Languages of the NE - > Meetei

Manipuri

         Manipuri is the principal language spoken in the state of Manipur. It is also the Lingua Franca and  the official language of Manipur. I t belongs to the Kuki-Chin group within the Tibeto Burman subfamily of languages . The original speakers of Manipuri language call themselves Meiteis.   Manipuri language and the  Meitei language are one and the same.   It has its own script. Manipuri script differs very much in appearance from the  Burmese, Tibetan and theThai scripts. Before the nineteenth century AD, Manipuri was written in its own script. In  the nineteenth century the Bengali- Assamese script was also used simaltaneously with the Manipuri script, but after 1891 the former gradually substituted the later. By the beginning of the twentieth century AD the Manipuri  script has almost become obsolete. However, currently there is a move to    revive the original Manipuri script.

        Geographically Manipur is divided into two regions viz. hills and the plains ( valley). The valley is centrally located, surrounded by ranges of hills. In the beginning of the Christian Era, the valley was divided into seven independent principalities.

        The Meitei society consists of seven yeks (clans), namely, Angom, Khuman, Khaba Nganba, Luwang, Moirang, Ningthawja (Mangang) and Sarang- Leisangthem. The dialect of the Ningthoujas got better and greater prestige, The Ningthoujas enriched their dialect  by borrowing words from the other dialects. Gradually, the dialect of the Ningthoujas  assimilated the other six dialects and also brought the people into its fold. The people of the seven principalities completely fused together to form the present day Manipuri speaking people. Manipuri literature is written in the dialect of  Imphal and its immediate neighbourhood.

        King Ura Konthouba, also known as Kavichandra, who reignded from 568 to 658 AD issued bronze coins inscribed with a letter of Manipuri  script. The earliest reference to writing in Manipuri literature as recorded in Ningthouron Lambuba, a chronicle, about a king who ascended the throne of the Ningthoujas in 984 AD. The earliest literature so far found is the inscriptions on a collection of ten copper plates. Shri W. Yumjao Singh, a pioneer archaeologist of Manipur discovered the plates and reported it in 1935 in his report on the Archaeological Studies in Manipur, Bulletin No.1 Opinions are divided about the date of the inscriptions. However, the general consensus is that the inscriptions were made during the reign of King  Khongtekcha (763- 773 AD). So the periods of Manipuri Literature are counted with reference to the eighth century AD as the beginning. 

        According to some scholars, the fairly long period of twelve hundred years from the eighth to the twentieth  century AD is divided into four periods viz. (i) the old period,  (ii) the Early Medieval Period, (iii) the Late Medieval Period and (iv) the Modern Period.

        The period from the eighth century to 1074 AD is the old period of Manipuri literature. During this period the dialect of the Ningthoujas gradually attained the status of the standard norm.

        The early Medieval Period covers the years from 1074 to 1709 AD. During this period the Shans (Pong) migrated to Manipur from Burma. It is interesting to observe that another branch of the Shans, the Ahoms migrated to Assam in the thirteenth century AD. This period noticed the revival of Manipur’s close contact with the rest of India which resulted from a stiff resistance to the invading Shaans.

        Towards the close of the eleventh century AD, the Shans who called themselves the Tais were a powerful and prosperous people far outnumbering the Manipuris and as a result of which the   Shans exerted a strong influence on the culture of Manipur from 1074 to 1469 AD.

        During the late Medieval period from 1709 to the end of the nineteenth century AD, Manipuri literature passed through a new phase. The Burmese  invaded in 1819 and completely devastated Manipur. It continued for seven long years. During this period a lot of Manipuris fled to Cachar, Sylhet and Dacca. In 1825 AD   most of them returned to Manipur. Contacts with the British started and it marked the beginning of the modern period in Manipuri literature.

 

 The following sections shows an analysis of Manipuri Phonology and grammar:

  A.     The phonological system of the Manipuri language :

          The phonological system of the Manipuri language  can be broadly divided into three levels –

(1)    Vowels

(2)    Consonants

(3)    Tones

 (1)    The vowels:

             

         It is found that Manipuri language has six vowel phonemes. viz. i , e, , a, u and o .

