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Sema Grammar (An Old and Rare Book)

Sema Grammar (An Old and Rare Book)
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Item Code: NAW180
Author: M. V. Sreedhar
Publisher: Central Institute Of Indian Languages, Mysore
Language: Sema and English
Edition: 1980
Pages: 210
Other Details: 8.50 X 5.50 inch

The Central Institute of Indian Languages was set up on the 17th July, 1969 with a view to assisting and co-ordinating the development of Indian languages. The Institute was charged with the responsibility of serving as a nucleus to bring together all the research and literary output from the various linguistic streams to a common head and narrowing the gap between basic research and developmental research in the fields of languages and linguistics in India.

The Institute and its four Regional Language Centers are thus engaged in research and teaching which lead te the publication of a wide-ranging variety of materials. Preparation of materials designed for teaching/learning at different levels and suited to specific needs is one of the major areas of interest of the Institute. Basic research relating to :the acquisition of language and study of language in its manifold psycho-social relations constitute another broad range of its interest. The publication will include materials produced by the members of the staff of the Central Institute of Indian Languages and its Regional Language Centres and associated scholars from universities and institutions, both Indian and foreign.

The Central Institute of Indian Languages has initiated the Grammar series in non-literate languages in general and tribal languages in particular presenting a description of every such language in the sub-continent. This is undertaken with a view to producing instructional materials necessary for learning and teaching the language concerned. It is also expected to be of synchronic and diachronic study of languages.

If these materials help solving problems, both individual and corporate, and help in understanding the people speaking the language, then our efforts will be deemed to have been amply rewarded.


The tribal people in India have for long lived in isolation except to be exposed for exploitation. They have not participated to their benefit in the socio-economic development of the country. To come out of their isolation, it is necessary for them to learn the language of the majority people around them and a number of them have done so, But this bridges the communication gap only in one way and the whole burden of building up this bridge is carried by the minority group, It is necessary, however, for developing mutual understanding and good-will, to increase bidirectional communication between the tribal people and the majority of people of the region. For this purpose, the majority people, especially those who come in contract with the tribe people for various reasons such as civil administration, security, social service, trade, etc., should learn their language. The Grammar, which forms part of the package consisting phonetic reader, bi-or tri-lingual dictionary and teaching manual is prepared to help them in their learning of the tribal language.

The organisation of the Grammar is based on grammatical functions rather than on grammatical forms. This will help the new learner to find easily how the different functions, which he already knows and wants to express, are formalised in this language. Since this Grammar is primarily meant for pedagogical Government officials in Ladakh district without whose co-operation the field, work could not have been done smoothly.

I would like to extend my thanks to my friends Mr. Iqbal B.Sc., State Bank of India, Kargil and Mr. Mohammed Shafi M.A, formerly Deputy Superintendent of Police at Leh for the help they extended during my field work.

I must express my thanks to Dr. D. P. Pattanayak,{Director, CIIL, Mysore for the academic atmosphere he keeps and the encouragement he gives.

I am grateful to Dr. E. Annamalai, Deputy Director, CIIL. Mysore for the guidance and supervision of this work and to Dr. H. S. Biligiri, former Deputy Director, CIIL, Mysore who supervised my work in its early stage.

My thanks should go to my friends Mr. N. Ramaswamy, Dr. M. S. Thirumalai, Deputy Director, Dr. B. B. Rajapurohit and Mr. S. Arokianathan who spared their time to discuss some of the problems which I encountered during the writing of this Grammar. I am thankful to Mr. Ananda Raj, CIIL, Mysore for helping me when I prepared the manuscript for the press.

My thanks go to Miss. N. K. Rukmini and Mr. Gopal for the neat typing.

Finally I would like to express my thanks to Mr. H.L. N. Bharati, CIIL, Mysore who saw this Grammar through the press and M/s. Sri Raghavendra Printers, Mysore, for their sincere efforts for a neat and quick printing of this Grammar.


Nagaland became a fullfledged state in India on December I, 1963. Between December 1], 1957 and December 1, 1963, the area consisting of the present Nagaland was known as Naga Hills and Tuensang area (NHTA). Prior to 1957, Naga Hills formed a district of Assam, some parts of the Tuensang area in the North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA) now redesignated as Arunachal Pradesh and the rest were unadministered area. The Zunheboto district, the main center of the Semas, were in the administered area and formed part of the Naga Hills. Till December 20, 1973, Zunheboto sub-division, consisting almost exclusively of Semas, was administered by an additional Deputy Commissioner, under Mukok chung District. On the basis of language and ethnic consideration a few additional districts in Nagaland were created by the state Government and the Zunheboto sub-division became a fullfledged district from December 20, 1973. Kohima situated at a height of 4,800 feet was the headquarters of the NHTA and now is the capital of Nagaland. Nagaland has in the east a long international border with Burma. It borders Manipur in the south, Assam in the west and north west and Arunachal Pradesh in the north west. it has an area of 6,366 square miles with a population of 5,16,4497. The population of Nagaland consists of 232 indigenous speech communities and a few immigrant communities from the other parts of India. The indigenous Naga communities form 94%3 of the states population. Of these the Semas rank the third position with a population of 65,2274. The first and the second places go to the Konyaks and the ‘Aos with a population respectively of 77,338 and 65,275. The Angamis who wield a great deal of political influence in the state rank only a fourth place with a population of 43,569.


