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Assamese Website INTRODUCTION HISTORY POPULATION CULTURE RELIGION AND FESTIVAL LANGUAGE Introdution History Formation of Assamese language Linguistic affiliation Dialect Script Phonology Vowels Consonants Morphology Nominal Verbal Syntax Glossary Bibliography INTRODUCTION Assam is situated at the heart of northeast India spreading an area of 78,438.00 square kilometers comprising 27 districts. The inhabitants of Assam are a broad racial intermixture of Mongolian, Indo-Burmese, Indo-Iranian and Aryan origin. The hilly tracks of Assam are mostly inhabited by the tribes of Mongolian origin. This broad racial intermixture is the native of the state of Assam, called their language and the people “Asomiya” or “Assamese” which is also the state language of Assam. Assamese or Asomiya (Axomiya) has got its different definitions with the attempts to define it on the linguistic, cultural or ethnic basis. The state has the largest number of tribes within their variety in tradition, culture, dresses, and exotic way of life. Most tribes have their own languages. Bodo (or Kachari), Karbi, Kosh-Rajbanshi, Miri/Mishing, Mishimi, Rabha, Dimasa, Tiwa, Deori are some of these tribes exhibiting variety in tradition, culture, dresses, and exotic way of life.

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Page 1: Assamese Website

Assamese Website INTRODUCTION HISTORY POPULATION CULTURE RELIGION AND FESTIVAL LANGUAGE Introdution History Formation of Assamese language

Linguistic affiliation Dialect Script Phonology Vowels Consonants Morphology Nominal Verbal Syntax Glossary Bibliography

INTRODUCTION Assam is situated at the heart of northeast India spreading an area of 78,438.00 square kilometers comprising 27 districts. The inhabitants of Assam are a broad racial intermixture of Mongolian, Indo-Burmese, Indo-Iranian and Aryan origin. The hilly tracks of Assam are mostly inhabited by the tribes of Mongolian origin. This broad racial intermixture is the native of the state of Assam, called their language and the people “Asomiya” or “Assamese” which is also the state language of Assam. Assamese or Asomiya (Axomiya) has got its different definitions with the attempts to define it on the linguistic, cultural or ethnic basis. The state has the largest number of tribes within their variety in tradition, culture, dresses, and exotic way of life. Most tribes have their own languages. Bodo (or Kachari), Karbi, Kosh-Rajbanshi, Miri/Mishing, Mishimi, Rabha, Dimasa, Tiwa, Deori are some of these tribes exhibiting variety in tradition, culture, dresses, and exotic way of life.

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HISTORY During the six hundred years of ruling, the Ahom dynasty managed to keep the kingdom, independent from Mughal, the Muslim invaders of India before the British, as well as other invaders though Mughal attacked Assam seventeen times. During this era, the Assamese society was exogenous. The British entered Assam in 1824 as tea planter which was the starting point of the destruction of Ahom dynasty. Along with the British, the immigrants entered Assam from India together with their traditional believes such as caste system and dowry system. Some of the immigrants became a part of the Assamese society, and the others still practice their traditions. POPULATION: Accoring to the 2011 census, population of Assam is 31,169,272, which is 2.58 percent of India’s population comprising of 1,210,193,422. Male population of Assam is 15,954,927 whereas female population is 15,214,345. Assamese-speaking Hindus represent two-thirds of the state's population and indigenous Tibeto-Burman tribal groups make up another 16 percent of the total (estimate). More than 40 percent of Assam's population is thought to be of migrant origin. CULTURE: Assam is a multiethnic society with different cultures. The cultural life of Assam is interwoven with the activities of a number of cultural institutions and religious centres, such as the satra (seat of a religious head known as the satradhikar) and namghar (prayer hall). Satras in Assam have been looking after the religious and social well-being of the Hindu population since the 15th century. The Assamese people observe all the pan-Indian religious festivals, but their most important celebrations are the three Bihu festivals, viz. Rongali Bihu, Magh Bihu and Kati Bihu. Originally agricultural festivals, these are observed with great enthusiasm irrespective of caste, creed, and religious affinity. Around forty five different languages are spoken by different communities in Assam. It has rich folk music and traditions that gives it a unique and distinctive flavour. Music is an important aspect of Assamese culture. Dhol, Marcus, Taal, Pepa , Gogona are some of the various instruments used during the performance. Dance, music, woodwork, pottery, sitalpati or the art of mat making have survived through centuries and is very important part of the culture and lifestyle of Assam. Artist and sculptors, masons and architects, and others practicing minor crafts such as weavers, spinners, potters, goldsmiths, artisanns of ivory, wood, bamboo, cane and hide flourished in Assam from ancient times. Weaving is the traditional craft of the Assamese, and the women of almost every household take pride in their possession of a handloom. They use their handloom to produce silk and cotton clothes of exquisite designs. The Eri, Muga and Pat are the important silk products of Assam. The scientific name given to the worms which produce the muga silk is Antehra Assam. It is a fact that these worms cannot survive in any other climates in the world other than the climate of the Northeast India. Gandhiji complimented the Assamese weavers as artists who could weave dreams in their loomes.

