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 :
Marrison , Daiho , Onia , M. Ashiho  and N. Saleo’s
not too weighty contributions [[Saleo 1983] and Saleo ] 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  and G. H. Damant  present
short accounts of the tribe in longer articles.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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