First, I’d like to change the previous name ‘gaffgaaff’ to ‘guffgaff’ because it looks better on the eye. Secondly, I enjoyed doing this because it shows the differences between the two languages. Lastly, I am not creating something akin to a boxing competition. I am merely showing how Nepali differs, and is similar to Hindi and vice versa.
Nepali is the official language of Nepal. On the other hand, Hindi is one of the officially recognized languages of India. It isn’t the national language like Nepali but nonetheless one of the widely spoken languages of India. Nepali is also an officially recognized language of India as it is spoken there around the Darjeeling region.
Why am I writing this? One thing you obviously notice when you learn Nepali is that Hindi is so much similar to it. Also, you might have noticed that many Nepali people know to some extent Hindi. Where do they learn it from? Obviously Hindi wasn’t taught to us; we learnt it naturally. Nepali and Hindi is so similar, kids (with their natural linguistic abilities) quickly pick up and understand both languages, as many programs that air in Nepal are dubbed in Hindi and kids obviously have access to that. However, the two languages not mutually intelligible with each other. Talk to someone in Nepali to a person that speaks Hindi only; they won’t understand a word. Strange right?
Let’s first look at the similarities first.
Nepali and Hindi both belong to what linguists call ‘Indo-European Language Family’. They’re cousins already! However, one thing is that Nepali and Hindi both have their roots from an older language: Sanskrit.
Yes, Sanskrit is the grandaddy of Nepali, Hindi and couple of other languages like Marathi and Bengali. Sanskrit is basically the Latin of the Indian Subcontinent! Nepali and Hindi both actually diverged from Prakrit (vernacular language) that itself diverged from Sanskrit. Nonetheless, many words have been borrowed from Sanskrit by both the languages. Which leads us to…
…Vocabulary! Somewhere I read a long time ago that Nepali vocabulary was essentially 80% Hindi. I disagree. It isn’t the other way around too. Rather, Nepali and Hindi both have a common word since they borrowed it from Sanskrit. Take these words for example. These words have the same meaning and pronunciation in Nepali and Hindi:
घर (ghar /house/), सडक (sadak /road/), पानी (pani /water/)
While some have a slightly different pronunciation:
आज = Today; ‘aaja’ in Nepali, ‘aaj’ in Hindi
शुभकामना = Greetings; ‘subhakaamana’ in Nepali, ‘shuvkaamna’ in Hindi
While some words are slightly different:
Eye = आँखा (aakha) in Nepali, आंख (aankh) in Hindi
Hand = हात (haat) in Nepali, हाथ (haath) in Hindi
Both the languages not to mention shares the same script, Devanagari. Both languages also follow the SOV word order and has almost equivalent postpositional systems.
While similar, Hindi isn’t Nepali and vice versa. There are so many quirks and works that makes Nepali an entirely different language. I’ll be dividing these into sections so that it can be worked out fairly easily.
Nepali makes use of the nasal ङ (nga) in everyday words while I have yet to encounter one word that uses this letter in Hindi literature. They rather prefer to use that dot over letters, as I have found. When I downloaded the Hindi Keyboard (hurray Microsoft for no Nepali version) in my mobile (which is unfortunately broken), no matter how much I searched there was no ङ (nga) typeface. An error? Far unlikely. On the other hand, ङ (nga) is fairly common in Nepali.
Also, Hindi exclusively uses those small dots under letters, dashes and host of other letters and characters which are not used in Nepali.
Even if they share the same script, speakers pronounce the words rather differently. Remember how I said the three ‘s’ (श, ष, स) are pronounced the same in Nepali (like स) a long time ago? In Hindi, they aren’t.
The schwa is so exclusively deleted in Hindi that the script isn’t as phonetic as it is in Nepali? For example, शुभकामना would be ‘shubhakaamana’ in Nepali but ‘shuvkamana’ in Hindi.
Also, the letter व is pronounced mostly with a ‘b’ sound in Nepali. In Hindi, the ‘v’ sound is used instead. That’s why you may see some names like Binod and Bishakha in Nepal but the same names become Vinod and Vishaka in India.
