Monday, May 6, 2013

Language Profile: Marwari

This week we're taking a look at Marwari, a macrolanguage spoken primarily in India and Pakistan. In previous language profiles we've noted that the classification of Indian languages can be quite tricky for linguists, and today's language is no exception.

Sunset over the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India.
As with the Lahnda languages of Pakistan, the classification of varieties within Marwari can be quite difficult. However, the Ethnologue lists six distinct languages that form the Marwari macrolanguage. Two share the name Marwari, with one spoken in Eastern Pakistan and the other in India. Dhundari is spoken in the Dhundar region of India's Rajasthan state. In other districts of Rajasthan, Mewari boasts approximately 5 million speakers, while the almost identically named Merwari has nearly 4 million, and Shekhawati has about 3 million.

Marwari is also classified at times as a subgroup of the Rajasthani languages, which we'll be covering in the weeks to come. Unfortunately, Marwari is not officially recognized anywhere, though the closely related Rajasthani language is recognized by the state government of Rajasthan. To make things even more complicated, some believe that both of these macrolanguages are instead dialects of Hindi. All of these varieties, dialects, or languages are currently being studied by linguists in hopes of being finally classified once and for all. It's certainly not a task we envy!

The Marwari language also shares over half of its lexicon with Hindi, as well as a similar grammar structure. One notable difference between the two languages is that the letter 's' in Hindi often becomes an 'h' in Marwari. Like Hindi, Marwari is generally written in Devanagari script, whereas in Pakistan, a modified Perso-Arabic script, such as that used to write Urdu, is preferred.