These vowels are shown below in a chart-

 

Front

Central

Back

High

i

 

u

Mid

e



o

Low

 

a

 

 All the six vowels can occur initially, medially and finally. But the occurrence of /e/ and /a/  vowel is limited in comparison  to the rest. The distribution of the vowel phonemes are given below in word initial, medial and final positions.

 

 

Initial

 

Medial

 

Final

 

/i/

in

‘Fishing net’

cin

‘mouth’

yari

‘gum in the mouth’

/e/

ensaN or yensaN

‘curry’

ceN

‘uncooked rice’

ce

‘paper’

//

du

‘that’

sm

‘hair’

pab

‘to read’

/a/

ad

‘there’

may

‘face’

ya

‘teeth’

/o/

ok

‘pig’

kok

‘head’

mo

‘cow or ox or a kind of louse’

/u/

u

‘tree’

kun

‘twenty’

ku

‘liquor’

 

Diphthongs are rare and the combination of all the vowels occur with the  semi vowels /w/and  /y/ as in the following. 

y

y

‘I’

 

ly

‘flower’

ay

lay

‘picture’

 

may

‘face’

w

phw

‘paddy’

 

mw

‘married woman’

oy

makhoy

‘they’

 

khoy

‘bee’

uy

huy

‘dog’

 

luy

‘a cotton cloth to wear’

aw

paw

‘news’

 

thaw

‘oil’

 (2) The Consonants:

  There are twenty- four consonants including the semi vowels in the Manipuri language.  I t is to noted that the distinction  between the aspirated and the unaspirated, voiced and voiceless are found only in case of the stops sounds.The consonant phonemes are shown below in a chart. 

 

 

Bilabial

 

Alveolar

 

Palatal

 

Velar

 

Glottal

 

Stops

Unaspirated

p

b

t

d

c

j

k

g

 

 

 

Aspirated

ph

bh

th

dh

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nasals

 

 

m

 

n

 

 

 

N

 

 

Fricatives

 

 

 

 

 

s

 

 

 

 

h

Laterals

 

 

l

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trills

 

 

r

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semi-vowels

 

 

w

 

 

 

 

 

y

 

 

       The phonemic contrasts between these consonants are given below: 

p/b

budhi

‘wisdom’

 

pu-

‘to bring’

t/d

ta

‘spear’

 

dada

‘elder brother’

c/j

 

 

 

cura

‘a decorative piece for for head made of peacock feather’

 

jura

‘pair’                           

k/g

kn-

‘to save’

 

gnja

‘hashish’

p/ph

pa-

‘to read’

 

pha-

‘to keep in memory’

b/bh

babu

‘gentle man’

 

bhari

‘huge’

t/th

ta

‘spear’

 

tha

‘moon’

d/dh

dri

‘carpet’

 

dhri

‘echo, noise’

j/jh

jga

‘place’

 

 

jri

‘lace’

k/kh

ka

‘room’

 

kha

‘south’

g/gh

gari

‘vehicle’

 

ghri

‘watch’

c/s

ca

‘tea’

 

sa

‘animal’

m/n/N

ma

‘bug’

 

na

‘ear’

 

Na

‘fish’

l/r

lN

‘thread’

 

rN

‘paints’

w/y

wa

‘bamboo’

 

ya

‘teeth’

 Though the phonemes / n/ and /l/ are different phonemes, in the final occurrence they became a free variation and either of the two /n/ is found more appropriate  in the sound sequence. For example- 

                           in/l

 ‘fishing net’  

                                 turen/l   

‘river’

                                 ln/l

‘weather’

                                 mon/l

‘pillow’

                            thun/l

‘ hip’

  All the consonants cannot occur in the word Initial , medial and final position. p, t,k,ph,th,kh,e,j, m,n, Ns,l,h,w and y can occur in the word initial position. p,t,k,ph,th,kh,b,d,g,m,n,N, c,s,j,y,r,l ,w can occur medially and p,t,k,m,n/l, N are the consonants which cn occurin word final position.   Examples are given below: 

 

Initial

 

Medial

 

Final

 

/p/

pa

‘eye lash’

pamb

‘desire’

hytup

‘apple’

/t/

ta

‘spear’

tnb

‘lazy’

pat

‘take’

/k/

ka

‘room’

lykay

‘locality’

kok

‘head’