The vocabulary is vastly different, too. Some words might match for the rest of the part, they’re entirely different. For example, a boy would be केटा (keta) in Nepali but लड़का (ladka) in Hindi.
Other examples (Nepali/Hindi):
Head = टाउको (tauko)/ सिर (sir)
Red = रातो (rato)/ लाल (laal)
To fall = झर्नु (jharnu)/ गिरना (girna)
Perhaps what makes them so vastly different is the grammar behind them. Here are some differences:
Grammatical sentences are way different
Obviously two separate languages have different ways of saying the same thing.
English: How are you?
Nepali: तिमी कस्तो छौ (timi kasto chau)
Hindi: तुम कैसे हो? (tum kese ho)
‘To be’ has two different forms in Nepali
If you have really done your research in Nepali, you obviously know the ‘Ho’ and ‘Cha’ forms of the verb ‘to be’. They both have different meanings, one to define and the other to describe (sort of like that). Hindi doesn’t sport this difference, which is kind of good to the learner because learning how to just learn where to use ‘ho’ and where to use ‘cha’ can really complicate the situation! Since I am biased as a Nepali speaker, I think this difference is pretty good at what it is supposed to do; not create ambiguity.
Nepali makes use of counter words (wata/jana) while Hindi doesn’t
When you count in Nepali, you have to attach a counter word to it. This is sort of cumbersome but once you get habituated it is sort of less complicated. On the other hand Hindi makes things lot simpler because it lacks counters. For example:
English: Ten houses
Nepali: दशवटा घर (dash`wata ghar)
Hindi: दस घर (dash ghar)
Nepali conjugates negation directly into the verb while Hindi makes use of auxiliaries
Further complications arise when you conjugate negation into the verb itself. This is unnecessarily complicated but it actually looks very neat and logical, at least to me. The negation is in the verb itself so no need of other bothersome helpers! Hindi on the other hand uses auxiliaries. In fact, the only other language I know of where the negation is in the verb itself is Japanese. Example:
English: He does not eat rice.
Nepali: ऊ भात खाँदैन (u bhat khadaina)
Hindi: वह चावल नही खाता है (waha chawal nahi khata hai)
Hindi lacks onomatopoeic words that Nepali has
Onomatopoeic words are hard to describe but basically they are sound words that are used to describe something. They add more meaning and ‘sweetness’ to the sentence. Unfortunately, English doesn’t have this as well so it is hard to provide a relevant example. Example of onomatopoeic words include: सरर (sarara), धरर (dharara), ढकमक्क (dhakamakka) etc. For example:फूल ढकमक्क फुल्यो (phul dhakamakka phulyo) means something like ‘The flowers bloomed nicely (or greatly)’, something like that.
Gender inflection is uncommon in Nepali while in Hindi it is very prominent
In everyday conversations, most people do not inflect for gender in Nepali. While improper, it isn’t ‘wrong sounding’. The neutral form of grammatical functions are used for both genders. This is unusual, given that Hindi exclusively inflects everything.
English: Her daughter slept.
Nepali: उसको छोरी सुत्यो (usko chori sutyo)
Correct Nepali: उसकी छोरी सुती (uski chori suti)
Hindi: उसकी बेटी सो गयी (uski beti so gayi)
Nepali uses one postposition to describe ‘on, in, at’ while Hindi uses two
Nepali has it pretty simple; one postposition to rule them all. The postposition ‘ma’ is used for on, in and at. On the other hand, Hindi uses two separate postpositions for this; ‘par’ and ‘me’. So, in the table and on the table use the same postposition while they use ‘me’ and ‘par’ respectively in Hindi.
Despite being so similar, they are so different. But this difference is embraced and Hindi is a really beautiful language. Both have their strengths and weaknesses but nonetheless both are very beautiful in their own terms.
I hope you enjoyed this! Do you know any quirk between Nepali and Hindi? Do share it! 🙂
Disclaimer: I am sorry if the Hindi sentences are a bit sketchy!