Khasi: A Descriptive Analysis (An Old and Rare Book)

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Introduction 1.1 Background: The term ‘khasi’ stands for both the tribe and the language. This language belongs to the Austroasiatic family of language. 1.1.1 Among the four major language families which are spoken in India, the Austroasiatic language family kakes the third position from the point of view of the number of speakers. The language of Austroasiatic family are spoken in India and in South Asian countries. Austroasiatic language family consists of four branc...

1.1 Background: The term ‘khasi’ stands for both the tribe and the language. This language belongs to the Austroasiatic family of language.

1.1.1 Among the four major language families which are spoken in India, the Austroasiatic language family kakes the third position from the point of view of the number of speakers.

The language of Austroasiatic family are spoken in India and in South Asian countries. Austroasiatic language family consists of four branches: 1. Munda, 2. Mon-khmer, 3. Malacca and 4. Nicobarese (Thomas and Headley 1970). Later, Diffloth (1980) in his classification of Austroasiatic languages omits Malacca branch while retaining rest.

Khasi is the only language in India which belongs to the second branch. 1. The language of the first and the fourth branches too are spoken in India. It is interesting to note that all the languages belonging to this family which are spoken in India are spoken by people who inhabit only the hilly tracks and mountainous regions.

1.1.2 The Khasi people are one of the several tribes who inhabit the south-central section of the khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. The area covers 6157 sq. Miles, with the Khasi population of about 3,84,6062 speakers (including speakers of various dialects of Khasi has four major dialects (Grierson 1902).

1. Khasi proper which is considered as the standard and employed for all literary purposes, is spoken in and around Cherrapunji by 2,89,650 speakers;

2. Synteng (or Pnar or Jaintia) spoken in the Central Plateau of the Jaintia hills (i.e. Jowai sub-division) by 55,113 speakers;

3. Lyngngam, spoken in the south-west by about 14,673 speakers; and

4. War, spoken in the low southern valleys bordering the Sylhet plains of Bangla Desh by 3,854 speakers.

There is one more dialect called Bhoi Khasi (Acharya 1971) spoken in the northern lowlands of the district. Recently Hamlet Bareh (1977) provides an altogether different view on the issue of dialects of Khasi. According to him there are many more dialects than just four as listed in Grierson (1902). Bareh lists the following as dialects of khasi.

1. Amwi: spoken in the Southern Jaintia hills;

2. Shella: sourthern Khasi hills;

3. Warding another dialect of the south of Khasi hills;

4. Myriaw, Nongkhlaw, Nangspung, Maram, Mawiang; spoken in the mid-southern khasi hills;

5. Cherra: mid-southern khasi hills;

6. Nongkren, Mylliem, Laitlyngkot, Lyniong-khasi: spoken in the Central parts;

7. Jowai: Central Jaintia;

8. Bhoi: north-east khasi hills;

9. Manav, Nongwah, Jirang; north khasi hills;

10. Khadar Blong (Mawpran): mid-south: and

11. Nongstoin and Langrin: western khasi.

Further he is very sceptical about the status of Lyngngam dialect of Grierson’s classification, though he puts it under western dialects.

1.1.3. The Khasis form an island by themselves surrounded by speakers of different language families. They are supposed to have migrated from the southeast. They are primarily mongoloid in their structure and appearance. Khasi society is matriarchial and matrilocal.

1.1.4. Till the later part of the eighteenth century Khasis were illiterates. They did have any writing system. As Khasis had no indigenous script they adopted Roman script. The credit goes to the Welsh and Baptist missionaries who were mainly responsible in introducing the writing system; and writing books on and in Khasi. The first book in Khasi was printed in 1843. For the first half a century, books mainly on Christianity that too mostly translations were printed. But afterwards there has been more progress achieved in this field and many independent works have been written and published in this language.

At present Khasi is the medium of instruction in the primary schools. For all the literary and other writing purposes the dialect spoken around Cherrapunji is used.

