Khowar (کھوار ), also known as Chitrali, is a Dardiclanguage spoken by 400,000 people in Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, in the Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan(including the Yasin Valley, Phandar Ishkoman and Gupis), and in parts of Upper Swat. Speakers of Khowar have also migrated heavily to Pakistan's major urban centres with Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, having sizeable populations. It is spoken as a second language in the rest of Gilgit and Hunza. There are believed to be small numbers of Khowar speakers in Afghanistan,China, Tajikistan and Istanbul..

Khowar has been influenced by Iranian languages to a greater degree than other Dardic languages and has less Sanskritic elements than Shina or the Kohistani languages. Colonel Biddulph (Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh) was amongst the first westerners to study Khowar and claimed that further research would prove Khowar to be equally derived from Zend (Avestan, Old Persian) and Sanskrit.
The Norwegian Linguist Georg Morgenstierne wrote that Chitral is the area of the greatest linguistic diversity in the world. Although Khowar is the predominant language of Chitral, more than ten other languages are spoken here. These include Kalasha-mun, Palula, Dameli, Gawar-Bati,Nuristani, Yidgha, Burushaski, Gujar, Wakhi, Kyrgyz,Persian and Pashto. Since many of these languages have no written form, letters are usually written in Urdu, Pakistan's national language.
Khowar has been written in the Arabic Nasta'liq scriptsince the early twentieth century, prior to that the administrative and literary language of the region wasPersian and works such as poetry and songs in Khowar were passed down in oral tradition. TodayUrdu and English are the official languages and the only major literary usage of Khowar is in poetry composition. Khowar has also been written in the Roman script since the 1960's. Badshah Munir Bukhari and the Director Khowar Academy, Rehmat Aziz Chitrali worked on the language and its family.

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  • Bashir, Elena (2001) Spatial Representation in Khowar. Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
  • Decker, Kendall D. (1992) Languages of Chitral ISBN 969-8023-15-1
  • L’Homme, Erik (1999) Parlons Khowar. Langue et culture de l’ancien royaume de Chitral au Pakistan. Paris: L’Harmattan
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