Kinnauri language

Region Himachal Pradesh
Native speakers
83,561 (2011 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
kfk  Kinnauri proper
cik  Chitkuli
ssk  Sunam
jna  Jangshung (Thebor)
scu  Shumcho
Glottolog kinn1250[2]

Kinnauri, also known as Kanauri, Kanor, Koonawur, or Kunawar, is a Sino-Tibetan dialect cluster centered on the Kinnaur district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Kaike, once thought to be Kinnauri, is closer to Tamangic. Bhoti Kinnauri and Tukpa are Bodish (Lahauli–Spiti).

Geographical distribution

Ethnologue lists the following locations for Kinnauri and related varieties.

Kinnauri-speaking villages are located in the upper Ropa River valley, from Chauhra to Sangla and north along Satluj river to Morang. This area is located in Kinnaur district and Lahaul and Spiti district, Himachal Pradesh. Kinnauri is also spoken in the Shimla district and Rampur areas, and in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Kashmir.

Chitkuli Kinnauri is spoken in the Baspa river area of the Sangla valley in Nichar subdivision, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh (in Chitkul and Rakchham villages).

Jangshung is spoken in Morang tahsil, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh (in Jangi, Lippa, and Asrang villages).

Shumcho is spoken in Puh tahsil, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh (in Kanam, Labrang, Spilo, Shyaso, Taling, and Rushkaling villages).


This description is of the Pangi dialect of Kinnauri.


Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiced b d ɖ ɡ
voiceless p t ʈ k
aspirated ʈʰ
Affricate voiced dz
voiceless ts
aspirated tsʰ tʃʰ
Fricative s ʃ h
Trill r
Approximant l j w

Note on palatals: /dʒ/, /tʃ/, /tʃʰ/, and /ʃ/ are post-alveolar. /ɲ/ is alveolo-palatal.


Kinnauri has five pairs of long/short vowels:

Front Central Back
Close i ɨ
Mid e o
Open a


/h/, aspirated obstruents (i.e. /pʰ/, /tʰ/, /ʈʰ/, /kʰ/, /t͡sʰ/, /t͡ʃʰ/), and glides (i.e. /w/, /j/) do not occur in syllable codas.

All consonants may occur in onsets and word-medially.

Kinnauri has the following types of syllables:

  • (C)V(C)(C)(C)
  • CCV(C)


Kinnauri is SOV, V-Auxiliary, Postpositional, and has head-final noun phrases. It shows case marking with an ergative alignment in the past tense, nominative-accusative elsewhere. The ergative case is identical to the instrumental. There is no distinction between accusative and dative, and a genitive is partially syncretic with the accusative/dative. An ablative case is also recognized, normally attached outside the genitive but with different allomorphs for animate and inanimate referents. There is also a locative case, normally used only with inanimate nouns.


  1. "Statement 1: Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues - 2011". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kinnauric". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.


  • Nagano, Yasuhiko; & LaPolla, Randy J. (Eds.). (2001). New research on Zhangzhung and related Himalayan languages. Bon studies 3, Senri ethnological reports 19. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.
  • Nishi 西, Yoshio 義郎 (1993a). "カナウル語" [Kanaur, Kănaur, Kănāwăr, Kanor, Koonawur, Kunáwar, Kunawar, Kanâr, (LSI), Kanawar; Kanauri, Kănaurī, (LSI) Kanāwᵃrī; Kanâwari, Kunawaree]. In 亀井 Kamei, 孝 Takashi; 河野 Kōno, 六郎 Rokurō; 千野 Chino, 栄一 Eichi. 三省堂言語学大辞典 The Sanseido Encyclopaedia of Linguistics (in Japanese). 5. Tokyo: 三省堂 Sanseido Press. pp. 75b–86b. ISBN 4385152144. 
  • Takahashi, Yoshiharu. (2001). A descriptive study of Kinnauri (Pangi dialect): A preliminary report. In Y. Nagano & R. J. LaPolla (Eds.), New research on Zhangzhung and related Himalayan languages. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.
  • Takahashi, Yoshiharu. 2007. On the deictic patterns in Kinnauri (Pangi dialect). In Roland Bielmeier and Felix Haller (eds.). Linguistics of the Himalayas and beyond, 341-354. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Takahashi, Yoshiharu (2009) “On the Verbal Affixes in West Himalayan”. Issues in Tibeto-Burman Historical Linguistics, Yasuhiko Nagano, ed. special issue of Senri Ethnological Studies 75: 21–49.
  • Takahashi, Yoshiharu (2012). "On a Middle Voice Suffix in Kinnauri (Pangi dialect) Yoshiharu". Objectivization and Subjectivization: A Typology of Voice Systems Edited by Wataru Nakamura and Ritsuko Kikusawa, eds., special issue of Senri Ethnological Studies 77: 157–175.
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