Grammar in the Nepali Language

June 8th, 2013

Nepali grammar is quite complex and reflective of the culture of Nepal overall.

The Nepali Language – Chauvinistic?

Nepali is a gendered language, which isn’t unusual, and unfortunately it’s also not unusual in the fact that it’s somewhat chauvinistic, because the gender defaults to masculine and you have to work to make things feminine – with a few suffix exceptions here and there. This is called attenuated gender and can be thought of as all words being more or less neutral/assumed male unless the feminine is explicitly added.

This doesn’t mean that modern Nepali society is chauvinistic, but it is an interesting facet of the language, and it does make me think of certain taverns that were male-only until they were forced by law to admit women, and in the modern day the men’s restrooms are cathedrals of porcelain and brass while the women’s restrooms are hideous afterthoughts.

Nepali is Loose

One fun aspect of Nepali grammar is the fact that although plurals exist in Nepali, they are not required. You can acceptably use other means to indicate plurals, including simple context and implication. Sometimes plurals are used for other purposes, usually to indicate that other similar items or people are being referred to with the same statement. As a result if you use plurals in your speech because you learned the language in a classroom, you may sound a bit fussy and stiff to the native speakers.

Nepali is Flexible

Much Nepali is rendered in the inflection and stress of the words – verbs must follow not just the tense of the sentence, but the number, gender, and formality as well, making it a very simple language that is very difficult to actually speak. This complexity makes Nepali very powerful and flexible, however, as much meaning can be conveyed simply by the way you pronounce and stress the words. This also means, however, that it’s very easy to convey the wrong meaning if you make a mistake with the stress or pronunciation of a word.

Nepali is a wonderful language, filled with poetry and power and reflective of a culture that has existed for centuries. If you’re planning to climb Mount Everest or, like me, plan to never climb Mount Everest, learning Nepali would be worth your time either way.

You might also like:

A pivotal localization industry event, LocFromHome keeps localization professionals current on key industry issues. This year’s talks explored four pre-selected topics: Business, Productivity, Engineering, and Outlook. Within these topic areas, participants were able to explore global trends, discuss business strategies, and learn about useful productivity tools. All from the comfort of their homes. We’re especially proud that Nir Sabato, our Head of Strategy, was selected to present on How to Find Your LSP Identity. In case you missed the event, you can read the summary of Nir’s presentation in this post.