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Present-day geographical distribution of the major Indo-Aryan language groups. Romani, Domari, Kholosi and Lomavren are outside the scope of the map.
Garhwali-Kumaoni (= C. Pahari, Northern)
Nepali (= E. Pahari, Northern)
Eastern Hindi (Central)
Sinhala-Maldivian (Southern)(not shown: Kunar (Dardic), Gawri and Torwali varieties of Kohistani, Chinali-Lahuli)
The Indo-Aryan or Indic languages form a major language family of South Asia. They constitute a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, themselves a branch of the Indo-European language family. As of the early 21st century more than 800 million people speak Indo-Aryan languages, primarily in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Moreover, large immigrant and expatriate Indo-Aryan-speaking communities live in Northwestern Europe, Western Asia, North America, Southeast Africa and Australia. There are well over 200 known Indo-Aryan languages.
Modern Indo-Aryan languages descend from Old Indo-Aryan languages such as early Sanskrit, through Middle Indo-Aryan languages (or Prakrits). The largest such languages in terms of L1 speakers are Hindi-Urdu (about 329 million), Bengali (242 million), Punjabi (about 120 million), Marathi, (112 million), Gujarati (60 million), Rajasthani (58 million), Bhojpuri (51 million), Odia (35 million), Maithili (about 34 million), Sindhi (25 million), Nepali (16 million), Assamese (15 million), Chhattisgarhi (18 million) and Romani (ca. 3.5 million). A 2005 estimate placed the total number of native speakers of Indo-Aryan languages at nearly 900 million.
The Indo-Aryan family as a whole is thought to represent a dialect continuum, where languages are often transitional towards neighboring varieties. Because of this, the division into languages vs. dialects is in many cases somewhat arbitrary. The classification of the Indo-Aryan languages is controversial, with many transitional areas that are assigned to different branches depending on classification. There are concerns that a tree model is insufficient for explaining the development of New Indo-Aryan, with some scholars suggesting the wave model.
The following table of proposals is expanded from Masica (1991).
|Bihari||E. Hindi||W. Hindi||Rajasthani||Gujarati||Pahari||E. Punjabi||W. Punjabi||Sindhi||Dardic||Marathi-
|Nigam (1972)||E||C||C (+NW)||C||?||NW||N||S||?|
|Turner (-1975)||E||C||SW||C (C.)~NW (W.)||NW||SW||C|
|Ethnologue (2020)||E||EC||C||W||EC (E.)~W (C., W.)||W||NW||S||W|
Anton I. Kogan, in 2016, conducted a lexicostatistical study of the New Indo-Aryan languages based on a 100-word Swadesh list, using techniques developed by the glottochronologist and comparative linguist Sergei Starostin. That grouping system is notable for Kogan's exclusion of Dardic from Indo-Aryan on the basis of his previous studies showing low lexical similarity to Indo-Aryan (43.5%) and negligible difference with similarity to Iranian (39.3%). He also calculated Sinhala-Dhivehi to be the most divergent Indo-Aryan branch. Nevertheless, the modern consensus of Indo-Aryan linguists tends towards the inclusion of Dardic based on morphological and grammatical features.
The Inner-Outer hypothesis argues for a core and periphery of Indo-Aryan languages, with Outer Indo-Aryan (generally including Eastern and Southern Indo-Aryan, and sometimes Northwestern Indo-Aryan, Dardic and Pahari) representing an older stratum of Old Indo-Aryan that has been mixed to varying degrees with the newer stratum that is Inner Indo-Aryan. It is a contentious proposal with a long history, with varying degrees of claimed phonological and morphological evidence. Since its proposal by Rudolf Hoernlé in 1880 and refinement by George Grierson it has undergone numerous revisions and a great deal of debate, with the most recent iteration by Franklin Southworth and Claus Peter Zoller based on robust linguistic evidence (particularly an Outer past tense in -l-). Some of the theory's skeptics include Suniti Kumar Chatterji and Colin P. Masica.
