Major subgroup of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Indo-Aryan languages are spoken by more than 800 million people, principally in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The Old Indo-Aryan period is represented by Sanskrit. Middle Indo-Aryan (c. 600 BC–AD 1000) consists principally of the Prakrit dialects, including Pali. Modern Indo-Aryan speech is largely a single dialect continuum spread over an undivided geographical space, so demarcations between languages and dialects are somewhat artificial. Complicating the situation are competing distinctions between languages with an old literary tradition, local language identification by native speakers (as in censuses), supraregional languages such as Modern Standard Hindi and Urdu, and labels introduced by linguists, particularly those of George Abraham Grierson. In the centre of the Indo-Aryan speech area (the Hindi zone), covering northern India and extending south as far as Madhya Pradesh, the most common language of administration and education is Modern Standard Hindi. Important regional languages in the northern Indian plain are Haryanvi, Kauravi, Braj, Awadhi, Chhattisgarhi, Bhojpuri, Magahi, and Maithili. Regional languages in Rajasthan include Marwari, Dhundhari, Harauti, and Malvi. In the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh are Grierson's Pahari languages. Surrounding the Hindi zone, the most significant languages are, moving clockwise, Nepali (East Pahari), Assamese, Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Gujarati, Sindhi, the speech of southern, northwestern, and northern Punjab province in Pakistan (called West Punjabi or Lahnda by Grierson), Punjabi, and Dogri. In Jammu and Kashmir and the far north of Pakistan are the Dardic languages; the most important are Kashmiri, Kohistani, Shina, and Khowar. The Nuristani languages of northwestern Afghanistan are sometimes considered a separate branch of Indo-Iranian. Sinhalese (spoken in Sri Lanka), Divehi (spoken in the Maldive Islands), and Romany are also Indo-Aryan languages.