The Lingual Diversity of the state of Jammu and Kashmir
The State of Jammu and Kashmir is not only Geographically and Ethnically diverse with the two Highest Ranges in the World, the Himalayas and the Karakorams and also hosting Peaks of over 8000m from both these Ranges. Ethically it has a diverse mixture of people and distinct Regions dominated by different Religions such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. But one of the little understood and little know fact in the Lingual diversity that exists in this state which we study as it existed in 1947 before the Partition.
The state was basically made of of 5 different Regions which were all Mountainous and it was the Mountains and the Rivers which divided the Populations. The main Regions as we can name in today’s context were (in Alphabetical order) were Baltistan, Gilgit, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. And of course we have a major language language associated with the Region. Balti with Baltistan, Shina with Gilgit, Dogri with Jammu, Kashmiri with Kashmir and Ladakhi with Ladakh. But these classifications only sum up the language of the perceived majority in that Region but doesn't really give a true picture of the lingual diversity and how the languages sometime merge to create hybrid languages.
Starting from the Jammu Region which has a diverse language influences. Starting from the bottom at Poonch and Rajouri where the spoken language is Poonchi or Pahari or Potohari. This language belongs to the Lahnda/ Punjabi family of the Indo Aryan languages. Moving Eastward we have the Dogri language, which was considered as a Punjabic language and still has a lot of commonality with Punjabi. But now Dogri is considered an independent language and one of the main languages of the Western Himalayan Pahari language Group.
And then we have the Gurjuri spoken by the Gujjars. Gurjuri is closely allied to the Marwari dialect of Rajasthani and also has a fair mix of Punjabi in it. In fact the Gujars living in Punjab speak Punjabi and the languages are intermixed. Gurjuri is also spoken in the Kashmir Valley where also there are communities of Gujjars. However a number of Kashmiri words have overtime have become common usage by the Kashmiri Gujjars influenced by their Kashmiri neighbours.
Moving upwards into other parts of the Jammu Division we see increasing influence of Kashmiri language which is a part of the Dardic Language family of the Indo Aryan language Group. Bhadarwahi, Bhalesi and Curahi from an intermediate forms of speech bridging the gap between the Punjabi or Dogri and the Kashmiri System. Padari is an extremely interesting dialect, spoken in Padar region of Kistwar on the banks of the Chinab. It has a striking similarity to Pangwali, spoken in the Pangi Valley in Chamba.
Siraji is the language spoken in country north of Chinab between Ramban and Bhart on the way to Kishtwar. It is central to Doda and is also called Doda Siraji at times. Due to its location, to the North it gives was to Kashmiri, on West to Rambani, on the North East to Kishtwari, and on the South and South West to Bhadarwahi and Chamba dialect. Its generally frameworked like Punjabi but has many points in agreement with Kashmiri.
Rambani as the name suggests is the language spoken around Ramban and like the Poguli which it closely resembles it is connected with Kashmiri though further away than it than Poguli. Rambani has a very largely Punjabi pronunciation whereas Poguli pronunciation is more like Kashmiri.
Poguli is a language spoken in a small area to the East of Ramsu. It resembles Kashmiri though it is unintelligible to speakers of the Kashmiri language. However it seems that all speakers of Poguli have some basic understanding of Kashmiri. Nearly all peculiarities of Kashmiri are found in Poguli which however contains a number of points in common with dialects which look to Punjabi as a fountainhead. Kishtwari is spoken around the Kishtwar area of the Kishtwar region. It is considered a sub-dialect of Kashmir which it resembles very much. Kashmiri is well understood in Kishtwar.
And of course then we come to the Valley itself where the main spoken language is Kashmiri. The second most spoken language in Kashmir is Gurjuri probably followed by Punjabi / Pahari spoken in the Border areas adjoining the LOC in the West. However there are still speakers of Shina in the Gurez Valley, a couple of Villages in Tral and the Sarbal Village in Sonamarg. There is also a small community of Shina people who live in Srinagar city and they also speak Shina. Shina BTW is the main language of people in Gilgit.
Shina itself is a part of the Dardic family, same as the Kashmiri language. Its the most spoken language of the Gilgit region and it has a number of dialects such as Gilgiti (the prestige dialect), Astori, Chilasi Kohistani, Drasi, Gurezi, Jalkoti, Kolai, and Palasi. Related languages spoken by ethnic Shina are Brokskat (the Shina of Baltistan and Dras), Domaa, Kohistani Shina, Palula, Savi, and Ushojo. Shina is also spoken in the Drass area, Dah and Hanu and other “Aryan” Villages of Ladakh. Shina is also spoken in areas adjoining Gilgit like Kohistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
And then we come to Baltistan, where the main language is Balti. Balti is a part of the Tibetan family and belongs to the Ladakhi Balti Group. Infact many words that were used in old Tibetan are still found to be in use in modern Balti whereas they are not used in modern Tibetan anymore. Balti is widely spoken in Baltistan and a dialect, the Puriki is spoken in the Kargil area and the Suru Valley. Proper Balti is spoken in the Turtuk area of Ladakh as well. The language is also used by Balti communities settled elsewhere including the small Group of Balti people settled around Dehradun in Uttarakhand.
And finally Ladakhi which like Balti belongs to the Tibetan language family and is related to Balti as well. Besides proper Ladakhi it has a dialect called the Zanskari which is spoken in the Zanskar region. Interestingly both Ladakhi and Balti belong to the Ladakhi Balti family of Tibetan language. These are also called Western Archaic Tibetan languages as they have a lot in common with Old Tibetan unlike the more modern Western Tibetan language of the Lahaul Spitian language. Ladakhi has other sub-dialects if you may like Lehskat after Leh, where it is spoken; Shamskat, spoken in the northwest of Leh; Stotskat, spoken in the Indus valley and which is tonal unlike the others; Nubra, spoken in the north of Leh. In my personal experience I think all these Tibetan languages are mutually intelligible to some extent as I see people speaking Puriki and Ladakhi being able to have a conversation.
This should give you an idea of the languages spoken in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and we know that in the Mountains in the older times populations evolved in isolation and hence the vast array of languages and dialects and sub dialects. Infact in some cases the language changes from Valley to Valley so the actual number of dialects are well impossible to even comprehend but this gives you an idea of the diversity.
Source : Language of Northern Himalayas by Bailey 1908 and other Internet sources including Wikipedia.
And adding a language Map of Jammu and Kashmir by Drew from the late 1800's.