1.1.5. Though there have been some earlier descriptions of Khasi (mainly by Roberts and Rabel), they were all partial treatments. It is hoped that the present analysis is the first detailed description of the language.

In this revised version, two major changes are made. One, as phonetics and phonology of the language have been dealt with in a separate monograph (Nagaraja: forthcoming), phonology is discussed very briefly in the present analysis. For this reason, a discussion on phonology has been incorporated in this section itself. Second, the separate treatment of Reduplication is withdrawn from this work as it has been converted into an article, and has appeared in Indo-Iranian Journal (1984). In this work suprasegmental features like stress, intonation are not analysed.

The analysis and the description follows the structural model with slight modifications in certain places. The analysis is based on the standard dialect spoken around Cherrapunji.

This analysis is the result of the work with informants for around five hundred hours during 1972-77. Two field trips one in 1973 and another in 1974 were undertaken to collect data on khasi. During these field trips data were collected from Shri. Hajar Singh, Shri. Bungster Roy, Shri. Tibor Singh Raji. Later data were checked and re-checked from Shri. Lionel Lingdoh, a student at Spicer’s Memorial College, Poona and Shri. Domnic Jala, student at papal Semenary, Poona. The last one was my main informant.

In Khasi very little of morphology is found. So, the analysis is put in two parts-1. Phonology and 2. Grammar. Under the latter whatever little morphology is there, is described.




1 Introduction 1
1.1 Background 1
1.2 Notes on Phonology 3
1.3 Juncture 5
2 Nominals 7
2.1. Nouns 7
2.2 Personal Pronouns 10
2.3. Demonstrative and Interrogative Pronouns 11
2.4. Nominal Phrases 13
3 Verbals 26
3.1. Structure of Verbs 26
3.2. Adjectives 28
3.3. Verb Phrase 29
3.3.4. Auxilliary verbs 34
3.3.5. Completive marker 35
3.3.6. Negative marker 35
3.3.7. Co-occurrence restrictions 36
3.3.8. Infinitival phrase 37
4 Adverbials 39
4.1. Manner adverbials 39
4.2. Frequency adverbials 42
4.3. Temporal adverbials 43
4.4. Prepositional adverbials 44
4.5. Pronominal adverbials 46
5 Prepositional phrases 49
5.1 ya phrase 51
5.2. da phrase 51
5.3. ha phrase 51
5.4. na phrase 53
5.5. sa phrase 53
5.6. bad phrase 55
5.7. jon phrase 55
5.8. ba phrase 57
6 Compounding 58
6.1 Noun compounds 58
6.2. Verb compounds 63
6.3. Idiomatic Compounds with two members 65
6.4. Three member compounds 66
6.5. Idiomatic Compounds with three members 70
6.6. Compounds with unique or near unique members 70
6.7. Contraction 72
7 Numerals 79
7.1. Basic Cardinal numerals 79
7.2. Numeral word vs. Phrase 81
7.3. Co-ordinate relations in Numerals 82
7.4. Ordinal numerals 82
7.5. Multiplicative numerals 82
7.6. Fractions 83
7.7. Units of measurement 86
8 Clauses 87
8.1. Main clause 87
8.2. Subordinate clause 93
9 Particles 99
9.1. Conjunctions 99
9.2. Reflexive marker 101
9.3. Emphatic marker 102
9.4. Indefinite/Reciprocal/Definite forms 103
9.5. Passive constructions in Khasi 105
9.6. Intensifiers 106
9.7. pat' 107
9.8. ban' 108
9.9. Interjections 109
10 Sentences 110
10.1. Simple sentence 110
10.2. Complex sentence 112
10.3. Compound sentence 114
10.4. Minor sentences 115
10.5. Sample text with grammatical analysis 116
10.6. Types of Sentences 120
  Appendices 122
1 A note on the structure C1 V C2 122
2 Selected Texts 126
3 Bibliography 134


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Item Code: NAM128 Author: K. S. Nagaraja Cover: Paperback Edition: 1985 Publisher: Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute Language: English Size: 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch Pages: 148 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 225 gms
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