Henrik Liljegren

Henrik Liljegren


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Works at Department of Linguistics
Telephone 08-16 12 45
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 C, plan 2-3
Room C244
Postal address Institutionen för lingvistik 106 91 Stockholm

About me

As a linguistic researcher, I have 10+ years fieldwork experience in northern Pakistan. I work within a functional-typological framework and have a particular interest in the languages of the Hindukush-Karakoram region (the mountainous areas of northern Pakistan, northeastern Afghanistan and the disputed territory of Kashmir), many of which are endangered and lesser-described.


At Stockholm University, I am involved in supervising thesis work and in teaching general linguistics and linguistic fieldwork.


My current focus is on areal-typological research in the region mentioned above. The goal of the present project (supported by the Swedish Research Council) is to produce a linguistic profile of this region characterized by great linguistic diversity (ab. 50 languages, incl. Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Nuristani, Tibeto-Burman, Turkic and the isolate Burushaski are spoken) and a high level of multilingualism. A preliminary study has identified a few linguistic traits as particularly interesting from a typological perspective, and those and other selected features will now be subject to systematic investigation. Furthermore, conclusions regarding similarities or differences will be of importance for language classification and for gaining a clearer understanding of the effects of long-lasting language contact.

For more information, see the project site of Language Contact and Relatedness in the Hindukush Region:

Apart from research per se, I'm engaged in revitalization efforts (orthography and local literature development, mother-tongue literacy, etc.), mentoring language activists from various communities to collect and organize data, and in building networks between local communities and organizations.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Jan Heegård, Henrik Liljegren. Acta Linguistica Hafniensia. International Journal of Structural Linguistics 50 (2), 129-160

    The article describes the geomorphic systems of spatial reference in the two Indo-Aryan languages Palula and Kalasha, spoken in adjacent areas of an alpine region in Northwestern Pakistan. Palula and Kalasha encode the inclination of the mountain slope as well as the flow of the river, in systematic and similar ways, and by use of distinct sets of nominal lexemes that may function adverbially. In their verbal systems, only Palula encode, landscape features in a systematic way, but both languages make use of a number of verbal sets that in different ways emphasise boundary-crossing. The article relates the analysis to Palmer's Topographic Correspondence Hypothesis that predicts that the linguistic system of spatial reference will reflect the topography of the surrounding landscape. The analysis of the geomorphic systems in Palula and Kalasha supports this hypothesis. However, data from a survey of spatial strategies in neighbouring languages, i.e., languages spoken in a similar alpine landscape, reveal another system that does not to the same extent or in a similar way encode typical landscape features such as the mountain slope and the flow of the river. This calls for a revision of Palmer's hypothesis that also takes language contact into consideration.

  • 2017. Henrik Liljegren, Erik Svärd. Journal of Language Contact 10 (3), 450-484

    A contrastive (or antithetical) construction which makes simultaneous use of two separate particles is identified through a mainly corpus-based study as a typical feature of a number of lesser-described languages spoken in the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderland in the high Hindukush. The feature encompasses Nuristani languages (Waigali, Kati) as well as the Indo-Aryan languages found in their close vicinity (Palula, Kalasha, Dameli, Gawri), while it is not shared by more closely related Indo-Aryan languages spoken outside of this geographically delimited area. Due to a striking (although not complete) overlap with at least two other (unrelated) structural features, pronominal kinship suffixes and retroflex vowels, we suggest that a linguistic and cultural diffusion zone of considerable age is centred in the mountainous Nuristan-Kunar-Panjkora area.

