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Books > Language and Literature > Languages of the North East (Assamese, Khasi, Manipuri, Mising and Rabha)
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Languages of the North East (Assamese, Khasi, Manipuri, Mising and Rabha)
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Languages of the North East (Assamese, Khasi, Manipuri, Mising and Rabha)
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Foreword

The Central Institute of Indian Languages is concerned with the promotion and development of Indian languages for meeting the challenges of education and technology of the modern age. The development of Indian languages can take place by their use in new domains which requires development of materials, methods and manpower for work in the areas of codification, standardisation and modernisation. The work of the Institute encompasses basic research, material production and in-service training of teachers in language teaching and material production.

The Institute is also entrusted with the responsibility of assisting and improving the teaching of Indian languages at various levels by developing new methods, models and materials and by making use of modern technology. The six Regional Language Centers of the Institute are engaged in regular language teaching programmes. The seventh centre viz., NEREC at Guwahati is entrusted with the responsibility of promoting research in the languages of the North East and conducting various programmes in these Languages. The Institute is also a clearing house of information relating to Indian Languages.

A major programme of the Institute is the study of tribal and other minor languages resulting in writing of grammars and dictionaries. This study helps in codification of these languages and also in standardisation, which are primary steps for the development of any Language. The linguistic description is also a pre-requisite for preparation of language teaching materials. It thus forms part of the Institute’s work to improvise the language education. The Institute is also engaged in finding out shared features between tribal languages and major languages which is an important component in the making of India as a linguistic area.

In pursuance of the broad objectives of mentioned above, the Institute has been conducting from time to time various national and international seminars both for the exchange of ideas and findings among the language researchers and for the modernisation of language research concerning the languages of India both scheduled and tribal.

The North Eastern Research Extension Centre of the Institute located at Guwahati has also been conducting a series of seminars and workshops on various aspects of the languages of the North- East. Quite a few challenging papers have been presented in those seminars and workshops. Dr. P.N. Dutta Baruah, R.R.O of the Institute has taken the initiative of thoroughly editing the selected papers covering 5 major languages of the region, namely, Assamese, Khasi, Manipuri, Mising and Rabha and bringing them out in the form of a book. In order to give the total picture of ‘the languages concerned he has included some papers of some non- participating scholars also. It is hoped that this book will go a long way in presenting the accurate grammatical descriptions of the languages concerned, and help the language communities in the neighbourhood understand the structure of the neighbouring languages.

While congratulating the editor and the authors for their painstaking work I look forward to see that the book is well received by the members of the public in general and the people in the North-East in particular.

Introduction

The North East India has often been described as a precious store-house of data for linguistic research. A large number of languages belonging to three major language-families of the world, viz., Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman and Austric, are spoken in this small hinterland. Because of close contiguity and social and political cohesion among various language-communities over centuries, there have been a lot of linguistic convergence among the various languages. For example, Assamese, the major Indo-Aryan language in the North East has developed certain features which are unfamiliar to other sister Indo-Aryan languages. Similarly, some other Tibeto-Burman languages such as Rabha and Garo have developed features which are alien to other sister language of the Tibeto-Burman family.

In order to capture the shared features of the various languages belonging to all the three language families, the Central Institute of Indian Languages through its North Eastern Research Extension Centre, Guwahati had conducted a series of workshops on various aspects of the languages of the North East. Only native speakers of those languages having varied degrees of linguistic orientations had been invited to participate in these workshops. It may be mentioned that many of the participants were initiated to linguistic research for the first time through these workshops. Some had linguistic orientation but were not much skilled in the analysis, organisation and presentation of the materials. The editor, therefore, had to exercise his editorial prerogative and carry out extensive corrections to which the authors have kindly agreed. It is possible that inspire of all sincere efforts some omissions and commissions have crept in.

