11 Facts About Gujarati: Alphabet, Genders and Gandhi

Gujarati is the language of the Gujarat people of India and the immigrants and descendants of these people all over Southeast Asia. It is the 6th most spoken language in India, and the 26th most spoken in the entire world!

It’s also the second largest community language of British Indians, especially those living in London, and one of the fastest growing community languages for American and Canadian Indians.

The following fascinating facts cover a bit of the history, structure, and distribution of Gujarati, and help you take the first step into learning about this important worldwide language.

A Few Facts about Gujarati

1. Gujarati is an Indo-European language

The family tree of Gujarati is below, only following the relevant branches. Stricken languages are now extinct.

2. There are over 55 million Gujarati speakers worldwide, 4 million of whom speak it as an additional language

Gujarati speakers make up around 5% of the Indian population

3. The Gujrat people living in the diaspora strongly believe in keeping their language alive as part of maintaining their culture

Only 19% of British Gujarati surveyed said that their children should only be taught English, a number which is much higher for several other Indian groups.

4. The alphabet is an abugida (segmental system) used to write both Gujarati and Kutchi

It’s written left to right, doesn’t contain case differences, and is generally written as it sounds.

5. There are huge Gujarati speaking communities in Southern Africa as well as in other countries

A number of the biggest communities exist in the following countries, in no particular order:

  • Europe
    • United Kingdom
  • Asia
    • India
    • China
    • Pakistan
    • Malaysia
    • Bahrain
    • Singapore
  • Africa
    • Tanzania
    • Uganda
    • Kenya
    • Zambia
    • South Africa
    • Hong Kong
    • Mauritius
  • North America
    • United States
    • Canada
  • Oceania
    • Australia
    • Indonesia

6. There are many famous native Gujarat people who speak or spoke Gujarati as their first language

Some of the most well-known worldwide are:

  • Mahatma Gandhi, political activist
  • Esther David, author
  • Morarji Desai, fifth Indian Prime Minister
  • Vikram Sarabhai, physicist and space engineer
  • Sunita Williams, astronaut and world record holder for longest spaceflight, total spacewalks and longest spacewalks for women.

7. The Gujarat language evolved from Sanskrit and has three different word categories as a result

The categories are:

Tadbhav(તદ્ભવ tadbhava)Words sourced directly from Sanskrit that have evolved to fit modern Indo-Aryan parlance. These are generally words used in the common parlance and non-technically. Their name means “of the nature of that.”Vyāghra (tiger)Vāgh (tiger)
Khasati (to fall or slip)Khasvũ (to move)
Nayaśālā (school)Niśāḷ (school)
Tatsam(તત્સમ tatsama)Words formed after vernacular Sanskrit transformed into Middle Indo-Aryan. These are usually used for formal, religious, and technical words. Their name means “same as that” and they change with the times or are adapted in meaning for modern thingsTatsamGujarati
Vijetā (writer)Jītnār (writer)
Prasāraṇ (spreading)Prasāraṇ (broadcasting)
Karma (Dharmic religious work)Kām (any work)
Videśī (loanwords)These are words of origins from various other sourcesSee point below

8. Gujarati takes loan words from many languages.

The five languages with the most influence on Gujarati are:

  • Persian
  • Arabic
  • English
  • Portuguese
  • Turkish

English is much more recent than the others, while Portuguese and Turkish have influence to a much lesser extent. 

9. There are a few Gujarati loanwords in English that are used regularly

Some examples, their meanings, and when they entered English include:

EnglishEnglish meaningGujaratiGujarati meaningNotes
Bungalow (1676)Small one-storey houseBangaloLow-thatched houseLiterally house in the Bengali style, from Hindi bangla
Tank (c. 1616)Pool for lake or drinking waterTankhCistern or reservoirCame to English via Portuguese tanque

10. There are no indefinite or definite articles in Gujarati

The indefinite English article is “a/an” while the definite is “the”. Equivalents do not exist in Gujarati.

11. There are three grammatical genders, two numbers, and three cases in Gujarati

They are as follows:

  • Gender
    • Masculine
    • Feminine
    • Inanimate
  • Number
    • Singular
    • Plural
  • Cases
    • Nominative – the subject of a verb – “The reader learned Gujarati.”
    • Oblique or vocative – a noun or verb other than the subject or a noun which identifies a person or object – “I’m not sure, reader.”
    • Locative – the location of a noun, corresponds with English prepositions – “the information was in the article.”

Final Thoughts

As a rapidly growing language, it’s important to know a little about Gujarati for anyone who wishes to participate in our wider global culture. The linguistic preservation is preservation of cultures – and the more that we know, the more that we are able to step outside of ourselves.

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