Torwali in Nastaliq.png
Torwali written in Perso-Arabic in Nastaliq style.
RegionSwat District
EthnicityTorwali people
Native speakers
110,000[1][2] (2001)[3]
Arabic script (primarily Nastaliq)
Language codes
ISO 639-3trw
Minor languages of Pakistan as of the 1998 census.png
Torwali is a minor language of Pakistan which is mainly spoken in Central Swat District, it is given a space in this map.
Bahrain, the main town of the Torwali community
Bahrain, the main town of the Torwali community

Torwali (توروالی) is an Indo-Aryan language mainly spoken in the Bahrain and Chail areas of the Swat District in Pakistan.[4][5] The language and other non-Pashtun communities are often referred to as "Kohistani" which is a name given by the Swat Pashtuns. Fredrik Barth says "The Pathans call them, and all other Muhammadans of Indian descent in the Hindu Kush valleys, Kohistanis".[6][7] The Torwali language is said to have originated from the pre-Muslim communities of Swat.[8][9] It is the closest modern Indo-Aryan language still spoken today to Niya, a dialect of Gāndhārī, a Middle Indo-Aryan language spoken in the ancient region of Gandhara.[10][11]

Torwali is an endangered language: it is characterised as "definitely endangered" by UNESCO's Atlas of Endangered Languages,[12] and as "vulnerable" by the Catalogue of Endangered Languages.[13] There have been efforts to revitalize the language since 2004, and mother tongue community schools have been established by Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT).[14]


Although descriptions of Torwali phonology have appeared in the literature, some questions still remain unanswered.[15][16]


Vowels According to Edelman[15]
Front Central Back
Close i iː u uː
Mid e eː o oː
Open a aː

Edelman's analysis, which was based on Grierson and Morgenstierne, shows nasal counterparts to at least /e o a/ and also found a series of central (reduced?) vowels, transcribed as: ⟨ä⟩, ⟨ü⟩, ⟨ö⟩.[15]

Vowels According to Lunsford[16]
Front Central Back
Close i ĩ (ɨ̙) u ũ
Mid e ẽ (e̙) ə (ə̙) o õ
Open æ æ̃ a ã

Lunsford had some difficulty determining vowel phonemes and suggested there may be retracted vowels with limited distribution: /ɨ/ (which may be [i̙]), /e̙/, /ə̙/.[16] Retracted or retroflex vowels are also found in Kalash-mondr.[17]


The phonemic status of the breathy voiced series is debatable.

Sounds with particularly uncertain status are marked with a superscript question mark.

Labial Coronal Retroflex Post-alv./
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n (ɳ) ŋ
Stop p
Affricate ts


s z ʂ ʐ ʃ ʒ x ɣ h
j w
Rhotic r ɽ?


The Torwali language does not have a fixed orthography.[18] There have been many proposals, which have seen limited use by the speakers, though there has been heavy work done for the language in recent years with the help of Zubair Torwali and Rehmat Aziz Chitrali.[19] Here is one of the proposals created by Zubair Torwali which is used in Swat:

Letter Romanization IPA
آ ā /aː/
أ a /a/
اَ ʿ /ʔ/
ب b /b/
پ p /p/
ت t /t/
ٹ /ʈ/
ث (s) /s/
ج ǰ /d͡ʒ/
چ č /t͡ʃ/
ڇ ċ /ʈ͡ʂ/
څ c /t͡s/
ح (h) /h/
خ x /x/
د d /d/
ڈ /ɖ/
ذ (z) /z/
ر r /r/
ڑ /ɽ/
ز z /z/
ڙ ż /ʐ/
ژ ž /ʒ/
س s /s/
ش š /ʃ/
ݜ /ʂ/
ص (s) /s/
ض (z) /d/
ط (t) /t/
ظ (z) /z/
ع ʿ /ʔ/
غ ǧ /ɣ/
ف f /f/
ق q /q/
ک k /k/
گ g /ɡ/
ل l /l/
م m /m/
ن n /n/
ں ◌̃ /◌̃/
و w /v~w/
او o /oː/
اُ u /u/
اُو ú /ú/
ہ h /h/
ھ _h /ʰ/
ی y /j/
ے e /e/