The Dardic languages (also Dardu or Pisaca) are a group of Indo-Aryan languages largely spoken in the northwestern extremities of the Indian subcontinent. Dardic was first formulated by George Abraham Grierson in his Linguistic Survey of India but he did not consider it to be a subfamily of Indo-Aryan. The Dardic group as a genetic grouping (rather than areal) has been scrutinised and questioned to a degree by recent scholarship: Southworth, for example, says "the viability of Dardic as a genuine subgroup of Indo-Aryan is doubtful" and "the similarities among [Dardic languages] may result from subsequent convergence".:149
The Dardic languages are thought to be transitional with Punjabi and Pahari (e.g. Zoller describes Kashmiri as "an interlink between Dardic and West Pah"),:83 as well as non-Indo-Aryan Nuristani; and are renowned for their relatively conservative features in the context of Proto-Indo-Aryan.
The Northern Indo-Aryan languages, also known as the Pahari ('hill') languages, are spoken throughout the Himalayan regions of the subcontinent.
Northwestern Indo-Aryan languages are spoken throughout the northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent. Punjabi is spoken predominantly in the Punjab region and is the official language of the northern Indian state of Punjab; in addition to being the most widely-spoken language in Pakistan. To the south, Sindhi and its variants are spoken; primarily in Sindh. Northwestern languages are ultimately thought to be descended from Shauraseni Prakrit.
Western Indo-Aryan languages, are spoken in the central and western areas within India, such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, in addition to contiguous regions in Pakistan. Gujarati is the official language of Gujarat, and is spoken by over 50 million people. In Europe, various Romani languages are spoken by the Romani people, an itinerant community who historically migrated from India. The Western Indo-Aryan languages are thought to have diverged from their northwestern counterparts, although they have a common antecedent in Shauraseni Prakrit.
Within India, Hindi languages are spoken primarily in the Hindi belt regions and Gangetic plains, including Delhi and the surrounding areas; where they are often transitional with neighbouring lects. Many of these languages, including Braj and Awadhi, have rich literary and poetic traditions. Urdu, a Persianized derivative of Khariboli, is the official language of Pakistan and also has strong historical connections to India, where it also has been designated with official status. Hindi, a standardized and Sanskritized register of Khariboli, is the official language of the Government of India. Together with Urdu, it is the third most-spoken language in the world.
The Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, also known as Magadhan languages, are spoken throughout the eastern subcontinent, including Odisha and Bihar, alongside other regions surrounding the northwestern Himalayan corridor. Bengali is the seventh most-spoken language in the world, and has a strong literary tradition; the national anthems of India and Bangladesh are written in Bengali. Assamese and Odia are the official languages of Assam and Odisha, respectively. The Eastern Indo-Aryan languages descend from Magadhan Apabhraa and ultimately from Magadhi Prakrit.
Marathi-Konkani languages are ultimately descended from Maharashtri Prakrit, whereas Insular Indo-Aryan languages are descended from Elu Prakrit and possess several characteristics that markedly distinguish them from most of their mainland Indo-Aryan counterparts.
The following languages are related to each other, but are otherwise unclassified within Indo-Aryan:
Proto-Indo-Aryan, or sometimes Proto-Indic, is the reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Aryan languages. It is intended to reconstruct the language of the pre-Vedic Indo-Aryans. Proto-Indo-Aryan is meant to be the predecessor of Old Indo-Aryan (1500-300 BCE) which is directly attested as Vedic and Mitanni-Aryan. Despite the great archaicity of Vedic, however, the other Indo-Aryan languages preserve a small number of archaic features lost in Vedic.
Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni exhibit an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggest that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrians in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion. In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni, the deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and the Ashvins (Nasatya) are invoked. Kikkuli's horse training text includes technical terms such as aika (cf. Sanskrit eka, "one"), tera (tri, "three"), panza (pancha, "five"), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, "nine"), vartana (vartana, "turn", round in the horse race). The numeral aika "one" is of particular importance because it places the superstrate in the vicinity of Indo-Aryan proper as opposed to Indo-Iranian in general or early Iranian (which has aiva)
Another text has babru (babhru, "brown"), parita (palita, "grey"), and pinkara (pingala, "red"). Their chief festival was the celebration of the solstice (vishuva) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world. The Mitanni warriors were called marya, the term for "warrior" in Sanskrit as well; note mi?ta-nnu (= miha, ? Sanskrit mha) "payment (for catching a fugitive)" (M. Mayrhofer, Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen, Heidelberg, 1986-2000; Vol. II:358).
