The Gujarati Language

Gujarati (also know as Gojarati or Gujerati) is a language spoken by natives in ‘Gujarat’ a western state of India. The roots of Gujarati can be found in Indo-Aryan family branch of the Indo-European languages. The name of the language is derived from the Gurjar/Gujar community people who said to have settled in the region sometime in the middle of the 5th century C.E. Gujarati is official language of the State of Gujarat, India and one of the 22 official languages recognized by the Government of India. From some estimates, it is spoken by almost 46 million people in the world, giving it the rank of 23rd most spoken language in the world. Though most of 46 million are residents of India, speakers of Gujarati can be found in various parts of the world; for instance 150,000 in Uganda, 250,000 in Tanzania, 50,000 in Kenya as well as 100,000 in Pakistan where it is a minority language. A large number of native speakers of Gujarati can also be found in North America as well as in United Kingdom.

Hindi and Punjabi are considered its closest relatives; it is relatively simple to learn. Though a bit forceful in nature, it is still a flowing language. It has a small vocabulary, which makes it dependent on Sanskrit to express complex metaphysical and scientific disquisitions. The beauty of the language lies in its simplicity of less complex and few conjugations of its verbs than that of found in English, Sanskrit. The majority of characters are taken from Sanskrit with some modifications, the most obvious being the omission of the top line of letters.

History of Gujarati:

The history of Gujarati can be divided into three historical stages as all other Indo-Aryan Languages have been divided; which are as follows.

1) The old (Apabhramsa) period (10th-14th cent.)
2) The middle period (15th-17th cent.)
3) Modern period (after 17th cent.)

1) The old (Apabhramsa) period (10th-14th cent.):

In this period, the original form of Gujarati was spoken by the native Gurjars in Northern Gujarat and Western Rajasthan. It had all the characteristics of modern Gujarati like direct/oblique noun forms, postpositions and auxiliary verbs. In this period, the Parsis who earlier had migrated on Gujarat shores from Middle East, started learning Sanskrit, and translated their religious text into Sanskrit. Parsis have played a pivotal role in the significant growth and development of Gujarati literature. Later Parsis took up the Persian as the Muslims had control of the Gujarat. This era also saw the emergence of the Narasimha Mehta, who is traditionally considered as the Father of the Modern Gujarati Poetry. Parsis still speak and write Gujarati, but they have created their own impression on the Gujarati language with their unique culture and have almost created a new dialect.

2) The middle period (15th-17th cent.):

In this period, Persian and Urdu dominated as it had achieved the status of the Court Language and therefore it had a great influence on Gujarati. The major development was split off from traditional Rajasthani which were seen in phonological changes. Parsis adopted the local Gujarati spoken by locals and also used words from Persians, Pahlavi as well as Zand.

3) Modern period (after 17th cent.):

In this period British were spreading and establishing themselves in India. This started the westernization of not only Gujarati but also other local languages. The major impact was British romanticism and styles were creeping into the literature. Even Parsis had readily taken up English. The modern Gujarati, which has consonant final words, was developed in this period. By the end of 19th Century, there were quite a few milestones for the Gujarati language which are states below.

  • 1840s, personal diary composition; Nityanondh, Durgaram Mahetaji.
  • 1851, first essay; Narmada Shankar Lalshankar Dave.
  • 1866, first novel; Nandashankar Mehta.
  • 1866, first autobiography; Narmada Shankar Lalshankar Dave.

As with most languages in India, the language takes on a different form every 50 kilometers. There are regional dialects which differ in some minor, slightly different from original language. Some of them are listed below along with subdivisions.

> Standard Gujarati - Saurashtra Standard, Nagari, Bombay Gujarati, Patnuli

> Gamadia – Gramya, Surati, Anawla, Brathela, Eastern Broach Gujarati, Charotari, Patidari, Vadodari, Ahmedabad Gamadia, Patani

> Parsi

> Kathiyawadi – Jhalawadi, Sorathi, Holadi, Gohilwadi, Bhavnagari

> Kharwa

> Kakari

> Tarimuki - Ghisadi


As Gujarat was ruled by Muslim Sultans for more than five centuries, the eventual impression of Persian on Gujarati vocabulary is quite natural. The words which have been directly influenced are mostly in reference to worldly and secular matters. The daily life words of the language are mostly drawn from local native tribes of the Gujarat region, which makes the dialect list stated above.

Also due to, partial ruling by the Portuguese before British rule, and continuous European Trade with Portugal as well as England; many words from native Portuguese and English have made their way in to Gujarati.

Writing System

The Gujarati script which is also derived from Nagari Writing system like most of the other Indian languages. The Gujarati script is called Abugida, which is used for writing Gujarati as well as Kutchi. The major script differentiation in Gujarati from Devnagari is the absence of horizontal line running above the letters. Gujarati with other related languages like Kutchi can be written in Arabic as well Persian Scripts, which is still carried out by natives in Kutch district of Gujarat.

Gujarati was the mother tongue of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the "father of India", and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the "iron man of India". Gandhi played a major role to bring about India’s Independence from British rule. He promoted the Principles of Non-violence way of fighting for Civic rights have also influenced many political movements around the world.

Links of Interest

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