Shina in Nastaliq.png
The word Ṣiṇyaá written in the Arabic script in Nastaliq style.
Native toPakistan, India
RegionGilgit-Baltistan, Kohistan, Drass, Gurez
Native speakers
720,200 Shina (2018)[1]
and Shina, Kohistani 458,000 (2018)[2]
Arabic script (Nastaʿlīq)[3]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
scl – Standard Shina
plk – Kohistani Shina
Glottologshin1264  Shina
kohi1248  Kohistani Shina
Shina language.png
Distribution of Shina language in Dark Orange
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Shina (ݜݨیاٗ,شِْنْیٛا Ṣiṇyaá) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Shina people.[4][5] In Pakistan, Shina is the major language in Gilgit-Baltistan spoken by an estimated 1,146,000 people living mainly in Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan.[4][6] A small community of Shina speakers is also found in India, in the Guraiz valley of Jammu and Kashmir and in Dras tehsil of the Kargil district of Ladakh.[4] Outliers of Shina language such as Brokskat is found in Ladakh, Kundal Shahi in Azad Kashmir, Palula and Sawi in Chitral, Ushojo in the Swat Valley and Kalkoti in Dir.[4]

Until recently, there was no writing system of the language. A number of schemes have been proposed and there is no single writing system used by all of the speakers of Shina language.[7] Shina is also mostly a spoken language and not a written language. Most Shina speakers also do not write their language.


In Pakistan

There are an estimated 1,146,000 speakers of both Shina and Kohistani Shina in Pakistan according to Ethnologue (2018), a majority of them residing in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. A small community of Shina speakers is also settled in Neelam valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.[8][9]

In India

A small community of Shinar speakers is also settled in India in the far north of Kargil district bordering Gilgit-Baltistan. Their population is estimated to be around 32,200 according to 2011 census.[10]


Shina is one of the few Dardic languages with a written tradition.[11] However, it was an unwritten language until a few decades ago[12] and there still is not a standard orthography.[13] Since the first attempts at accurately representing Shina's phonology in the 1960s there have been several proposed orthographies for the different varieties of the language, with debates centering on whether vowel length and tone should be represented.[14] For the Drasi variety spoken in the Indian union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, there have been two proposed schemes, one with the Perso-Arabic script and the other with the Devanagari script.[15]

One proposed alphabet for Shina is the following:[16][better source needed]

Letter Romanization IPA
ا ʿ /ʔ/
ب b /b/
پ p /p/
ت t /t/
ٹ /ʈ/
ث (s) /s/
ج ǰ /d͡ʒ/
چ č /t͡ʃ/
ح (h) /h/
خ ǩ /x/
څ c /t͡s/
ځ j /d͡z/
ڇ ċ /ʈ͡ʂ/
د d /d/
ڈ /ɖ/
ذ (z) /z/
ر r /r/
ڑ /ɽ/
ز z /z/
ژ ž /ʒ/
ڙ ż /ʐ/
س s /s/
ش š /ʃ/
ݜ /ʂ/
ص (s) /s/
ض (d) /d/
ط (t) /t/
ظ (z) /z/
ع ʿ /ʔ/
غ ǧ /ɣ/
ڠ ŋ /ŋ/
ف f /f/pʰ/
ق (k) /k/
ک k /k/
گ g /ɡ/
ل l /l/
م m /m/
ن n /n/
ݨ /ɳ/
ں ˜ /˜/
و w /ʊ~w/
ہ h, x /h/ɦ/
ھ _h /ʰ/
ء ʿ /ʔ/
ی y /j/
ے e /e/


The following is a description of the phonology of the Drasi variety spoken in India and the Kohistani variety in Pakistan.


