Chapter 1 Introduction—Kinnaur: Geography, Demography and Languages

In: The Linguistic Landscape of the Indian Himalayas
Author:
Anju Saxena
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1 Introduction

This book is about Kinnaur, its languages and its people. At the same time, it is a contribution to the documentation of some aspects of the linguistic situation of a region—the Indian Himalayas—which so far has been very poorly described.

Historically, the linguistic scene of Kinnaur has been dominated by Sino-Tibetan languages. There are a number of Sino-Tibetan varieties spoken in the region, but exactly how these are interrelated has not been investigated in depth. The term “Kinnauri” is ambiguous; it may refer (at least) to a particular language, to a lower-level branch of Sino-Tibetan—spelled “Kinauri” in the Ethnologue (Eberhard et al. 2021)—or simply as an adjective referring to any language spoken in Kinnaur. For this reason, I will use the acronym “KST” (Sino-Tibetan of Kinnaur) as a cover term for the various Sino-Tibetan varieties spoken in Kinnaur, pending the more thorough investigation of their genealogical and areal relationships presented in Chapters 5 and 6 below, and the label “Kinnauri (language)” will be used only about the variety spoken in and around Sangla.1

One purpose of this book is to throw light on the relationship among the KST varieties, and another of my aims is to elucidate the extent and character of language contact in Kinnaur, primarily between the local KST and Indo-Aryan varieties, but also taking into consideration the greater Himalayan region. Two things are noteworthy:

  1. What little has been written earlier about the KST varieties has focused almost exclusively on what is known as (Standard) Kinnauri, spoken in Lower Kinnaur, while the KST varieties of other parts of Kinnaur have received much less attention.2

  2. There is next to no information available in the literature on Kinnauri Pahari, the Indo-Aryan varieties spoken alongside the KST varieties in some parts of Kinnaur.

It is easy to come up with plausible reasons why this should be so: Lower Kinnaur is the region in Kinnaur which is relatively more accessible to outsiders, being closest to Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh and the natural point of entry into the state from most parts of India. Also, because of the weather conditions, this region has been more accessible than Upper Kinnaur, which at least earlier used to be cut off from the rest of the world for longer or shorter periods during the winter season.

1.1 Linguistic Description, Language Documentation and Empirical Linguistics

The only reasonable way in which linguistics can advance as an empirical science involves as central activities collecting, analyzing and publishing as much and as diverse data as possible about languages and language communities throughout the world. As linguists, one of our primary goals is to find out what defines language as a general phenomenon. Linguistic universals proposed on the basis of a small genealogically and geographically limited set of languages can be no more than tentative and subject to revision in the face of more and more varied empirical language data (see, e.g., Evans and Levinson 2009).

This is closely connected to the rapidly expanding field of language documentation (or documentary linguistics; Himmelmann 1998; Gippert et al. 2006; Rau and Florey 2007; Grenoble and Furbee 2010; Austin and Sallabank 2011). On the face of it, language documentation has explicitly somewhat different goals from descriptive linguistics and language typology, for instance the goal of providing resources and tools for aiding in the preservation and revitalization of threatened languages. However, any conflict is more apparent than real; better language documentation cannot but result in better linguistic descriptions, which in turn make a better basis for the generalizations of language typology. Better linguistic descriptions and typological generalizations will also feed back into language documentation, for instance by uncovering “new” kinds of linguistic action and interaction that should be looked for and documented if found in a language.

The central characteristics of language documentation/documentary linguistics (see, e.g. Himmelmann 2006) have in fact long been embraced by field linguists as essential to their goal of faithful language description. Language documentation tends to emphasize methodology enabled by recent technical developments, such as video recording and widely shared digital linguistic databases, which obviously does not in any way stand in opposition to more traditional linguistic research.

Science by its very nature is empirical and cumulative, and arguably some of the central ideas of documentary linguistics simply flow from the recognition that a linguistics aspiring to the status of a science must be empirical and cumulative. These two requirements, then, imply many of the features that have been attributed to documentary linguistics. Empiricalness implies a focus on collecting primary data with the active involvement of the speech community, and cumulativeness implies that the primary and secondary data resulting from linguistic investigations be made available to the linguistic research community. In the present work, such data is made available in the form of a wealth of glossed examples to be found in the three language sketches (Chapters 2–4), in the vocabularies provided in appendices to the sketches, as well as in the detailed comparison tables presented in Appendix 5A in Chapter 5.

2 The Geography of Kinnaur

The topic of this book is the linguistic situation in one of the districts in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. This district is referred to in Indian official documents as “Kinnaur” and its people as well as its main language as “Kinnauri”. This section provides general background information on Kinnaur, its geography, administrative organization, demography and linguistic situation, including census data on bi- and multilingualism. This information is provided in order to place the linguistic situation in Kinnaur in its wider geographical and societal context.

