About the Nepali Grammar Project

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About the Nepali Grammar Project

The Nepali Grammar Project is a collection of empirical, corpus-based investigations into the grammar of the Nepali language, currently ongoing at the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University.

The involvement of researchers at Lancaster with Nepali began in late 2004 when we became associated with the EU-funded Nelralec project, led by the Open University and with other partners including Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya and Tribhuvan University, Nepal. Lancaster's main contribution to the project has been our expertise in corpus design and corpus exploitation.

Through the course of 2005, other projects not directly related to Nelralec were initiated at Lancaster and, in Spring 2006, the Nepali Grammar Project and this website were established to bring them together and provide a common overview with links to our earlier work on other South Asian languages (the EMILLE project).

About Nepali

Nepali is an Indo-Aryan language, closely related to Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, and other languages of northern and central India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is spoken by around 17 million people (Ethnologue estimate based on 2001 data), more than half of whom live in Nepal itself, but with substantial numbers of speakers in India and Bhutan.

Map of Nepal

Nepali, like many Indo-Aryan languages, has borrowed heavily from Sanskrit, as well as inheriting words directly from the early Indo-Aryan language. It is written in the Devanagari script, like Sanskrit, Hindi, and a number of other languages of the region (see Nakanishi 1980). It displays the characteristic Indo-Aryan consonant system, distinguishing between labial, dental, retroflex, palatal and velar consonants, with distinctions of aspiration and voice at all five places of articulation.

Grammatically, Nepali word order is usually described as subject-object-verb. Verb inflection is highly complex, due to a combination of fused person-number agreement suffixes, and the extremely productive use of verb compounding to mark tense and aspect. Compounding is also very productive for nouns. However, nominal inflection is more straightforwardly agglutinative, with cliticised postpositions being used to mark number as well as case. Unlike many other Indo-Aryan languages, gender is marginal: feminine verbal and adjectival inflections are used almost exclusively for female humans. Honorificity has strong effects on pronouns as well as verbs, which distinguish several fine gradations of politeness. (See references below for a brief bibliography.)

About us

Researchers on the Nepali Grammar Project include:

Andrew Hardie is a Lecturer in Corpus Linguistics at Lancaster University. He was previously a researcher on the EMILLE Project; he has research interests in corpus annotation, multilingual corpus linguistics and corpus-driven grammatical and textual studies.


Acharya, J (1991) A descriptive grammar of Nepali. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

Hutt, M and Subedi, A (1999) Nepali. London: Hodder.

Kellogg, SH (1875) Grammar of the Hindi language. London: Routledge.

Nakanishi, A (1980) Writing systems of the world. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company.

Schmidt, RL, Dahal, BM, Pradham, KB and Vajracharya, G (eds.) (1993) A practical dictionary of Modern Nepali. Delhi: Ratna Sagar.

Home | About | Projects | Publications | Links | Contact | Nelralec | EMILLE

Last updated 17th May 2006.