Perhaps 500 years ago, the Khas migrated eastward, bypassing the inhospitable Kham highlands to settle in the lower valleys of the Gandaki basin suited to rice cultivation. One notable extended family settled in Gorkha, a petty principality about halfway between Pokhara and Kathmandu. Then in the late 1700s a scion named Prithvi Narayan Shah raised an army of Gurungs, Magars and possibly other hill tribesmen and set out to conquer and consolidate dozens of petty principalities in the Himalayan foothills. Since Gorkha had replaced the original Khas homeland as the center of political and military initiative, Khaskura was redubbed Gorkhali, i.e. language of the Gorkhas.
Prithvi Narayan’s especially notable military achievement was conquest of the urbanized Kathmandu Valley, on the eastern rim of the Gandaki basin. This region was also called Nepal at the time. Kathmandu became Prithvi Narayan’s new capital, then he and his heirs extended their domain east into the Koshi basin, north to the Tibetan Plateau, south into the plains of northern India, and west of the Karnali/Bheri basin.
Expansion, particularly to the north, west, and south brought the growing state into conflict with British and Chinese territorial ambitions. This led to wars that trimmed it back to roughly Nepal’s present borders or less, however both great powers understood the value of a buffer state and did not attempt to reduce the new country further. Since the Kathmandu Valley or Nepal had become the new center of political initiative, this word gradually came to refer to the entire realm and not just the Kathmandu Valley. And so Gorkhali, language of Gorkha, was again redubbed Nepali.
Nepali is the easternmost of the Pahari languages, a group of related languages spoken across the lower elevations of the Himalaya range, from eastern Nepal through the Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The influence of the Nepali language can also be seen in Bhutan and some parts of Myanmar. Nepali developed in proximity to a number of Tibeto-Burman languages, most notably Nepal Bhasa, and shows Tibeto-Burman influences.
Nepali is closely related to Hindi but is more conservative, borrowing fewer words from Persian and English and using more Sanskritic derivations. Today, Nepali is commonly written in the Devanagari script. There is some record of using Takri script in the history of Nepali especially in western Nepal, Utarakhand, and Himanchal. Bhujimol is an older script native to Nepal. Nepali is mutually intelligible with Hindi and Urdu speakers.
Nepali developed a great literature within a short period of hundred years in the nineteenth century, fueled by Adhyatma Ramayana, Sundarananda Bara (1833), Birsikka, an anonymous collection of folk-tales, and a Ramayana by Bhanubhakta. The contribution of trio-lauretes Poudyal, Devkota and Sama took Nepali to the level of other world languages. The contribution of laureates outside Nepal, especially from Darjeeling and Varanasi, is also worth noting.
The sole use of Nepali in the courts and government of Nepal is being challenged. The issue of recognition of for other ethnic language in Nepal was one of talking points raised by the Maoist insurgency. A Cabinet Minister, Matrika Yadav recently took ministerial oath in the Maithili language, rather than Nepali.
Scholars Kamal Malla and Tej. Kansakar comment of the Sanskrit derivation of Nepali:
“Janaka, Yajnavalkya, Valmiki, Kapila and Gautama Buddha have greatly contributed to the Sanskrit and Prakrita from which the Nepali language seeks its origins.”