Athpahariya is a language spoken by the inhabitants of Dhankuta municipality and Bhir gaun vdc. They are recognized as the Athpahariya Rai in the 2001 census whereas they are mentioned only as the Athpahariya in the category of ethnicity and the language in the 2011 census. The population is 5,977.
The Athpahariya have a unique language, culture and religious practices. The clothes worn by men and women of the community distinguish the ethnic group, however, their traditional clothing is being forgotten due to modernization. They celebrate their own type of festivals and worship their own god and goddess. Their group belongs to the Kirati subgroup under Tibeto-Burman family. The Athpahariya language is closely related to the Belhare language as well as the Chhathare Limbu and Yakkha languages.
In the Athpahariya language, there are six vowels according to tongue height: high, mid, low and the placement of tongue: front, central and back. There are approximants (i.e., y and w) in the Athpahariya language. In the verb, there is inflection of subject, object, first person dual and plural(inclusive/exclusive forms), singular, dual and plural forms, past and non-past form, negative forms, etc.
Karen H. Ebert (1997) has written ‘A Grammar of Athpare’ and shows the alphabet, frame and syntactic structure of this language. Tanka Prasad Neupane (2053) has written the Ph. D. thesis in study of Athpare Rai language and shown the descriptive analysis in this language. Besides publishing a book named ‘Morphology of Athpahariya’, Govinda Bahadur Tumbahang (2012) analyzed the structure of this language.
Athpahariya has been categorized under the list of threatened languages. In this regards, the Athpahariya-Nepali-English Dictionary, prepared by Athpahariya speech community is an important asset. In this dictionary, Athpahariya words appear in Devanagari script, followed by the pronunciation in IPA symbols. Then, the grammatical category is given in Nepali, followed by the corresponding glosses both in Nepali and English. In the appendix, there is a chart of the Athpahariya counting words, followed by charts with words in various categories: relational, physical organs, birds, insects, days, months, festivals, lineages, clans and sub-clans, etc. I believe that this dictionary will be useful for those who want to learn the Athpahariya language and for non-Athpahariya who are interested in doing research in this language as well. I owe sincere thanks with deep respect to those who have been involved in collecting the indigenous words in the Athpahariya language and editing them with great patience.
Dr. Govinda Bahadur Tumbahang