Nepal Through Nepali: Learning Culture through Language

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These materials were designed for use in the Cornell University Summer Intensive Nepali Language Program by Kathryn S. March to explore major themes important for the understanding of Nepal and to savor the special insights afforded by viewing Nepali through the Nepali language. They follow the sequence of six Content Area Lectures that are a part of that program up to the last time they were offered in 2016. They build upon the Cornell Beginning Nepali language materials: for which print materials are available through the South Asia Program at Cornell for a modest fee; audio and video are now available online at

The Content Area Language Materials themselves are organized into six units:

  1. Trade and settlement—up until the time of the Malla kingdoms based in the Kathmandu Valley
  2. Early modern Nepal—the rise of the Shah Gorkha “Nepal” through the Rana era
  3. Himalayan lands and livelihoods—geology, environment and agricultural ecologies
  4. Caste, ethnicity and food—social hierarchies and identities in everyday practices
  5. Family and kinship—descent, marriage and residence in Nepali and its tensions with non-Nepali-speaking Nepalese communities
  6. Contemporary society and politics—the prospects for democracy in Nepal

Each unit contains:

  1. Slides from the relevant powerpoint lecture
  2. Associated (and heavily annotated) wordlists of the most relevant Nepali terms
  3. Handouts
  4. Reading selections in both Nepali and English, chosen from natural language sources including, especially, the national school curriculum of Nepal. A much larger collection of the schoolbooks from Nepal is available online at The Cornell Digital Collection of Nepali Textbooks.
  5. Song selections chosen to represent a wide range of musical traditions, including those by caste Gandharva singers, long-time folksongs, contemporary pop, hip-hop, and the old and new national anthems.
  6. Movie and video selections

As much as possible, these materials all come from natural Nepali language contexts. Images come primarily from the Nepalese press and historical sources; some are under copyright restrictions and are reproduced here for your personal scholarly use only.


All these materials are intended exclusively for personal edification, confusion and enjoyment. Please do not copy or distribute in any form without the consent of Kathryn March.