Languages of the NE -> Phakial

  Phakial or Tai- Phake 

        Linguistically the Phakial language belongs to the Thai sub group of the Siamese Chinese sub family of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. This language is still being used besides a few other allied languages of the Thai-group of languages in Assam which are identified as Khamti, Turung, Aiton, Khamyang, Nora, Ahom etc. As written in a Thai-chronicle, Sau Khan Pha, the great king of Mu Kingdom, sent Chao Tai Seo to rule one fertile place, called Hokong. I t was renamed Meng Phake by the settlers. After the downfall of the Mau kingdom, the land belonging to Tai people was taken over by the Burmese. But the  Phakials were not happy to live under the Burmese and hence they migrated to Assam by crossing the Patkai hills in 1775.The Ahoms allowed them to settle near Jorhat and that was how they settled on the banks of the river Buridihing. They are small in population and are mostly found in Naharkatia and the vicinity of Margherita. Now the total number of their population is about two thousand.

        The word ‘Phake’ is a Thai word . In Tai,‘pha’ means a stone or a wall and ‘ke’ means ancient or old.                                                                                                                                                              

        The Phakial speakers are scattered in nine different villages viz. Nam Phake, Tipam phake, Bor phake, Man Mau, Nam chai, Man long, Nang lai, Ning gum and Phaneng in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia district. In 1850-51 Sau Soi Angdev came from Ingthong village and established the Namphake village. The Nam Phake village is about 4/5 k.m. away from the Naharkatia town. The village is situated on the bank of the river Buridihing. In  this Nam Phake village there are about 64 families. They are Buddhist in religion and  this is why they could maintain their separate identity socially and culturally within the sea of Hinduism.     

        Though the Phakials are small in population, they are still maintaining their own individualities, their gorgeous and typical multi coloured costumes, the Phakial language, their customs and tradition.

        The Phakials are bi-lingual. They speak in  Phakial to their own people in their domestic and village life while in other places they speak local Assamese, they are well versed in both languages. Besides the young children are getting their education  through their own tongue an the primary level while the medium of instruction shifts to Asamiya at a higher level.

        It has its own separate scripts and has also preserved in a few manuscripts which are mainly religious scriptures. These manuscripts are written in Tai-scripts which are preserved in their village Vihars.                           

        The Phakial language possesses  ten vowel phonemes: /i,e,,u,,o,a,a:,w,,O,E,/\ ,/and fifteen consonant phonemes /p,t,k,ph,th,kh,c,s,m,n,n(,N,l,x,h/and two semi vowels /  y,w/.                                 Moreover a few diphthongs and three consonant clusters are available in this language.

Vowels phonemes:

        All the vowel phonemes contrast for long and short distinctions.    They are classified according to the tongue positions in the articulation. They are high, high mid, and low and front, central and back.

 

Front

Central

Back(rounded)

Back(unrounded)

Short

Long

Short

Long

Short

Long

Short

Long

High

i

i:

 

 

u

u:

w

w:

High-mid

e

e:

 

 

o

o:

/\

/\:

Low-mid

E 

E :

 

 

 O

O:

 

 

Low

 

 

a

a:

 

 

 

 

        The distribution of Vowel phonemes are given:

 

 

Initially

Medially

Finally

/i/

iNsan

‘earthquake’

lin

‘tongue’          

pi

‘girl’       

/e/  

ep

‘small tin’        

ca:nei

‘tea’       

me:

‘wife’         

//

 

 

nn                        

‘month’                      

 

                        

/a/

ao nap pha:i

‘stoke a fire’

phaphun

‘rain’  

pea

‘goat’      

/u/

 

 

crauntin

‘heel’               

Nu

‘snake’    

/o/

 

 

cop

‘lip’         

ka:o

‘owl’        

/O/    

OkOn

nOi                          

‘toad’          

‘hill’

 

lOn

‘house’                                                           

 

                   

/E/

 

 

lEk 

‘iron’  

mE

‘mother’       

/a/   

 

 

makha:o

‘an earthen pot’  

kha

‘neck’                                                                                                

/a:/

 

 

ha:n

‘goose’                 

sipha:

la:

pa:

‘full moon’ 

‘donkey’      

‘fish’

/o:/  

 

 

ho:m

‘shadow’                 

 

    

/u:/    

 

 

phalu:m

‘wind’              

su:

‘you’           

/o:/   

 

 

 

 

po:

‘grandfather’ 

/ O:/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diphthongs:    

There are quite a number of diphthongs which are actually appeared as Vowels in contact. These are /ai,a:o,ai,Oi,an,Oa,ui,au,eo,iu,a#O ei,ao,ea/,etc. Example: 

