Sunday, January 13, 2008


There are various linguistic realms/regions amongst the Kuki-Chin family of Tibeto-Burman race(based on Grierson's LSI classifications) depending upon the spatial distribution of mores,cultures and traditions. These are Zo realm,Simlam realm,Thado-Kuki realm,Paite realm,Vaiphei, realm,Gangte realm,Mizo realm,Hmar realm,Khalkha realm,Falam realm,Haka realm,Siyang realm and other related realms. This system of classification into various realms is not strictly rigid since there can be more or less realms or sub-realms. The Vaiphei,Gângte,Tedim-Chin,Paite,Mizo,Hmar realms may be classified as ‘K-ending’ group as a whole. Further amongst the K-ending groups there are ‘R-beginning ’ and ‘G-beginning’ groups. Zo(Hâidawi,Khodâi,Khuongnung/Simte) and Thado-Kuki may be classified as ‘H-ending’& ‘G beginning’ Groups. Other classifications can be such as ‘IA/UA and IE/UO sub-groups,Hing sub-groups,Hung sub-groups, Hong sub-groups,Hang sub-groups,Sih sub-groups and Kei sub-groups etc.
The Zo realm can be divided into 4(four) sub-realms viz; Hâidawi sub-realm,Khodâi sub-realm,Thangkhâl sub-realm,and Khuongnung sub-realm.Now, let us discuss them one by one in nutshell.
Hâidawi sub-realm is considered to be the oldest and the most ancient amongst the languages(dialects). It is believed to be the original stock(root) of Zo language and other Zo dialects as told by oral traditions by the elders. It is recognised by the frequent usages of Hang instead of Hing,Hung&Hong, Sih instead of Kei,Vang instead of Ning. Ha,hapi,hakie,hlakie instead of Kha,Khapi,Khakie,etc. Imploring word such as ‘Ei’ is used in ordinary speech and in poetic words in place of Hing or Ang. Vawi,vawng,ve’ng etc are employed in this sub-realm. The phoneme ‘HL’ of Zo(Hâidawi) is aveolar(tip of tongue touches backside of front teeth and the air is released) in sound which is pronounced somewhere in between the phonemes of Mizo ‘thla’ leh Thado-Kuki phoneme ‘lha’. It is allophone of form consonant ‘H’. The word Thuâ ‘Sour’ in Zo becomes ‘Thûh’ in Simte,Tiddim-Chin,Thado-Kuki,Gangte,Vâiphei etc. It becomes ‘Thûr’ in Hmar,Lusei(Mizo). The word Thûh ‘Deep’ becomes ‘Thûk’ in Gangte,Vâiphei,Tiddim-Chin,Lusei(Mizo) etc. Thus we see,that the phoneme ‘a’ becomes ‘h’ or ‘k’ in some cognate languages of this realm. It is rich in thrasonical songs,threnody, patriotic songs and Romantic songs.
The Khodâi sub-realm is identified by mixture of above realms. It often employs the letter/phoneme ‘K’ at the end of a word such as tak in place of Tah,Sak in place of Sah etc. Hang or Ang is used in place of Hing,Hong or Hung.
The Thangkhâl sub-realm relies heavily on the sounds of Hung instead of Hing,Kei instead of Sih, Ning in place of Vang,Ku’ng in place of Ka’ng,Nu’ng in place of Na’ng,Ni is used in place of Vai. Kha,Khapi,Khakie instead of Ha/Hla,Hlapi,Hlakie etc. This sub- realm is credited with many romantic folksongs. It seems to be admixture of Zo,Tedim-Chin,Thado-Kuki realms,still it is classified under Zo realm because of its closeness to the Hâidawi and Khodâi sub-realms in using demonstrative pronouns.
The Khuongnung sub-realm is characterised by the present Simte of India. Here Hung is used instead of Hing, Thian is used in place of Sien/Sian,Ning in place of Vang,Ni is employed in place of Vai. Chiah in place of Pei or pai. One distinctive feature of the Khuongnung realm is employment of words ending with the nasal stop ‘H’,invariably in most of the words,which is of course inflections from original words. In this realm,Tha(new) becomes Thah,Khangtha becomes Khangthah,da(sad) becomes dah,dangta(thirsty) becomes dangtah etc. It is seems to be admixtures of by Thado-Kuki realm,Lusei realm,Paite realm and Tedim-Chin realm the main base language being Zo.