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RELIGION AND FESTIVAL: As Assam is a state of many ethnic groups of people, it is also a state of many religions. It represents in full the religious diversity of the country. The religious community of Assam mainly comprises of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Buddhism. Apart from this, various indigenous groups also follow Animism, Tantricism, Brahminism and Vaishnavism. Despite such vast differences in their religious faiths and beliefs, all the people within the state live in perfect peace and harmony with each other. All the festivals, whether it is Durga Puja, Id-ul-Fitr or Christmas, is celebrated by all with equal zeal and fervor in the Indian state. Hinduism, being the major religion in Assam, comprises about 64.9% of the total population, according to the Census Report of 2001. The pristine form of this religion started when the Aryans came to this region. Originally, the Assamese were practicing the rituals of Tantricism, before the advent of the Neo-Vaishnavite culture founded by Srimanta Shankardeva (1449-1568). The latter form of worship emerged in the state during the 15th century AD and comprises of a major portion of the religious beliefs of the Assamese people at present. The state, in general, has always been an open-minded society, in terms of liberalism. There are followers of Durga, Kali, Saraswati and the Vaishnavite culture in Assam. Among the various temples present in the state, the Kamakhya Temple needs special mention. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga and is an important pilgrimage spot of the state. Muslims comprise of the second largest religious group in the state and comprise about 30.925% of the entire population. The Powa Mecca in Hajoan is important pilgrimage centre for the Muslims and is visited by thousands of devotees and followers all round the year. Besides this, there are numerous mosques located in the state and many Muslim festivals are celebrated by the people with traditional flavor. Christians also form a sizeable population of the state (3.75%) and several churches are located here. Assam, initially, had a large number of tribes following the customs and rituals of Animism, along with elements of Hinduism. But, in recent times, many such people have adopted the customs and doctrines of Christianity. A major aspect of the religious scenario of the state is the emergence of the Brahmo Samaj, propagated by the Bodo Hindu, Kalicharan Mech. He later became known as ‘Guru Brahma’ or ‘Gurudev Kalicharan Brahma’. Due to his teachings, the Bodo Brahmas (Bodos who follow this sect) gave up alcohol, heavy dowry and even meat eating. Besides the major religions, some of the tribes also follow animism, and worships nature in its various manifestations. Worship of trees, mountains and rocks are common among tribes such as the Dimasas of Dima Hasao in the south. The Hindus, who constitute a majority of the population, themselves practise different diciplines of Hinduism. Shakti temples such as the Kamakhya shrine at Guwahati and the Kechaikhati temple at Sadiya stands testimony to a past in which tantricism was the predominant form of Hinduism. This was followed by its modified form Saktaism, a primitive faith which like tantricism worshipped the female form of God.

