Languages of the NE -> Karbi

KHASI

Khasi is a member of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family. It is spoken mainly in the state of Meghalaya by about 10, lakh people according to the 1991 census. A variety of Khasi, known as Khynriem is spoken around Cherrapunji in the southern part of the state and has been used in schools, newspapers and other literary activities and it has generally been considered as the standard dialect of the Khasi language. The other dialects of Khasi are, Bhoi-Jirang, spoken in West Khasi hills in Mawkyrwat block. Nongtung: spoken in the East Khasi hills in Umsning block. Lyngngam: spoken in the West Khasi hills in Mawshynrut block , Syntang (Pnar or Jaintia) spoken in the central plateau of Jaintia hills, War spoken in the low Southern valleys bordering Sylhet plains in Bangladesh in the East Khasi Hills district.

It is interesting to note here that the Lyngngam dialect as observed by Hamlet Bareh may not be a dialect of Khasi. Bareh’s argument is based on a comparison of a some vocabulary items of Lyngngam with that of the Standard Khasi. However correspondences at all levels,that is phonological, lexical and grammatical available till date suggests a close proximity to Standard Khasi.

Following is a phonemic inventory of Lyngngam.

Vowels:

i  i:          i_ u

e                              o

o_

a                               a:

Consonants:

 

Bilabial

Alveolar

Palatal

Velar

Glottal.

Stops

p b

ph

t d

th dh

c j

ch jh

k g

kh

?

Nasals

m

n

 

N

 

Fricatives

 

s

 

h

 

Trill

r

 

 

 

 

Lateral

l

 

 

 

 

Frictionless

Continuants

w

 

y

 

 

A few related and unrelated lexical items in both Standard Khasi and Lyngngam is given below:

Related Forms:

snie?

a bark (of a tree).

ka snep.

o_sim

bird.

ka sim.

snam

blood.

ka snam.

khmat

eye.

ka khmat.

torsim

claw.

ka ti_rsum.

Unrelated Forms:

o_pa:U

ashes.

u dpei.

lo_ba

belly

ka kpo?.

o_not

heart

u kloNsnam.

o_min

meat

ka do?.

o_moin

tooth

u bniat.

The following is the phonemic inventory of the Khasi language.

Consonants:

 

Bilabial

Alveolar

Palatal

Velar

Glottal.

Stops

p b

ph bh

t d

th dh

j

jh

k

kh

?

Nasals

m

n

n)

N

 

Fricatives

 

s

S

h

 

Trill

r

 

 

 

 

Lateral

l

 

 

 

 

Frictionless

Continuants

w

 

y

 

 

Vowels:

i i:

i_

u u:

e e:

 

o o:

 

a a:

 

[p]: occurs in the initial, medial and the final positions.

put

blow.

tupia

hat.

ziNmap

forgiveness.

 

 

[pH]: occurs in the initial and medial positions.

pHut

pull out (a tooth).

ka kHpHwah

leg.

 

[b]: occurs in the initial, medial and the final positions.

ba

a relative pronoun

babha

good.

khleb khleb

flickeringly.

bieit

foolish

 

 

 

 

. .

[bH]: occurs in the initial and medial positions.

bHa

good

baibHa

nice.

 

[d]: occurs in the initial and medial positions:

danda

fun

dihduma

smoke.

ding

fire.

lada

if.

[dH]: occurs in the initial and medial positions.

dHara

a kind of cloth

(an outer garment of Khasi women).

radHa

swan

.

[t]: occurs in the initial, medial and final positions.

tep

bury.

ruti

bread.

Sut

polish.

[tH]: occurs in the initial and medial positions.

tHep

load

zaintHiah

bedding

[k]: occurs in the initial, medial and the final positions.

ka

she.

pukni

eagle.

Srak

in order

.

[kH]: occurs in the initial and medial positions.

kHa

give birth.

pakHa

fan

.