The Simlam realm is represented by the Tedim/Tiddim-Chin culture. Here,the styles quite vary from the Hâidawi,Khodâi and Thangkhâl. Ciah is used in place of Pai or pei. Hong is employed in place of Hing, Kei is used in place of Sih. Almost all the words are glottal stop ‘K’ ending. It employs ‘C’ instead of ‘Ch’. Si in place of Shi. Ni is used in place of Vai of Zo realm. Ning is used in place of Vang,Vawng of Zo(Hâidawi). Ve ni is used in place of Va ui. It uses IA/UA system and so ;Suak in place of Suoh. It is one of the closest realms with respect to Zo realm. The base language must have been Teizang dialect. It is also very rich in folksongs and modern songs. The real difference between Zo realm and Tedim-Chin realm is in the use of nasal ‘H’ and glottal stop ‘K’ respectively,otherwise their phonetics do not vary much in reality. The spelling conventions have altered most of its original phonic patterns for alteast a hundred year or so.
Paite realm and Tiddim-Chin realm are very close except for few differences in usage of spellings such as; Ch is used instead of C. Ou is used instead of O. ‘Shi’ is used in place of ‘Si’ of Tedim-Chin realm. Like Tedim-Chin and Zo( Hâidawi) sub-realm the word ‘Om’ is used instead of Um. Pai is employed in place of Pei of Zo(Hâidawi) or Ciah of Tedim-Chin. In some cases, R is used such as ‘rengreng,remna’ etc which must have been borrowed from Lusei(Lushai/Mizo) realm. It seems to be younger than the previous realm. It is very close to Zo realm in its poetical forms and modern songs.
In the Thado-Kuki realm in Sih inflected as Hih. T takes the form of Ch and so,Tun becomes Chun, Hing becomes Hin or Hung, Ta becomes Cha. Che or chieh is employed in place of Pei or pai or Chiah. Like Zo(Hâidawi) and Simte certain words end with nasal stop ‘H’and some words begin with phoneme ‘LH’. E.g; Lhâng,Gollhang,Lhapi,lhung etc. In some cases, S inflects into TH,and so Sing inflects to become Thing. In other cases, the phoneme T is inflected into CH. E.g; Têng-->(becomes)Chêng. The word ‘Om’ in Zo(Hâidawi)/Tedim/Paite becomes(inflects into) ‘Um’. This realm can be sub-classified as ‘IE’ /‘UO’ sub-group and ‘E’ /’O’ sub-group. Earlier,prints of Thado-Kuki song books i.e Lathah Bu(Palal Labu) uses the spelling ‘LEN’ in place of LIEN or LIAN. Sopi is used instead of Suopi or Suapi. Nom in place of Nuom or Nuam. The Suongmantam Dictionary and School Chapang Dictionary both in Thado-Kuki employs phonemes ‘IE’/’UO’ instead of ‘E’/‘O’. This realm is also very rich in folksongs and modern songs..
Lusei/Lushai realm,now also known as Mizo realm is not so rich in folksongs but it is rich in Modern Christian Songs.It uses Chh in place of S, TH instead of S, O instead of OU, IA/UA in place of IE/UO. Around 1915 or so, the ‘IE/UO’ was used by the White rulers as given in ‘Gazetteer of Northern Lushai Hills’ by A.W.Davis,I.C.S,Political Agent of North Lushai Hills. When did the shifting of phonemes from IE/UO to IA/UA take place is not known. The symbol (^) was also in vogue. ‘An’ seems to be inflection of Zo(Hâidawi) word ‘Hang’. SUH seems to be inflection of SIH. It has influenced all the realms with these modern Christian songs since 1950s.
Hmar realm is very rich in folksongs.This realm is identified by the use of phoneme ‘R’ in place of ‘G’ as in Mizo realm. It employs phonemes ‘IE/UO’ in place of IA/UA as in Zo and Gângte. SIH seems to be inflected into Nawh/noh. Here also,the word ‘Hung’ is used in place of Hing,Hong, Hang. It has rich folktales and legends.