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The Vaisnava revival of the Middle Ages brought to the limelight the great Vaisnavite saint Srimanta Sankardeva (1449-1568) who developed and propagated Eka-sarana-namadharma (a faith of allegiance to one God) which was part of the neo-Vaisnavite movement of India and is characterized by absence of the rituals practised by the Saktas and the principle of eqauality which annuled all caste barriers. Mahapurush Sri Sri Sankaradeva, as he is known in the State, composed borgeet (hymns), ankianaat (dance-dramas) and recitals, and with the help of his desciples, set up sattras (monasteries) and namghars (community prayer halls) for the propagation of the new faith which soon gained large-scale acceptance. There are several important traditional festivals in Assam. Bihu is the most important and common and celebrated all over Assam. Bihu is a series of three prominent festivals. Primarily a non-religious festival celebrated to mark the seasons and the significant points of a cultivator's life over a yearly cycle. Three Bihus, Rongali or Bohag, celebrated with the coming of spring and the beginning of the sowing season; Kongali or Kati, the barren bihu when the fields are lush but the barns are empty; and the Bhogali or Magh, the thanksgiving when the crops have been harvested and the barns are full. Bihu songs and Bihu dance are associated to Rongali bihu. The eve of each bihu is known as 'Uruka'. The first day of 'Rongali Bihu' is called 'Goru Bihu' (the Bihu of the cows), when the cows are taken to the nearby rivers or ponds to be bathed with special care. In recent times the form and nature of celebration has changed with the growth of urban centres. Durga Puja is another festival celebrated with great enthusiasm. Muslims celebrate two Eids with much eagerness in all over Assam. Moreover, there are other important traditional festivals being celebrated every year on different occasions at different places. Many of these are celebrated by different ethno-cultural groups (sub and sister cultures). Some of these are- LANGUAGE: Introduction Assamese is the principal language of the state and is regarded as the lingua-franca of the whole northeast India. The Assamese language is the easternmost member of the Indo-European family. It is spoken by most of the natives of the state of Assam. As a first language it is spoken by over 15.3 million people and including those who speak it as a second language, a total of 20 million speak Assamese primarily in the northeastern state of Assam and in parts of the neighboring states of West Bengal, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh and other northeast Indian states. Nagamese is an Assamese-based creole used as the lingua-franca of different Naga groups. It is widely used in Nagaland and some parts of Assam. Small pockets of Assamese speakers can also be found in Bhutan and Bangladesh. Immigrants from Assam have carried the language with them to other parts of the world. Although scholars trace the history of Assamese literature to the beginning of the second millenium AD, yet an unbroken record of literary history is traceable only from the 14th century. The Assamese language grew out of Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Indian sub-continent. However, its vocabulary, phonology and grammar have substantially been influenced by the original inhabitants of Assam, such as the Bodos and the Kacharis.