Kinnaur is the third largest district of Himachal Pradesh. In older sources, the corresponding region goes under various names: “Kanaur” (Bailey 1909), “Kanawar” (Konow 1905), “Kunawar” (Fraser 1820; Cunningham 1844), “Koonawur” (Gerard 1841; Thornton 1862), “Kunawur” (Gerard 1842), and “Kinnaur” (Bajpai 1991).3 In a description of this region written in Hindi, the region is referred to as “Kinnar” (“किन्नर”; B.R. Sharma 1976). Its major language, too, is called variously in different works: “Kanaawarii” (Konow 1905), “Kanawari” (Joshi 1909), “Kanauri” (Bailey 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1920, 1938), “Kanooring skad” (Bailey 1909), “Kanooreanu skad” (Bailey 1909), and “Kinnauri” (D.D. Sharma 1988; Saxena 1992, 1995a, 1995b).

Kinnaur is located in the easternmost part of Himachal Pradesh (latitudes 31° 05′ 50″ N to 32° 05′ 15″ N and longitudes 77° 45′ 00″ E to 79° 00′ 35″ E).4 It borders on the autonomous region of Tibet in China in the east, on the Uttarkashi district of the Indian state of Uttarakhand in the south, the Shimla district in the southwest, the Lahaul and Spiti district in the north, and the Kullu district in the northwest.5 See Figure 1.

d155303993e4615

Figure 1

Kinnaur and surrounding districts in Himachal Pradesh

Kinnaur is a region of mountains and valleys, with altitudes ranging between 2,350 and 6,791 meters above sea level. There are three mountain ranges in this region: Zanskar, the Great Himalaya and the Dhauladhar mountain range. Zanskar forms a natural border between Kinnaur and the autonomous region of Tibet in China. The Great Himalaya runs through the district from the northwest to the southeast. Parts of the Dhauladhar range form the southern end of Kinnaur, merging finally with the Great Himalaya in the southeast. Beyond Kullu, Dhauladhar is known as the Pir Panjal mountain range. The mountain ranges in Kinnaur have peaks ranging in height between 5,190 and 6,791 meters above sea level. The highest peak in Kinnaur is Leo Pargail in the Zanskar. It is also the highest mountain in Himachal Pradesh. The Kinner Kailash mountain in the Greater Himalaya range which separates the Sangla valley (see the description below) from the Tidong valley, is the home of lord Shiva and Parvati according to a popular belief.

The district covers a total area of about 6,400 km2. Only about 3 % of this area is populated; the remaining 97 % consist of uninhabited and inaccessible mountainous terrain. The populated regions are generally in the river valleys.

d155303993e4634

Figure 2

Lower, Middle and Upper Kinnaur

Kinnaur is sometimes divided into three geographical regions based on their altitude: Lower Kinnaur, Middle Kinnaur and Upper Kinnaur (see the map in Figure 2). Lower Kinnaur extends from the southern border of Kinnaur to Kalpa (see Figure 2). This region includes the Nichar and Sangla valleys. Middle Kinnaur extends from Kalpa to Kanam, about midway between Kalpa and Nako. Upper Kinnaur is used to refer to the rest of Kinnaur.

Three rivers along with their tributaries run through Kinnaur: Satluj, Spiti and Baspa. Satluj runs through the entire district from the east to the west. Spiti flows through the Hangrang valley in Upper Kinnaur. At the village Khab (in the Hangrang valley) it merges with the river Satluj. The Baspa river flows through the Sangla valley. It merges with the Satluj river at village Karcham. The same river or a tributary is sometimes called by different names in different regions.6

There are several valleys in this region. The valley of the river Satluj is approximately 140 km long, and like other valleys of the region, it is quite narrow. There is very little flat land in this valley—relatively more on the left (south) than on the right (north) bank. Villages such as Sungra, Nichar, Kilba, Pawari, Ribba, Morang and Nymgya are situated on the left river bank in this valley. Rupi, Chagaon, Urni, Kalpa, Kothi, Pangi, Rarang, Jangi, Kanam, and Poo are some of the villages on the right river bank. Mountains found in this valley include Taranda, Wangtu and Rogi.

The valley of the river Baspa is known as the Sangla valley after a major village of the valley. It has the largest flat area in the district with rich soil and pastures. The remotest village of this valley is Chitkul, situated south of the Chungsakhago pass.

The Ropa valley (also known as Syso, Shiaso, Shyasu, Chhiasu, Sangam or Sunam) is the valley of the Ropa stream, a tributary of the Satluj. It has very little forest, only some pines and birches. There are apple and apricot orchards and vineyards. Notable villages in this valley are Ropa, Giabong, Sangnam and Skyaso.