The tradition of writing grammars of these languages is not new. American Missionaries had taken the honest initiative of writing ‘grammars of these languages in the middle of the 19th Century. After the ‘introduction of the western Style of school eduction our native scholars also became well versed in English grammar and in tum, in Latin grammar [too. Both the Missionaries and the native scholars of late 19th Century attempted to write the grammars of these languages in the model of English grammar. Seeing through the lances of English grammar they could see the reflections of most of the features of English such as Parts of speech, Gender, Number, Tense etc. in the languages of North East. For Assamese grammarian, in addition to the above, there was a model of Sanskrit grammar before them. Assamese scholars well versed both in oriental as well as western studies could not help but strike a synthesis of the models of Sanskrit as well as English grammars for giving a shape to modern Assamese written grammars. This trend with some qualifications continued until recent times.

The contributors of the papers in this volume have ventured to make a bold departure from the ideals of the traditional grammarians of these languages. With adequate data they have declared that many of the notions of traditional grammarians have no validity and even relevance for the languages of the North-East. Some of such papers will function as eye opener.

Some of the significant points made by the contributors of the papers of this volume are as follows:

i) Many languages of the North-East are genderless, not lo speak of there being any grammatical gender. What these languages have is merely a system of biological sex-reference, and this is necessary only for specific semantic realisation of animate nouns. It is just meaningless to thrive to assign gender to each and every Noun., Most of the languages have mechanisms to signal the sex-reference by morphological suppletion or by the use of attributive. In the Sanskrit origin words in Assamese, Sanskrit-like convention of gender-distinction prevails.

ii) Number is also not a grammatically relevant category for most of the languages. Of course, some languages have mechanisms of deriving plural forms from root singular forms, but this is also restricted only to the nominals. Pluralisation, if any, meets only the semantic requirement.

iii) The validity of tense as a grammatical category of Verbs in Tibeto-Burman languages has been seriously questioned. Prof. Thoudam has gone to the extent of saying that Manipuri is a tense-leas language. What it has are aspects and moods. In respect of Assamese, a major Indo- Aryan language, Mrs. Choudhury (pp49) postulates only 5 categories of tenses in Assamese thereby setting at rest all the Sanskrit-like and English-like analysis of Assamese tense. Although her view-point is not undisputed, this deserves careful considerations. Here she makes a powerful departure from the traditional thinking. What transpires to be more important in the Assamese tense system is ‘the effect of intensity’ of the events rather than ‘the time factor’. Dutta Baruah (pp66) establishes that voice is a grammatical category in Assamese and there are inflectional as well as periphrastic passive voices where patient moves to the position of the grammatical subject and the agent is either deleted or made insignificant. All these | put up new challenges before the linguistic researchers.

iv) It was generally believed and was often stated that the morphological inflection of Assamese kinship nouns for person was due to the influence of Non-Aryan languages of the region. The findings of the papers included in this volume have established that this feature is not shared by the Tibeto-Burman Languages nor by the Austric languages. What Boro, a T.B. language, shares with Assamese in common is the prefixation of the residue of the personal pronouns before the kinship terms. But it does not have specific affixes to mark the relationship with specific grammatical persons.

v) The findings of the papers also intend to validate ‘the classificatory’ and ‘the quantifying’ criteria of the so called classifiers and quantifiers in the languages of North-East. Although all the languages have a host of such classifiers and quantifiers, they practically do not classify and quantify the Nouns and Pronouns on any rigid basis. They are more of the character of Definitives or Specifiers, Viz., having the ability to specify definitely something that is already known to the speaker and the hearer in a sense of singularity. Although some broad semantic criteria of their uses could be identified they are, by and large, lexically conditioned.

These papers, thus, throw open the potentiality of the linguistic research of the languages of the North-East and at the same time provide a forum of expression for the native researchers of these languages. If these papers could serve as source materials for other researchers and inspire the no-linguists and researchers to pursue their studies further, the editor and contributors will feel rewarded.

Commets and suggestions for improving the revised version of this volume is much welcome from all quarters.

