According to the 2011 census of Nepal, 123 languages are spoken in the country as a first language. Nepali is the official language of the nation. Nepali and Maithili rank as the first and second most spoken languages in the country.
The Official Language Of Nepal
Nepali, formerly known as the Parbate Bhasa or Gorkhali, is the official language of Nepal. This language is also spoken in parts of northern India. It is the official language of the Indian state of Sikkim. It is also an official language of Darjeeling, a district in West Bengal, India. The Nepali language thus acts as the lingua franca of India and Nepal. The Nepali language belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family but is influenced significantly by the Sino-Tibetan languages.
The Regional Languages Of Nepal
Indo-Aryan Languages Spoken In Nepal
Nepali: Although the number of Indo-Aryan languages spoken in Nepal is far lower than that of the Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in the country, a much larger population (79%) of Nepal speak languages belonging to the former group than those belonging to the latter group (18%). The fact that the Nepali language, the most spoken language of Nepal, belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family, is responsible for the higher percentage of Indo-Aryan language group speakers in Nepal.
Maithili: Other than Nepali, Maithili is another popular language of the Indo-Aryan family spoken in Nepal. It is the second most spoken language in Nepal. According to the 2011 census, 11.57% of the Nepalese population speak Maithili. The language is spoken in some districts located in the Terai region of Nepal.
Sino-Tibetan Languages Spoken In Nepal
As mentioned earlier, 123 languages are native to Nepal. Three- quarters of these languages belong to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Some examples are:
Nepal Bhasa: Also known as Newari, this language is spoken by the Newar people of Nepal Mandala. Although some tend to think it is the same as Nepali, the language of the majority in Nepal, the Nepal Bhasa is, in fact, greatly different from Nepali. The language once served as the administrative language of the country but since the 20th century, the importance of the language decreased and today UNESCO considers it as a "definitely endangered” language.
Limbu: The Limbu language is spoken by tribes and clans living in East Nepal. These people belong to the Kirati group and have a Tibetan origin. 487,300 people in Nepal speak this language.
Other Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Nepal include Magar, Tamang, Rai languages, and Sunuwar languages.
Dravidian Languages Spoken In Nepal
Kurukh: The Kurukh language is spoken in parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. In Nepal, the language is spoken by about 28,600 people where a dialect called Dhangar is spoken. The language is classified as “Vulnerable” by the UNESCO.
Austroasiatic Languages Spoken In Nepal
Santali: This Austroasiatic language of the Munda Subfamily is spoken in parts of India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh by about 6.2 million people.
Mundari: It is also a Munda language spoken in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.