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Mao Naga Grammar

Mao Naga Grammar
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Item Code: NAW257
Author: P.P. Giridhar
Publisher: Central Institute Of Indian Languages, Mysore
Language: Mao and English
Edition: 1994
ISBN: 8173420310
Pages: 516
Other Details: 9.50 X 7.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.88 kg

The Central Institute of Indian Languages has reached 25 years of age and it is a time for reflection about its origin, development, achievements and shortfalls.

The study of Indian language with the objective of preparing them for the new roles of national reconstruction and development was the concern of many from the independence of the country. The major responsibility to support such a study was to be taken up by the State. The Kher Commission of the Government of India recommended the establishment of three Central Institutes for this purpose. The Official Language Resolution of 1968 made the Central Government also responsible for the development of all Indian languages in addition to Hindi. These and other developments led to the establishment of Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) in Mysore on July 17, 1969.

The primary objective of the Institute is the development of Indian languages ensuring coordination between the various developmental activities at the governmental and non governmental levels and also by orienting linguistic research for the development of Indian languages. The Institute is also to contribute towards the maintenance of multilingualism of the country through language teaching, and translation and to strengthen the common bond between the Indian languages.

The work of the Institute consists of research, training and production of teaching materials. The results of these activities can be seen in its more than 300 publications and 6879 teachers trained in its Regional Language Centres. The Institute has been able to make an impact in language teaching in schools making it skill based and function oriented. It has brought audio visual and computed technology to aid the teaching of Indian languages. It has helped many tribal languages to be codified, described and used in education. Its research and training programmes in social, physiological and folkloristic aspects of language and culture have introduced new dimensions to research on Indian languages. The International Institutes organised by the Institute in sociolinguistics, semiotics, phonetics and other areas have helped the development of human resource in these areas.

The major problem of the Institute is that it cannot meet all language needs of the whole country. It has to play the role of a catalyst and model setter. The other agencies are to take over the universal implementation of the innovations. This has not taken place to the desired extent.

In the coming years, the Institute plans to consolidate the earlier work and expand the work in the areas of translation, computer applications and production of audio visual materials. It wishes to strike new grounds in language evaluation and storage and dissemination of language information. The Institute will move into anew Campus to carry on the work with new vigour and vision.

One part of the Silver Jubilee Celebration is the publication of 25 special volumes. The present book is one of these volumes.


1.1 The People.

Mao Nagas occupy parts of the Mao-Maram subdivision of the Senapati District of the state of Manipur. Ethnoculturally, they are with the Nagas of Nagaland, being closely related to the Angami Nagas. They have long since enjoyed a settled life. Practise agrarian economy ; rice culture is their main stay, the cultivation of potato being common too. Maos have long since given up swidden cultivation, terracing being more common now. Ownership of land is both collective and individual. They bury the dead. Festivals are in the main, bucolic, agriculture-related. Villages are divided into exogamous clans, each headed by a leader. The dormitory system where boys and girls would freely interact without prejudice to sex, and which once played a vital role in the sociocultural life of the village is fast getting into limbo. Joint families are alien to their mode of life. As in Europe, once married, the son typically has a Separate establishment. Patrilineal and patrilocal [cié-vu [husband’s] house-go is the verb ‘to marry’ when the speaker is a female], they practise tribal endogamy and clan exogamy, people have increasingly married within the clan and outside the tribe with impunity, though. Adjudication, dispensing of justice and administration of punitive action is prompt with the aid of an Open and mobile court system. Maos were animists till about 1927 when a large scale proselytisation into Christianity swamped them and made deep dents in their primevally vital mode of life. Paganism still survives, persists among some. In fact the headman of most villages is a pagan. Headman ship is hereditary. People have a strong sense of village identity. Social solidarity is at its strongest at the village level. A word about the genesis of the word ‘Mao’ will end this laconic ethnological note. The word ‘Mao’ has nothing to do with the Chinese strongman who dominated China until recently. There are various stories about how Maos came to be called Maos.

a] The term Mao could be from the word memeo who is fancied to be their progenitor, forebear of whom all the Maos are descendants.

