Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Differences Between the Dolakhali and Kathmandu Dialects

The Dolakhali and Kathmandu dialects, while clearly both Newar and closely related, are mutually unintelligible (Genetti, 2007). There are several particular areas of divergence which contribute to this. A more in-depth discussion of these differences may be found in Genetti (1994).
Probably the strongest factor contributing to the unintelligibility between Dolakhali and Kathmandu Newar is a major phonological change that radically affected the Kathmandu dialect but not Dolakhali. This change entailed the loss of all syllable-final consonants, with compensatory lengthening of the nuclear vowel. A concomitant change was the development of phonemic vowel length. Although the lost consonants still appear in some environments (especially before vowel initial case suffixes, in which case the consonants are syllableinitial, as opposed to syllable-final), the basic sound and rhythm of the language was altered dramatically, making communication with Dolakhali speakers more difficult. Additional phonological changes which further obscured the similarities include the substantial loss of breathy voice in Dolakhali (Kathmandu has an extensive breathy voiced series which extends to the sonorants), and the loss of the /l/ ~ /r/ distinction in Kathmandu (retained in Dolakhali) (Genetti, 2007).
The most surprising morphological distinction between the Dolakhali and Kathmandu dialects is found in the system of finite verb morphology. All three dialects of the Kathmandu Valley have a system of finite verb inflection which has been called the “conjunct/disjunct” system. (Hale (1980) originally described the system. Hargreaves (1991, 2005) is a more thorough examination of the semantic parameters upon which the conjunct/disjunct system, and other
aspects of Kathmandu grammar, are based.) The conjunct verb forms are found in finite clauses with a volitional verb if: (i) the clause is declarative with a firstperson actor, (ii) the clause is interrogative and has a second-person actor, (iii) the clause is reported speech and the actor of the utterance verb and the actor of the volitional verb in the reported clause are coreferential (based on Hargreaves 2005: 6). Disjunct verb forms are used in all other finite environments. The parameters on which the Kathmandu system are based are volitionality (or control, Hargreaves 2005) and evidentiality (more specifically epistemic source, Hargreaves 2005). This area is one of the most intriguing of Kathmandu Newar grammar, perhaps a large part of its own genius. By contrast, the Dolakhali system of finite verb inflection seems quite mundane; the finite verb marks four tense distinctions and agrees with its subject in person and number (Genetti, 2007).
Further differences between the two languages exist in almost every area of the grammar. The most significant ones are probably the differences in nominalizing and relativizing morphology, the fact that Kathmandu Newari has two participial constructions where Dolakhali has only one, and the fact that Dolakhali has a strong subject category, in contrast to Kathmandu Newari, where the subject category is controversial (Genetti 1986; Hale and Watters 1973).

Genetti, Carol (1986)- The grammatical development of postpositions to subordinators inBodic languages. Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Meeting of theBerkeley Linguistics Society 12: 387–400.
Genetti, Carol (1994)- A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Dolakha Newari Dialect (Vol. 24). Tokyo, Japan: Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa.
Genetti (2007)- A Reference Grammar of Dolakha Newar [Mouton Grammar Series]. Berline: Mouton.
Hale, Austin (1980)- Person markers: Finite conjunct and disjunct verb forms in Newari. In Papers in South-East Asian Linguistics 7, Ronald L. Trail (ed.), 95– 106. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics [Series A, No. 53].
Hale, Austin, and David Watters (1973)- A survey of clause patterns. In Clause, Sentence, and Discourse Patterns in Selected Languages of Nepal, Volume II: Clause, Austin Hale and David Watters (eds.), 175–249. Norman: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Hargreaves, David (1991)- The concept of intentional action in the grammar of Kathmandu Newari (Nepal). Ph. D. diss., Linguistics, University of Oregon.
Hargreaves, David (2005)- Agency and intentional action in Kathmandu Newar. Himalayan Linguistics 5: 1–48.

From: http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/faculty/cgenetti/dn/about_dn.pdf


  1. Very informative !!!!!!!

  2. very good information

  3. Very informative! Hope to read more about Newari language and culture in your blog.

    They say that even Kirtipur dialect is very different from Kathmandu dilaect. Is it true?

  4. Basanta Jee, Thank you very much for your interest on Newari dialects.
    Kirtipur dialect is close to Kathmandu, not very different. There are some vocabulary differences between Hindus and Buddhists.
    All researchers of Newari dialects catogorised Kathmandu and Kirtipur dialects are in same group.

    The Main Newari Dialects in Nepal are
    1. Dolkhali (Dolakha)
    2. Sindhupalchowk Pahri (Pahri, Pahari)
    3. Totali
    4. Chitlang
    5. Kathmandu-Patan-Kirtipur
    6. Bhaktapur
    7. Other dialects

    1. Dolkhali (Dolakha): This is the most preserved form of language and resembles the old Nepal Bhasa. This dialect is used in Dolakha, which is conservative linguistically. Dolakha people are reserved toward outsiders.

    2. Sindhupalchowk Pahri (Pahri, Pahari): This dialect has similar vocabulary as the Yala subdialect of Yen-Yala-Kyepu dialect (Kathmandu-Patan-Kirtipur). However, the language is spoken with a Tamang language tone.

    3. Totali: This dialect is used in Totali of Sindupalchowk. This is also conservative linguistically.

    4. Chitlang: This dialect is used in Chitlang, a place south of Kathmandu valley in Makawanpur district.

    5. Kathmandu-Patan-Kirtipur: Also known as Yen-Yala-Kyepu Bhaaye, this is the most dominant form of language. It is the most evolved form of language and is very close to the standard form of language used in academics and media. This is also the most widely used dialect. Variations are seen in the use of the words, specially nouns, amongst the Buddhists and Hindus.

    6. Bhaktapur: Also known as Khwapa Bhaaye, this form of language is more close to the old form than the standard form. Variations exist in the use of this form of language in Bhaktapur, Banepa, Panauti and Dhulikhel.

    7. Other dialects: In addition to these dialects, there are few sub-dialects spoken in Kathmandu valley and other parts of Nepal. These sub-dialects are spoken in surrounding villages of Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur, Chitlang and Dolakha. The dialect spoken in Bandipur is the oldest form of Khwapa Bhaaye. The dialect spoken in Chainpur, Bhojpur, Terathum, Palpa is related to Kathmandu and Patan. The dialect spoken in Ridi, Baglung, Arughat (Gorkha) is closer to Bhaktapur.


    Thank you very much for Aakar jee, Ujeli jee and Dinesh jee