/ph/

phi

‘cloth’

lphoy

‘banana’

 

 

/th/

tha

‘moon’

mthk

‘’above’

 

 

/kh/

kha

‘south’

mkhoy

‘’they’

 

 

/c/

ca

‘tea’

lcin

‘cloud’

 

 

/j/

jgoy

‘dance’

khjay

‘cheek’

 

 

/m/

ma

‘bug’

mmy

‘tail’

sm

‘hair’

/n/

na

‘ear

mnm

‘smell’

lan/l

‘war’

/N/

Na

‘fish’

lyNoy

‘sand’

thoN

‘bridge’

/s/

sa

‘animal’

lmsaN

‘a name of place’

 

 

/l/

la

‘banana leaf’

plem

‘mother’

 

 

/h/

ha

‘an eatable root’

lmhaN

‘open field’

 

 

/w/

wa

‘bamboo’

mwoN

‘his/her nature’

 

 

/y/

ya

‘teeth’

uyuN

‘pillar’

 

 

/r/

 

 

hyraNgoy

‘a kind of fruit’

 

 

 

Consonant Clusters:

      In Manipuri ,there is a limited number of  consonant clusters.  p, t, k, kh,d, and s in combination with w,y,r,l sound form the consonant clusters. These consonant clusters can occur in word initial and medial positions only. For example;

            kw

  kwa

‘betel nut’

              ky

  kyamly

‘a kind of tree’

              kl   

 klas

‘class’

              tr

 tren

‘train’

           khw

 khay

‘you people’

           dw

 dway-

‘there’

           pr

 prithibi

‘mother earth

           sw

 sway

‘here’

           sr

 sro- sro

‘noise’

Medial cluster:

             pw

mwpwa

‘her young brother’

             pr

cmpra

‘leman’

             kr

hykru

‘amla’

             khr

ct khro

‘go away’

             br

ca-bra

‘eat- (Q.mk)

            thr

laNthrey

‘a plant’

            dr

ca-dre

‘eat- neg.mk’

            gr

mNgr

‘sweet patato’

            mr

lymram

‘a name of place’

             cr

Nakcrow

‘a kind of fish’

            jr

hayjraN

‘a kitchen knife’

            sr

cy-sra

‘a name of protagonist in a folk tale.

      (3) Tones:  

                Manipuri language has two tones. One is level tone and another is falling tone. Level tone is  not marked and falling tone is marked as  /   $ /. Examples are given below:

                  un

‘skin’

                 u $n

‘ice’

                  mi

‘people’

                  mi $

‘spider’

                  ca-

‘to eat’

                  ca $-

‘to hang around’

B.Grammar

           In Manipuri there are two types of root. They are  free roots and bound roots. All nouns, in Manipuri, are free roots. For instance:

 

                                    mi

‘man’

                                    sa

‘animal’

                                    ky

‘tiger’

                                    u

‘tree’

 

Bound roots are further classified into two types. (1) Nominal bound roots , (2) Verbal bound roots.

(1)    Nominal bound roots can be again divided into three categories.

(i)                   Kinship terms :   Examples:

 

                           -pa  

  ‘father’

                           -ma

‘mother’

                           -ce

‘ sister’

 

The examples mentioned above are  nominal verb roots because they do not give a complete meaning  without affixation of personal pronominals like – i  (first person),   (second person), , (third person. For Example:    

                        i -ma

  ‘my mother’                                   

                        - ce

   ‘ your sister’

                          

 

(ii)                 Body parts :  Here the third person pronominal marker is prefixed.  Examples are given below:

           

                                 - ci ‘horn’ (its)

                                 -may  ‘tail’ (its)

                                 ma-sa   ‘ body’

                                ma-phy  ‘ thigh (its)
                 (iii)        Miscellenous: The third person pronominal marker  m' is prefixed with the nominal bound roots. 

               Example-

                           mthw

‘duty’(his)

                          mkol

‘nest’ (its)

           (2)    Verbal roots: The verbal roots are divided into two groups:

(i)                   Dynamic bound root: All the action  oriented roots are dynamic bound roots. For instance: 

                                    

                                         ca

‘eat’

                                         thk

‘ drink’

             

(ii)                 Stative: The example of the stative bound roots are given below.

