Kashmiri

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Kashmiri is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the Kashmir Valley and regions around it that were historically a part of various kingdoms based in Kashmir. Kashmiri shares some common vocabulary with other Indo-Aryan languages of India and Pakistan such as Hindi and Punjabi, yet, probably due to its unique isolationist topography and history, has developed features of its own, such as a word order (syntax) different from the usual SOV (Subject-Object-Verb) found in Indo-Aryan languages, a sound system which features contrastive palatalisation of nearly all consonants and an extensive system of vowels, and so on.

Writing System[edit]

Kashmiri was historically written in the Sharada script, whose use nowadays is restricted to religious and horoscopic purposes by Kashmiri Hindus. Sharada was also used to write Sanskrit, and continued to be used until about the mid-20th century. However, there hasn't been a standardised version of Sharada specifically built for Kashmiri's unique vowels and consonants that are not found in Sanskrit.

Perso-Arabic and Devanagari scripts have both been modified to accommodate the Kashmiri sound system and, at the moment, both have standardised versions. Even though some literature and material is available in both the scripts, with Perso-Arabic being the preferred script in Indian-held Kashmir, most people type Kashmiri using characters from the English alphabet which lacks, as of yet, a standardised version for Kashmiri. The dearth of characters for vowels in the English alphabet entails using a single letter to represent multiple sounds, hence confusion, and, even worse, people use digraphs or trigraphs to represent Kashmiri sounds. Even then, the use isn't maintained by anyone over a period of time.

In this course, we'll be using the Latin alphabet with appropriate emendments — additions and removals — to study Kashmiri. Not only is it easier than both Devanagari and Perso-Arabic but also takes little time to learn. This will also enable you to focus more on the spoken language itself, rather than to worry about the eccentricities of Devanagari or Perso-Arabic. However, the counterparts of all sounds in both Perso-Arabic and Devanagari are provided in an appendix, but not used in the course.

Dialects[edit]

The dialect laid out here is the Srinagar dialect, which is the "prestigious" dialect spoken by a huge majority of Kashmiri speakers. There do exist minor variations between various Kashmiri dialects but all are, to a large extent, mutually intelligible. The differences between dialects lie mainly in phonology (sounds), and lexicon (words). As mentioned before, all dialects are nonetheless mutually intelligible.

Lesson 1 Alphabet and Phonology

Lesson 2 To be here and there