The Hangrang or Spiti valley is approximately 32 km in length. Its upper region is in the Lahaul and Spiti district. Spiti (also called Lee) is the important river of this valley. At the village Khab this valley joins the Satluj valley. The valley has a barren landscape, with very little area suitable for cultivation. Important villages in this valley are Sumra, Shyalkhar, Hango, Chuling, Nako, Chango, Malling and Lee. The Nako village is the highest populated spot in Kinnaur, at an altitude of 3,662 meters, and the Nako lake is the highest lake in Kinnaur.

Other valleys in the Kinnaur district include the Wangpo or Bhabha valley, the Gyanthang or Nesang valley, the Tejur or Leppa valley, the Kashang valley, the Mulgoon valley and the Yula valley.

The climate in Kinnaur varies depending partly on the elevation, location and direction of a valley. Generally speaking, Kinnaur has four seasons: Spring is usually between mid-March to mid-May, summer from mid-May to mid-September, fall from mid-September to the end of November and winter from December to mid-March. In regions where there is rainfall, it rains in July–September, though not as heavily as in the lower hills of Himachal Pradesh, outside Kinnaur. The rainfall decreases sharply from the southwest to the northeast and beyond Wangtu. Similarly, snowfall, too, varies in different regions in Kinnaur—it is least in the extreme southwestern region. The depth of the snow cover varies from about 0.5 m at higher altitudes to 1–1.5 m at 2,500 m above sea level. Snow usually falls from November and remains until April. Winds are hard from October onwards, their direction varying depending on the valleys, but it is generally from the west or southwest at altitudes of 5,000 m, peaking in the late afternoon. Until recently, many parts of Kinnaur were physically cut off from the rest of the world for about half the year, as roads and paths became impassable in the winter season.

Kinnaur has two very different climatic zones, where the Sangla valley is characterized by wet weather, while on the northern side of the Great Himalayan range both the rainfall and vegetation decreases and one encounters a completely arid zone beyond Spello and Kanum.

d155303993e4669

Figure 3

(Sub-)tahsils in Kinnaur

Sangla and Nako form polar opposites in Kinnaur in more than one respect. Geographically Sangla is a verdant valley with lots of vegetation in the village and in the surrounding areas, whereas Nako is surrounded by an arid, barren, mountainous desert-like region. Both are very beautiful, although quite unlike each other. Similarly, the Sino-Tibetan languages of these two regions are also very different, as we will see in this volume.

3 Administrative Units in Kinnaur

Before the Indian independence in 1947 Kinnaur was administratively a part of the princely state of Bashahr (Riyasat Bashahr). It had the status of a tahsil (also written “tehsil” in English-language sources)—a traditional lower-level administrative unit. This term is still used about an administrative unit below the level of district in the present Indian administrative system. As the Chini village7 was the district capital of this tahsil, the Kinnaur tahsil itself was also known as the Chini tahsil. The Himachal Pradesh state (of which Kinnaur is now a part) was established on 15 April 1948 and Chini was made a tahsil of the Mahasu district in this newly established state. The present-day Kinnaur district was established on 1 May 1960, including in addition to the Chini tahsil 14 villages which previously had belonged to the Rampur tahsil.

This section presents an overview of the present administrative organization of the Kinnaur district. Much of the information provided here is based on the successive editions of the District census handbook from the censuses of 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011 (see Figure 4).8

The district census handbooks have been published since 1951. Apart from the information about the population, these handbooks also provide information about other aspects of a district (e.g., language, level of education, gender distribution, available health, education and banking facilities). However, differences in the organization (including the information provided) of the various census handbooks, make it impossible in some cases to do a comparative study of a given factor across censuses.

The district headquarter of Kinnaur is Reckong Peo. Administratively the Kinnaur district has a three-level hierarchical organization. The district consists of three subdivisions, which in turn are organized into (sub-)tahsils (six in total in Kinnaur; see Table 1 and Figure 3), and at the lowest level each (sub-)tahsil consists of a number of villages. The organization and names of the various administrative units in the Kinnaur district are the same in all five census handbooks, except for one thing: Starting with the 1991 census handbook, the former subdivision is called community development block (C.D. Block).

The definition of a village in all these four censuses is that of a “revenue village”, that is, a unit (consisting of one or more physical villages) which has its own separate village budget account in the district administration. According to the 1971 and 1981 censuses, Kinnaur had a total of 77 villages (see Table 4).

d155303993e4721

Figure 4

The Kinnaur 1971 District Census Handbook

The number of villages increased dramatically in the 1991 census, where the total number of inhabited villages9 increased to 228. The number of inhabited villages in the 2011 census is 241. This sharp increase in the number of villages between the 1981 and the 1991 censuses is due partly to the fact that in the previous censuses villages which were located in difficult-to-reach remote locations were not taken into consideration, partly to major resettlement operations conducted during the period 1985–1987, and partly to changes made in determining how villages are defined for the purpose of the census.