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HISTORY: The history of the Assamese language may be broadly divided into three periods: Assamese language― Early Assamese: 6th to 5th century AD: This period may again be split into a) Pre-Vaishnavite and b) Vaishnavite sub-periods. The earliest known Assamese writer is Hema Saraswati, who wrote a da Charita. “In the time of the king Indranarayana small poem “Prahra (1350-1365) of Kamatapur the two poets Harihara Vipra and Kaviratna Saraswati composed Asvamedha Parva and Jayadratha Vadha respectively. Another poet named Rudra Kandali translated Drona Parva into Assamese. But the most well-known poet of the Pre-Vaishnavite sub-period is Madhava Kandali, who rendered the entire Ramayana into Assamese verse under the patronage of Mahamanikya, a Kachari king of Jayantapura. Hema Saraswati introduced himself in his writing as Vaishnava born in Kamrup or Kamarupa. The language he used is not Assamese but Kamrupi, this is the case with Madhav Kandali too. Assamese language― Middle Assamese: 17th to 19th century AD: This is a period of the prose chronicles (Buranji) of the Ahom court. The Ahoms had brought with them an instinct for historical writings. In the Ahom court, historical chronicles were at first composed in their original Tibeto-Chinese language, but when the Ahom rulers adopted Assamese as the court language, historical chronicles began to be written in Assamese. From the beginning of the seventeenth century onwards, court chronicles were written in large numbers. These chronicles or Buranjis, as they were called by the Ahoms, broke away from the style of the religious writers. The language is essentially modern except for slight alterations in grammar and spelling. Assamese language― Modern Assamese: The modern Assamese period began with the publication of the Bible in Assamese prose by the American Baptist Missionaries in 1819. The currently prevalent Asamiya has its roots in the Sibsagar dialect of Eastern Assam. As mentioned in Banikanta Kakati’s “Assamese, its Formation and Development” (1941). The Missionaries made Sibsagar in Eastern Assam the centre of their activities and used the dialect of Sibsagar for their literary purposes. The American Baptist Missionaries were the first to use this dialect in translating the Bible in 1813. The Missionaries established the first printing press in Sibsagar in 1836 and started using the local Asamiya dialect for writing purposes. In 1846 they started a monthly periodical called Arunodoi, and in 1848, Nathan Brown published the first book on Assamese grammar. The Missionaries published the first Assamese-English Dictionary compiled by M. Bronson in 1867. The British imposed Bengali in Assam after the state was occupied in 1826. Due to a sustained campaign, Assamese was reinstated in 1872 as the state language. Since the initial printing and literary activity occurred in eastern Assam, the Eastern dialect was introduced in schools, courts and offices and soon came to be formally recognized as the Standard Assamese. In recent times, with the growth of Guwahati as the political and

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commercial center of Assam, the Standard Assamese has moved away from its roots in the Eastern dialect. The period of modern literature began with the publication of the Assamese journal Jonaki (1889), which introduced the short story form first by Laxminath Bezbarua. Thus began the Jonaki period of Assamese literature. In 1894 Rajnikanta Bordoloi published the first Assamese novel Mirijiyori . The modern Assamese literature has been enriched by the works of Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla, Hem Barua and others. In 1917 the Asom Sahitya Sabha was formed as a guardian of the Assamese society and the forum for the development of Assamese language and literature. FORMATION OF ASSAMESE: Assamese and the cognate languages, Bengali and Oriya, developed from Magadhi Prakrit, the eastern branch of the Apabhramsa that followed Prakrit. Written records in an earlier form of the Assamese script can be traced to 6th/7th century AD when Kamarupa (part of present-day Bengal was also a part of the ancient Kamarupa) was ruled by the Varman dynasty. Assamese language features have been discovered in the 9th century Charyapada, which are Buddhist verses discovered in 1907 in Nepal, and which came from the end of the Apabhramsa period. Earliest examples of the language appeared in the early 14th century, composed during the reign of the Kamata king Durlabhnarayana of the Khen dynasty. Since the time of the Charyapada, Assamese has been influenced by the languages belonging to the Sino-Tibetan and Austro-Asiatic families. Linguistic Affiliation:

Figure ː Proto Indo-European Family Tree










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Dialect: Several regional dialects are typically recognized. These dialects vary primarily with respect to phonology and morphology. A high degree of mutual intelligibility is enjoyed among the dialects. Banikanta Kakati has divided the Assamese dialects into two major groups. They are:

a) Eastern Assamese. b) Western Assamese.

