‘To plan language is to plan society’
Konyak is one of the Tibeto-Burman languages of North-east India
-spoken by a prominent and powerful Naga tribal community with the
same name — whose ancestral territory spans the Mon District of
Nagaland but whose spread 1s over villages in Myanmar as well. It is
taught in the schools of Nagaland, the only state in India, which right
from its inception had the courage and wisdom to introduce all its tribal
mother tongues in the domain of primary education, as envisioned in all
important language policy documents but, sadly, only seldom practiced
by a majority of the other states.
Konyak like some other large Naga languages with over a hundred
thousand speakers -Ao, Angami, Sema and Lotha being the other-was
supported by the state government at post primary stage as well. Two
official posts -a language officer as well as a language assistant -were
created to look after the growth and development of the language. The
literature committee comprising of important educated community
leaders guided its growth. In doing so the state government had crafted a
language policy where English-the chosen official language- was to grow
alongside the mother tongues to further their quest for a multilingual
society where tradition and modernity could coexist. They then turned to
CIIL to ensure their objectives are realized.
CIIL has been involved with the development of the Naga
languages at various stages for over four decades. In the beginning it was
the research team of the early 1970s which did detailed exemplary field
work to document the languages-through audio recording and
transcription- and then went on to describe their grammars and produce
dictionaries along with Phonetic readers. The missionary zeal was
evident in abundance and the endeavour was to contribute towards the
production of literacy materials through better primers and readers that
could be used in the education. Many of the works were published by the
Institute and remain till date the only materials for the codification of
those languages and creation of a corpus that could be rightfully called as important phases in the development of languages. The native speakers of
the language were involved right from the beginning, for CIIL wanted the
community to have the last word in the production and management of
language materials, and its own professional expertise was to be
transferred to the community. The pioneering effort of those early years
helped create a paradigm of language development where language
policy and planning was shaped through grass roots participation from
below in the framework of empowerment of tribals. That approach has
been sustained till date for it was evolved through arduous labour and
understanding of languages, which were not seen only as instruments of
communication, but also as repositories of traditional knowledge, values
and wisdom that had been shaped by culture over centuries to become
intrinsic components of world views.
The present grammar 1s one such product which for some reasons
lay buried in the manuscripts of Yester years that could not see the light
of day for decades. But it does give me some satisfaction to finally see
this book emerge through efforts of the researcher, for the linguists in the
Tibeto-Burman world would be delighted to have one more academic
work on one of the lesser known languages, since Konyak has remained
unexplored or "yn described’ for years. Some linguists believe it will
bring to the fore those historical linguistic ties that Konyak may have
with Bodo related languages and add important limbs to the family tree
of languages with several subgroups. The complexity of linguistic
diversity and the large linguistic distance even between geographically
proximate members has first intrigued and then challenged many a
linguist to provide for explanations, and individual descriptions are
extremely important devices for that.
We hope, it will have another important role of promoting an
understanding between the common standard forms used in text books
and the many geographical yarieties-some of which are mutually
unintelligible- that would assist in the growth of language pedagogy
practices that sustain linguistic diversity. Knowledge about language in
particular terms, which grammars provide, enhance cognitive flexibility
and meta-linguistic awareness, and even promote a better perspective for
second language learning. Grammars also bring out the universal
properties of language which could shape language technology ventures at later stages of growth. For that reason alone such descriptions are
valuable for all of us and their potential will be realized further as our
knowledge of other languages advances.
It is my earnest hope this work will be received well by the
members of the Konyak community in particular, by the people of
Nagaland in general and by all other scholars who realize the value of
painstaking work that linguists engage in. I am sure Professor
K.S.Nagaraja would welcome all comments from any quarters that are
directed towards the improvement of the work.
0.1. Konyak Nagas are one of the sixteen major tribes who live in the State of
Nagaland, which was part of Assam State prior to December 1963. ‘Konyak',
(Phonemically kofiak), is the name of the language as well as the community
that speaks it. Among the 16 communities Konyak is the single largest tribe.
Earlier Konyaks were known by various names — Angwanku, Tableng,
Angphang and others. In fact there was no common name for these people. At
this stage it is not possible to state how and by whom this name was introduced.