  • 2017. Henrik Liljegren. Journal of South Asian languages and linguistics 4 (1), 107-156

    The study is a typological profile of 31 Indo-Aryan (IA) languages in the Hindukush-Karakoram-Western Himalayan region (covering NE Afghanistan, N Pakistan, and parts of Kashmir). Native speakers were recruited to provide comparative data. This data, supplemented by reputable descriptions or field notes, was evaluated against a number of WALS- or WALS-like features, enabling a fine-tuned characterization of each language, taking different lin-guistic domains into account (phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon). The emerging patterns were compared with global distributions as well as with characteristic IA features and well-known areal patterns. Some features, mainly syntactic, turned out to be shared with IA in general, whereas others do have scattered reflexes in IA outside of the region but are especially prevalent in the region: large consonant inventories, tripartite pronominal case alignment, a high frequency of left-branching constructions, and multi-degree deictic sys-tems. Yet other features display a high degree of diversity, often bundling subareally. Finally, there was a significant clustering of features that are not characterizing IA in general: tripartite affricate differentiation, retroflexion across several subsets, aspiration contrasts involving voiceless consonants only, tonal contrasts and 20-based numerals. This clustering forms a “hard core” at the centre of the region, gradually fading out toward its peripheries.

  • 2017. Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Henrik Liljegren. The Cambridge handbook of areal linguistics, 204-236
  • Article Khowar
    2017. Henrik Liljegren, Afsar Ali Khan. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 47 (2), 219-229

    Khowar (ISO 639-3: khw) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by 200,000–300,000 (Decker 1992: 31–32; Bashir 2003: 843) people in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (formerly North-West Frontier Province). The majority of the speakers are found in Chitral (a district and erstwhile princely state bordering Afghanistan, see Figure 1), where the language is used as a lingua franca, but there are also important pockets of speaker groups in adjacent areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Swat District as well as a considerable number of recent migrants to larger cities such as Peshawar and Rawalpindi (Decker 1992: 25–26). Its closest linguistic relative is Kalasha, a much smaller language spoken in a few villages in southern Chitral (Morgenstierne 1961: 138; Strand 1973: 302, 2001: 252). While Khowar has preserved a number of features (phonological, morphological as well as lexical) now lost in other Indo-Aryan languages of the surrounding Hindukush-Karakoram mountain region, it has, over time, incorporated a massive amount of lexical material from neighbouring or influential Iranian languages (Morgenstierne 1936) – and with it, new phonological distinctions. Certain features might also be attributable to formerly dominant languages (e.g. Turkic), or to linguistic substrates, either in the form of, or related to, the language isolate Burushaski, or other, now extinct, languages previously spoken in the area (Morgenstierne 1932: 48, 1947: 6; Bashir 2007: 208–214). There is relatively little dialectal variation among the speakers in Chitral itself, probably attributable to the relative recency of the present expansion of the language (Morgenstierne 1932: 50).

  • 2016. Henrik Liljegren.

    This grammar provides a grammatical description of Palula, an Indo-Aryan language of the Shina group. The language is spoken by about 10,000 people in the Chitral district in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. This is the first extensive description of the formerly little-documented Palula language, and is one of only a few in-depth studies available for languages in the extremely multilingual Hindukush-Karakoram region. The grammar is based on original fieldwork data, collected over the course of about ten years, commencing in 1998. It is primarily in the form of recorded, mainly narrative, texts, but supplemented by targeted elicitation as well as notes of observed language use. All fieldwork was conducted in close collaboration with the Palula-speaking community, and a number of native speakers took active part in the process of data gathering, annotation and data management. The main areas covered are phonology, morphology and syntax, illustrated with a large number of example items and utterances, but also a few selected lexical topics of some prominence have received a more detailed treatment as part of the morphosyntactic structure. Suggestions for further research that should be undertaken are given throughout the grammar. The approach is theory-informed rather than theory-driven, but an underlying functional-typological framework is assumed. Diachronic development is taken into account, particularly in the area of morphology, and comparisons with other languages and references to areal phenomena are included insofar as they are motivated and available. The description also provides a brief introduction to the speaker community and their immediate environment.

Show all publications by Henrik Liljegren at Stockholm University

Last updated: June 28, 2019

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