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Mal Paharia
माल पहाड़िया, মাল পাহাড়িয়া
Native toIndia
RegionJharkhand; West Bengal
EthnicityMal Paharia
Native speakers
50,000 (2006)[1]
Devanagari, Bengali
Language codes
ISO 639-3mkb
Glottologmalp1246  Mar Paharia of Dumka
ELPMal Paharia

Mal Paharia is a language spoken by 51,000 of 110,000 ethnic Mal Paharia in the states of Jharkhand and West Bengal in India, and regions of Bangladesh. The language is also known as Mal Pahoria, Malto, Malti, Paharia, Parsi, and Mal Pahariya. It has been variously regarded as a Bengali–Assamese language, a dialect of Malto, and a mixed DravidianIndo-Aryan language. There is a generally positive attitude among speakers of the language towards it, but it is considered vulnerable as some speakers have shifted to Bengali.[citation needed] Mal Paharia uses the Devanagari script and rules for its writing, reading, and speech.


Mal Paharia is derived from Malto and the Bengali language.[citation needed] The speakers of this language originated in Jharkhand as early as 1881, and since then it has declined in popularity. According to the 1921 census, the town had Indo-European 500 speakers at that time.[2] Industrialization and urbanization were factors in the fragmentation of the Bengali language into dialects because of the making of dams, mines, homes, and more.[citation needed] This caused a displacement in the population of the Indo-European speakers, which led to the emergence of Mal Paharia.[3]

Mal Paharia Phonology

Since the Mal Paharia language is considered a Dravidian language, it uses the Devanagari script for writing and speaking. These tables represents the Devanagari language's phonology.

Mal Paharia Devanagari Consonants

Labial Labio-dental Labio-Velar Alveolar Post-alveolar Retroflex(Cerebral) Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Plosive p b

pʰ bʰ

t̪ t̪ʰ d̪ d̪ʰ ʈ ʈʰ ɖ ɖʰ k kʰ g gʰ
Affricate ʧ ʧʰ

ʤ ʤʰ

Fricative f (v)(व?) s z ʃ ʒ ʂ x ɣ ɦ
Flap (ɾ) ड़? ढ़?
Trill (r)
Approximant (w)(व?) (ɹ) j क़?
Lateral Approximant (l)

The aspiration of the consonants are separated by "hard" and "soft" similar to voiced and unvoiced consonants of the IPA. There are 3 sounds that due to lack of definitions and examples are hard to transcribe into IPA. There are the two retroflex flaps, (ड़) and (ढ़) which are described as "like a flapped "d", flapping tongue from retroflex to alveolar ridge position[4]" and the same definition, but aspirated. Then there is the borrowed foreign sound of (क़), described as "like "k", but pronounced in the back of the mouth.[4]"

For the sounds /z/ and /ʤ/, there is no distinction between them in this language. They occasionally can be used inter-changeably and are considered semi-allophones. An example of true allophones are the /v/ and /w/ sounds. /v/ is occasionally pronounced as a /w/, and in this language are allophones of each other and some might pronounce a sound in between them.

The /r/ used in this language is used as a flap. There are occasional trills and can be similar to the American English /r/. The /r/ is also considered to be a "syllabic liquid" and is used as a vowel.

Mal Paharia Devanagari Vowels

Front Center Back
High i, i:


(r, r: /r̥ ,ṛ:/r̥:)

(l, l:, /l̥, ḷ:/l̥:)

u, u:


Mid e, e:



ə ʌ o, o:


Low a, a:

Mal Paharia Devanagari has 11 distinguished vowels. Of these vowels, a, e, i, o and u can be short or long. There is also an additional aspirated /a/ vowel.

There is also a vowel used including the consonant /m/ as /aṃ/ and /aṁ/ which is a nasalization of /a/ (अं). The /r/ (ऋ and ॠ) and /l/ (ऌ and ॡ) are considered "syllabic liquids" and are vowels as well. Due to lack of in depth research, there is no equivalent in the IPA for these sounds as vowels.


Within the Mal Paharia Devanagari language, diphthongs included are: /ai/, /aʊ/ and /oʊ/.


Mal Paharia uses the Devangari script,[5] and in the chart there are a few examples of words in writing, and translated in English. The Devangari script has 11 vowels and 33 consonants.[6] The script is written from left to right, and it uses headstrokes on the letters. Some exceptions are; jha, tha, dha, bha, a and ā, because there is a break in the headstroke. While writing using the Devangari script, the headstroke is not always used.[6] According to the phonetics used in Devangari script for the Mal Paharia language, vowels are ordered first, meaning each short vowel is following by a longer one. The consonants are ordered with respect to place and in rows. The 'rows' consist of; velar, palatal, retroflex, dental, labial.[6] Each row has different rules, but within each one, the sibilants and fricatives are ordered last. Various letters take different forms when they are in their initial/ final position. For example, the letter ra changes location depending on the preceding ya, or a consonant other than ya, or a consonant with a vertical stem/ rounded bottom.[7]

Since Devanagari is not actually an alphabet, it uses an alphasyllabary system using vowels and consonants to form speech. Every letter represents a consonant, which is followed by a schwa vowel (अ).[6] Diatrical marks are used to distinguish between different sounds of the vowels, since it can be used in many different ways. Conjunct consonants are used to represent combinations of sounds, thus increasing its versatility in word formation.

Devanagari uses the articulation of vowels in the mouth, when spoken. It uses five places of articulation listed in the chart below:[6]

Velar Consonants are pronounced in the back of the tongue. For example: emphasis on the 'k' in 'keep'.
Palatal Consonants are pronounced by the tongue touching the palate, such as 'ch' in 'change'.
Retroflex Consonants are pronounced by the curl of the tongue, focusing on the front portion of the palate. For example: emphasis on the 't' in 'tip'.
Dental Consonants are pronounced by the tip of the tongue touching the back of the top front teeth. For example: emphasis on the 'th' in 'thin'.
Labial Consonants are pronounced with the use of lips, such as 'p' in 'pit'.

Among all of the consonants and vowels, they are voiced, unvoiced, or nasal. An example is given (in the chart below) for the Devangari script with relation to the five articulation of vowels in the mouth.[6]

Unvoiced Voiced Nasal
Velar क ख ग घ
Palatal च छ ज झ
Retroflex ट ठ ड (ड़) ढ(ढ़)
Dental त थ द ध
Labial प फ (फ़) ब भ


  1. ^ Mal Paharia at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ VIDYARTHI, L.P. (1972). "Problems and Prospects of Tribal Development in India". Indian Anthropologist. 2 (2): 80–93. JSTOR 41919217.
  3. ^ Ekka, Alexius (2000). "Jharkhand Tribals: Are They Really a Minority?". Economic and Political Weekly. 35 (52/53): 4610–4612. JSTOR 4410103.
  4. ^ a b "The Devanagari Script". Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  5. ^ Saktinanda, Guddi. "ELEMENTARY EDUCATION IN JHARKHAND – A MICROSCOPIC ANALYSISwebsite=". The Scholarly Research Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |url= (help)
  6. ^ a b c d e f Templin, David. "The Devanagari Script". Omniglot.
  7. ^ Staff, Scriptsource. "Devanagari (Nagari) Script". Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Magahi.