čh u + phe:ra:n + yi:ra:nas + manj/

            he       is   travelling       iron          in

‘He travels in Iran’

            Finally, one may replace the verb stem by an expanded verb stem – the so called compound verb

            /su + č h u + nü + hyaka:n + phe:rith + yi:ra:nas + manu/

            he is not being – able to travel Iran in

            He is unable to travel in Iron.

            The last example of course exhibits a simultaneous three way expansion of the verb (/pre:r/0 ‘travel’) – the expanded stem (/hyak – phre:rit/ be able to travel), the periphrastic present (/čhu + hyaka:n +phe:rith/ ‘is able to travel’), and the negative particle added after the finite form (/č hu + nü/ ‘isn’t)

Formation of a Sentence:

            Under certain constraints a verbal phrase can stand by itself as a sentence.  Normally, however, other positions such as the subject, the patient, the direct object, the predicative complement, and the oblique complement (such as the recipient) may be added and filled in depending on the syntactic subclass of the verb.  Finally, there may be positions of circumstantial that do not depend upon the syntactic subclass of the verb, All these positions may be variously filled by noun phrases, adjective phrases, adverb phrases, and postpositional phrases, Some examples follow to illustrate possible sentence patterns.  (V stands for the verbal phrase, at least the portion containing the finite ending; v stands for a non-finite portion of the verbal phrase if any.  S, Pt, O Pc, Oc stand respectively for subject, patient, object, predicative complement, oblique complement – all being positions governed by the verb.  Cm stands for circumstantials – not governed by the verb.)

1) /gur + col + ra:th/ ‘The horse fled yesterday’

            horse + fled + yesterday  S + V + Cm

2) /gur + čhu + ǰa:n / ‘The horse is good’

            horse + is + good S + V + Pc

            /ra:m + čhu + sapda:m + aj + vuta:vlü /

            ;Ram is getting impatient today,

            Ram + is +getting + today + impatients S + V +v + Cm + Pc

3) /äsi + tari + yeapo:r / ‘We came this way

            we + came + this-way S + V + Oc

            /ra:m + čhu + garü  + gacha:n / ‘Ram goes home’

            Ram + is + home + going S + V + Oc + v

4) /ra mas + čhc + yi kä:m + su:ǰa:n/

            Ram likes this work

            Ram-to + is + this work + being – liked Pt + V + S + v

            /navkras + o:s + akhtarti:b + su:ǰmut/

            ‘The servant had hit upon an arrangement’

            Servant – to + was + one arrangement + become – apparent

            Pt + V + S + v

5) / ra:mas + čhu + yi či:j + pasand / ‘Ram likes this’

            Ram-to + is + this thing + likable Pt + V + S + Pc

            / me + čhu + yi čij + ja:n + laa:n/ ‘I find this good’

            me – to + is + this thing + good + appearing Pt + V + S + Pc + v

6) me + čhu + madatuk + ha: ǰath / ‘I’ am in need of help, me-to + is help of + need Pt + V + Oc + S

7) /ra:m + čhu + aj + batū  + khyava:n / ‘Ram is eating rice today.

            Ram ­ ­ +  is + today + rice + eating S + V + Cm + O + v

8) /ra:m + čhu + aj + bana:a:n + tas buth + kruhu:n / ‘Ram is blackening his face.

            Ram + is + today + making + his (another’s) face + black

            S + V + Cm + v + O + Pc

9) / mä:li+ an + asi + kita:b / “Father brought us a book”

            father + rought + us + book

            S + V + Oc + O

            /ra:m + čhu + aj + diva:n + tas + pä:nsü /

            ‘Ram is giving him money today’

            Ram + is + today + giving + him-to +money

            S + V + Cm + v + Oc + O

            /me + kor + tas + ra:tn  + namaska:r/

            I + did + him + yesterday + obeisance

            S + V + Oc + Cum + O

‘I did obeisance to him yesterday’

            In marking off sentences patterns numerically we have ignored the elements v and Cm.  There may be sentence patterns other than these nine.  The subject of V1 verbs in the perfective sets is in the agentive; everywhere else the subject is in the nominative the object 9of transitive verbs) can be either in the objective or in the nominative–the detain need not detain us here.  The patient is always in the objective.  The predicative complement is either a noun or an adjective in the nominative.  The oblique complement is either a noun in the object or the ablative or an adverb phrase or a postpositional phrase.  The circumstantial is either an adverb phrase or a postpositional phrase.  (In this paragraph a noun includes a pronoun).

            While the overt placement of V and v in relation to O, Pc, Oc is reminiscent of Iranian languages, the case marking and the concert of the verb is reminiscent of Hindi and other Indo Aryan language.

            Adjectives and proadjectives concurred with the nouns they qualify.  Pronouns concord with the nouns they cross refer to.

            A noun phrase, an adjective phrase, or an adverb phrase may be built round a finite verb.  In such cases we speak of such phrases as clauses.  Phrases of these three types may also be built round a non-finite verb.  The use of such phrases whether they use a finite verb or a non-verb or a non finite verb, involves the embedding of sentences within sentences.  Some examples follow:

            /tämi von ǰi bü  gacru paga:h siri:nagar/

            ‘He said, “I will go tomorrow to Srinagar

            he told that I will-go tomorrow Srinagar

            / yi: cü  kitabü me pari, ti:cü  pari nu beyi kä:nsi/

            ‘Nobody has read as many books as I have read’

            as-many books I read, so many read not else any

            vadü vun mohnyuv čhu kä:m kara:n/

            The crying man is doing work’

            Crying man  is work doing

            /sü kä:m kärith gav.