0.2. Konyaks inhabit the eastern district of Nagaland state, namely Mon
district (formed in December 1973). The area occupied by the Konyaks is
primarily divided into two, viz., Lower Konyak and Upper Konyak. The lower
Konyak consists mostly of low lying areas with the hills having a height of just
about 3000 ft. The upper Konyak consists of high hills and thick forests
spreading in the south up to the Patkoi hill ranges. The Konyaks have on the
east a long international border with Burma. The Upper Konyaks are bounded
on the south by Khiamngans, on the west by the Changs and the Phoms; and on
the north they are contiguous with the lower Konyaks. The lower Konyaks are
bounded on the south-west by the Phoms, and on the west by the Aos. They
have a long border on the north and north-east with Assam and Arunachal
0.3. Konyaks, according to 1971 Census reports, numbered 72,338 speakers.
It rose to 83,651 in 1981 and according to 1991 it was 1,35,000. They
constitute one of the largest tribe in Nagaland.
0.4. Konyak language has many dialects. According to Marrison (1967) there
are 24 dialects (all named after the village names where they are spoken). They
are following: Angphang, Angwanku or Tableng, Aopao, Changaya, Chen,
Chingkso, Chinglang, Longkhai, Choka, Elokidoria, Takphang, Kongson,
Longching, Longkhai, Longmein, Longwa, Mohung, Mon, Mulung,
Ngangching, Sang, Shanlang, Shanyno, Tolamleinyn and Totak. The dialect
spoken in the Wakching area (Tableng) is considered to be the standard dialect
of Konyak and textbooks and other literature are written in this dialect.
Mon town is the district head-quarters of Mon district. (20 km. from
Wakching). This is an important village in this district. The important villages
in this district are the following — Wakching, Wanching, Oting, Lapa, Jakpang,
Chingkao, Phomching, Jabaka, Shangr. yu, Chen and Champang.
According to Nigam (1972) the Tibeto-Chinese language family has two
sub-families - Sjamese-Chinese, and Tibeto-Burman. The Tibeto-Burman sub-
family has two branches: The Tibeto-Himalayan branch and Assam-Burmese
branch. The latter branch has four groups. (a) Bodo, (b) Naga, (c) Kuki-Chin,
and (d) Burmese.
The Naga group of languages have been classified into three groups by
Grierson (LSI, Vol. 11: 1903).
1. Western group, which includes Angami, Sema, Rengma and
2. Central group which includes Ao, Lotha, Thukum1, Yimchunger,
and a few other languages, and
3. Eastern group, which includes Angwanku or Tableng (Konyak),
Chingmegnu or Tamlu (Phom), Chang of Manjung, and a few
others spoken outside Naga Hills, Viz., Banpana (Wanchoo),
Mohangia (Nocte), Mutonia, Assiringia, Moshang (Mohangia) and
Tangsa (Shangge)-all in the present Arunachal Pradesh.
Konyak belongs to Eastern branch of Naga group of languages.
Later in 1967 Marrison classified Naga languages into five types based on
typological comparisons at the phonological, morphological and syntactical
levels. The five types are the following:
Type Al. Consists of Tangsen (Yogli), Tangsa (Moshang), Nocte and
Wanchoo spoken in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Type A2. Consists of Konyak, Phom and Chang, spoken in the northern parts
Type Bl. Consists of Yacham-Tlengsa, Ao (Chungl1), AO (Mongsen), and
Sangtam spoken in the Northern part of Mokokchung district and
in the central and southern parts of Tuensang district of Nagaland.
Type B2. Consists of Lotha, Yimchunger, Ntenyi and Meluri spoken in the
southern parts of Mokokchung and ‘luensang districts and in the
South-east part of Kohima district of Nagaland.
Type B3. Consists of Thangkul and Marring, spoken in north and east
Manipur and in the Somra tract of Burma.
