“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” ― Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

The Kumaoni Language is one of the central Pahari languages of the people of the Kumaon. Kumaoni is spoken by over 2.5 million people mainly in the districts of Almora, Nainital, Pithoragarh, Bageshwar, Champawat and Rudrapur/ Udhamsinghnagar. Kumaoni, has many regional dialects spoken in different places in Uttarakhand. Amongst its dialects, the central Kumauni is spoken in Almora and northern Nainital, north eastern Kumauni is in Pithoragarh, South eastern Kumauni is in south eastern Nainital, western Kumauni is west of Almora and Nainital. The state of Uttarakhand shares its borders with Nepal hence; many locals are also good at speaking Nepali. A unique language Hindustani is also spoken as an Uttarakhand Language. This language is a mix of Hindi and Urdu. It developed in the 13th Century and it is still popular in many parts of India. Rang-lo (or Rang-lwu), Jaunsari and Bhoti are the popular regional languages of the state of Uttarakhand used mostly by tribal people.


“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language,that goes to his heart.” ― Nelson Mandela

Almost all people who can speak and understand Kumaoni can also speak and understand Hindi, the official language of India. Kumaoni is one of the languages which are shrinking very rapidly. UNESCO’s atlas of the world’s languages designates Kumaoni as language in the endangered language category and which means that it requires consistent preservation efforts. Otherwise there will be only a few speakers of the language left and eventually the language will be extinct.

Languages spoken in Kumaonbelong to Aryan family. There are 13 dialects in the Kumaon region that is described by G. A. Grierson. The following is the list of the aforementioned dialects:

  • Johari
  • Danpuriya
  • MajhKumaiya
  • Askoti
  • Soryali
  • Sirali
  • Chaugarkhyali
  • Gangola
  • Kumaiya
  • Khasparjia
  • Pachhai
  • Phaldakoti
  • Rauchaubhaisi

All these mentioned dialects of Garhwali and Kumaoni are jointly known as central Pahari group of languages. Khaskura (nepali) is spoken in the east of the Kumaon region, Western Pahari (Himachali) in the west, Tibeto - Burmese family in the north and Western Hindi in the south. These dialects are most closely related to Garwhali and Nepali.

Being part of the Indo-Aryan dialect continuum, Kumaoni shares its grammar with other Indo-Aryan languages especially Garhwali, Hindi, Rajasthani, Kashmiri, and Gujarati. There are many words in Kumaoni that are common even with Bengali. It shares much of its grammar with the other languages of the central Pahari like Garhwali and Jaunsari.

In Kumaoni the verb substantive is formed from the root ach, as in both Rajasthani and Kashmiri. In Rajasthanithepresent tense, being derived from the Sanskrit present ‘rcchami’ which means ‘I go’, does not change for gender. But in Pahari and Kashmiri it must be derived from the rare Sanskrit particle ‘rcchitas’ that means ‘gone’. In these languages, it is a participial tense and does change according to the gender of the subject. Thus, in the singular we have a relic of the old Khasa language, which, as has been said, seems to have been related to Kashmiri. Other relics of Khasa, again agreeing with north-western India, are the tendency to shorten long vowels, the practice of epenthesis, or the modification of a vowel by the one which follows in the next syllable, and the frequent occurrence of dis-aspiration. Thus, khassiknu, kumaonisikhno, but hindisikhna, to learn; kumaoniyeso, plural yasa, of this kind.

“Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.” ― Roland Barthes

For the first time in the year 2014-15, there was an introduction for the students of Kumaon University which would involve the study of the language and literature of their own native tongue at university. After a state government order of March 2014, the language was introduced at the undergraduate level as a new subject in the academic year 2014-15. "After the state government's order, departments of Kumaoni and Garhwali languages were established in Soban Singh Jina Campus, Almora of the Kumaon University , and Garhwal University, respectively,".

The step came in the light of long impending demands to launch a legacy and endorse the local language and culture of the glorious state of the Uttrakhand which was separated from Uttar Pradesh in the year 2000. The three-year undergraduate programme includes Kumaoni grammar, syntax and literature. It also includes other academic work in the language. As is generally the case with language courses, there were more young women enrolled than men. However, the idea was to spread the awareness and keenness to spawn one’s linguistic heritage and not let it get threatened by extinction.