/ai/

hai                

‘small stream’                         

 

 haiN                 

 ‘drought’                                                

 

naiN   

‘yellow’

/eo/  

kheo

‘sickle’

 /ao/

pumao  

‘bride-groom’

/a:O/

ma:On        

‘wife’

/ea/

pea        

‘goat’

/ua/

phua

‘birth’

/a/

ya   

‘big’

/Ea/

pEa

‘conquer’   

/Oi/         

mOi                        

‘fog’

 

nOi                          

‘hill’

 

hOi                         

‘snail’   

/au/

 pa mau 

‘young man’                        

Consonants:

        According to the articulation consonants in  Phakial are of two types: Stops and Continuants. There are three unaspirated stops /p,t,k/,three aspirates/ph,th,kh/,four nasals,/m,n,n(,N,/ three fricative/s,x,h/, one lateral/l/,one palatal/c/,one glottal/h/,and two semi vowels/w,y/.The phakial language does not possess voiced unaspirates/b,d,g/and voiced aspirates /bh,dh,gh,jh/ consonants.  The bi-labial voiced unaspirate/b/is not available in  Phakial but a few words show the use of/b/in Phakial,e.g.

                        bi ‘fan’

                              kaNwan ‘day’

        The alveolar voiced flapped /r/ is not available in Phakial. These consonants are shown below:

 

 

 

Bi-labial

Alveolar

Palatal

Velar

Glottal

 

Stops

unaspirated

p

 

t

 

 c

 

k

 

 

aspirated

ph

 

th

 

 

 

kh

 

 

 

Continuants

fricative

 

 

s

 

 

 

 x

 

 h

 

nasal

 

m

 

n

 

n) 

 

N

 

 

lateral

 

 

 

l

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semi-vowel

 

w

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

affricate

 

 

ts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        There are some instances of consonant phonemes occurring in word initial, medial and final positions are  given below .    There are six tones in phake language.   High, High-mid, Low-mid, Low.  But the tones are not  shown in the following examples.

 

Initial

Medial

Final   

/p/

pau pha:i

‘burn’

lapsiN

‘dark’   

kap

‘shell’

 

po:

‘father’

pE

‘soft’ 

  hap

‘close’

/ph/

pha:i

‘fair’

 phaphun

‘rain’

 

 

 

 phaN

‘to bury’

 

 

 

 

/t/

twk

‘mud’                         

latak

‘leeches’                         

mihEt

‘ice’

 

tao

‘tortoise’

 

 

  

 

 

tE

‘truly’

 

 

 

 

 

ta  

‘to paint’

 

 

 

 

/th/

thwk

‘male’

 

 

 

 

 

than pha:i

‘hot coal’

 

 

 

 

/k/

kai

‘hen’                     

kop kin nwn

‘luner eclipse’    

mOk

‘cloud’

 

kao

‘owl’

ka

‘to trade’

kauN

‘to take up’

/th/

thwk

‘male’

 

 

 

 

 

than pha:i

‘hot coal’

 

 

 

 

 

/k/

kai

‘hen’                     

 

 

 

 

 

kao

‘owl’

 

 

 

 

 

 ka

‘to trade’

 

 

 

 

 

kauN

‘to take up’

 

 

 

 

 

/c/

cON

‘umbrella’

 

 

 

 

 

cOi

‘to help’

 

 

 

 

 

ca:

‘male’

 

 

 

 

/m/

mOi

‘fog’                            

mimi

‘cat’                             

na:m

‘planty’                                                                            

 

maukya

‘flower’

 

 

 

 

 

mawn

‘slippery’

 

 

 

 

 

             mwnta

‘to open the eyes’   

 

 

 

 

 

man

‘ village’

 

 

 

 

 

mau

‘light’

 

 

 

 

/n/

nam

‘water’                        

manin

‘fox’                          

tEn

‘warp/hornt’

 

nON

‘pond’

 

 

 

 

 

nOi

‘hill’

 

 

 

 

 

nao

‘to freeze’

 

 

 

 

 

ni:

‘good’

 

 

 

 

 

 na:u 

‘star’

 

 

 

 

 

net

‘nail’

 

 

 

 

 

/N/

No

‘cow’                             

paNtai

‘rabbit’                    

cuN

‘rhinoceros’

 

NON

‘bent’

 

 

 

 

/s/

som

‘sour’                           

phasao

‘be cloudy’      

 

 

 

sai

‘sand’

 

 

 

 

 

sON

‘two’

 

 

 

 

 

sam

Noxan

‘ox’

