It is the official language and de facto lingua franca of Nepal and is also spoken in Bhutan, parts of India and parts of Myanmar (Burma). In India, it is one of the country’s 23 official languages: Nepali has official language status in the formerly independent state of Sikkim and in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district. Geographically, Nepali is considered to be the easternmost of the Pahari languages, a geographic group of languages spoken across the lower elevations of the Himalaya range, from eastern Nepal through the Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The influence of the Nepali language can also be seen in Bhutan and some parts of Burma. Nepali developed in proximity to a number of Tibeto-Burman languages, most notably Nepal Bhasa (Newari), and shows Tibeto-Burman influences. Nepali is closely related to the Hindi languages and is sometimes considered mutually intelligible to some extent, yet is more conservative with more Sanskritic derivations and fewer Persian or English loan words than Hindi-Urdu.
Historically, the language was first called Khaskura (language of the khas ‘rice farmers’), then Gorkhali or Gurkhali (language of the Gurkha) before the term Nepali was taken from Newari. Other names include Parbatiya (“mountain language”, identified with the Parbatiya people of Nepal) and Lhotshammikha (the “southern language” of the Lhotshampa people of Bhutan). The name ‘Nepali’ is ambiguous, as it was originally a pronunciation of Newari, the Tibeto-Burman language of the capital Kathmandu.
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