پوٹھواری, پہاڑی
Poṭhwārī, Pahāṛī
Native toPakistan, India
RegionPothohar region, Azad Kashmir and western parts of Jammu and Kashmir, other parts of India including Punjab and Haryana (by partition refugees and descendants)
Native speakers
several million[a]
Language codes
ISO 639-3phr
Glottologpaha1251  Pahari Potwari
Languages and Dialects of Lahnda.png

The Indo-Aryan language spoken on the Pothohar Plateau in the far north of Pakistani Punjab, as well as in most of Pakistan's Azad Kashmir and in western areas of India's Jammu and Kashmir, is known by a variety of names, the most common of which are Pahari (English: /pəˈhɑːri/;[1] an ambiguous name also applied to unrelated languages of India), and Pothwari (or Pothohari).

The language is transitional between Hindko and Standard Punjabi.[2] There have been efforts at cultivation as a literary language,[3] although a local standard has not been established yet.[4]

Grierson in his early 20th-century Linguistic Survey of India assigned it to a so-called "Northern cluster" of Lahnda (Western Punjabi), but this classification, as well as the validity of the Lahnda grouping in this case, have been called into question.[5]

In Kashmir, speakers of Pahari-Pothwari are known as Pahari people.

Pahari-Potohari-Hindko Map.jpg

Geographic distribution and dialects

Azad Kashmir and surrounding areas with some of the locations mentioned in this section. Places where Pahari–Pothwari is spoken are in dark red.
Map of North Lahnda (Hindko and Pahari-Pothwari) dialects and varieties
Map of North Lahnda (Hindko and Pahari-Pothwari) dialects and varieties

There are at least three major dialects: Pothwari, Mirpuri and Pahari.[b] They are mutually intelligible,[6] but the difference between the northernmost and the southernmost dialects (from Muzaffarabad and Mirpur respectively) is enough to cause difficulties in understanding.[7]

Pothohar Plateau

Pothwari (پوٹھواری), also spelt Potwari, Potohari and Pothohari (پوٹھوہاری),[8] is spoken in the Pothohar Plateau of northern Punjab,[9] an area that includes parts of the districts of Rawalpindi,and Jhelum.[10] Pothwari extends southwards up to the Salt Range, with the city of Jhelum marking the border with Punjabi. To the north, Pothwari transitions into the Pahari-speaking area, with Bharakao, near Islamabad, generally regarded as the point where Pothwari ends and Pahari begins.[11] Pothwari has been represented as a dialect of Punjabi by the Punjabi language movement, [4] and in census reports the Pothwari areas of Punjab have been shown as Punjabi-majority.[c]


East of the Pothwari areas, across the Jhelum River into Mirpur District in Azad Kashmir, the language is more similar to Pothwari than to the Pahari spoken in the rest of Azad Kashmir.[12] Locally it is known by a variety of names:[d] Pahari, Mirpur Pahari, Mirpuri,[e] and Pothwari,[13] while some of its speakers call it Punjabi.[14] Mirpuris possess a strong sense of Kashmiri identity that overrides linguistic identification with closely related groups outside Azad Kashmir.[15] The Mirpur region has been the source of the greater part of Pakistani immigration to the UK, a process that started when thousands were displaced by the construction of the Mangla Dam in the 1960s and emigrated to fill labour shortages in England.[16] The British Mirpuri diaspora now numbers several hundred thousand, and Pahari has been argued to be the second most common mother tongue in the UK, yet the language is little known in the wider society there and its status has remained surrounded by confusion.[17]