 

 

 

/x/

xumEn

‘hedgehog’              

Noxan

‘ox’

 

 

 

xai

‘sold’

 

 

 

 

/h/

hao

‘hot’                             

mEhEt

‘snow’

 

 

 

ho:m

‘shadow’

 

 

 

 

 

ha

‘bunch’

 

 

 

 

/l/

liliN

‘monkey’                

phalum:ma

‘blow wind’

 

 

 

lwm

‘to drink’

 

 

 

 

/w/

wan

‘sun’                            

kaNwan

‘day’

 

 

 

/y/

yOn

‘twinkle’                    

siyan pa:

‘fin of fish’

 

 

/?/

 

 

ho tha?m

‘cave’               

phuN?

‘bee’

 

        The Phonemic Contrast of the consonant phonemes are given below:

p /ph   

pau pha:i 

‘burn’    

 

pha:i                                  

‘fair’    

t / th

twk     

‘mud’       

 

thwk 

‘male’

 

k/ kh

kai    

‘hen’   

 

khai                                   

‘buffalo’

c/s

cON                                   

‘umbrella’  

 

sON                                    

‘two’   

m/n/N 

mOi                                   

‘fog’

 

 

nOi                                    

‘hill’   

 

NON                                    

‘bent’                                          

Cluster:

        Consonant clusters with consonant phonemes are also available in Tai- Phake and most of them occur medially. The consonant cluster of  Tai- phake mostly occur with phonemes /l/and /y/,e.g.

pl

tENplE

‘ warm water’

phl

phia:

‘ Lord Buddha’

   kl

kla@:

‘ new’

khl

khlu

‘ to finish’

tl

tla: 

‘ law’

 py

pya:     

‘ to show’

  phy

phyE@k

‘ spit’

ky

kya:m

‘ to try’

 

my

myE@t

‘holy’

kk  

 kakka:

‘to break’

 

tt

ttao

‘glass’

pl  

 pla:  

‘onion’             

mm

nammn  

‘well’                                                                                                              

mk

kamku

‘pencil’

Cy

Cyat 

‘mosquito net’

nt

tnanta

‘Monday’  

sl

maiN slap

‘cock roach’

        There are a few example in Phakial when consonant clusters of three consonants phonemes are observed’ e.g.-

 

tch

watchom 

‘typhoid fever’

nts  

aintsOtnei            

‘sieve’           

        Phakial is a tonal language. It retains six prominent tones-Rising, Falling, High(mid), Low, High-(falling), Low mid Tone .There are a few examples of this language where all the six tonal variations are observed, such tones are still observed in the speeches of a few old Phakial persons, but these are gradually vanishing as all the phakial speakers are now bilingual speakers having equal competence in Asamiya which is incidentally a dominant non tonal language in the vicinity. A few phakial words showing five different tones are given below

Four varieties of  tones. 

 

Rising     

 

Level

 

Falling

 

Falling-rising   

 

Rising -falling

 

nam

‘flag’     

nam

‘thorn’   

nam

‘black’   

nam

‘plenty’     

nam

‘water’

Syllabic types:

        The phakial language is monosyllabic.  It is observed that the suffixes are added to retain their monosyllabic quality of the words. These words are not inflected. Words in phakial consist of two syllabic types like other languages

                (1) Open syllabic and

                (2) Close syllabic,e.g. :-

 

Open Syllables   :

 

C+V             

hu

‘car’

 

C+V+V        

mai

‘wood’

 

 

Close Syllables   :

V+C         

Op        

‘small case made of tin’  

C+V+C    

ben

‘bracelet’

C+V+V+C

 maOn    

‘pup’

 

 

peaOn  

‘kid’

   

        One of  the characteristics of the Phakial language is the absence of /r/. But in a few loan  words /r/  used    

samuktra

‘Sea/Ocean’

OmtrOm     

‘Cabbage’

        It  is observed that   /n(/ and /N/ do not contrast as there is neutralization of the two sounds in all the positions.                   

 

         The personal  pronouns used in Phakial language.

 

                                

Singular

 

                    Plural                  

 

1st Person

kau

I

hau

we                   

2nd Person

maw

You

su:

You ( both in honorific and most honorific)

3rd person

mwn

mwn saw

He

He (most honorific)

khau

They

         To denote the  negative sense, the word  maka is used in Phakial. For  example:

 

kau maka

I  don’t go

hau maka

We don’t go                                                  

mwm maka

You don’t  go ( singular)                                   

su: maka

You don’t go (plural)                                         

mwm maka

He doesn’t go                                                                                                     

khau maka

They don’t go