However, recent studies have shown that there are four dialect groups, listed below from east to west: 1. Eastern group spoken in and other districts around Sibsagar district. 2. Central group spoken in present Nagaon district and adjoining areas. 3. Kamrupi group spoken in undivided Kamrup, Nalbari, Barpeta, Darrang, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon. 4. Goalparia group spoken in Goalpara, Dhubri, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts Script: Assamese uses the Assamese script, a variant of the Eastern Nagari Script, which traces its descent from the Gupta Script. Developed from Brahmi through Devanagiri, Assamese script is similar to that of Bengali except the symbols for /r/ and /w/ and highly resembles the Devanagiri script of Hindi, Sanskrit and other related Indic languages. As such it is a syllabary script and is written from left to right. The alphabet consists of 12 vowel graphemes and 52 consonant graphemes. Both phonemes and allophones are represented. Assamese spelling is not always phonetically based. Current Assamese spelling practices are based on Sanskrit spelling, as introduced in the second Assamese dictionary Hemkosh which was written in the middle of the 19th century. PHONOLOGY: Vowels: The Assamese phoneme inventory consists of eight vowels and twenty one consonants, depending on the analysis. A wide array of diphthongs is attested (fifteen in total) and as many as five vowels (comprising three syllables) may appear in succession. Pure Vowels:


High i u


High-Mid e o

Low-Mid ɛ ɔ

Low a

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The vowel sounds in Assamese language occur in all the three positions, namely word initially, medially and finally. Examples are shown below:

MMoonnoopphhtthhoonngg IInniittiiaallllyy MMeeddiiaallllyy FFiinnaallllyy

/i/ /i / ‘he’ /bil/ ‘small lake’ /ħi/ ‘he’

/e/ /edin/ ‘one day’ /bel/ ‘bell’ /de/ ‘give (familiar)’

/ɛ/ /ɛta / ‘one’ /bɛl/‘kind of fruit’ / kɛnɛ/ ‘how’

/a/ /am/ ‘mango’ /bal/ ‘child’ /bʊka/ ‘mud’

/u/ /ur/ ‘fly’ /bul/ ‘proper name’ /balu/ ‘sand’

/ʊ/ /ʊkɔni/ ‘leech’ /bʊl/‘colour’ // ‘’

/o/ /oħur/ ‘demon’ /bol/ ‘let’s go’ /lo/ ‘iron particle’

/ɔ/ /ɔkɔnman / ‘little’ /bɔl/ ‘strength’ /lɔ/ ‘take’

DDiipphhtthhoonnggss:: There are ten diphthongs in Assamese as follows:

DDiipphhtthhoonngg IInniittiiaallllyy MMeeddiiaallllyy FFiinnaallllyy

/ai/ /ai/ ‘mother’ /kait/ ‘thorn’ /lai/ ‘green leafy


/ei/ /eitʊ/ ‘this’ /ħeitʊ/ ‘that’ /dei/ ‘okay’

/oi/ /oi/ ‘interjection’ /tʰoila/ ‘sack’ /doi/ ‘curd’

/ɔi/ /ɔinjo/ ‘somebody else’ /pɔita/ ‘cockroach’ /hɔi/ ‘yes’

/ui/ /ui/ ‘white ant’ ------------ /dui/ ‘two’


/ou/ /ou/ ‘a kind of sour

fruit’ /kouti/ ‘a crore’

/tou/ ‘a big bell-


/au/ /auħi/ ‘no-moon

day’ /pauta/ ‘one who gets’ /xau/ ‘curse’

/eu/ /deuri/ ‘personal name’ /deu/ ‘priest’


/uar/ ‘cover for

pillows, blankets,


/ɡual/ ‘milkman’

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CCoonnssoonnaannttss:: There are twenty-three consonant sounds including two semi-vowels in the Assamese language.

BBiillaabbiiaall AAllvveeoollaarr AAllvveeoolloo--PPaallaattaall VVeellaarr PPhhaarryynnggeeaall GGlloottttaall

Vl Vd Vl Vd Vl Vd Vl Vd Vd Vd S T o p

Unaspirated p b t d k ɡ

Aspirated pʰ bʰ tʰ dʰ kʰ ɡʰ

Nasal m n ŋ

Fricative s z ħ h

Trill r

Lateral l

Semi-vowel w j

The occurrences of these consonants are shown below-

CCoonnssoonnaanntt IInniittiiaallllyy MMeeddiiaallllyy FFiinnaallllyy

/p/ /pat/ ‘leaf’ /zapi/ ‘traditional hat’ /ħap/ ‘snake’