Vâiphei realm is admixture of many realms. Hing -->(becomes) Hung. Like, Zo(Hâidawi) the syllable/word ‘Ei’ is used in place Hung. T-->(becomes)Ch thus;Tun-->Chun,Ta-->Cha,Teng-->Cheng,Sih-->Puai. Here syllables ‘IA/UA’ are employed in place of syllables ‘IE/UO’ being similar to the Tedim-Chin,Mizo(Lusei),Paite realms. Just as as in Tedim-Chin,Paite,Gangte,Lusei leh Hmar realms some words ends with glottal stop ‘K’ Examples ‘zieh/jieh’.becomes ‘ziak . The demonstrative pronoun is written as ‘zia’. It seems to be complex mixture of Tedim-Chin,Thado-Kuki,Mizo(Lusei) and Zo realms.
Gângte realm is similar to Vâiphei realm and it is a mixture of many tongues. Here also,Hing becomes Hung or else ‘Ei’ as in Zo(Hâidawi). It possesses rich folktales of olden days. Ch is employed in place of T. Likewise; Tun-->(becomes)Chun, Ta-->Cha, Tem-->Chem, Teng-->Cheng, Tung-->Chung, Puai of Vâiphei becomes Puoi,it is used in place of Kei,Sih,Hih,Nawh/noh. Here syllables ‘IE/UO’ are employed in place of syllables ‘IA/UA’ being similar to the Zo and Hmar realms.As in the case of Tedim-Chin,PaiteVâiphei,Mizo(Lusei) and Hmar realms some words ends with ‘K’ Examples ‘zieh/jieh’.becomes ‘ziek . The demonstrative pronoun is written as ‘zie’. Compare with Vâiphei realm ‘zia’. It is rich in folktales,traditional songs as well as modern songs.
Lastly,considering all these linguistic realms,the Zo realm has its own uniqueness amongst all these realms. Because the demonstrative pronouns/adjectives and the adverbs of place in this realm is completely different from that of all the other realms. In all the other realms the demonstrative pronouns are;hi,hih,hiai,himi,he,hiche whereas in the Zo(Hâidawi) the demonstrative pronouns/adjectives are ; ‘ta,tam,tami,tammi’. For these reasons Zo realm is unique and it stands apart from all others in these respects,perhaps; a feature of its antiquity. The adverbs of place in other realms are; hiah,huah,huai ah,hu, but in Zo(Hâidawi) realm the adverbs of place are ; tan,tana,tanah,khunah,khum,khumnah.
In all these realms,the phonetics/phonology/phonic patterns do not vary much but due to the introduction of Whiteman’s system of orthography which did not consider the actual phonetics and sounds of the native speakers therefore,many of the words of the original mother tongues had suffered several phonetic changes;leading to further differentiations in terms of dialects(dialectical variations). Thus,leading to disintegration into ethnic groupings founded on the bases of dialects. Most of the inflections found in Zo language has been discontinued in other cognate languages such as Simte,Paite,Tedim-Chin,Gangte,Vaiphei etc. Perhaps,because of this reason, J.H Cope must had remarked that Zo tongue is not easy to learn. Therefore, Zo language is very difficult to learn as compared to other cognate languages. With the publications of the two versions of Holy Bibles viz; The Pasian Lai siengthou(Holy Bible in Zo 1983 A.D) and The Holy Bible in Zomi(1995) both of them became the springboards for the preservation and development of Zo/Zou literature in India and Burma(Myanmar).