The Shina principal vowel sounds:[17]

Front Mid Back
unrd. rnd.
High i u
High-mid e o
Low-mid ɛ ə ʌ ɔ
Low (æ) a

All vowels but /ɔ/ can be either long or nasalized, though no minimal pairs with the contrast are found.[17] /æ/ is heard from loanwords.[18]


In Shina there are the following diphthongs:[19]


In India, the dialects of the Shina language have preserved both initial and final OIA consonant clusters, while the Shina dialects spoken in Pakistan have not.[20]

Labial Coronal Retroflex Post-alv./
Velar Uvular Glottal
Stop Voiceless p t ʈ k q[a]
Aspirated ʈʰ
Voiced b d ɖ ɡ
Breathy[a] ɖʱ ɡʱ
Affricate Voiceless t͡s ʈ͡ʂ t͡ʃ
Aspirated t͡sʰ ʈ͡ʂʰ t͡ʃʰ
Voiced d͡z[b] d͡ʒ[b]
Breathy d͡ʒʱ[a]
Fricative Voiceless (f) s ʂ ʃ x[b] h
Voiced z ʐ ʒ[b] ɣ[b] ɦ[b]
Nasal m (mʱ)[a] n ɳ ŋ
Lateral l (lʱ)[a]
Rhotic r ɽ[c]
Semivowel ʋ~w j
  1. ^ a b c d e Occurs in the Kohistani dialect, Schmidt (2008)
  2. ^ a b c d e f According to Rajapurohit (2012, p. 33–34)
  3. ^ Degener (2008, p. 14) lists it as a phoneme


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Shina words are often distinguished by three contrasting tones: level, rising, and falling tones. Here is an example that shows the three tones:

"The" has a level tone and means the imperative "Do!"

When the stress falls on the first mora of a long vowel, the tone is falling. Thée means "Will you do?"

When the stress falls on the second mora of a long vowel, the tone is rising. Theé means "after having done".

See also


  1. ^ "Shina". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on 2019-06-06. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Shina, Kohistani". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on 2019-06-05. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Ethnologue report for Shina". Ethnologue.
  4. ^ a b c d Saxena, Anju; Borin, Lars (2008-08-22). Lesser-Known Languages of South Asia: Status and Policies, Case Studies and Applications of Information Technology. Walter de Gruyter. p. 137. ISBN 978-3-11-019778-5. Shina is an Indo-Aryan language of the Dardic group, spoken in the Karakorams and the western Himalayas: Gilgit, Hunza, the Astor Valley, the Tangir-Darel valleys, Chilas and Indus Kohistan, as well as in the upper Neelam Valley and Dras. Outliers of Shina are found in Ladakh (Brokskat), Chitral (Palula and Sawi), Swat (Ushojo; Bashir 2003: 878) and Dir (Kalkoti).
  5. ^ Jain, Danesh; Cardona, George (2007-07-26). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. p. 1018. ISBN 978-1-135-79710-2.
  6. ^ "Shina". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on 2019-06-06. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  7. ^ Braj B. Kachru; Yamuna Kachru; S. N. Sridhar (2008). Language in South Asia. Cambridge University Press. p. 144. ISBN 9781139465502.
  8. ^ "Shina". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2022-05-22.
  9. ^ "Shina, Kohistani". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2022-05-22.
  10. ^ "Shina". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2022-05-22.
  11. ^ Bashir 2003, p. 823. "Of the languages discussed here, Shina (Pakistan) and Khowar have developed a written tradition and a significant body of written material exists."
  12. ^ Schmidt & 2003/2004, p. 61.
  13. ^ Schmidt & Kohistani 2008, p. 14.
  14. ^ Bashir 2016, p. 806.
  15. ^ Bashir 2003, pp. 823–25. The Devanagari scheme was proposed by Rajapurohit (1975, pp. 150–52; 1983, pp. 46–57; 2012, pp. 68–73). The latter two texts also present Perso-Arabic schemes, which in the 2012 book (pp. 15, 60) is given as primary.
  16. ^ "Shina's Writing System".
  17. ^ a b Rajapurohit 2012, p. 28–31.
  18. ^ Schmit & Kohistani 2008, p. 16.
  19. ^ Rajapurohit 2012, p. 32–33.
  20. ^ Itagi, N. H. (1994). Spatial aspects of language. Central Institute of Indian Languages. p. 73. ISBN 9788173420092. Retrieved 14 August 2017. The Shina dialects of India have retained both initial and final OIA consonant clusters. The Shina dialects of Pakistan have lost this distinction.


Further reading