b] When Britishers set foot in that part, they travelled from Kohima straight to Imphal without contacting the tribals on the way. They came into contact with Marams first. The Marams must have called Maos ‘mao (mai)* or when asked about the tribe the Britishers passed by, must have said ‘mo’ meaning ‘I do not know’, which the Britishers took for the name of the tribe. The mo came to be spelt as muw which spelling is still there in the British records in Imphal and as mow which spelling is still there in the British records in Kohima, and later as mao which has come to stay.

c] Grierson [1903:3,3 : 45] says, ‘Mao is the Manipuri name of their chief village’, which, of course, is empirically empty. Memi which could be a transformed, mutilated form of memeo that we broached earlier or from imemiii [ime from Memeo and mili ‘man, person, people’, is an autonym. Sopfomie is an Angami exoethnonym. This could be from the name of shipfo who is fancied by Maos to be Memeo’s progenitor. The primogeniture of shipfo is established beyond argument among the Maos. Sopfoma and Sopfora are Angami exoloconyms for the Mao township.

d] The word Mao could also be from omo ‘pumpkin’- A Zemi version has it that Maos grew very good pumpkins and so came to be called omomiui ‘pumpkin men’, which, with the passage of time, developed into Mao.

1.2 The Language

Mao [Naga], phonemically mao (naga), is spoken in the Mao-Maram subdivision of the Senapati District [formerly called the North District] of the state of Manipur and in a couple of solely Mao villages in the Phek District of the state of Nagaland by a population of 35, 381 [ail India figure in the 1971 census], now conservatively estimated to be over 50,000. It is spoken in exclusively Mao villages which are perched on hill tops - sixteen of them, Punanamai, Pudunamai, Kaibi, Choynu (Chowainu, Kalinamai, Shongshong, Shajouba, Tobufti, Tadubi, Makhel [Maos believe all the Nagas originated in this village], Chakumai, Makhan, Mao Pongdung, Choynamai khulen, Choyna- mai khunou and Rabunamai. Mao, which is not an exclusively Mao village but a township on the Kohima-Imphal highway, is an exonym, an exoloco-, exoethno-, and an exoglossonym [=names that an outsider calls a place, tribe and language respectively]. Natives do not particularly like themselves to be called ‘Maos’ and their language to be called ‘Mao’. As a result, imela la meaning ‘language’ and ime meaning ‘Memeo’] for the language and imemii for the tribe[mi/i meaning ‘man;person; people’] are gaining currency, although the prospects of either of them totally replacing the word Mao seem rather bleak.

Mao is a Naga _ language of the Tibeto-Burman family. It is closely related to Angami, as many features of phonology [both have bilabial affricates, have identical tactics in consonant clusters etc.] and syntax [number not an obligatory grammatical category, reflexive pronouns take an auxiliary pronoun before taking case markers etc.] attest. Since it also displays some linguistic features of the Kuki languages, it can be classed "with equal propriety’, says Grierson [1903, 3,2: 451], ‘‘as belonging to the Western subgroup [where Angami belongs - my addition] of the Naga group as to the Naga-Kuki group’’. Going a step further, one could say that Mao Naga belongs more in the Naga group of Tibeto-Burman languages than in the Kuki group : Fer instance, Mao Naga is not a pro nominalized language unlike Kuki languages which are typically truly pro nominalized languages [e.g. Paite, Hmar].

1.2.1 Mao came to be a written language in the early part of this century, in the late 20’s - it's written in the Roman script. The bible was translated into Mao by the Christian missionaries in 1927. Mao is still a relatively obscure language. Not much work has been done either on the language or in it. The brief and sketchy parts on Mao in Grierson [1903]: Marrison [1967], Daiho [1964], Onia [1978], M. Ashiho [1964] and N. Saleo’s not too weighty contributions [[Saleo 1983] and Saleo [1985]] constitute about all that has been done on the language. N. Ashuli and K. Ashuli have contributed to the literature on Maos as a people, the booklet by the former being awarded a prize by the Manipur State Kala Academy. Grierson [ibid : 452] tells us Major McCulloch [1859] and G. H. Damant [1860] present short accounts of the tribe in longer articles.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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