Table 1 provides information about the administrative divisions of Kinnaur district and about the number of villages in each (sub-)tahsil, according to the District census handbooks.

Table 1

Administrative divisions of the Kinnaur district and number of villages

Subdivisions (C.D. Block)

(Sub-)tahsils

No of villages

1971/81

1991

2001

2011

Nichar CDB

85

85

Nichar tahsil

22

88

Kalpa CDB

63

75

Kalpa tahsil

12

38

Sangla tahsil

11

28

Poo CDB

80

81

Morang tahsil

12

38

Poo tahsil

12

27

Hangrang sub-tahsil

8

15

Total in Kinnaur

77

228

234

241

4 Demography of Kinnaur

Since 97 % of the total area of Kinnaur is uninhabitable, the average population density of the district is predictably low, around 13 persons/km2 (see Table 2). The most densely inhabited regions in Kinnaur are located in the lower Satluj and Sangla valleys in Lower Kinnaur.

The two ethnolinguistic communities which have traditionally resided in this region are the KST and the Indo-Aryan community. The KST community is also known as Rajput, Kanet, and Khasia, and in this volume I will refer to the Indo-Aryan community using the cover term Kinnauri Pahari. Traditionally the members of the KST community are agriculturalists and the Kinnauri Paharis farmworkers and artisans (e.g. ironsmiths, goldsmiths, carpenters, cobblers). According to the Indian Constitution (articles 341 and 342) the Kinnauri Pahari community is classified as a “scheduled caste” community and the KST community is classified as a “scheduled tribe”. The whole district is classified as a tribal region.10

Table 2

Population statistics for Kinnaur in some recent census reports

Census

Total pop.

Pop./km2

Growth (%)

Kinnauri (%)

K. Pahari (%)

K+P (%)

1971

49,835

7.8

21.61

68.41

19.40

87.81

1981

59,547

9.3

19.49

74.87

10.63

85.50

1991

71,270

11.1

19.69

55.58

26.87

82.45

2001

78,334

12.2

9.91

72.00

10.00

82.00

2011

84,121

13.1

7.39

57.95

17.53

75.48

The population statistics for Kinnaur, as recorded in some recent census reports, are shown in Tables 2 and 3. Table 2 gives the proportions of the KST and Kinnauri Pahari populations as percentages of the total population of Kinnaur, and Table 3 provides a breakdown of the two population groups according to (sub-)tahsil. The percentages in the tables do not add up to 100 %, because apart from these two communites, there were also other groups (e.g., migrating workers) living in Kinnaur at the time the census surveys were conducted. As the focus here is on the KST and the Kinnauri Pahari communities and their languages, information is provided only about these two populations.

There are further sub-groupings within the two communities. The major sub-groups within the Kinnauri Pahari community are Chamang (also known as Koli), Domang (including Lohar ‘ironsmith’ and Ores ‘carpenter’) and Chanal. Traditionally Domangs prepare jewellery for gods and play musical instruments. Chanals live mostly in the Nichar region. Traditionally they are weavers, making baskets etc from nangal, a creeper (because of this the community is also called Nangalu). The traditional occupation of Chanals is working with leather. They reside throughout Kinnaur.

Table 3

(Sub-)tahsil population figures (T = total; P = Kinnauri Pahari; K = KST)