/pʰ/ /pʰat /‘crack’ /lopʰa/ ‘a green leafy

vegetable’ /lapʰ/ ‘jump’

/b/ /bat/ ‘road’ /habi/ ‘jungle’ /sab/ ‘imprint of a


/bʰ/ /bʰat/ ‘cooked rice’ /ħɔbʰa/ ‘meeting’ /labʰ/ ‘benefit’

/t/ /tam/ ‘copper /ata/ ‘flour’ /bat/ ‘road’

/tʰ/ /tʰam/ ‘stop’ /atʰa/ ‘glue’ /mutʰ/ ‘total’

/d/ /dam/ ‘cost’ /ada/ ‘ginger’ /mud/ ‘close’

/dʰ/ /dʰam/ ‘holy place’ /adʰa/ ‘half’ /bandʰ/ ‘tie’

/k/ /kam/ ‘work’ /sika/ ‘rodent’ /dak/ ‘post’

/kʰ/ /kʰam/ ‘envelope’ /akʰɔr/ ‘letter /rakʰ/ ‘keep’

/ɡ/ /ɡat/ ‘hole in the


/poɡa/ ‘boil for a long

time’ /daɡ/ ‘stain’

/ɡʰ/ /ɡʰat/ ‘river bank’ /poɡʰa/ ‘rope used for

tying a cow’ /bagʰ/ ‘tiger’

/m/ /mat/ ‘voice’ /hami/ ‘yawn’ /mul/ ‘basis’

/n/ /nat/ ‘drama’ /dani/ ‘donor’ /kan/ ‘ear’

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/ŋ/ ------ /ħiŋi/ ‘a kind of fish’ /bʰaŋ/ ‘break’

/s/ /sat/ ‘house roof’ /ħɔsa/ ‘true’ /bes/ ‘well done’

/z/ /za/ ‘go’ /azi/ ‘today’ /bex/ ‘appearance’

/ħ/ /ħat/ ‘seven’ /aħa/ ‘hope’ /daħ/ ‘slave’

/h/ /hat/ ‘hand /bɔh/ ‘sit’

/r/ /r/ ‘scold’ /ari/ ‘a kind of fish’ /bar/ ‘day’

/l/ / lɔ/ ‘take’ /ali/ ‘road’ /ɡal/ ‘cheek’

/w/ ------ /swadhin/ ‘independent’ --------

/j/ ------ /bidja/ ‘learning’ ---------

Morphology: Nominal: i) Noun: Nouns in Bodo are mostly monosyllabic such as /ai/ ‘mother’, /lau/ ‘guard’,

/mar/ ‘beat’, etc. as well as di-syllabic such as /manuh/ ‘person’, /deuta/ ‘father’, /kukur/

‘dog’, etc. However, derived nouns such as /bʰɔnijera/ ‘your younger sister’, /pitak/ ‘your

father’, /kʰetijɔk/ ‘farmer’, etc. are also frequently used.

ii) Pronoun: a) Personal pronoun: Singular Plural

1st person mɔi ‘I’ ami ‘we’

2nd person apuni ‘you(hon)’

tumi ‘’ tɔi

apunalʊk ‘you’

tʊmalʊk ‘you(hon)’ tɔhɔt

3rd person

i/ei ‘he/she(PROX)’

xi/tai ‘he/she/it(DIST)’


xihɔt ‘they(DIST)’

b) Demonstrative pronoun:

Singular Plural Proximal eitʊ ‘this’ eibʊr‘these(human)’

be-pʰɯɾ ‘these(inhuman)’ Distal xeitʊ ‘that’ xeibʊr‘those(human)’

bɯɪ-pʰɯɾ ‘those(inhuman)’

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c) Interrogative pronoun:

Singular Plural

1 ki ‘what’ kibʊr ‘what (PL)’

