Mal Paharia language

Not to be confused with Malto language.
Mal Paharia
Native to India
Region Jharkhand; West Bengal
Ethnicity Mal Paharia
Native speakers
c. 51,000 (2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mkb
Glottolog malp1246[3]

Mal Paharia is a language spoken by 51,000 of 110,000 ethnic Mal Paharia in the states of Jharkhand and West Bengal in India, and regions of Bangladesh. The language is also known as Mal Pahoria, Malto, Malti, Paharia, Parsi, and Mal Pahariya. It has been variously regarded as a Bengali–Assamese language, a dialect of Malto, and a mixed DravidianIndo-Aryan language. There is a generally positive attitude among speakers of the language towards it, but it is considered vulnerable as some speakers have shifted to Bengali. Mal Paharia uses the Devanagari script and rules for its writing/ reading/ speech.


Mal Paharia is classified under the Indo-European, Indo- Iranian, Indo- Aryna and Eastern Zone language groups.


Mal Paharia is derived from Malto and the Bengali language. The speakers of this language originated in Jharkhand as early as 1881, and since then it has declined in popularity. According to the 1921 census, the town had Indo-European 500 speakers at that time.[4] Industrialization and urbanization were factors in the fragmentation of the Bengali language into dialects because of the making of dams, mines, homes, and more.[5] This caused a displacement in the population of the Indo-European speakers, which led to the emergence of Mal Paharia.[6]

Geographic Distribution

Mal Paharia is considered a Northern Dravidian language, which is spoken in Northeastern India.[7]

Official status The regions that use Mal Pahari are Jharkhand, West Bengal, and parts of Bangladesh.[8]

Dialects/ Varieties Mal Paharia can be considered a dialect of Benjali but can also be classified separately. It is also derived from Malto, which is a more commonly used language. Mal Paharia is considered a Dravidian language, which is spoken by the people of Jharkhand and in Bangladesh.[8]

Derived Languages Mal Paharia does not have any daughter languages, only languages that are similar to it such as Kumarbhag Paharia and Sauria Paharia.[9]


राम Initial/ Final form [raam] 'Ram'
पर्यो Preceding [ya] [paryo] 'Fell'
धर्म Preceding a consonant other than [ya] [dharm] 'Religion'
प्रेम Following a consonant with a stem [prem] 'Love'
ट्रेन Following consonant with a rounded bottom [tren] "Train"


Mal Paharia uses the Devangari script,[10] and in the chart there are a few examples of words in writing, and translated in English. The Devangari script has 11 vowels and 33 consonants.[11] The script is written from left to right, and it uses headstrokes on the letters. Some exceptions are; jha, tha, dha, bha, a and ā, because there is a break in the headstroke. While writing using the Devangari script, the headstroke is not always used.[11] According to the phonetics used in Devangari script for the Mal Paharia language, vowels are ordered first, meaning each short vowel is following by a longer one. The consonants are ordered with respect to place and in rows. The 'rows' consist of; velar, palatal, retroflex, dental, labial.[11] Each row has different rules, but within each one, the sibilants and fricatives are ordered last. Various letters take different forms when they are in their initial/ final position. For example, the letter ra changes location depending on the preceding ya, or a consonant other than ya, or a consonant with a vertical stem/ rounded bottom.[12]

Since Devanagari is not actually an alphabet, it uses an alphasyllabary system using vowels and consonants to form speech. Every letter represents a consonant, which is followed by a schwa vowel (अ).[11] Diatrical marks are used to distinguish between different sounds of the vowels, since it can be used in many different ways. Conjunct consonants are used to represent combinations of sounds, thus increasing its versatility in word formation.

Devanagari uses the articulation of vowels in the mouth, when spoken. It uses five places of articulation listed in the chart below:[11]

Velar Consonants are pronounced in the back of the tongue. For example: emphasis on the 'k' in 'keep'.
Palatal Consonants are pronounced by the tongue touching the palate, such as 'ch' in 'change'.
Retroflex Consonants are pronounced by the curl of the tongue, focusing on the front portion of the palate. For example: emphasis on the 't' in 'tip'.
Dental Consonants are pronounced by the tip of the tongue touching the back of the top front teeth. For example: emphasis on the 'th' in 'thin'.
Labial Consonants are pronounced with the use of lips, such as 'p' in 'pit'.

Among all of the consonants and vowels, they are voiced, unvoiced, or nasal. An example is given (in the chart below) for the Devangari script with relation to the five articulation of vowels in the mouth.[11]

Unvoiced Voiced Nasal
Velar क ख ग घ
Palatal च छ ज झ
Retroflex ट ठ ड (ड़) ढ(ढ़)
Dental त थ द ध
Labial प फ (फ़) ब भ


Mal Paharia is identified as a Bengali–Assamese language, which uses the Devanagri script to form vocabulary. It is a borrowed script, since it does not have its own type of script, so the Devanagari script is shared by speakers in the Northeastern area of India and Bangladesh.[11][12]


This YouTube video serves as a short example of the spoken Mal Paharia language.[13]


  1. 1 2 Mal Paharia at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Masica, Colin P. (1993), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Cambridge Language Surveys, Cambridge University Press, pp. 26–27, ISBN 0521299446
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Mal Paharia". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. VIDYARTHI, L.P. "Problems and Prospects of Tribal Development in India". JSTOR 41919217.
  6. Ekka, Alexius. "Jharkhand Tribals: Are They Really a Minority?". Economic and Political Weekly. JSTOR 4410103.
  7. "TreeName: Smith 2013". MultiTree: A digital library of language relationships. Institute for Language Information and Technology: Ypsilanti, MI. 2013. Web. Accessed May 4, 2016. Published July 27, 2013 . <>
  8. 1 2 "Mal Paharia". MultiTree:A Digital Library of Language Relationships.
  9. Short, Dan. "Indo-European Language Family".
  10. Saktinanda, Guddi. "ELEMENTARY EDUCATION IN JHARKHAND – A MICROSCOPIC ANALYSISwebsite=". The Scholarly Research Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Templin, David. "The Devanagari Script". Omniglot.
  12. 1 2 Staff, Scriptsource. "Devanagari (Nagari) Script". Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Magahi.
  13. "Words of Life 1 Mal Paharia People/Language Movie Trailer". World Language Movies.
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