Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Language Profile: Maithili

Courtesy of our April Fool's joke and our apology and explanation yesterday, this week's language profile has made its way to hump day. Hopefully some language knowledge will help get you over your midweek blues!

Today we're taking a look at Maithili, an Indo-Aryan language with nearly 33 million native speakers in India and Nepal. The language takes it name form the Ancient Indian kingdom of Mithila. Mithila is an important place in Hindu mythology, and is considered to be the birthplace of Sita, a central figure in the Hindu epic Ramayana

A Sikh site dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh in Patna,
the capital of the Indian state of Bihar.
In India, Maithili is primarily spoken in the northeastern state of Bihar. The language is also spoken by nearly 12% of the population in Nepal, primarily in the southeast part of the country. It is surpassed in speakers only by Nepali, with 45% of the population, while Bhojpuri comes in third with 6% of the population. 

In the 17th century, Maithili was a popular language used by the court of the Malla Dynasty of Nepal. At the time, many dramas were produced in which the characters spoke colloquial Maithili. However, it was first considered to be an independent language sometime around the early 19th century. It has been an official regional language of India since 2003, which allows it to be used in official contexts such as government and education.

For about a thousand years, the language was written using Maithili script, which is also known by the names Tirhuta and Mithilakshar. However, in modern times, it is almost exclusively written using Devanagari script, which is most commonly associated with Hindi. Maithili also has to fight with Hindi in order to maintain its use as a language, since many people now prefer to read and write in Hindi, the official language of India, instead of their regional language.