**Contents and Sample Pages**












Languages of the North East (Assamese, Khasi, Manipuri, Mising and Rabha)

Item Code:
NAW380
Cover:
HARDCOVER
Edition:
1997
ISBN:
8173420394
Language:
English
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10.00 X 8.00 inch
Pages:
368
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Weight of the Book: 0.71 Kg
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Foreword

The Central Institute of Indian Languages is concerned with the promotion and development of Indian languages for meeting the challenges of education and technology of the modern age. The development of Indian languages can take place by their use in new domains which requires development of materials, methods and manpower for work in the areas of codification, standardisation and modernisation. The work of the Institute encompasses basic research, material production and in-service training of teachers in language teaching and material production.

The Institute is also entrusted with the responsibility of assisting and improving the teaching of Indian languages at various levels by developing new methods, models and materials and by making use of modern technology. The six Regional Language Centers of the Institute are engaged in regular language teaching programmes. The seventh centre viz., NEREC at Guwahati is entrusted with the responsibility of promoting research in the languages of the North East and conducting various programmes in these Languages. The Institute is also a clearing house of information relating to Indian Languages.

A major programme of the Institute is the study of tribal and other minor languages resulting in writing of grammars and dictionaries. This study helps in codification of these languages and also in standardisation, which are primary steps for the development of any Language. The linguistic description is also a pre-requisite for preparation of language teaching materials. It thus forms part of the Institute’s work to improvise the language education. The Institute is also engaged in finding out shared features between tribal languages and major languages which is an important component in the making of India as a linguistic area.

In pursuance of the broad objectives of mentioned above, the Institute has been conducting from time to time various national and international seminars both for the exchange of ideas and findings among the language researchers and for the modernisation of language research concerning the languages of India both scheduled and tribal.

The North Eastern Research Extension Centre of the Institute located at Guwahati has also been conducting a series of seminars and workshops on various aspects of the languages of the North- East. Quite a few challenging papers have been presented in those seminars and workshops. Dr. P.N. Dutta Baruah, R.R.O of the Institute has taken the initiative of thoroughly editing the selected papers covering 5 major languages of the region, namely, Assamese, Khasi, Manipuri, Mising and Rabha and bringing them out in the form of a book. In order to give the total picture of ‘the languages concerned he has included some papers of some non- participating scholars also. It is hoped that this book will go a long way in presenting the accurate grammatical descriptions of the languages concerned, and help the language communities in the neighbourhood understand the structure of the neighbouring languages.

While congratulating the editor and the authors for their painstaking work I look forward to see that the book is well received by the members of the public in general and the people in the North-East in particular.

Introduction

The North East India has often been described as a precious store-house of data for linguistic research. A large number of languages belonging to three major language-families of the world, viz., Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman and Austric, are spoken in this small hinterland. Because of close contiguity and social and political cohesion among various language-communities over centuries, there have been a lot of linguistic convergence among the various languages. For example, Assamese, the major Indo-Aryan language in the North East has developed certain features which are unfamiliar to other sister Indo-Aryan languages. Similarly, some other Tibeto-Burman languages such as Rabha and Garo have developed features which are alien to other sister language of the Tibeto-Burman family.

In order to capture the shared features of the various languages belonging to all the three language families, the Central Institute of Indian Languages through its North Eastern Research Extension Centre, Guwahati had conducted a series of workshops on various aspects of the languages of the North East. Only native speakers of those languages having varied degrees of linguistic orientations had been invited to participate in these workshops. It may be mentioned that many of the participants were initiated to linguistic research for the first time through these workshops. Some had linguistic orientation but were not much skilled in the analysis, organisation and presentation of the materials. The editor, therefore, had to exercise his editorial prerogative and carry out extensive corrections to which the authors have kindly agreed. It is possible that inspire of all sincere efforts some omissions and commissions have crept in.