Nagas are a sub-group of the Tibeto-Burman Community. According to Marrison (1967 : 196) the origin of this community appears to have been in Eastern Tibet and Western China and the general trend of their movement has been southwards along the line of Valleys of this region where the great rivers of south- East Asia have their beginnings.

The Tibeto-Burmans who in the course of this movement entered the Naga Hills made their first entries at different points, and penetrated them in various directions, viz :

(i) from Tibet through the Dihang (Brahmaputra) valley across the upper Assam valley and thence into northern Naga Hills,

(ii) from northern Burma, across the Patkoi range into the northern Naga Hills.

(iii) from north-east Burma, across the river chindwin, up the Nantaleik (Tizu) valley, into the central] Naga Hills, (iv) from Manipur valley northwards, to the Southern Naga 7 Hills and onwards by the Doyang valley; and .

(v) from the Manipur valley and thence by the upper Borak valley into the Barail range.

Some of these movements have been described earlier by Hutton (1921)


Sema is a Naga language belonging to the Sino-Tibetan family of language. The Sino-Tibetan family of language can be Conveniently sub-divided into two sub-families, viz : Siamese- Chinese and Tibeto-Burman (TB). The most important feature that marks out the TB sub-family from that of the Siamese-Chinese is the difference in the arrangement of the word-order, i.e. whereas the Siamese-Chinese sub-family has the subject-verb-object pat tern, the TB sub-family has the subject object -verb- pattern, a Pan Indian feature found with Munda, Dravidian and Indo Aryan languages spoken in India.

The TB Sub-family of language in the first instance may be sub-classified into three, viz : Tibeto-Himalayan, Assam-Burmese and North-Assam branches. Of these, the Assam-Burmese branch which has the largest number of language is further sub-divided into six groups viz : Bodo, Naga, Kuki-Chin, Kachin, Burmese, Lolo Mos’o and Sak or Lui. Of these six groups Bodo and Naga groups are closely connected to the Tibeto-Himalayan branch. In addition to these six groups, there are two intermediate groups showing points of contact with Naga group and others. These are Naga-Bodo and Naga-Kuki. Mikir is the principal Naga-Bodo language, others in this group includes Kabui, Zemi and Khoriao. The principal Naga-Kuki languages include, Thanghkul, Mao, Maram, Maring and Liangmei. The Naga languages are spoken in the state of Nagaland, the southern part of Arunachal Pradesh and the north-eastern part of Manipur.

The Characterstic features of the Naga languages include the modification of the verb phrase by Stringing together of affixes within the verb phrase rather than by the use of independent ad- verb, making little or no use of numeral classifiers and the sub- ordinate phrase preceding the main phrase. The last usage according to Marrison derives from the fact that in Naga languages there are two points of emphasis in a sentence ; the subject is stated in the beginning and the principal action at the end rounding of the whole theme so that the subordinate matters are placed in between. The Negative particle is post-posed to the principal verb in most of the languages except the central group. In fact, the position of the negative particle was the chief criterion of Grierson in sub-dividing the Naga languages. The inherited features include the use of tones, occurrence of the interrogative particle at the end of the sentence and the NP>N+ A+ PP+ plural. Grierson Subdivides the Naga languages into Western, Central and eastern Naga languages : The western Naga includes, Angami. Sema, Rengma, Kezha and some minor languages, the Central Naga includes Ao, Lotha, Sangtam, Yimchungrii and some minor languages and the Eastern Naga includes Konyak, Phom, Wancho, Chang, Nocte, Tangsa and some minor languages, Marri- son also sub-divides the Naga languages into three but on a different criteria viz; occurrence of certain initial clusters and final stops. His groupings are (1) Konyak group (ii) Ao-Thangkhul group and Angami-Zeme group. Marrison (1967-Vol, [-P. 20) also questions the validity of the setting up of the intermediate transitional groups like Naga-Bodo and Naga-Kuki group. Sreedhar (1975) also sub- grouped the Naga languages on the basis of the phonetic pattern of the Naga Pidgin used by each group. In all these Sub-groupings, the Sema has the same position, viz - clubbed with Angami group.

An important linguistic feature that distinguishes Sema language from the other Naga languages is the total absence of the [r] sound in their phonetic inventory. This feature is found with a number of Kuki languages.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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