Kalami language

Region Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Native speakers
100,000 (2004)[1]
Arabic script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 gwc
Glottolog kala1373[2]
Linguasphere 59-AAC-c

Kalami (کالامي) also known as Gawri (ګاوری, IPA: [ɡaːwriː]), is a Dardic language spoken in the Swat Kohistan region in the upper Swat District and in the upper Panjkora river valley of Upper Dir District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.


According to its genealogical classification (Strand, 1973:302 and 2004), Kalam Kohistani belongs to the Kohistani subgroup of the north-western zone of Indo-Aryan languages, along with several closely related languages in its geographical vicinity: Torwali (in the Swat valley south of Kalam), Indus Kohistani, Bateri, Chilisso, and Gawro (the latter four east of Kalam in Indus Kohistan). Together with a range of other north-western Indo-Aryan mountain languages, these languages are sometimes collectively referred to as ‘Dardic’ languages.[3]

Geographic distribution

Kalam Kohistani (also called Gawri) is one of about thirty languages that are spoken in the mountain areas of northern Pakistan. Kohistan is a Persian word that means ‘land of mountains’ and Kohistani can be translated as ‘mountain language’. As a matter of fact, there are several distinct languages in the area that are all popularly called Kohistani. The language under study in this paper is spoken in the upper parts of the valley of the Swat River, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. The name of the principal village of this area is Kalam, and hence the area is known as Kalam Kohistan. In the older linguistic literature, the language of Kalam Kohistan is referred to as Bashkarik (Morgenstierne, 1940), or as Garwi or Gawri (Grierson, 1919; Barth & Morgenstierne, 1958). These names are hardly, if at all, known to the speakers of the language themselves, who normally just call their language Kohistani. However, very recently a number of intellectuals belonging to a local cultural society have started to call their language Gawri, a name that has old historical roots.

The same language is also spoken across the mountains to the West of Kalam Kohistan, in the upper reaches of the Panjkora river valley of Upper Dir District. When added together, the two Kalam-Kohistani-speaking communities comprised over 200,000 people.



Front Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a ɑ

Length (/ː/) and nasalization (/ ̃/) are probably contrastive for all vowels.


Labial Dental Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ ŋ
Stop voiceless p t ʈ k (q)
voiced b d ɖ a
aspirated ʈʰ
Affricate plain ts
aspirated tsʰ tʂʰ tʃʰ
Fricative voiceless (f) ɳ ʂ ʃ x h
voiced z ɣ
Lateral voiceless ɬ
voiced ɬ
Approximant j w
Flap ɾ ɽ

/q f z x ɣ/ occur mainly in loanwords. /q f/ tend to be replaced by /x p/, respectively.

After the front vowels /i e a/, the velars /k ɡ ŋ/ are palatalized: [kʲ ɡʲ ŋʲ].


Kalami has 5 contrastive tones: high level, high falling, delayed high falling, low level, low rising.



The default sentence order is SOV, but this can be changed for emphasis.


Approximately 50% of Kalami words can not be broken down to smaller morphological forms. Of the other half, most words are made up of about two to three morphemes. This language implements many modifications to the stem as opposed to using distinct morpheme additions. For example, many plural words are formed by changing the stem of words as opposed to modifying with a plural morpheme.[4]

Word Meaning
masc. sg. yant ‘is coming’
masc. pl. yänt 'are coming’
fem. yent ‘is coming, are coming’

Words can also be modified by suffixes and prefixes.

Word Meaning
gāt 'has gone’
gās̆ ‘had gone’

See also


  1. Kalami at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kalami". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Tone and song in Kalam Kohistani
  4. Baart, J. L. (1999). A sketch of Kalam Kohistani grammar. Studies in Languages of Northern Pakistan. Islamabad: National Institute of Pakistan Studies Quaid-i-Azam University.

Further reading

External links

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