Kashmir, Murree and the Galyat

Pahari (پہاڑی) is spoken to the north of Pothwari. The central cluster of Pahari dialects is found around Murree.[18] This area is in the Galyat: the hill country of Murree Tehsil in the northeast of Rawalpindi District (just north of the capital Islamabad) and the adjoining areas in southeastern Abbottabad District.[19] One name occasionally found in the literature for this language is Dhundi-Kairali (Ḍhūṇḍī-Kaiṛālī), a term first used by Grierson[20] who based it on the names of the two major tribes of the area – the Kairal and the Dhund.[9] Its speakers call it Pahari in Murree tehsil, while in Abbotabad district it is known as either Hindko or Ḍhūṇḍī.[21] Nevertheless, Hindko – properly the language of the rest of Abbottabad District and the neighbouring areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – is generally regarded as a different language.[22] It forms a dialect continuum with Pahari, [9] and the transition between the two is in northern Azad Kashmir and in the Galyat region. For example, on the road from Murree northwest towards the city of Abbottabad, Pahari gradually changes into Hindko between Ayubia and Nathiagali.[23]

A closely related dialect is spoken across the Jhelum River in Azad Kashmir, north of the Mirpuri areas. Names associated in the literature with this dialect are Pahari (itself the term most commonly used by the speakers themselves), Chibhālī,[24] named after the Chibhal region[25] or the Chibh ethnic group,[10] and Poonchi (پونچھی, also spelt Punchhi). The latter name has been variously applied to either the Chibhali variety specific to the district of Poonch,[26] or to the dialect of the whole northern half of Azad Kashmir.[27] This dialect (or dialects) has been seen either as a separate dialect from the one in Murree,[20] or as belonging to the same central group of Pahari dialects.[28] The dialect of the district of Bagh, for example, has more shared vocabulary with the core dialects from Murree (86–88%) than with the varieties of either Muzaffarabad (84%) or Mirpur (78%).[29]

In Muzaffarabad the dialect shows lexical similarity[f] of 83–88% with the central group of Pahari dialects, which is high enough for the authors of the sociolinguistic survey to classify it is a central dialect itself, but low enough to warrant noting its borderline status.[30] The speakers however tend to call their language Hindko[31] and to identify more with the Hindko spoken to the west,[32] despite the lower lexical similarity (73–79%) with the core Hindko dialects of Abbottabad and Mansehra.[33] Further north into the Neelam Valley the dialect, now known locally as Parmi, becomes closer to Hindko.[34]

Pahari is also spoken further east across the Line of Control into the Pir Panjal mountains in Indian Jammu and Kashmir. The population, estimated at 1 million,[35] is found in the region between the Jhelum and Chenab rivers: most significantly in the districts of Poonch and Rajouri, to a lesser extent in neighbouring Baramulla and Kupwara,[36] and also – as a result of the influx of refugees during the Partition of 1947 – scattered throughout the rest of Jammu and Kashmir.[37] Pahari is among the regional languages listed in the sixth schedule of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.[38] This Pahari is sometimes conflated with the Western Pahari languages spoken in the mountainous region in the south-east of Indian Jammu and Kashmir. These languages, which include Bhadarwahi and its neighbours, are often called "Pahari", but they are not closely related to Pahari–Pothwari.[39]



Vowels of Pahari
Front Central Back
oral nasal oral nasal oral nasal
Close ĩː ũː
Near-close ɪ ʊ
Mid e eː ẽː ə o oː
Open æ æː ãː
Vowels of Pothwari
Front Central Back
oral nasal oral nasal oral nasal
Close i iː ĩ ĩː u uː ũ ũː
Mid e ɐ ɐ̃ o õ
Open ɑ ɑ̃

A long diphthong /ɑi/ can be realized as [äː].[40]


Consonants of Pahari[41]
Labial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
voiceless p t t͡ʃ k
aspirated t̪ʰ t͡ʃʰ
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ x
voiced v z ɣ ɦ
Nasal m n ŋ
Approximant l j
Tap/Trill r ɽ
Consonants of Pothwari[40]
Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palato-
Palatal Velar/
Stop voiceless p t ʈ k
aspirated ʈʰ
voiced b d ɖ ɡ
breathy ɖʱ ɡʱ
Affricate voiceless t͡s
aspirated t͡sʰ
voiced d͡z
Fricative voiceless (f) s ʃ (χ) h
voiced v z (ʒ) (ʁ)
Nasal m n ɳ
Approximant l ɭ j
Tap/Trill r ɽ