2 kʊn ‘who’ kʊnbʊr ‘who (PL)’

3 kʊntʊ ‘which’ kʊnbʊr ‘which ones’ d) Reflexive pronoun: Singular Plural 1 nize ‘self’ ---------------- e) Indefinite pronoun: Singular Plural 1 kʊnʊ ‘nobody, anybody’ -----------------

2 kʊnʊba ‘somebody/someone’ -----------

Nominal Inflections: Numberː Assamese has two numbers— singular and plural. Plural numbers are formed by adding suffixes to the singular forms of nouns, pronouns and also to some adjectives. They are expressed by adding qualifying words also. Their distributions are discussed belowː Zero suffix is added to noun bases qualified by other words showing plurality.

bɔhut manuh many man

‘Many men’

sari -zɔn manuh four -CLS man

‘Four men’ bʊr/bilak are added after animate and inanimate objects.

manuh -bʊr man -PL


sɔrai -bilak bird -PL

‘Birds’ hɔ̃t is added after the nouns to indicate the members of business class, caste, group, etc.

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kʊmar -hɔ̃t potter -PL


satrɔ -hɔ̃t student -PL

‘Students’ After the animated to indicate human beings in abusive sense.

kʊkʊr -hɔ̃t dog -PL

‘(You) dogs’ After names and prounouns to indicate simple plurality.

ram -hɔ̃t Ram -PL

‘Ram and others’ After nouns of personal relationship in respective sense.

xi -hɔ̃t he -PL


deuta -hɔ̃t father -PL

‘Father and others’ Gender: In Assamese, the distinction of sex may be expressed mainly by the following three waysː Using separate noun bases for male and female:

Masculine Feminine deuta ‘father’ ma ‘mother’ bʰai ‘brother’ bhoni ‘sister’ lora ‘boy’ suwali ‘girl’ dɔra ‘groom’ kɔina ‘bride’ kɔkaideu ‘brother’ bou ‘sister-in-law’ Using separate qualifying words before or after the common nouns: Masculine Feminine mɔta manuh ‘male’ maiki manuh ‘female’ mɔta mɔh ‘he-buffalo’ maiki mɔh ‘she-buffalo’ mɔta saɡɔli ‘he-goat’ maiki saɡɔli she-goat’

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In many cases tatsama words puruħ (Skt. purusa, male) and mohila ‘female’ are used before the terms belonging to common gender: Masculine Feminine puruħ kobi ‘male poet’ mohila kobi ‘female poet’ puruħ rastrɔpɔti ‘male president’ mohila rastrɔpɔti ‘female president’ puruħ mɔntri ‘male minister’ mohila mɔntri ‘female minister’ Sometimes sex is indicated by addition of enclitic definitives ‘tʊ’ for masculine and ‘zoni’ for feminine after the nouns. Masculine Feminine manuhtʊ manuhzoni kukuratʊ kukurazoni saɡolitʊ saɡolizoni Using different suffixes (Goswami, 1978): Assamese possesses some suffixes which are generally added to the masculine noun bases to indicate feminine gender. These suffixes are called feminine suffixes. Assamese possesses the following feminine suffixesː {-i}, {-ani}, {-ni} and {-uni}. Their usage is shown belowː {-i}:

a) it is added after masculine forms ending in a consonant nilaz ‘shameless man’ nilazi ‘shameless woman’

b) It replaces masculine forms ending in -a and in some cases it raises the preceding vowel

from low/middle to high ɡʰʊra ‘male horse’ ɡʰʊri ‘female horse’

c) It replaces masculine forms used as an adjective ending in -a raising the preceding low vowel to high and there is a morpho-phonemic change of initial ɔ>a. ɔzɔla ‘simpleton azɔli ‘female simpleton’

kɔla ‘black man’ kali ‘black woman’

d) In Assamese few adjective stake feminine suffix {-i} before noun bases denoting

feminine gender. rupaɔh deka ‘beautiful young man’ rupɔhi gabhɔru ‘beautiful young women’

