Newar (Nepal Bhasa)
Austin Hale & Kedar P. Shrestha
Newar (known outside Nepal as Newari, but referred to by speakers as Nepal
Bhasha) is spoken by half a million people, most of whom reside in
Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Newar is a Tibeto-Burman language influenced by
centuries of contact with Indo-Aryan languages. As an Indospheric
Tibeto-Burman language, Newar has many syntactic characteristics typical of
South Asia: a somewhat flexible SOV clause order, a sentence structure
typified by strings of medial clauses before a final finite clause. The
freedom with which arguments can be omitted from a clause makes this an
interesting language to investigate from the standpoint of referential
density (Bickel Language 79.4:708-736 (2003)).
Newar has an auxiliary structure which makes grammatical use of
semantically bleached lexical verbs to express directional, benefactive,
aspectual, status, and honorifie modifications of the main verb. The
process of grammaticalization is current and ongoing. One can still
identify non-final verb forms that provide the bridge across which
grammaticalization of lexical verbs as auxiliaries has been taking place.
Newar (along with Tibetan) is also of interest as a language with a
logophoric conjunct/disjunct verbal inflection, related to matters of
evidentiality and the intentionality of the verb.
Newar is one of the few Tibeto-Burman languages (along with Tibetan and
Burmese) to have produced a distinguished written literature. It is a
relatively well documented language with extensive grammars and
dictionaries of both Classical Newari and the modern language.
This grammar deals with the language as it is used in Kathmandu and Patan.
Most examples are drawn from a corpus of published Newar prose. The
examples were chosen primarily to illustrate the grammatical workings of
the language, but one often gets glimpses as well of the wit and chann of
the contemporary masters of the language.