Important Linguistic News From Nepal

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Mon Apr 16 20:22:50 UTC 2001

For those interested in the substrate languages of South Asia, I quote a
message just received from P. Whitehouse, on the Mother Tongue list.

As is known, Kusunda is one of the few isolates in South Asia, next to
Burushaski, the ultimate substrate of Nahali etc., that cannot  (or only
very difficultly so) be linked to any other language outside the

Kusunda, known only from the British colonial official B.Hodgson in the
early 19th c. and from a few papers in the Seventies, has been declared
dead  quite a few times.

The news of its demise --just as that of INDOLOGY, we hope! -- have been a
bit premature, though not largely exaggerated:


For those of you interested in Kusunda, I have just been informed by B. K.
Rana that only last week he found two more elderly Kusunda speakers ‘in
some remote rural area of Nepal.

There is still hope, therefore, that we will one day have a complete
lexicon and grammar of this important isolate.

For the biogeneticists amongst you, we need DNA samples from these people
(esp. mtDNA and y-chromosome) as a matter of urgency. Them and the Nihals.

Paul Whitehouse


K.B. Rana's earlier articles is in the Nepalese Journal Janajati, Vol 4.

For a summary on the Kusunda  and Nahals, see EJVS Sept. 1999

and for recent additions to our knowdege of Nahali, see Asha Mundlay,
Mother Tongue II and vol.III

Our thanks to these intrepid scholars traveling through the difficult
terrain of Central Nepal and N. Maharastra in order to trace these First
South Asians!

If there were only more of them!


Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138, USA

ph. 1- 617-496 2990 (also messages)
home page:

Elect. Journ. of Vedic Studies:

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list