(%) Population / census year

1971

1981

1991

2001

2011

T

14,205

18,931

23,861

26,630

27,683

T

Nichar CDB

P

(29 %) 4,170

(13 %) 2,485

(32 %) 7,553

(13 %) 3,513

(25 %) 6,998

P

K

(63 %) 8,922

(69 %) 13,093

(48 %) 11,339

(64 %) 17,153

(50 %) 13,933

K

T

14,205

18,931

26,630

27,683

T

Nichar

P

(29 %) 4,170

(13 %) 2,485

(13 %) 3,513

(25 %) 6,998

P

K

(63 %) 8,922

(69 %) 13,093

(64 %) 17,153

(50 %) 13,933

K

T

19,217

22,184

26,137

29,361

33,232

T

Kalpa CDB

P

(21 %) 4,123

(12 %) 2,607

(30 %) 7,828

(8 %) 2,206

(14 %) 4,647

P

K

(63 %) 12,168

(72 %) 15,914

(53 %) 13,800

(76 %) 22,361

(59 %) 19,475

K

T

10,789

12,730

17,630

19,190

T

Kalpa

H

(24 %) 2,560

(8 %) 1,037

(8 %) 1,419

(12 %) 2,299

H

K

(53 %) 5,734

(68 %) 8,640

(72 %) 12,651

(58 %) 11,122

K

T

8,428

9,454

11,731

14,042

T

Sangla

P

(19 %) 1,563

(17 %) 1,570

(7 %) 787

(17 %) 2,348

P

K

(76 %) 6,434

(77 %) 7,274

(83 %) 9,710

(59 %) 8,353

K

T

16,413

18,432

21,272

22,343

23,206

T

Poo CDB

P

(8 %) 1,376

(7 %) 1,239

(18 %) 3,772

(9 %) 1,906

(13 %) 3,105

P

K

(79 %) 12,999

(84 %) 15,576

(68 %) 14,470

(75 %) 16,754

(66 %) 15,338

K

T

7,447

8,784

10,383

10,238

T

Morang

P

(6 %) 475

(7 %) 576

(3 %) 326

(10 %) 989

P

K

(87 %) 6,510

(84 %) 7,391

(80 %) 8,345

(72 %) 7,368

K

T

5,841

6,254

7,898

8,309

T

Poo

P

(14 %) 797

(10 %) 644

(16 %) 1,290

(23 %) 1,925

P

K

(67 %) 3,913

(81 %) 5,086

(63 %) 4,942

(49 %) 4,038

K

T

3,125

3,394

4,062

4,659

T

Hangrang

P

(3 %) 104

(1 %) 19

(7 %) 290

(4 %) 191

P

K

(82 %) 2,576*

(91 %) 3,099

(85 %) 3,467

(84 %) 3,932

K

Within the KST community too, there is some further sub-classification (referred to as khel or khandana). The sub-classification system is, however, neither equally widespread nor equally prominent throughout Kinnaur. It is more visible in Lower and Middle Kinnaur than in Upper Kinnaur.

Similarly, the social roles of the KST community and Kinnauri Paharis in village life are more well-defined and more fixed in Lower and Middle Kinnaur than in Upper Kinnaur. For example, in Lower and Middle Kinnaur only the Kinnauri Paharis function as drumbeaters during festivals in the procession of the village god and are responsible for certain chores in the temple, whereas in Upper Kinnaur (e.g. in the Nako village), if no Kinnauri Paharis are available, members of the KST community will take care of these duties.11

Table 4

Kinnauri Pahari population village-wise in each (sub-)tahsil according to the 1981 census handbook

None

0–10 %

11–20 %

21–30 %

31+%

Nichar

Bara Khamba, Chauhra, Chhota Khamba, Garsun, Kandar, Natpa, Miru, Paunda, Punang, Ramni, Yula

Bari, Chagaon, Jani, Kangos, Sungra, Taranda, Urni

Nichar

Bhabha, Panwi

Kalpa

Mehbar

Arrang, Duni, Khawangi, Kothi, Pangi, Rogi, Telangi, Yuwarangi

Kalpa

Purbani

Pawari

Sangla

Batseri (Bosering), Chasu, Shaung

Kamru, Kanahi, Sangla

Chitkul, Rakchham

Barua, Sapni, Kilba

Morang

Asrang, Nesang, Rispa

Akpa, Charang, Jangi, Kuno, Lippa, Morang, Thangi

Rarang, Ribba

Poo

Dabling, Khab, Ropa, Rushkalang, Sannam, Shyaso

Giahong, Namgia, Poo

Spilo

Labrang

Kanam

Hangrang

Chango, Hango, Loo, Shialkar, Sumra

Chuling, Malling, Nako

In line with this, as we will see in Chapter 4, the Kinnauri Pahari community speaks a local Indo-Aryan (Western Pahari) language in Lower and Middle Kinnaur, while the corresponding groups in Upper Kinnaur speak the local KST variety, even though the two groups (KST and Kinnauri Paharis) maintain their separate social group identities throughout Kinnaur, including Upper Kinnaur.

As Tables 2 and 3 show, in terms of the population size the KST community is much larger than the Kinnauri Pahari community. This difference in the size of the two communities can also be seen in Table 4, which presents the Kinnauri Pahari proportion of the population at the village level.

Table 5

Proportion of the Kinnauri Pahari (KP)12 population to the total population in villages according to the 1981 and 1991 census handbooks

1981

1991

% KP

No. of villages

% of villages

No. of villages

% of villages

0

29

37.66

64

28.07

1–5

26

33.77

23

10.09

6–10

5

6.49

18

7.89

11–15

2

2.60

17

7.46

16–20

5

6.49

12

5.26

21–30

3

3.90

28

12.28

31–

7

9.09

66

28.95

District

77

100.00

228

100.00

Unlike the 1971 census handbook, the 1981 handbook also provides information about the distribution of the Kinnauri Pahari and KST population village-wise. The data in Table 4 from the 1981 census handbook show that while there are some villages (e.g., Sumra, Shialkar, Chango, Loo and Hango in the Hangrang sub-tahsil) which lack a Kinnauri Pahari population completely, there is no village in the Kinnaur district which lacks a KST population completely. Further, there is no village in this census report which has a predominantly Kinnauri Pahari community. In 40 % of the villages (31 out of 77 villages) the Kinnauri Pahari community is relatively small (1–10 %).