Sanskritic interpretations of Mitanni royal names render Artashumara (artaumara) as ?tasmara "who thinks of ?ta" (Mayrhofer II 780), Biridashva (biridaa, biriiaa) as Pr?tva "whose horse is dear" (Mayrhofer II 182), Priyamazda (priiamazda) as Priyamedha "whose wisdom is dear" (Mayrhofer II 189, II378), Citrarata as Citraratha "whose chariot is shining" (Mayrhofer I 553), Indaruda/Endaruta as Indrota "helped by Indra" (Mayrhofer I 134), Shativaza (?atti?aza) as S?tiv?ja "winning the race price" (Mayrhofer II 540, 696), ?ubandhu as Subandhu "having good relatives" (a name in Palestine, Mayrhofer II 209, 735), Tushratta (t?i?eratta, tu?ratta, etc.) as *t?aia?aratha, Vedic Tvastar "whose chariot is vehement" (Mayrhofer, Etym. Wb., I 686, I 736).
Dates indicate only a rough time frame.
The earliest evidence of the group is from Vedic Sanskrit, that is used in the ancient preserved texts of the Indian subcontinent, the foundational canon of the Hindu synthesis known as the Vedas. The Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni is of similar age to the language of the Rigveda, but the only evidence of it is a few proper names and specialized loanwords.
While Old Indo-Aryan is the earliest stage of the Indo-Aryan branch, from which all known languages of the later stages Middle and New Indo-Aryan are derived, some documented Middle Indo-Aryan variants cannot fully be derived from the documented form of Old Indo-Aryan (i.e. Sanskrit), but betray features that must go back to other undocumented variants/dialects of Old Indo-Aryan.
From Vedic Sanskrit, "Sanskrit" (literally "put together", "perfected" or "elaborated") developed as the prestige language of culture, science and religion, as well as the court, theatre, etc. Sanskrit of the later Vedic texts is comparable to Classical Sanskrit, but is largely mutually unintelligible with Vedic Sanskrit.
Mitanni inscriptions show some Middle Indo-Aryan characteristics along with Old Indo-Aryan, for example sapta in Old Indo-Aryan becomes satta (pt develops into Middle Indo-Aryan tt). According to S.S. Misra, this language can be similar to Buddhist-hybrid Sanskrit which might not be a mixed language but an early middle Indo-Aryan occurring much before Prakrit.[n 1][n 2]
Outside the learned sphere of Sanskrit, vernacular dialects (Prakrits) continued to evolve. The oldest attested Prakrits are the Buddhist and Jain canonical languages Pali and Ardhamagadhi Prakrit, respectively. Inscriptions in Ashokan Prakrit were also part of this early Middle Indo-Aryan stage.
By medieval times, the Prakrits had diversified into various Middle Indo-Aryan languages. Apabhraa is the conventional cover term for transitional dialects connecting late Middle Indo-Aryan with early Modern Indo-Aryan, spanning roughly the 6th to 13th centuries. Some of these dialects showed considerable literary production; the ?ravakac?ra of Devasena (dated to the 930s) is now considered to be the first Hindi book.
The next major milestone occurred with the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent in the 13th-16th centuries. Under the flourishing Turco-Mongol Mughal Empire, Persian became very influential as the language of prestige of the Islamic courts due to adoptation of the foreign language by the Mughal emperors.