 

 

                        caw

‘big’

                             Nw

‘white’

                             kha

‘ bitter’

 

                                   

                C. Affixes:         The Manipuri is an agglutinative language . Therefore, affixes play a vital role in formation of various word forms. There are two types of  affixes-  Prefixes and suffixes.

 

(1) Prefixes-  There are limited number of  prefixes  mostly used in word class formation.  Prefixes can be classified into two types- (a) Pronominal (b) Non pronominal                                         

        (a) Pronominal prefixes : Here the personal pronominals  are prefixed to the nominal bound roots.  For example:

                               i- yum

‘my house’

                                     -khoN

‘your leg’

                                   -kok

‘his head’

 

 

(b)      Non- pronominal prefix:  In Manipri ,   khu- and - are the nominalizing prefixes which can nominalized the  verb roots. For example:

 

                            khu-ca

‘ mode of eating’

                            -ca

‘ the mode of his eating’

 

There are also seven formative prefixes operating in the language; they are:

 

 /-/ (used to derive adjective form)

saNb

‘long’

/i-/ (prefix to the verbal root and gives the meaning ‘anything’

mhak-ti i- ca -y

‘He eats anything’(tasty or not)                                                             

/ce-/ (it gives the meaning as very)

ka si laN-Ni

‘The room is noise’

                                              

/t/ ( occur with stative verb only)

Nasi-di- tiya si  trutru-y

‘Today the sky is very clear’

/suk/ ( used in negative environment)

mhak yu suk- thk thk-te

‘He never takes liquor’

/khN/ (it gives the meaning ‘suddenly’)

mhak gari khaN-thw thw wi

‘ He suddenly drives the vehicle’

 

 

(2) Suffixes:  The Manipuri suffixes are divided into two groups- Nominals and verbals:

 

(i)                  Nominal suffixes: suffixes which can be added to nouns only are called Nominal suffixes. Nominal suffixes are categorized as follows:

(a)    Case suffix

(b)   Number

(c)    Gender

 

(a)   Case suffixes:

 

Nominative

-

Accusative

- pu/bu

Genitive

- gi/ki

 

Instrumental

--

Ablative

- dgi

 

Accociative

--

 

(b)   Number- There are two plural suffixes. One is khoy, and another is – siN. siN is added to the  animate and inanimate objects while –khoy is added to personal pronouns and proper nouns.

 

Nanu- siN

‘ducks’(animate)

wa-siN

‘bamboos’(inanimate)

ykhoy

‘we’

 

                                        Gender suffixes:

-a   indicates male

-i    indicates female

For example:

YeNba

‘cock’

yenbi

‘hen’

phba

‘good’

phbi

‘good’(female) etc.

 

 

              

(ii)                Verbal suffixes:     In Manipuri the number of verbal suffixes are more than that of the nominal suffixes. They are :

(i) Aspect marker:

      -y is a simple aspect marker. –ri  is a progressive aspect marker. – re is a perfect marker.-gni~ kni is an unrealized aspect. It indicates the action is to be performed in the next moment.

 

(ii) Mood:  There is a suffix – niN which indicates ‘desire’ or ‘wish’  This suffix is frequently preceded by certain suffixes  like  directional – thok, reciprocal-. causative –hn, reflexive-, benefactive-bi,start –kht, auxiliary –hw. For example

sinema yen- niN-Ni

‘I wish to see a film’

pi-thok-niN-Ni

‘wish to give out’

 

             

                   

(iii)Negative suffixes:   There are five negative suffixes . They are-

 

-te~ de( used in realize aspect)

mhak NrN skul c-te

‘yesterday he did not go to school’

 

-loy~roy (used in unrealized a aspect)

s&y sa ca -roy

‘I will not eat meat’

 

-kum~-gum(used in let’ negative)

s&ykhoy yu - ths&k-si

‘Let us drink liuror’

 

-nu (used in prohibitive sentence.)

ns&>layrik-tu pa-nu

‘Don’t read theat book’

 

 ntte(lexicalized negator)

mhk tomba  ntte

‘He is not Tomba’

 

 

(iv)Imperative suffix: 

 

  Imperative suffixes operating in the language denoting command are:   ro~lo, ru~ lu, -kho,-nu

        

phurit si  yN-lo

‘(come here and) see this shirt’

ca thk-lu

‘(go and) have tea’

cak ca- kho

‘Have your meal’( the speaker does not serve right at the moment’

mcu du yan-nu

‘Don’t mix that colour’

           

 

(v)Adverbial suffix –can be used with all type of verbs. For example:

 

waN-

‘highly’

poN-

‘proudly’

 

 

 

 

 

 

(d)Tense or Aspect:  The Manipuri   is an agglutinative language. Therefore tense in this language is not so clear.