Tables 5 and 6 show summary data from the 1981 and 1991 census handbooks on the proportion of Kinnauri Paharis (Table 5) and the KST population (Table 6) in villages in Kinnaur. As mentioned earlier, villages are not defined in the same way in the two censuses.

To summarize, according to the most recent census reports the KST community is comparatively larger than the Kinnauri Pahari community. From Tables 2, 3, 5 and 6 a downward trend in the size of the Kinnauri Pahari community is evident. At the same time, even though the Kinnauri community is relatively much larger than the Kinnauri Pahari community and relatively stable in terms of its proportion of the population as a whole, the information available in the census reports about the prevailing language attitudes towards the Kinnauri language in Kinnaur raises some concern about the stability of the Kinnauri language. See Section 5.1 for details.

The focus in this section has been on the KST and the Kinnauri Pahari communities—the two indigenous communities of Kinnaur. The focus in the following section will be on the language(s) of Kinnaur, based on the census reports.

Table 6

Proportion of the KST population to the total population in villages according to the 1981 and 1991 census handbooks

1981

1991

% KST

No. of villages

% of villages

No. of villages

% of villages

0

0

0

15

6.58

1–5

0

0

4

1.75

6–15

0

0

8

3.51

16–25

0

0

10

4.39

26–35

1

1.30

18

7.89

36–50

8

10.39

25

10.97

51 and above

68

88.31

148

64.91

District

77

100.00

228

100.00

5 Number of KST Speakers

One special feature of the Indian census reports is that they also provide some information about languages. This section presents information about the number of the speakers of the Kinnauri language,13 based on the four census reports examined here. Since Indian census information is ultimately based on self-reporting, and since the tabulation of census figures is complex and non-transparent, the information provided here should be taken as indicative only.

The Indian census reports mention explicitly only those languages which have 10,000 or more speakers. Languages with fewer than 10,000 speakers are lumped together into a general category, referred to as “other”. Kinnauri is the only language of Kinnaur which is mentioned explicitly in the census reports. Kinnauri Pahari—the Indo-Aryan language of the Kinnauri Pahari community—is not mentioned in the census reports, apparently because it has fewer than 10,000 speakers. According to the Ethnologue (Eberhard et al. 2021), Kinnauri Pahari (referred to as “Kinnauri, Pahari”) has 6,330 speakers (1998).

Table 7 presents the number of individuals who claimed Kinnauri as their mother tongue in the five censuses 1971–2011.14 The table also shows the decadal percentage increase in the number of Kinnauri speakers. It is noteworthy that the number of Kinnauri speakers is greater than the Kinnauri (ST) population in Kinnaur. This is most likely both because the Kinnauri Pahari population also report themselves as Kinnauri speakers first (and Hindi speakers second) and because many Kinnauri speakers live outside Kinnaur (the figures in Table 7 are all-India counts).

Table 7

The number of Kinnauri speakers in five census reports

No. of speakers

Increase (%)

1971

45,472

1981

52,864

16.26

1991

61,794

16.89

2001

65,097

5.35

2011

83,827

28.36

5.1 What the Census Figures Tell Us about the Status of KST

The Indian census reports also provide some information about multilingualism, in particular, information about the number of speakers who consider themselves monolinguals, bilinguals and trilinguals (including in which languages). Table 8 reproduces multilingualism data from the document ST-17: Mother tongue, bilingualism and trilingualism—for scheduled tribes from the 1991 census, which show some interesting trends concerning language attitudes in Kinnaur.

Table 8

Bilingualism statistics for Kinnaur (1991 census)

Second language

Kinnauri speakers

Hindi speakers

Bhotia speakers

Kinnauri

8

Hindi

24,103

20

Tibetan

63

4

English

50

94

Bhotia

47

Urdu

15

Bodo/Boro

1

Malto

1

Nepali

1

Punjabi

1

2

Other languages

59

Sum (bilinguals)

24,341

108

20

Monolinguals

14,545

256

8

Total

38,886

364

28

As the data in Table 8 illustrate, an overwhelming majority of Kinnauri speakers claimed that they were bilinguals (including trilinguals).15 The document mentions ten languages explicitly by name (provided in decreasing order by number of speakers in the table), plus an “other languages” category, which the Kinnauri speakers have provided as their second language. As is clearly seen here, a very large number of Kinnauri speakers claimed Hindi as their second language.