[j]: occurs in the initial, medial and the final positions.

jew

sour

ka njam

religion.

Saralj

a kind of insect cocoon

found among grass.

[jH]: occurs in the initial and medial positions.

jHie?

wet.

[?]: occurs in the medial and final positions.

p?ian

firmly (sit).

kwa?

wish.

[m]: occurs in the initial, medial and final positions.

masi

cow/ bull/ ox.

lymbher

in a heap.

mom

mixture of fat etc.

 

 

 

 

rem

dear.

[n]: occurs in the initial, medial and final positions.

nar

iron.

khnan

arrow

ren

monster.

[n)]: occurs in the initial, medial and final positions.

n)iak

much.

kn)ia

sacrifice.

ren)

louse.

[N]: occurs in the initial, medial and final positions.

Nem

sink

ziNiaseN

meeting

reN

horn.

[s]: occurs in the initial and medial positions.

soN

to fold

bastang

thin.

[S]: occurs in the initial and medial position.

SoN

to ride

daNSit

fever.

[h]: occurs in the initial, medial and final positions.

hajan

here.

lushia

finger; handle; meddle.

matlah

blind

.

[r]: occurs in the initial, medial, and final positions.

raN

ceases to rain.

marwei

alone (lonely).

salr

sweep.

[l]: occurs in the initial, medial and final positions.

laN

together

kordolr

valuable.

pi-el

full or swollen (as an overfull stomach).

[w]: occurs in the initial, medial and final positions.

wa:t

to find.

uwei

one.

umpohliew

spring (a fountain).

[y]: occurs in the initial ,medial and final positions.

ya:r

width

tynnat

moderately.

si_mba:y

seed.

 

The following examples show the contrastive vowel length of all the vowel phonemes in the Khasi language.

sim

bird.

si:mat

bed-bug.

em

rich

e:m

negative marker.

tam

excess.

ta:m

father.

kop

corn.

ko:p

to deserve.

lun

tadpole.

lu:n

to throw.

Khasi has a Subject- Verb- Object order of sentences : e.g.

u ksew u la be? ya u myaw.

m dog m past chase obj m cat

‘the dog chased the cat.’

 

u la ay ya ku kot ha ka.

he past give obj fem book to her.

‘he gave the book to her.’

 

Khasi classifies nouns with u ’masculine singular prefix’ and ku ’feminine singular prefix’, and ki ’common plural’.

These function as agreement markers only when they occur with nouns. Hence combination of these and nouns give rise

to phrases rather than words.

e.g: ka kitap.

book.

ka kiat.

wine.

u ksew.

dog.

u brew.

man

+

.

Again, when there is a pronoun as the subject, these agreement markers function as personal pronouns.

That is why these are also called pronominal markers. (Nagaraja 1985).

Moreover Khasi uses ya to mark direct objects and ha to mark indirect objects.

Negative markers:

The pre-verbal negative negative marker in Khasi is : um,em, m, khlem. For example:

u khlem leyt.

he neg. go.

ka-m shim la leyt.

she-neg. participle past go.

ka khlem leyt.

she neg. go.

u khi_nna? um bam

mas. Pre. Non-Adult (human) neg. eat.

ka kHi_nna? kam bam

fem .Pre Non-Adult (human) neg. eat.

 

The negative marker em is sometimes also prefixed to verbs only resulting in verbal phrases as in the following :

bam to eat (1st person) embam will not eat

let to go (1nd person) emlet will not go.

dOn to have ( 1st person) emdOn don’t have

.

The process of Reduplication is an interesting phenomenon found in Khasi. It is a morphological process where the base or stem is repeated.

The base may be a noun, verb, adjective or an adverb, as in :

‘noun’ Si hara group Si harahara groups.

‘verb’ khlir to clear khlir khlir to clear all.

