The Khamtis belong to the Northern Sub-group of the Tai
group of languages whose point of origin seems to appear
to have been round Mung Kang in Upper Burma. After the capture
of Mung Kang by the Burmese, a number of Khamtis migrated
to the north and east of Lakhimpur. In 1850, around three
to four hundred Khamti people came and settled in Assam.
The Khamtis are basically Buddhists. Khamti is spoken at
the east end of the Lakhimpur District, between Mishmi and
Singpho, on the south side of the Brahmaputra.
The Khamti language closely agrees with Northern Shan. The
Khamti alphabet , which is a variety of the Shan alphabet,
was borrowed from the Burmese. The Khamti alphabet contains
thirty-three letters. Of these sixteen are vowels and seventeen
are consonants. It is not as complete as the older Ahom
alphabet. In the vowels the sounds a and e is
not represented, unlike Shan. Again the sounds g,gh,j,jh,d,dh,b,and
bh are also not represented. Khamti is essentially
a tonal language. It has about six to seven tones. The Khamtis
borrowed letters from the Burmese quite extensively, though
Khamti is quite different from Burmese linguistically. It
has, however retained certain archaic forms which have disappeared
in Mung Kung . Khamti has the form of ka which was originally
borrowed from the Burmese.
In Khamti, every consonant has the sound a inherent in it
and hence all consonants are pronounced with the a vowel
attached to it. When it is desired to pronounce a consonant
without this inherent vowel, at the end of a closed syllable,
a specific mark is placed over the consonant. Every written
vowel in Khamti represents several sounds, and also liable
to modification before a final consonant.
Tones-In Khamti language there are at least three tones.
Robinson in his grammar recognized four tones.
(1) The rising tone, this
is the natural pitch of the voice, as, ma, a dog.
It is not indicated by any special mark.
(2) The level tone. For example- po (father.)
(3) The falling tone. For example- ma: (come.)
(4) The emphatic tone. For example-ma8: (a horse.)
Article- The infinite article
is formed by adding a:lwng,(one) after the noun. For example-ko:n
a: -lwng,(a certain man) For the definite article, the pronoun
nai (this) is used .For instance-mu: nai khau(the
pigs). Gender is unknown. In order to distinguish sex, either
different words are used. For example-po (father),ma: (mother),
or else differentiating words are added. The male word is
chai for human being,thwk for inferior animals and phu:
Number-The plural is indicated by prefixing or suffixing
khau.When there is a pronoun or definite article khau is
suffix to it. For instance-pet khau (ducks); pet nai khau
Case- The relationship of case is formed by prefixing
or suffixing words. The Nominative takes no
prefix or suffix. The accusative usually takes no
suffix. Sometimes it takes Mai. It is also used as a suffix
of the dative and the locative. The Genative takes
no prefix or suffix, but is placed after the governing word.
For instance- hang, a tail. pa:, a fish. hang pa:,a fishs
Other prefixes and suffixes used to indicate cases are the
following. A line following a word indicate a prefixes.
When two words are separated by a line, it indicates that
the noun is placed between them. For example-
ti---, ti---mai, to.
hang---, to, for.
luk-----, luk----mai, from.
au-----, with, by means of.
tang----, with, together with.
Adjectives do not change for gender. They follow the
nouns they qualify. For example-ko:n ni: a good(ni:) man.
The comparative is formed by prefixing khen(more) For
instance-khen thau(more). To form the superlative
it will be written like khen yow lwm-shi:ta:ng-mwng (larger
then all, largest).
In Khamti all the numerals are pronounced with the rising
tone except lwng (one);shi:(four),ha:,(five),shau,(twenty).
The personal pronouns have special forms for the
plural. In other words they are declined like nouns. They
tu: or ha:, We.
Ye or You.
He, She, It
or man khau, They
In the first person, hau is the same as our we,tu:
excludes the person addressed, and ha: is really a dual.
There are a number of compound pronouns. For example- ha:ng
khw, we two.
sha^ng khw you two
sha^ng khw or nkha: They two.
The Demonstrative Pronouns are a: nai or an nai,(This).
a: nan or an nan,(That).They are adjectives, and follow
the nouns they qualify. The initial a: or a:n is often dropped.
Nai is often used as a definite article.
The Relative Pronoun is
a#n,(Who or Which). For example-hu_ an cho#m,(the boat which
are sometimes used as relatives. Interrogative pronouns
are phau_,(Who). ka shang(what) a:law( which). There are
several indefinite pronouns. For instance-phaw kai or phaw
ko, (anyone, some one, etc.)
There is no proper conjugation of verbs. There is no for
number or pronoun. The bare root is commonly use for any
tense, especially the present and the past.
The follow is the method of expressing the relations of
tense of the verb kin, (eat).
Present- kau kin, I eat.
Present definite- kau kin u: I am
Past- kau kin ka:, I ate.
Perfect- kau kin ka: you or kau kin
you, I have eaten.
Future- kau ti kin, I shall eat.
Imperative- kin ta:, eat.
Negative Imperative- pi kin ta:,
do not eat.
Permissive Imperative- kin haw ta:,
allow to eat.
Infinitive- kin, to eat.
Infinitive of purpose- hang kin,
in order to eat.
Participle- kin shi: having eaten.
Adverbial Participle-mw kin nai,
after eating, on eating.
The prefixes and the suffixes are quite commonly widely
separated from the root. A prefix commonly appears at the
beginning of the sentence, and a suffix at the end, while
the verb itself is in the middle.
There is no passive voice .The passive is the same
as the active.
The Negative Participles are n,and ma: nis used
in the direct negation. For instance, man nkho#, she
does not laugh.(direct negation).
ma# is used in conditional interrogative sentences. The
interrogative force is given by putting ke#, at the end
of the sentence.
The Khamti language is influenced by the Tibeto Burman language
in respect of order of words. The usual order of words in
a simple sentence is Subject, Direct object, Indirect object
and Verb. In an interrogative sentence, the indirect object
precedes the Direct object.
The adjectives follows the noun it qualifies. The genetive
is depend on the noun. In the relative sentence the demonstrative
pronoun of the antecedent may be put either at the beginning
or end of the sentence.