Quite distinct from this, only a very small percentage of the Hindi speakers residing in Kinnaur at the time of census provided Kinnauri as their second language. According to the census data, the total number of Hindi speakers residing in Kinnaur was 364, out of which 108 claimed to be bilingual (including trilingual). As shown in Table 8, only 8 out of these 108 Hindi speakers provided Kinnauri as their second or third language. Interestingly, 6 out of these 8 were female.

In the same vein, among the Bhotia16 speakers residing in Kinnaur—28 individuals in total in the 1991 census—20 claimed to be bilingual (including trilingual), and all 20 claimed Hindi (and not Kinnauri) as their second language. Similar trends can be seen concerning the choice of third language. Of the Bhotia speakers, 7 individuals claimed that they were trilinguals—6 out of which reported English as their third language and 1 claimed a language under the category “other”. In sum, not even one of them indicated Kinnauri—the largest local language of this region, as their second or third language.

These examples clearly show the unidirectionality in bilingualism—while most Kinnauris claim to speak Hindi, non-Kinnauri populations living in Kinnaur do not claim to speak Kinnauri, a case in point being Tibetan and Lahauli speakers—these languages are spoken in the neighboring regions or even in Kinnaur, but speakers of these languages did not provide Kinnauri as their second or third language, reporting instead Hindi and English.

Another interesting observation concerns the prevalence of bilingualism and gender. Bilingualism is more prevalent among the male population than the female population. This is the case both among those who have indicated Kinnauri as their first language as well as other those who indicated some other language as their first language. Clear exceptions were Hindi speakers who reported Kinnauri as their second language (2 men as against 6 women) and Kinnauri speakers who claimed Bhotia as their second language (15 men vs. 32 women). An approximately equal proportion of men and women was seen among Kinnauri speakers who claimed a language belonging to the “other” language category as their second language (27 men vs. 32 women), Punjabi speakers who claimed Hindi to be their second language (5 men vs. 8 women), or Kinnauri as their second language (1 man, 3 women), Kinnauri speakers who claimed Tibetan as their second language (33 men, 30 women), and Sherpa speakers who claimed Nepali as their second language (2 men, 2 women). In all other cases bilingualism was more prevalent among men as compared to women. The exceptional cases noted here could be a result of intermarriages, with women learning the language of the household.

6 Some Questions to Be Addressed in This Work

To summarize, in terms of the population size of the Kinnauri Pahari and the KST communities, the latter community is larger. Similarly, in terms of the number of speakers, Kinnauri has a larger number of speakers than Kinnauri Pahari. However, it is important to note that even though the total number of Kinnauri speakers and the KST community are showing a positive trend—a growth in numbers over the four census reports—the degree of bilingualism among the Kinnauri speakers and the low interest among non-Kinnauri speakers in using Kinnauri as a second language are noteworthy.

Plausibly this is indicative of the diminishing dominance of the traditionally locally dominant language—Kinnauri—in favor of larger, more globally dominant language(s)—Hindi and English. Further, in the census reports Kinnauri is presented as one language. If however more than one KST variety is subsumed under this label, and if the KST varieties in fact are different enough, this may stimulate the use of a widely known lingua franca such as Hindi even among KST speakers.

A lack of comparative linguistic analyses of the KST varieties makes it difficult to discern if what is labelled as the Kinnauri language in the census reports is indeed to be considered one language linguistically. This is in no small part due to the fact that all the KST varieties are poorly described.17 The present monograph endeavors to fill this gap in our knowledge, and it also aspires to provide a better overview of the whole language ecology of Kinnaur, which also includes the local Indo-Aryan varieties. For reasons of space, the focus will be on the traditional languages of Kinnaur, while the more recent incursions of Hindi and English regrettably must be left out of the present investigation.

To start addressing these questions, Chapters 2 and 3 provide linguistic sketches of two of the KST varieties, selected from the geographical extremes of Lower Kinnaur (the Sangla village in the southernmost part of Kinnaur)—Kinnauri (Chapter 2)—and Upper Kinnaur (the Nako village in the northernmost part of Kinnaur)—Navakat (Chapter 3). Chapter 4 contains a similar linguistic sketch of Kinnauri Pahari (Indo-Aryan). All three sketches are based on primary fieldwork data that I have collected over many years.

In Chapter 5, the genealogical relationships among the KST varieties are investigated using a computational methodology inspired by lexicostatistics, followed by a comparison between Kinnauri and Navakat based on the linguistic sketches presented in Chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 6 addresses the question of language contact between Kinnauri and Kinnauri Pahari.