In the Central Zone Hindi-speaking areas, for a long time the prestige dialect was Braj Bhasha, but this was replaced in the 19th century by Dehlavi-based Hindustani. Hindustani was strongly influenced by Persian, with these and later Sanskrit influence leading to the emergence of Modern Standard Hindi and Modern Standard Urdu as registers of the Hindustani language. This state of affairs continued until the division of the British Indian Empire in 1947, when Hindi became the official language in India and Urdu became official in Pakistan. Despite the different script the fundamental grammar remains identical, the difference is more sociolinguistic than purely linguistic. Today it is widely understood/spoken as a second or third language throughout South Asia and one of the most widely known languages in the world in terms of number of speakers.
Domari is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by older Dom people scattered across the Middle East. The language is reported to be spoken as far north as Azerbaijan and as far south as central Sudan.:1 Based on the systematicity of sound changes, linguists have concluded that the ethnonyms Domari and Romani derive from the Indo-Aryan word ?om.
The Romani language is usually included in the Western Indo-Aryan languages. Romani varieties, which are mainly spoken throughout Europe, are noted for their relatively conservative nature; maintaining the Middle Indo-Aryan present-tense person concord markers, alongside consonantal endings for nominal case. Indeed, these features are no longer evident in most other modern Central Indo-Aryan languages. Moreover, Romani shares an innovative pattern of past-tense person, which corresponds to Dardic languages, such as Kashmiri and Shina. This is believed to be further indication that proto-Romani speakers were originally situated in central regions of the subcontinent, before migrating to northwestern regions. However, there are no known historical sources regarding the development of the Romani language specifically within India.
Research conducted by nineteenth-century scholars Pott (1845) and Miklosich (1882-1888) demonstrated that the Romani language is most aptly designated as a New Indo-Aryan language (NIA), as opposed to Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA); establishing that proto-Romani speakers could not have left India significantly earlier than AD 1000.
The principal argument favouring a migration during or after the transition period to NIA is the loss of the old system of nominal case, coupled with its reduction to a two-way nominative-oblique case system,. A secondary argument concerns the system of gender differentiation, due to the fact that Romani has only two genders (masculine and feminine). Middle Indo-Aryan languages (named MIA) generally employed three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), and some modern Indo-Aryan languages retain this aspect today.
It is suggested that loss of the neuter gender did not occur until the transition to NIA. During this process, most of the neuter nouns became masculine, while several became feminine. For example, the neuter aggi "fire" in Prakrit morphed into the feminine ?g in Hindi, and jag in Romani. The parallels in grammatical gender evolution between Romani and other NIA languages have additionally been cited as indications that the forerunner of Romani remained on the Indian subcontinent until a later period, possibly as late as the tenth century.
Kholosi, Jadgali, and Luwati represent offshoots of the Sindhic subfamily of Indo-Aryan that have established themselves in the Persian gulf region, perhaps through sea-based migrations. These are of a later origin than the Rom and Dom migrations which represent a different part of Indo-Aryan as well.
The use by the British East India Company of indentured labourers led to the transplanting of Indo-Aryan languages around the world, leading to locally influenced lects that diverged from the source language, such as Fiji Hindi and Caribbean Hindustani.
The normative system of New Indo-Aryan stops consists of five points of articulation: labial, dental, "retroflex", palatal, and velar, which is the same as that of Sanskrit. The "retroflex" position may involve retroflexion, or curling the tongue to make the contact with the underside of the tip, or merely retraction. The point of contact may be alveolar or postalveolar, and the distinctive quality may arise more from the shaping than from the position of the tongue. Palatals stops have affricated release and are traditionally included as involving a distinctive tongue position (blade in contact with hard palate). Widely transcribed as [t?], Masica (1991:94) claims [c?] to be a more accurate rendering.
Moving away from the normative system, some languages and dialects have alveolar affricates [ts] instead of palatal, though some among them retain [t?] in certain positions: before front vowels (esp. /i/), before /j/, or when geminated. Alveolar as an additional point of articulation occurs in Marathi and Konkani where dialect mixture and others factors upset the aforementioned complementation to produce minimal environments, in some West Pahari dialects through internal developments (*t, t? > /t?/), and in Kashmiri. The addition of a retroflex affricate to this in some Dardic languages maxes out the number of stop positions at seven (barring borrowed /q/), while a reduction to the inventory involves *ts > /s/, which has happened in Assamese, Chittagonian, Sinhala (though there have been other sources of a secondary /ts/), and Southern Mewari.
