Languages of the NE -> Khamti


        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: for birds.

        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 (the ducks).

        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 fish’s tail.

        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 are-



kau, I

hau, tu: or ha:, We.

maw Thou

shu: Ye or You.

man, He, She, It

khau 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 n’kha: 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 sunk.

        Interrogative Pronouns 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 eating.


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: n’is used in the direct negation. For instance, man n’kho#, 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.