1

However, in Section 5 below, “Kinnauri” refers specifically to the (self-reported) language label found in national census data.

2

The situation is improving; in addition to this volume, there is some recent work on Shumcho by Huber (2014a, 2014b, 2019) and a PhD dissertation on Chhitkuli by Martinez (2021).

3

Thomson (1852) describes some of the difficulties arising in transcribing foreign words, leading to situations where names are spelled variously by different persons: “The orthography of oriental proper names is a question of great difficulty, and grave objections may be urged against any system which has been proposed. If each European nation represents the sound of the vowels and variable consonants after the mode which prevails in its own language, then proper names must be translated, as it were, when rendered from one of these languages into another; whereas, if the mode of spelling the names remain fixed, then the value of the letters must be different in the majority of the languages from that which usually prevails. For purely popular purposes the former method would probably be the most judicious; and the English language has peculiar facilities for rendering oriental sounds, in consequence of its possessing the open sound of u, as in but, which is wanting in other European languages, though so common in Arabic, Persian, and Hindee, and all cognate tongues.” (Thomson 1852: V).

4

Gerard (1841) provides somewhat different coordinates for Kinnaur. According to Gerard, the coordinates for Kinnaur were latitude 30° 15′ to 32° 4′, and longitude 77° 50′ to 78° 50′. It is, however, important to point out here that the organization of Kinnaur at that time was somewhat different from the present Kinnaur. For instance, during that time Kinnaur was part of Bashahr, and as a result of the administrative reorganization in 1960 fourteen villages which did not earlier belong to Kinnaur were made part of the Kinnaur district.

5

The districts of Shimla, Lahaul and Spiti, and Kullu belong to the state of Himachal Pradesh. The city of Shimla (Shimla district) is the capital of Himachal Pradesh.

6

A clear illustration of this is provided by Gerard (1841: 28): “In Chinese Tartary it [the Satluj river] is called Langzhing-Khampa […], and near Numgea its usual name is Muksung, […] lower down, Sampoo, Sangpoo, and Sanpo, […] At a sandy place below Murung, […] it is commonly Zung-Tee; […] In the lower parts of Koonawur, its only appellation is Sumudrung, or the river. Near the capital of Busehur it is called Sutroodra, or Sutoodra.”

7

This village is now called Kalpa.

8

Sources: (i) Census 1971. Series-7 Himachal Pradesh. District census handbook. Parts X-A & B. Town & Village directory. Village & townwise primary census abstract. Kinnaur district; (ii) Census of India 1981. Series-7. Himachal Pradesh. District census handbook. Parts XIII-A&B village & town directory. Village & townwise primary census abstract. Kinnaur district; (iii) Census of India 1991. Series-9. Part XII-A & B. District census handbook. Kinnaur. Village & town directory. Village & townwise primary census abstract; (iv) online 2001 and 2011 census data from http://www.censusindia.gov.in.

9

In the 1971 and 1981 census handbooks all villages which were included in the report were inhabited villages, while in the 1991, 2001 and 2011 census handbooks the total number of villages included both inhabited and uninhabited villages. According to the 1991 census, the total number of villages were 662, of which 228 villages were inhabited and 434 were uninhabited, and the proportions have remained approximately the same in the later censuses.

10

Scheduled caste and scheduled tribe are official terms used in Indian legislation to refer to certain “disadvantaged and vulnerable” (Planning Commission 2008: 101) strata of the Indian population. Historically, the scheduled castes originate from the former “untouchables” in the traditional Hindu caste system, while scheduled tribes are constituted by (rural) ethnic minorities who were largely outside the Hindu religious system. The scheduled castes constitute 16 % of the Indian population and the scheduled tribes make up 8 % of the population (Planning Commission 2008, Chapter 6).

11

Santosh Negi (p.c) and Padam Sagar (p.c.).

12

For the sake of consistency I use the label “Kinnauri Pahari” in this table. The acronym SC (scheduled caste) is used in the population tables in the census reports.

13

People who have indicated Kinnauri as their mother tongue. This number may not necessarily include all KST speakers.

14

The source of information for this section is: The statement-8 Growth of non-scheduled languages—1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 (source: http://www.censusindia.gov.in).

15

Of the total 14,928 speakers of Kinnauri who claimed to be monolinguals, 9,310 were women and 5,618 were men.

16

Bhotia is the language label provided in the census data. The Ethnologue lists “Bhotia/Bhotea” as one of the alternative names for 13 languages, mostly Tibetic, including a language indigenous to Kinnaur, Bhoti Kinnauri (nes), i.e. Navakat (see Chapter 3).

17

But see Huber’s (2014a, 2014b, 2019) work on Shumcho and Martinez’s (2021) PhD dissertation on Chhitkuli.

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