Comparison with Punjabi

Potohar scenery with hill backdrop
Potohar scenery with hill backdrop
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- Use of Sī-endings for Future Tense

English Pothwari Punjabi
Transliteration Shahmukhi Gurmukhi Transliteration Shahmukhi Gurmukhi
I will do Mãi karsā̃ مَیں کرساں ਮੈਂ ਕਰਸਾਂ Mãi karāngā مَیں کرانگا ਮੈਂ ਕਰਾਂਗਾ
We will do Asā̃ karsā̃ اَساں کرساں ਅਸਾਂ ਕਰਸਾਂ Asī̃ karānge اَسِیں کرانگے ਅਸੀਂ ਕਰਾਂਗੇ
You will do (s) Tū̃ karsãi تُوں کرسَیں ਤੂੰ ਕਰਸੈਂ Tū̃ karengā تُوں کریں گا ਤੂੰ ਕਰੇਂਗਾ
You will do (p) Tusā̃ karso تُساں کرسو ਤੁਸਾਂ ਕਰਸੋ Tusī̃ karoge تُسِیں کروگے ਤੁਸੀਂ ਕਰੋਗੇ
He/She will do Ó karsi اوه کَرسی ਓਹ ਕਰਸੀ Ó karega اوه کرے گا ਓਹ ਕਰੇਗਾ
They will do Ó karsan اوہ کرسن ਓਹ ਕਰਸਨ Ó karaṇge اوه کرݨ گے ਓਹ ਕਰਣਗੇ

Object Marker

The object marker in Pothwari is (ਕੀ /کی) as opposed to nū̃ (ਨੂੰ / نوں) in Punjabi.

For example:

The phrase: lokā̃ (ਲੋਕਾਂ ਕੀ / لوکاں کی), meaning "to the people" in Standard Punjabi, would become lokā̃ nū̃ (ਲੋਕਾਂ ਨੂੰ / لوکاں نوں).

Genitive Marker

The Genitive marker in Pothwari is represented through the use of (ਨਾ / نا) as opposed to (ਦਾ / دا).

For example:

The phrase: lokā̃ (ਲੋਕਾਂ ਦਾ / لوکاں دا), meaning "people's" or "of the people" in Pothwari, would become lokā̃ (ਲੋਕਾਂ ਨਾ / لوکاں نا).

The word for 'my' becomes māhaṛā (ਮਾਹੜਾ / ماہڑا; m.) instead of māhaṛī (ਮਾਹੜੀ / ماہڑی; f.).


Very clear point of departure occurs in the use of achṇā (ਅੱਛਣਾ / اچھݨا 'to come') and gachṇā (ਗੱਛਣਾ / گچھݨا 'to go') as opposed to Saraiki āvaṇ (ਆਵਣ / آوݨ) and vañjaṇ (ਵੰਞਣ / وڄݨ), and Punjabi āuṇā (ਆਉਣਾ / آؤݨا) and jāṇā (ਜਾਣਾ / جاݨا).


  1. ^ Baart (2003, p. 10) provides an estimate of 3.8 million, presumably for the population in Pakistan alone. Lothers & Lothers (2010, p. 9) estimate the Pakistani population at well over 2.5 million and the UK diaspora at over 0.5 million. The population in India is reported in Ethnologue (2017) to be about 1 million as of 2000.
  2. ^ According to Lothers & Lothers (2010, p. 2). Abbasi (2010, p. 104) adds as a fourth dialect the Poonchi spoken from Poonch to the Neelam Valley. Yet another classification is reportedly presented in Karnai (2007).
  3. ^ For example, according to the 1981 census report for Rawalpindi District, 85.1% of households had Punjabi as mother tongue. In any census, only a small number of major languages have been counted separately, and there has not been a separate option available for either Pahari or Pothwari.
  4. ^ One language activist from the diaspora in Britain "[has] said that he does not give the language a single name because those who speak the language call it many different things." (Lothers & Lothers 2012, p. 3).
  5. ^ Some, at least in the British diaspora, consider this term to be a misnomer if applied to the language. (Lothers & Lothers 2012, p. 3).
  6. ^ The similarity between wordlists containing 217 items of basic vocabulary from each location. (Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 15–16)