In the case of adjectives, it is interesting to observe that an intensifier is attached to an adjective and it is the intensifier which is re-duplicated, as in :

yoN black. yoN n)en very black. yoN n)en n)en) very very black.

saw red saw her scarlet. saw her her very very red.

Adverbs:

suki slowly suki suki very slowly.

kdek beat kdek kdek fast beat.

 

 

It is interesting to note here that in Khasi Prefixation is an important morphological process. This process of Prefixation works both in a

non reduplicated form as well as in a reduplicated form. A few examples illustrating a couple of prefixes in operation is given below:

li- prefix.

bak

disappear suddenly.

 

bak bak

in a hurry.

 

bakli bak

go off to a distant place

si- prefix.

sor

slowly.

 

sor sor

very slowly.

 

sorsi sor

slowly but surely.

It may be stated here that the interest attached to the Khasi language is due chiefly to the isolated position, which it occupies among the aboriginal tongues of India, and especially among the Tibeto-Burman group which encloses it. This isolation , it may be added, is equally conspicuous in the social institutions of the Khasi race, and in the physical characteristics of the individuals who compose it. While the general type, both speech and physical frame, is undoubtedly Mongolian, the morphological character of the language differs too much from that of the other forms of speech found within the Indian boundaries.

According to G.A. Grierson, the following are the principal points of difference between the Khasi family and other non-Aryan languages of India.

It possesses a complete system of gender. To every substantive in the dialects which together form the language is ascribed a masculine or a feminine quality, irrespective of its representing an object actually having sex; and this distinction of gender is carried, by means of the determining prefix, through the adjectives and verbal forms which, together with the substantive, build up the sentence.

As in other non-Aryan languages of India, grammatical relations are denoted by position, or, more often, by the use of help words with more or less attenuated meanings. But the important point of difference is that in the Khasi dialect s these help words are invariably prefixes, that is, they stand before e the word they modify. On the other hand, the Dravidian, Munda, and Tibeto-Burman forms of speech prefer suffixes. The other Mon-Khmer languages follow the same system as the Khasi, while the Tai families use both systems. The possessor is placed after the thing possessed in the Khasi, the Tai and other Mon-Khmer languages, but before it in the other languages named. the result of this peculiarity is in that the order of the words in a Khasi sentence is altogether different from that which prevails in the Tibeto-Burman family, its neighbor on three sides; and., as the order of words corresponds to the order of ideas, the speakers of Khasi are thus differentiated in a very important respect.

The possession of a relative pronoun distinguishes the Khasi dialects from most of the non-Aryan languages of India.

VOCABULARY: The greater part of the words used in Khasi appear to be native to the tongue, though thee may have been borrowings and interchanges with its Tibeto-Burman neighbors. The two test-words, for water and fire, and the numerals, which run through the whole of the Tibeto-Burman family with only dialectic variations, have no representatives of the same type in Khasi. According to Grierson, many words have been borrowed from Bengali, Hindi and English, to express ideas and instruments of civilization and culture acquired from outside; but the language has proved adequate to the expression of very complex relations of thought.

Materials in Khasi Language are found in the following:

Acharya, S.K. 1971. ‘Language of the Khasis. Mainstream.

Bareh, Hamlet. 1969. A short history of Khasi literature. Shillong: Don Bosco Press.

Grierson, G.A. (Comp and Ed.) 1966. Linguistic Survey of India. Vol II(2nd Edn). Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass.

Gurdon, P.R.T. 1975. The Khasis. Delhi: Cosmo Publications.

Nagaraja, K.S., 1985. Khasi, a Descriptive Analysis, Poona, Deccan College.

Nagaraja, K.S., 1990. Sounds of Khasi Dialects. BDC 50:

Bareh, Hamlet., 1977. The Languages and Literatures of Meghalaya. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

Bars, E. 1973., Khasi-English Dictionary. Don Bosco, Shillong.

Roberts, H., 1891, A Grammar of Khasi Language. London.

Singh Nissor 1905,Khasi Dictionary.