Torwali language

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Region Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Native speakers
110,000[1][2] (2001)[3]
Arabic script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 trw
Glottolog torw1241[4]
Bahrain, the main town of the Torwali community

Torwali (Urdu: توروالی‎) is a Dardic[5] language of the Northwestern Indo-Aryan family mainly spoken in the Bahrain and Chail areas of the Swat District in Northern Pakistan.[6] It is said to have originated from the pre-Muslim Dardic communities of Pakistan.[7] It has two dialects (the Bahrain and Chail).[8] The language and its community, like other communities, Gawri in Swat and in Dir, and the ones in Indus Kohistan, is often referred to as "Kohistani" which is a name given by the Swat Pathans. Fredrik Barth says "By the Swat Pathans, the people are known as Kohistanis, together with the other non-Pathan peoples given that name; together with the Torwalis, Kohistanis of Swat Kohistan". The Afghans call them 'Kohistani'--a name everywhere given by Pathans to 'the Mussulmans of Indic descent living' in Hindu Kush.[9][10] Close to 30-35% of its speakers have migrated permanently to the bigger cities of Pakistan where their language is either being replaced by the national language Urdu, or by other languages of wider communication such as Pashto or Punjabi. The language Torwali is said to have originated from the pre-Muslim Dardic communities of Swat.[11]

Endangerment: Torwali is among the 27 endangered languages according to the UNESCO's Atlas of endangered languages.[12]. Glottolog categorizes it as 'vulnerable. [13] Efforts to revitalize the Torwali language were started back in 2004 and mother tongue community schools were planned and established by Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT). [14] Zubair Torwali founded Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT)--the institute for education and development. He and his team introduced mother tongue based multilingual education in Bahrain Swat and started advocacy for its revitalization.[15]


Although descriptions of Torwali phonology have appeared in the literature, some questions still remain unanswered.[16][17]


Vowels According to Edelman[16]
Front Central Back
Close i iː u uː
Mid e eː o oː
Open a aː

Edelman's analysis, which was based on Grierson and Morgenstierne, shows nasal counterparts to at least /e o a/ and also found a series of central (reduced?) vowels, transcribed as: ⟨ä⟩, ⟨ü⟩, ⟨ö⟩.[16]

Vowels According to Lunsford[17]
Front Central Back
Close i ĩ (ɨ̙) u ũ
Mid e ẽ (e̙) ə (ə̙) o õ
Open æ æ̃ a ã

Lunsford had some difficulty determining vowel phonemes and suggested there may be retracted vowels with limited distribution: /ɨ/ (which may be [i̙]), /e̙/, /ə̙/.[17] Retracted or retroflex vowels are also found in Kalash-mondr.[18]


The phonemic status of the breathy voiced series is debatable.

Sounds with particularly uncertain status are marked with a superscript question mark.

Labial Coronal Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n (ɳ)
Stop p
Affricate (ts)?


s ʂ ʐ ʃ ʒ x ɣ h
j w
Rhotic r ɽ?


  1. ^ Khan, Amber. "Timeline of Torwali Speaker Estimates". Amber Khan for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  2. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2014). "Vestiges of Torwali culture". Bahrain Swat: Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT). p. 4. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.2272.1049. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  3. ^ Torwali at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Torwali". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ Kreutzmann, Hermann (2005). "Linguistic diversity in space and time: A survey in the Eastern Hindukush and Karakoram". Himalayan Linguistics. Center for Development Studies, Free University of Berlin. 4: 7.
  6. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2016). "Reversing Language Loss through an Identity Based Educational Planning: The Case of Torwali language" (PDF). Eurasian Journal of Humanities. 1 (2): 24. ISSN 2413-9947.
  7. ^ Inam-ur-Rahim; Viaro, lain M. (2002). Swat: An Afghan Society in Pakistan. Karachi and Geneva: City Press and Graduate Institute of Developmental Studies. ISBN 9698380558. OCLC 603642121.
  8. ^ Ullah, Inam (2004). "Lexical database of the Torwali Dictionary", paper presented at the Asia Lexicography Conference, Chiangmai, Thailand, May 24–26
  9. ^ Biddulph, John (1880). Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh (PDF). Graz, Austria: 1971 edition Akadmeische Druck u Verlagasasntalt. p. 69.
  10. ^ Barth, Fredrik (1956). Indus and Swat Kohistan: an Ethnographic Survey. Oslo. p. 52. . The Pathans call them, and all other Muhammadans of Indian descent in the Hindu Kush valleys, Kohistanis.
  11. ^ Torwali, Zubair. "Revitalization of Torwali poetry and music". We Mountains – Regional Website of North Pakistan. IBT. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  12. ^ Torwali, Zubair (2016). "Reversing Language Loss through an Identity Based Educational Planning: The Case of Torwali language" (PDF). Eurasian Journal of Humanities. 1 (2): 24.
  13. ^ Hammarström, Harald. "Torwali". Glottolog. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  14. ^ Lilgegren, Henrik (March 2018). "41". Supporting and sustaining language vitality in northern Pakistan. Routledge. p. 431.
  15. ^ Khan, Amber. "Community Responses". Amber Khan. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  16. ^ a b c Edelman, D. I. (1983). The Dardic and Nuristani Languages. Moscow: Institut vostokovedenii︠a︡ (Akademii︠a︡ nauk SSSR).
  17. ^ a b c Lunsford, Wayne A. (2001), "An overview of linguistic structures in Torwali, a language of Northern Pakistan" (PDF), M.A. Thesis, University of Texas at Arlington: 26–30
  18. ^ Kochetov, Alexei; Arsenault, Paul (2008), Retroflex harmony in Kalasha: Agreement or spreading? (PDF), NELS, 39, Cornell University, p. 4


  • Biddulph, John (1880). "Tribes of the Hindukush".
  • Grierson, George (1929). "Torwali: An account of a Dardic language of the Swat Kohistan".
  • Ullah, Inam (2004). "Lexical database of the Torwali Dictionary", paper presented at the Asia Lexicography Conference, Chiangmai, Thailand, May 24–26.
  • Endangered Languages Project;
  • Sound Cloud
  • Library of Congress
  • Torwali, Zubair (2015) Muffled Voices: longing for a pluralistic and peaceful Pakistan
  • Ahmad, Aftab (2015) Torvālī Urdū, angrezī lug̲h̲at = Torwali-Urdu-English dictionary

External links

  • A digital Torwali-English dictionary with audio
  • Online Torwali-Urdu Dictionary (Center for Language Engineering at UET, Lahore Pakistan)
  • (UNESCO Register of Good Practices in Language Preservation)
  • Torwali, Zubair (2015) Muffled Voices: Longing for a Pluralist and Peaceful Pakistan, published by Multi Line Publications, Lahore Pakistan in
  • A website providing information about Torwali language and computational developments made in Torwali language. Jalaluddin
  • A website providing information about the Torwali language and the history of the Torwali people. Includes photos, classification, etc.
  • Vestiges of Torwali Culture by Zubair Torwali
  • a website managed by the Swat based organization Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT) i.e institute for education and development, that works for the integrated development of the ethno-linguistic communities of Pakistan including the Torwalis.
  • An Endangered Language Project created by Amber Khan for English 318 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • Torwali, Zubair (2015) The Ignored Dardic culture of Swat.
  • Torwali, Zubair (2018) Language Revitalization — A Case Study of Torwali
  • Ahmad, Aftab (2016) Reversing language loss through identity based educational planning—the case of the Torwali language .
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