  1. ^ "Pahari". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. ^ Shackle 1979, pp. 200–201.
  3. ^ Masica 1991, p. 440.
  4. ^ a b Shackle 1983, p. 183.
  5. ^ Shackle 1979, p. 201: Pothohari "is often so close to Panjabi that any attempt to maintain the Lahndi scheme ought probably to reckon it as 'Lahndi merging into Panjabi'."
  6. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, p. 2.
  7. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, p. 86. Speakers from Muzaffarabad "consider the Mirpur dialect different enough that it is difficult to understand."
  8. ^ The alternative English spellings are from Ethnologue (2017).
  9. ^ a b c Abbasi & Asif 2010, p. 201.
  10. ^ a b Grierson 1919, p. 432.
  11. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 2–3, 19, 112.
  12. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2012, pp. 12, 26. At least in terms of lexical similarity..
  13. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 2–3, 5, 19, 100.
  14. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, p. 44.
  15. ^ Shackle 2007, p. 114.
  16. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2012, p. 1.
  17. ^ Hussain 2015, pp. 483–84.
  18. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, p. 23.
  19. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 2, 5.
  20. ^ a b Abbasi 2010, p. 104.
  21. ^ Hindko according to Lothers & Lothers (2010, pp. 5, 39) and Dhundi according to Grierson (1919, p. 495). Pahari is reported in both sources.
  22. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 40, 126–27. The speakers of Pahari in Abbottabad District regard the Hindko of the city of Abbottabad as a different language.
  23. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 2, 40.
  24. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 2, 5, 8.
  25. ^ Grierson 1919, p. 505.
  26. ^ Grierson 1919, p. 505 and corresponding map.
  27. ^ Abbasi 2010, p. 104; Abbasi & Asif 2010, pp. 201–202
  28. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, sec. 3.1. The varieties surveyed here are from Bagh and Muzaffarabad.
  29. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, p. 24. The wordlists that form the basis of this comparison are from the variety of Neela Butt.
  30. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 24–25.
  31. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 26, 80.
  32. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, pp. 108, 110.
  33. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, p. 24.
  34. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010, p. 26; Akhtar & Rehman 2007, p. 68. The conclusion is similarly based on lexical similarity and the comparison is with the Hindko of the Kaghan Valley on one hand and with the Pahari of the Murre Hills on the other.
  35. ^ A 2000 estimate reported in Ethnologue (2017)
  36. ^ Singh 2014, p. 18; Bhat 2014, ch. 1, pp. 38, 40
  37. ^ Lists of regions and settlements are found in Bhat (2014, ch. 1, pp. 40, 43–44) and Kour (2014).
  38. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-09-03. Retrieved 2020-04-29.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  39. ^ Kaul 2006, pp. 42, 256–8.
  40. ^ a b c Kogan, Anton I. (2011). Potxoxari Jazyk. Tatiana I. Oranskaya and Yulia V. Mazurova and Andrej A. Kibrik and Leonid I. Kulikov and Aleksandr Y. Rusakov (eds.), Jazyki Mira: Novye Indoarijskie Jazyki: Moskva: Academia. pp. 516–527.
  41. ^ Khan, Abdul Qadir (2013). A Preliminary Study of Pahari Language and its Sound System. pp. 1–20.


Further reading