अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ए ऐ ओ औ अं अँ
क ख ग घ ङ च छ ज झ ञा ट ठ ड ढ ण त थ द ध न प फ ब भ म य र ल व श ष स ह क्ष त्र ज्ञ
Once in Nepal, communities remained completely isolated by steep valleys and high mountains and by thick forest, leading to the evolution of many distinct languages, given as 92 in the 2001 census but now put by Ethnologue at 124 distinct living languages, though this increase in number seems mostly related to distinguishing dialects within larger groups previously thought to belong to a single linguistic community. Ethnologue’s linguistic map for Nepal, reproduced in Figure 1, shows the hotchpot of languages scattered across the country.
If we take Trosterud’s suggestion that at least those languages with more than 16,000 speakers should be
written, we find that we should expect all languages down to and including Dhimal should be written; this
is 28 languages, just under one third of the languages, in line with the proportion in the population of
world languages as a whole. Table 3, lists these 28 languages plus two others, with relevant characteristics extracted from Ethnologue. Note that 8 of them have much larger populations across the
border in India, with one of these, Maithili, the second largest language of Nepal. This leaves 20
Nepalese languages, only one of which, Nepali, is used in written form in all walks of life and can be
considered fully literate; however most of them have at least some limited use in writing.
However only four of these purely Nepalese languages have any significant tradition of being written:
Ethnologue only reports limited literacy for Newari and Limbu, not surprising since these languages were suppressed by successive Nepalese governments from the late 18th century onwards until 1990. While the writing of Limbu and Lepcha was probably only ever used for special cultural and religious texts, Newar writing was used for a wide range of purposes until the overthrow of their regime by the Gorkhas in the mid 18th century.
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