The consonantal and vowel to consonantal shifts are summed up as below:- The symbol --> denotes 'becomes'
a or â --> h,k as in Thuâ-->Thuh,Thuk,
a or â -->ah,âh,ak,âk as in Da-->Dah,Dâ-->Dâh,Thâ-->Thâh,Thâk,Mama-->mahmah
ang--> ing,ong,ung as in Hang-->Hing,Hong,Hung
e becomes a as in Chien-->Chian,Khie-->Khia,Lien-->Lian,Nieng-->Niang,Sieng-->Siang
g-->r as in Gam-->Ram,Gou-->Ro,Rou
h-->k,r as in Tah-->Tak, Sah-->Sak,Uh-->Uk,Zieh-->Ziek,Suoh-->Suok
Pâh-->Pâr i.e Zozâm pâh-->Zozâm pâr
i-->ih as in hoi-->hoih,koih,Nui-->Nuih,Sui-->Suih(Simte,Tiddim-Chin,Paite)
s-->h as in Sih-->Hih
t-->C,Ch as in Teng-->Cheng,Ceng,Tûn-->Cûn,Chûn,Chieng-->Tieng,Teng,Tem-->Chem,Cem
Negative markers: Lou-->Lo,Loh; Sih-->Kei,Puai,Puoi,Poi,Noh
Proposition markers: Ni-->Vâ’i, Ni’ng-->Va’ng
In some instances the phoneme
o-->a, Uo-->Ua as in Puo-->Pua, Suo-->Sua(Paite,Tiddim-Chin,Mizo,Vâiphei)
Omission Rules as in Thado-Kuki
I is omitted as in Lien-->Len,Chien-->Chen
U is omitted as in Suopi-->Sopi,Suong-->Song
H(Zo)-->hl(Zo), kh(Tiddim-Chin,Paite,Vâiphei, Th(Gangte),Thl(Hmar,Mizo) e.g; ha-->hla,kha,Tha,Thla
The demonstrative pronouns in other realms are ; hi,hih,hiai,himi,he,hiche whereas in the Zo(Hâidawi) the demonstrative pronouns are ; ‘ta,tam,tami,tammi’; perhaps a feature of its antiquity.
The adverbs of place in other realms are; hiah,huah,huai ah,hu, but in Zo(Hâidawi) realm the adverbs of place are ; tan,tana,tanah,khunah,khum,khumnah.
The Zo tongue is gradually undergoing changes original phonic patterns especially in Lamka(Churachandpur district) all the same people still write in their mother tongue(basing The Holy Bible in Zo-1983 and The Holy Bible in Zomi-1995) while recording or publishing books or in their daily writings.
On the basis of the above analyses,we see several features of linguistic affinities and similarities of Zo language with respect to other cognate languages and there is high degree of mutual intelligibility amongst these cognate languages. It looks as if Zo language is the proto-language i.e stock/base language of these various cognate languages. The antiquity of Zo language is mentioned back to 850 A.D in some books. In course of spatial dispersion of the Zo people,this language must have suffered consonantal inflections and derivational changes leading to emergence of several dialects of the original Zo language. In fact,there are no vowel/phonemic changes observed in actual speech of native speakers,whatever vowel/phonemic changes we find today are the consequences of the adoption of Whiteman’s orthographies which did not give proper analysis of the phonology of native speakers in depth. Thus,the system of writing has changed the phonemes of some languages 1920s. These variations are bound to increase with the passing of time. Therefore,the real challenges are in the hands of our young generations who could do a lot of research to find out the real proto-language of all these cognate languages and try to evolve some kind of common system of writing for all of these cognate languages which is achievable if one has the will to do it in the spirit of give and take.
-Philip Thanglienmâng
DANICS, B.E(Civil),M.A(Linguistics)
The author is a civil servant belonging to Delhi, Daman&Diu, DNH,Andaman, Nicobar Islands Civil Services(DANICS) of UT Cadre in the Government of India,Ministry of Home Affairs. He is presently posted in the Government of Delhi. Prior to this, he was posted in Delhi from 1997 till 2005. He completed M.A(Linguistics) in 2006 from Annamalai University, Annamalainagar,Tamilnadu. He is the first scholar in the field of Linguistics among the Zos.
He has authored/compiled 5(five) books in one year(i.e 2006) they are; 1)Zo Lahâmtengte,Kigêntênate leh Kitêkâhnate Hâmbu vol.I(Dictionary of Zo poetic words,metaphors and similes Vol.I), 2)A Brief biography of Subedar Peter Thangkhokam 3)Ka hinkhuo tomkim by Mari Lienzanieng(compiled) 4)Ka Katekizam Masapên
5) Katholik Zailate leh Mass Lamzûina(compiled). He is the editor of a quarterly journal 'ZOTONGDAM' published by ZOCULSIN. He is doing his own amateur research on Zo language.

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