Chitrali and Kohistani Alphabet

The Torwali language in Chitral and Kohistan uses loanwords from Khowar and Indus Kohistani, the dominant languages in the region, which uses another letter, ݲ, which is used to represent [ɖ͡ʐ].[20] They also use the Pashto letter ځ to represent [d͡z].[21]


  1. ^ Khan, Amber. "Timeline of Torwali Speaker Estimates". Amber Khan for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  2. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2014). "Vestiges of Torwali culture". doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.2272.1049. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)[self-published source?]
  3. ^ Torwali at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  4. ^ Kreutzmann, Hermann (2005). "Linguistic diversity in space and time: A survey in the Eastern Hindukush and Karakoram". Himalayan Linguistics. Center for Development Studies, Free University of Berlin. 4: 7.
  5. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2016). "Reversing Language Loss through an Identity Based Educational Planning: The Case of Torwali language" (PDF). Eurasian Journal of Humanities. 1 (2): 24.
  6. ^ Biddulph, John (1880). Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh (PDF). Graz, Austria: 1971 edition Akadmeische Druck u Verlagasasntalt. p. 69.
  7. ^ Barth, Fredrik (1956). Indus and Swat Kohistan: an Ethnographic Survey. Oslo. p. 52. . The Pathans call them, and all other Muhammadans of Indian descent in the Hindu Kush valleys, Kohistanis.
  8. ^ Torwali, Zubair. "Revitalization of Torwali poetry and music". We Mountains – Regional Website of North Pakistan. IBT. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  9. ^ Inam-ur-Rahim; Viaro, lain M. (2002). Swat: An Afghan Society in Pakistan. Karachi and Geneva: City Press and Graduate Institute of Developmental Studies. ISBN 9698380558. OCLC 603642121.
  10. ^ Burrow, T. (1936). "The Dialectical Position of the Niya Prakrit". Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London. 8 (2/3): 419–435. ISSN 1356-1898. JSTOR 608051. ... It might be going too far to say that Torwali is the direct lineal descendant of the Niya Prakrit, but there is no doubt that out of all the modern languages it shows the closest resemblance to it. A glance at the map in the Linguistic Survey of India shows that the area at present covered by "Kohistani" is the nearest to that area round Peshawar, where, as stated above, there is most reason to believe was the original home of the Niya Prakrit. That conclusion, which was reached for other reasons, is thus confirmed by the distribution of the modern dialects.
  11. ^ Salomon, Richard (1998-12-10). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages. Oxford University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-19-535666-3.
  12. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2016). "Reversing Language Loss through an Identity Based Educational Planning: The Case of Torwali language" (PDF). Eurasian Journal of Humanities. 1 (2): 24.
  13. ^ Hammarström, Harald. "Torwali". Glottolog. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  14. ^ Liljegren, Henrik (2018). "Supporting and Sustaining Language Vitality in Northern Pakistan". The Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization. pp. 427–437. doi:10.4324/9781315561271-54. ISBN 978-1-315-56127-1.
  15. ^ a b c Èdel'man, Džoj Iosifovna (1983). The Dardic and Nuristani languages. Nauka. OCLC 1014554012.[page needed]
  16. ^ a b c Lunsford, Wayne A. (2001). An overview of linguistic structures in Torwali, a language of Northern Pakistan (PDF) (Thesis). pp. 26–30. OCLC 48846858.
  17. ^ Kochetov, Alexei; Arsenault, Paul (2008), Retroflex harmony in Kalasha: Agreement or spreading? (PDF), NELS, vol. 39, Cornell University, p. 4
  18. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2020). "Adapting the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN) to Torwali". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ "The Torwali language and its new Android keyboard". 10 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Torwali Alphabet".
  21. ^ "Torwali alphabet, pronunciation and language".