Type Cl. Consists of Sema, Angami, Chokri, Kezhama, and Mao, spoken in
the Zunheboto district, Kohima district and in the extreme north of
Type C2. Consists of Rengma, Maram, Khoirao, Mzieme, Zeme, Liangmel,
Puiron, Nruanghemet; while Rengma 1s spoken in the northern part of Kohima district, the remaining languages are spoken in one
continuous tract in the upper Barak valley and in the Barail range
in the Eastern part of Cachar, South — West Kohima district and
According to Marrison, Konyak comes under Type A2. Still later in 1974,
Sreedhar grouped these languages into three branches on the basis of
phonological variations. This comes very much parallel to Grierson's
0.5. Background of the People: Nagaland is inhabited by sixteen major
tribes. They all belong to Mongoloid race. Among them Konyak has the
maximum number of speakers (in 1971) but it is the most backward tribe among
all the Naga tribes.
Historically, they were very ferocious. To tame them the Britishers
introduced opium to that land. It is quite popular and liked particularly by the
older generation, even now. But the younger generation detests it. Till recently
they were almost completely secluded. Their only contact to the outer world
was with the Assamese for the purpose of purchasing salt and other essentials.
Even now Konyaks are the most backward among all the people in the State.
Still there are only 2 higher secondary schools in the entire Mon district.
Konyaks are simple and friendly and hospitable. Their Social setup 1s
patriarchal and patrilocal as other Naga societies. Monarchy is still prevalent in
some parts. Institution of ‘Morungs' is still found, though its importance
diminished. Jhum cultivation is the still important type of cultivation. Social
structure of Konyak is explained in detail by Fiirer Haimendorf in his book, The
Konyak Nagas. Recently the younger generation follows Christian faith; while
the older generation stick to their native cult. The modern schooling and
Christianity have weakened the tribal culture and social setup. They are in
0.6. Till very recently this language was not put into writing. As this
language did not have its own script, the Missionaries used the Roman script for
the first time to write this language at the beginning of 19" century. Though not
much literature was produced by the Missionaries in this language till very
recently, due to the uniform practice of using Roman script for most of the Naga
languages, the Konyaks accepted the same script for their language also.
Only after Nagaland attained statehood, any serious attempt was made in
the direction of producing written material in this language. Before that, only one book was written in this language. From then onwards, as this language is
taught in schools of Konyak region, the State Education Department started
producing basic books in this language. Even now, there are only a few school
books available in this language. The first work to provide systematically some
light on the social and cultural aspects of these people was by Furer
Haimendorf: Naked Nagas 1939, London; and The Konyak Nagas 1970,
London. These two books particularly the second one provide basic
introduction into these people. The first book in Konyak was published by
Missionaries — Longri, Ao Vwanppa Konyak Kak Lori —a first reader in Konyak
Naga, Wakching 1951. The next book written in Konyak came out only in
1963. The Jongne Jame: Primer for adults in Konyak language. Also Nagaland
Bhasha Parishad, a private organization has brought out Hindi-Konyak
Dictionary, from Kohima.
The present work is based on the data collected on the Wakching dialect of
the language. The data was collected during the two field trips conducted in
1975 and 1977. The data was collected from the following speakers: (1) Shr
Heong Konyak, 28 (LDA DIS office, Mon; in 1980 UDA, RCO, Mon); (2) Shri
Angmiing Konyak 30, Teacher, Govt. High School, Mon and (3) Shri Miingling
Konyak, Teacher — later Forester. All the three are educated up to S.S.L.C. and
further trained in their respective fields. They are multilinguals. They speak
besides their mother tongue, Nagamese, English and Hindi. The competence in
the 3rd and 4th is largely restricted. They hail from Wakching. The variety of
the language spoken there is used in writing books; so that variety was preferred
for this purpose.
This work contains 3 chapters.
The first chapter on Phonology provides inventory of Konyak phonemes,
Phonemic contrasts, allophonic distributions, description and distribution of
phonemes of this language. The rest is divided into Morphology and Syntax.
The section on Morphology discusses Konyak word formation and structure of
nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and particles. Syntax discusses the structure
of combination of words into phrases, clauses and sentences. Under sentences
certain transformations are discussed followed by an analysis of a sample text.
Scope of the present work: This work attempts to provide a comprehensive
analysis of the language basically through structural model. However, in this
study discussion of supra-segmental features except for Tones is not undertaken.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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