Kumaonis speak languages belonging to the Aryan family, although some of them speak the dialects of the Tibeto – Burmese family. The influence of the Kols, Munds, Kinnar – Kirats, Dard – Khasas is also to be seen in these dialects. Almost all Kumaonis can speak Hindi and except for the Shaukas of Darma, Biyans and Chaudans, the Banrajis of Askot and Chalthi; the Tharus, Boksas, Punjabis and Bengalis, they also use Kumaoni. G.A.Grierson has mentioned the use of 13 dialects in Kumaon. These are Johari, Majh Kumaiya, Danpuriya, Askoti, Sirali, Soryali, Chaugarkhyali, Kumaiya, Gangola, Khasparjia, Phaldakoti, Pachhai, and Rauchaubhaisi. All the dialects of Garhwali and Kumaoni are called Central Pahari group of languages. To the east of these, people speak Khaskura (Nepali), to the west, Western Pahari (Himachali), to the south, Western Hindi, and to the north, languages belonging to the Tibeto – Burmese family.
Kumaon also has a very rich tradition of folk literature, which deals with local/national myths, heroes, heroines, deeds of bravery and various aspects of nature. These songs were written by some anonymous poets. The songs deal with the creation of earth, the deeds of Gods – Goddesses and local dynasties / heroes, as also characters from the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. There are folk songs dealing with the well known love story of Rajula and Malushahi, the courageous deeds of the twenty two Bafaul brothers, the heroism of Sangram Singh Karki and the imaginary lands across the Himalaya as envisaged by the two Ramola brothers. Usually, these songs are based on events from local history and the bharau (ballads) are usually sung during collective agricultural activities (Hurkiabol) and other songs in different social and cultural festivals. In some prosperous valleys hurkiabol is still a living folk expression.
The pastoral, agricultural and children’s songs of Kumaon also express a close relationship between man and his surroundings. In these songs the relations between man and his bullocks are almost human and children too, share a very intimate relationship with nature. In the songs dealing with the flora and fauna of the region, these often assume symbolic proportions. There are many types of folk songs e.g. the invitation songs, Neoli, Bhagnaul, Jhora, Chanchari and Chhapeli. In these songs the ‘Suva’ or the p’arrot symbolizes lovers, while in the ‘Riturain’ songs – the ‘Nyoli’ bird is a symbol for brothers and sisters. Neoli is also a style of singing. Even the proverbs of Kumaon are very poetic. Gopidas, Mohan Singh Reethagari, Jait Ram and Chakra Ram Damai were some of the famous folk singers of Kumaon.
As far as the written literature of Kumaon is concerned Lok Ratna Pant ‘Gumani’, Krishna Pandey, Shiv Datt Sati, Gorda, Shyama Charan Datt Pant, Ram Dutt Pant ‘Kaviraj’, Chandra Lal Chaudhary, Pitambar Pandey, Bachi Ram Arya, Jeevan Chandra Joshi, Kunwar Singh Bhandari etc. are some of the well known names. Today Kumaoni poets and writers are known even outside of Kumaon. The contribution of Kumaon to the Hindi literature and journalism is unique in many ways. From Gumani to Sumitra Nandan Pant, Laxmi Datt Joshi to Shailesh Matiyani, Ela Chandra Joshi to Ramesh Chandra Shah, Hem Chandra Joshi to Mrinal Pande and Pankaj Bisht and many others, the contribution of Hindi writing Kumaonis is well known.
Similarly the Shauka, Banraji, Tharu and Boksa tribes also have their own folk songs and dances. These are used mainly during festivals and social cultural ceremonies. The most popular dance of Kumaon is the Chhalaria, or Chholia, a dance form related with the martial traditions of the region. The Bhagnaul, Chanchari and Jhora folk songs are accompanied by dancing. Even today one can experience these in fairs and festivals.