There are three principal languages, Sanskrit, Newari, and Nepali, used in Nepal since the Kingdom's earliest history. The use of Sanskrit in Lichchhavi inscriptions, and choice references to Indian literature, demonstrates the high degree of literacy found among these people. After the 12th century, the common use of Sanskrit diminished in the Valley. However, even today it is considered the refined language of literature and religion.
Maithili, a Sanskrit/Bengali related tongue was popular for sometime in the Malla Courts. It became fashionable for kings to compose plays and write songs in it. Today some 12% of the Nepalese claim Maithili as a mother tongue. These speakers for the most part live in the Terai, in Western Nepal.
Newari, the mother tongue of the Newars, is a Tibeto/Burmese language. Except for lending some of its vocabulary to inscriptions, it doesn't appear as a written language until the 12th century. During the mid-fourteenth century it moved forward as a literary language. Many religious and literary Sanskrit works were translated; many poems and short stories composed. The common language among the people was known as Bhakha or Bhasa (language) to discriminate it from Sanskrit or Maithili. Later when Nepali became the prevalent language, Newari became known as Desa or Nepala-Bhasa, the language of the country. Although Nepali has become the National language, within Kathmandu valley, Newari remains the most widely used language. There are societies dedicated to the preservation of Newari and several daily newspapers are published in it.
Nepali, an Indo/Aryan language closely related to Sanskrit, is the national language of modern Nepal. It is the language of the press, of school text books, of the courts, and the language of radio and television. It is the mother tongue of more than half the nation. Originally it was known as Khas-bhasa, the language of the Khasas. Since the Middle Ages the Khasas have slowly drifted through out Nepal from the Terai. Later it came to be known as Parbhatya, mountain language, to distinguish it from Newari. After the Shah conquest of the Valley, a third appellation for it (one given by European writers) was Gorkhali. This name was familiar in Nepal until the 1920's when Nepali gained prominence. Today the Valley residents will discriminate the talk of the village people from the city dwellers, the latter beings called Parbatiya a language more rustic than the language of the city dwellers.
Nepali first appeared as a written language in 1937 but its use was not frequent until the late 17th century, when occasional Pali inscriptions were issued. It wasn't until the early 18th century that it appeared as a literary language.
Nepalese script is known as Devanagari . It is almost identical with Sanskrit. Eighly-five percent of its vocabulary is the same as Hindi. Very recent efrorts have been made to use Sanskrit roots for the formation of scientific and technical terms. Literary works today as of old, favor the heavy use of Sanskrit.
Back of the Book
This simple guide is valuable for travelers in Nepal. Importance has been given to basic travel essentials such as everyday conversation, lodging, fooding, banking, directions, grammar etc. One will find this Nepali phrasebook a useful key to communication while traveling throughout the Himalayan Kingdom of NEPAL.
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