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About Torwali

Torwali or Kohistani?

Native Torwali speakers exclusively refer to their own language as Kohistani and refer to the neighboring Northern valley language Kalam Kohistani or Kalami. 

However, the speakers of Kalam Kohistani refer to the Torwali language as Torwali or Torwali Kohistani.

Language Code: TRW 

Endonyms: Kohistani.

Exonyms: Torwali, Dardu, Torwali Kohistani, and Torwalak.

Torwali people refer to their language almost exclusively as "Kohistani".

"Torwali Kohistani" often used by other (usually neighboring) ethnic groups.

"Dardu" derived from it's linguistic classification as a Dardic language.

"Torwalak" classified by Bidduluph in "Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh".

For the purpose of this site, I will refer to this language as Torwali to avoid confusion.

(7), (5)

Is Torwali a language or a dialect?

To answer this question, I have provided similarities between Torwali and it's closest (geographically) contact language - Kalami Kohistani. People once believed that Torwali was simply a dialect of Kalami Kohistani. 

Lexical Similarities: 25-29% Similar (Based on a 210 Item Word List)

Shared Phonetic Similarities: 44% Similar (Based on a 210 Item Word List)

Intelligibility between Kalam and Torwali Speakers:

On average, Torwali speakers have 40-50% intelligibility of Kalam.

On average, Kalam Kohistani speakers have 50-60% intelligibility of Torwali.

(Tested via playing a recorded text in each language for speakers' to interpret.)



Kalami and Torwali speakers communicate using Pashto - another contact language of equal proximity - this study took 4 years to complete and in that time the researchers never once witnessed Kalami and Torwali speakers communicating using Torwali.

Kalami speakers claim they must have contact with Torwali Kohistani for "several years" before they can understand it well.



Torwali and Kalami are not inherently mutually intelligible and whenever speakers of Kalami and Torwali come in contact they use another language, Pashto, to communicate. Therefore Kalami Kohistani and Torwali are two distinct languages.

In fact, Torwali is a language that actually has two dialects within itself.

Where is Torwali Spoken?

Khyber Pakhthunkwa:

Khyber Pakhthunkhwa (formerly known as the North West Frontier Province or NWFP) is where the Hindu Kush, the Himalayas, and the Karakoram mountains meet. At the Southern edge of this region, right in the middle of the Eastern and Western borders of Pakistan is a region known as Kohistan. Kohistan is home to a variety of ethnic groups that speak distinct languages.

In the valley of the Swat district of NWFP several different languages are spoken however they are often lumped together as "Kohistani". The "Kohistani" spoken in the Northern parts of the valley is quite distinct from the "Kohistani" spoken in the Southern parts of the valley.


The Swat District:

The Swat District is the upper valley of the Swat River which rises in the Hindu Kush.

Torwali is spoken in the Southern end of the Swat Valley, in numerous villages that exist alongside the Daral River, the Swat River, and the Chail Tributary. 

70% of Torwali speakers live in Bahrain Town. There are two dialects of Torwali - the Bahrain dialect and the Chail dialect.



Language Maps:


Kohistan Map Torwali Map

Genealogical Affiliation of Torwali: 

Torwali broadly belongs to the Indo European language family and more specifically to the Indo Iranian and Indo Aryan subgroups. It is also a "Dardic" language. Dard is a Persianized term meaning 'pain' coined in the 5th century BC. Dardic languages are a bit of a linguistic conundrum as they are largely unstudied, undocumented and often lack writing systems. (10)

Torwali Genealogy

Torwali Genealogy by Lunsford 2001

Torwali Genealogy 2

Torwali Genealogy by John Mock and Kimbery O'Neil