            ‘Having done the work he left’

            he work  having –done went

            /kä:m karü nay thokukh/

            ‘without doing work you’re tired

            Work do without you’re tired.

Sentences may be strung together in co-ordination through the use of sentence – medial  juncture and sentences- tone or of coordinative particles or of other devices.

\gvadü a:v ra:jü, patü a:yi  därb ä :ri

First came the king, then came the countries’

/me o:s gachrun,  magar vvani ga čhn ü/

I was to go to but now I won’t go’

Sentence elements may also be similarly strung together incoordination.

            /šuri kätr marjüd jana:nü s ä:ri:ali

            ‘Children boys, men, women – aff fied

            /lädkü tü ko:ri caǰi/  Boys and girls ran away (note how the verb concords with the nearest noun in the subject phrase).

            Stylistic and other changes may be rung on a sentences by means of sentence-tones, of emphatic particles like /-üy/ Hindi hi, /to/ Hindi to’, of manipulating word order, of repeating an expression, and of the post-verbal particles of negation etc.

            Finally, ­ the sentence structure built around the finite verb may be scrapped altogether and various abbreviated structures may be used such as exclamations, vocatives, answers to questions.


Historical Provenance of vocabulary Elements:

            Historically speaking, Kashmiri vocabulary elements may be either inherited and thus shared with the system language of the Dardic group or borrowed with adaptation from various donor are, as one might expect, Sanskrit, Persian, and more recently, English.  Although the vocabulary of Muslims differs from that of Hindus in respect of its balance between Sanskrit and Persian borrowings (and this is especially true of literary styles), there are a large number of these Sanskrit and Persia borrowings that are common property.

            Kashmiri is rich in idioms and proverbs.  Though some of these are shared with other Indian languages, others are characteristically of the valley.  The same is the case with names of many elements of flora, fauna, material culture, and custom, which are absent from the plains of North India.  This is also true of personal given names of Hindu, family names, and place name elements.

Kinship Terminology:

            While the historical provenance of vocabulary elements may also have a significance within the contemporary language (for example in stem-formation and in style), what would be even more important and interesting is a systematic descriptive study of Kashmiri vocabulary.  By way of a sample, the basic kinship terms may be listed systematically.

Group A Collinear consanguineal

            Father mo:l

            Mother mä: ǰ

            Offspring pu:t:; šur (also child)

            Son nečuv

            Daughter – ku:iü

            Gandfather   (bud’bab

            Grandmother na:ni

                So, s So potur

            Sos Da Putür

            Da’s So jur

            Da’s Da jurü

Group B Collateral consanguineal

            Brother bo:y

            Sister beni

            Fa’s Br pýátür

            Fa’s Si pvaph

            Mo’s Br ma:m

            Mo’s Si ma:s

            Br’s So ba::bütrur

            Br’s Da ba:vüju

            Si’s So byanthür

            Si’s Da byänjü

Group C Close affinals

            Husband ru:n

            Wife rani; jana:nü

               (also ‘woman’)

            Fa’s Br’s Wi pečani

            Fa’s Si’s Hu pvaphuv

            Mo’s Br’s Wi ma:mani

            Mo’s Si’s Huma:suv

            So’s Wi nvaš

            Da’s Hu ja:mȕtur

            Br’s Wi bäyka:kani

            Si’s Hu be:mü

Group D distant affinals

            Spouse’s Fa hyuhur:r

            Spouse’s Mo haš

            Hu’s Br druy

            Hu’s Si ja:m

            Wi’s Br hähä:r

            Wi’s Si sa:1

            Hu’s r’s Wi dü rka:kani

            Hu’s Si’s Hu jä:mi:

            Wi’s Si’s Hu säǰuv

            Offspring’s  Spouse’s Fa soni

            Offspring’s Spouse’s Mo svanyan.i

            Co-wife svan

In addition we may list some prefixed elements.

            Step – vorȕ-

            Great – part-

            Cacerālī-ī (Hindi) pitur / -tür (M/F)

            Phupherā /-ī (Hindi) pvaphhtur / -tür (M/F)

            Mamera/-ī (Hindi) ma:mtur / -tür (M/F)

            Mauserā /-ī (Hindi) ma:sü tur/-tü r ( M/ F)         


            This sketch was first written in 1965 and subsequently revised in 1967.  The present version is slightly revised from that second draft.  The author is indebted to.  Dr. Pran Nath Triasal for many helpful discussions and comments on the first draft.  He has also heavily drawn upon the following, especially for data.

            Kelkar, Ashok R.; Trisal, Pran Nath. 1964 Kashmiri word phonology: A first sketch. Anthropological Linguistics 6:1, 13-22.

            Grierson, George Abraham. 1895-99, Essays an Kācmīrī grammar, London: Luzac; Calcutta: Thacker, Spink, 1899.  Reprinted from: Jounral of the Asiatic Society of Bengal  54-58, 1895-99 (nine essays)  Indebted to Ishwar Kaul.

-----1911. A Manual of the Kashmīrī language comprising grammar, phrasebook and vocabularies, 2 vols. Oxford : Claredon Press.  Reprinted; Rohtak; Jammu; Lucknow : light and Life Authorities 1973.

            Trisal, Pran Nath. 1964. Kāshmīrībhāa kā varanātmka  vyākaraa  Ph.D. diss Agra University, Agra, Still remains unpublished,  unfortunately.

            The author is alone responsible for intepretation and analysis of data.

This sketch was published in Omkar N Koul And press Omkar N Koul and peter Edwin hoot etc. Aspects f Kashmiri linguistic New Delhi – Bahri, 9890 1986-89.