Further reductions in the number of stop articulations are in Assamese and Romany, which have lost the characteristic dental/retroflex contrast, and in Chittagonian, which may lose its labial and velar articulations through spirantisation in many positions (> [f, x]). 
|, , , ,||Hindi, Punjabi, Dogri, Sindhi, Gujarati, Sinhala, Odia, Standard Bengali, dialects of Rajasthani (except Lamani, NW. Marwari, S. Mewari)|
|, , , ,||Sanskrit, Maithili, Magahi, Bhojpuri|
|, , , ,||Nepali, dialects of Rajasthani (Lamani and NW. Marwari), Northern Lahnda's Kagani, Kumauni, many West Pahari dialects (not Chamba Mandeali, Jaunsari, or Sirmauri)|
|, , , , ,||Marathi, Konkani, certain W. Pahari dialects (Bhadrawahi, Bhalesi, Padari, Simla, Satlej, maybe Kulu), Kashmiri|
|, , , , , ,||Shina, Bashkarik, Gawarbati, Phalura, Kalasha, Khowar, Shumashti, Kanyawali, Pashai|
|, , ,||Rajasthani's S. Mewari|
|, , , , ,||E. and N. dialects of Bengali (parts of Dhaka, Mymensingh, Rajshahi)|
|, , ,||Romani|
|, , (with /i/ and /u/)||Sylheti|
Sanskrit was noted as having five nasal-stop articulations corresponding to its oral stops, and among modern languages and dialects Dogri, Kacchi, Kalasha, Rudhari, Shina, Saurasthtri, and Sindhi have been analysed as having this full complement of phonemic nasals , with the last two generally as the result of the loss of the stop from a homorganic nasal + stop cluster ([?j] > [?] and  > [?]), though there are other sources as well.
The following are consonant systems of major and representative New Indo-Aryan languages, mostly following Masica (1991:106-107), though here they are in IPA. Parentheses indicate those consonants found only in loanwords: square brackets indicate those with "very low functional load". The arrangement is roughly geographical.
In many Indo-Aryan languages, the literary register is often more archaic and utilises a different lexicon (Sanskrit or Perso-Arabic) than spoken vernacular. One example is Bengali's high literary form, S?dh? bh as opposed to the more modern Calita bh (Cholito-bhasha). This distinction approaches diglossia.
In the context of South Asia, the choice between the appellations "language" and "dialect" is a difficult one, and any distinction made using these terms is obscured by their ambiguity. In one general colloquial sense, a language is a "developed" dialect: one that is standardised, has a written tradition and enjoys social prestige. As there are degrees of development, the boundary between a language and a dialect thus defined is not clear-cut, and there is a large middle ground where assignment is contestable. There is a second meaning of these terms, in which the distinction is drawn on the basis of linguistic similarity. Though seemingly a "proper" linguistics sense of the terms, it is still problematic: methods that have been proposed for quantifying difference (for example, based on mutual intelligibility) have not been seriously applied in practice; and any relationship established in this framework is relative.
The Aryans spoke an Indo-European language sometimes called the Vedic language from which have descended Sanskrit and other Indic languages ... Prakrit was a group of variants which developed alongside Sanskrit.
... a number of their morphophonological and lexical features betray the fact that they are not direct continuations of R?gvedic Sanskrit, the main base of 'Classical' Sanskrit; rather they descend from dialects which, despite many similarities, were different from R?gvedic and in some regards even more archaic.
Most Aryan languages of India and Pakistan belong to the Indo-Aryan family, and are descended from Sanskrit through the intermediate stage of Prakrit. The Indo-Aryan languages are by far the most important numerically and the territory occupied by them extends over the whole of northern and central India and reaches as far south as Goa.
The modern, regional Indo-Aryan languages developed from Prakrt, an early 'unrefined' (prakrta) form of Sanskrit, around the close of the first millennium A.D.
... Hindustani is the basis for both languages ...