History and Background of Gujarati Language

16th May 2014

Gujarati has evolved from Sanskrit and is an Indo-Aryan language which is part of the greater Indo-European language family.

It is the official language for the state of Gujarat in India and some other territories and regions such as Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Gujarat is situated on the west coast of India. The bordering states are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Gujarati is spoken in many countries outside of India, some of these are: Bangladesh, Botswana, Canada, Fiji, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

There are also many dialects, the major ones are: Standard Gujarati (spoken in Mumbai and Ahmedabad), Surati, Kathiyawadi, Kharua, Khakari, Tarimukhi and East African Gujarati. Since there are many dialects, many loan words have been used from other languages. The northern Gujarati dialects have many loan words from Arabic and Persian. The southern Gujarati dialects have borrowed words from Hindi, English and Portuguese. East African Gujarati has borrowed words from the local languages there, especially Swahili.

Written Gujarati has been adapted from the Devanagari script, but without the line at the top. The first known Gujarati script is a manuscript which is dating back to the sixteenth century. Up until the nineteenth century the Gujarati script was mainly used for writing letters and keeping accounts, whereas the Devanagari script was used for literary and academic texts.

The Gujarati script is occasionally known as the saraphi (bankers), vanasai (merchant) or the mahajani (traders) script.

Gujarati is written left to right, and there aren’t any capital letters. If writing on lined paper, the letters hang on the line rather than sitting on top of the line. The vowels can be written as independent letters or by using a variety of diacritical marks, which may be written above, below, before or after the consonant. The contemporary form of Gujarati uses European punctuation such as question marks, exclamation marks, comma and full stops.

Below are some Gujarati phrases:






Here in the United Kingdom, a lot of English words have been borrowed by the Gujarati community e.g. sorry, thank you, please and also many medical terms such as kidneys, liver, heart, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

This is excellent, I think, because as they say ‘Languages bring communities together. ’ But there have been instances whereby some patients don’t understand the Gujarati alternatives to those words and when interpreting in the medical field, the interpreters have to adapt according to the circumstances.

This sometimes leads to raised eyebrows from fellow health professionals and many times clarification needs to be given, as due to globalisation a lot of English words are being used and the Gujarati alternatives are forgotten. On the other hand, we also come across from the other end of the spectrum, whereby some patients don’t understand a single word of English, in which case the professional interpreters at Pearl Linguistics adapt themselves accordingly.

If you need help or advice with interpreting services in Gujarati or any language, please contact Pearl’s team on 020 7017 3224 or sales@pearllinguistics.com.

Mamta Pabari, Hindi, Gujarati Interpreter (full time)


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