The tradition of writing grammars of these languages is not new. American Missionaries had taken the honest initiative of writing ‘grammars of these languages in the middle of the 19th Century. After the ‘introduction of the western Style of school eduction our native scholars also became well versed in English grammar and in tum, in Latin grammar [too. Both the Missionaries and the native scholars of late 19th Century attempted to write the grammars of these languages in the model of English grammar. Seeing through the lances of English grammar they could see the reflections of most of the features of English such as Parts of speech, Gender, Number, Tense etc. in the languages of North East. For Assamese grammarian, in addition to the above, there was a model of Sanskrit grammar before them. Assamese scholars well versed both in oriental as well as western studies could not help but strike a synthesis of the models of Sanskrit as well as English grammars for giving a shape to modern Assamese written grammars. This trend with some qualifications continued until recent times.

The contributors of the papers in this volume have ventured to make a bold departure from the ideals of the traditional grammarians of these languages. With adequate data they have declared that many of the notions of traditional grammarians have no validity and even relevance for the languages of the North-East. Some of such papers will function as eye opener.

Some of the significant points made by the contributors of the papers of this volume are as follows:

i) Many languages of the North-East are genderless, not lo speak of there being any grammatical gender. What these languages have is merely a system of biological sex-reference, and this is necessary only for specific semantic realisation of animate nouns. It is just meaningless to thrive to assign gender to each and every Noun., Most of the languages have mechanisms to signal the sex-reference by morphological suppletion or by the use of attributive. In the Sanskrit origin words in Assamese, Sanskrit-like convention of gender-distinction prevails.

ii) Number is also not a grammatically relevant category for most of the languages. Of course, some languages have mechanisms of deriving plural forms from root singular forms, but this is also restricted only to the nominals. Pluralisation, if any, meets only the semantic requirement.

iii) The validity of tense as a grammatical category of Verbs in Tibeto-Burman languages has been seriously questioned. Prof. Thoudam has gone to the extent of saying that Manipuri is a tense-leas language. What it has are aspects and moods. In respect of Assamese, a major Indo- Aryan language, Mrs. Choudhury (pp49) postulates only 5 categories of tenses in Assamese thereby setting at rest all the Sanskrit-like and English-like analysis of Assamese tense. Although her view-point is not undisputed, this deserves careful considerations. Here she makes a powerful departure from the traditional thinking. What transpires to be more important in the Assamese tense system is ‘the effect of intensity’ of the events rather than ‘the time factor’. Dutta Baruah (pp66) establishes that voice is a grammatical category in Assamese and there are inflectional as well as periphrastic passive voices where patient moves to the position of the grammatical subject and the agent is either deleted or made insignificant. All these | put up new challenges before the linguistic researchers.

iv) It was generally believed and was often stated that the morphological inflection of Assamese kinship nouns for person was due to the influence of Non-Aryan languages of the region. The findings of the papers included in this volume have established that this feature is not shared by the Tibeto-Burman Languages nor by the Austric languages. What Boro, a T.B. language, shares with Assamese in common is the prefixation of the residue of the personal pronouns before the kinship terms. But it does not have specific affixes to mark the relationship with specific grammatical persons.

v) The findings of the papers also intend to validate ‘the classificatory’ and ‘the quantifying’ criteria of the so called classifiers and quantifiers in the languages of North-East. Although all the languages have a host of such classifiers and quantifiers, they practically do not classify and quantify the Nouns and Pronouns on any rigid basis. They are more of the character of Definitives or Specifiers, Viz., having the ability to specify definitely something that is already known to the speaker and the hearer in a sense of singularity. Although some broad semantic criteria of their uses could be identified they are, by and large, lexically conditioned.

These papers, thus, throw open the potentiality of the linguistic research of the languages of the North-East and at the same time provide a forum of expression for the native researchers of these languages. If these papers could serve as source materials for other researchers and inspire the no-linguists and researchers to pursue their studies further, the editor and contributors will feel rewarded.

Commets and suggestions for improving the revised version of this volume is much welcome from all quarters.

**Contents and Sample Pages**












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