Aspect:     There are four aspects in the language.

 

(1)   Simple aspect

(2)   Progressive aspect

(3)   Perfect Aspect

(4)   Unrealized Aspect

(1)      Simple Aspect-  It expresses simple statement, habitual meaning and universal truth. The markers are –y, -mi, -ni, -pi, Ni and -li which occur  under phonological conditions.

             a.

numit- n noNpokt thok-y

‘The sun rises in the east’

mhk cak thoNNi

‘he cooks rice’

 

 

 

        (2)     Progressive aspect:   This indicated by –ri -li  (-ri occurs after vowels while –li after consonants. In other words , it expresses tat the   action is continuing.

 

     

jek hwjik layrik pa-ri

‘ Jack is now reading.

mhk lay yek -li

‘ he is painting’

 

         (3)Perfect aspect: This is denoted by the suffix  re~ le . For Example:

 

mkhok philm du yeN -le

‘They have seen the film’

mkhok hidak duka -re

‘ He has taken that medicine’

 

       The suffix -khre which indicates certainly of the completion of an action.

mkhok hidak ca -khre

‘ He has taken the medicine’

 

 

      

 The aspect marker –le can also used in very specific situation, like, reporting an action and informing of departure. For example:

 

mhk si- ct- le

‘He has gone there’

y ct-le

‘I am leaving’( I have gone)

 

       (5) Unrealized Aspect- This is used for action which will take place in the near future. The relevant aspect is –gni~ -kni.  For example:

 

mhk kythel ct -kni

‘He will go to market’

     

 

  Pronouns  : In Manipuri all the three personal pronouns have the singular and plural forms. Besides these there are two other forms in personal pronoun.  One is dual and the another is an objective singular form. These personal pronouns are shown below in a chart.

 

 

Singular

Dual

Plural

Object

Honorific

First person

y   ‘I’

ibani ‘we two’

ykhoy ‘we’

y Non-   ‘to me’

 

Second person

nN ‘you’

nbani ‘you two’

nkhoy ‘you’

nN ond ‘ to you’

som (sin)

dom ‘you’

Third person

mhak ‘ he or she’

mbani ‘you two’

mkhoy ‘they’

mNond ‘to him’

 

 

 

Number: Manipuri has two numbers: singular and plural. Plural is marked by a suffix -siN or  -khoy but singular is not marked. For example:

 

      

NaN

‘Child’

NaN- siN

  ‘children’

y

‘I’

ykhoy

‘we’

mhak

‘he’

mkhoy

‘they’

 

The suffix  -khoy can also be added to person nouns to indicate plurality. For example:

          

     tomba- khoy

‘Tomba and his group’

 

 

     However there is a lexical item ‘myam' which means ‘many’. The word can occur with only nouns. For  example:

 NaN myam

‘many children’

 

             There are some other words  which indicates a  collective form. For example:

          

                   saNgu

san saNgu ma

‘a herd of cattle’

               cbun

ly mpun ma

‘a bunch of flowers’

              mpun

cu mpun  ma

‘a bundle of sugar canes’

 

Gender:

                There is no grammatical gender in Manipuri. Human and animate nouns are referred to as masculine or feminine on the basis of the natural sex. For human being  the suffix -a  indicates ‘male’ and the ‘female’ suffix -i is used.  These two suffixes are also used to indicate the male and female bird. In case of animal nouns , the lexical item lab ‘male’ and mom ‘female’ are used for denoting the natural sex.

For example:

 

nupa

‘man’

nupi

‘woman’

hnuba

‘old man’

hnubi

‘ old woman’

yenba

‘cock’

yenbi

‘hen’

sn lab

‘ox’

sn mom

‘cow’