{-ɔni}: It is added after nouns ending in a consonant and vowel -u. napit ‘male barber’ napitɔni ‘female barber’

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{-ni}: It is added after masculine forms ending in -ɔ, -a and -i. ɡrihɔsth ɔ ‘house holder’ ɡrihɔsth ɔni ‘wife of house holder’

kɔlita ‘male of a Kalita caste’ kaɔlitani ‘wife of a man belonging to Kalita caste’

nati ‘grandson’ natini ‘granddaughter’

{-uni}: It is added after consonant and vowel ending bases with morpho-phonemic change. sʊr ‘male thief suruni ‘female thief’

{-ri}: It is added after a few forms with morpho-phonemic change. kola ‘deaf man’ kalori ‘deaf woman’

Masculine Suffix: There is no masculine suffix in Assamese but in some derived words formative suffix {-a} is used as masculine suffix. For example, kʰɔra-nak, meaning falt-nose; after this if we add {-a}, it becomes khɔra-nɔka, meaning a man who has flat nose. It may be changed to feminine gender after adding the feminine suffix {-i}, e.g. kh ɔra-naki, meaning a woman who has flat nose. There are some nouns in Assamese which always belong to feminine gender; they have no masculine forms in opposition. For example, ħipini ‘woman skilled in weaving’ dawɔni ‘a reaper woman’ The sex of a few words like ħokhi ‘friend’ and randhɔni ‘cook’ can be known only from the context. In writing to denote the feminine these are written with a long {-i}. Some of the third personal pronouns have gender distinction in Assamese, e.g. ħi ‘he’, tai ‘she’, i ‘this man’, ei ‘this woman’. Case: Nominative Case: The nominative case is marked by {-e} which has two allomorphs {-i} and {-φ}. Both {-e} and {-i} occur with the subject noun only when the verb is transitive, and {-φ} occur when the verb is intransitive.

ram -e bhat kha -l -e Ram -NOM rice eat -PST -PERS ‘Ram took his meal.’

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sita -i nas -is -e Sita -NOM dance -ASP -PERS ‘Sita is dancing.’ ram -φ kailoi za -b -ɔ Ram -NOM yesterday go -FUT -PERS ‘Ram will go tomorrow.’ Accusative Case: The accusative case is marked by {-k} which has the allomorphs {-φ} and {-ɔk}. {- φ} occurs when the object is inanimate and {-k} and {-ɔk} occur when the object is animate. For example: ram -e hori -k mar -il -e Ram -NOM Hari -ACC beat -PST -PERS ‘Ram beat Hari.’

bina –i tazmɔhɔl -φ dekh -il -e Bina -NOM Tajmahal -ACC see -PST -PERS ‘Bina saw Tajmahal.’

ħi -φ lɔra -tʊ -k mat -il -e 3SG -NOM boy -CLS -ACC call -PST PERS ‘He called the boy.’

Locative Case: It is marked by {-t} which has two allomorphs {-ɔt} and {-e}. Generally, {-t} is used after words in vowels and {-ɔt} after words ending in consonants.

ħi -φ ɡuwahati -t as -e 3SG -NOM Guwahati -LOC be -PERS ‘He is in Guwahati.’ ram ɡʰɔr -ɔt nai Ram home -LOC NEG.be ‘Ram is not at home.’ Allative Case The case of a noun functioning as the destination of some verbs of motion is allative. The allative case is marked by {-loi} which has one allomorph {-ɔloi}. All -C final nouns realize their allative case in {-ɔloi} and -V final by {-loi}. ram –ø dilli -loi za -b -ɔ Ram –NOM Delhi -ALL go -FUT -PERS ‘Ram will go to Delhi.’ hori -ø bɔzar -ɔloi za -b -ɔ father -NOM market -ALL go -FUT -PERS ‘Hari will go to the market.’

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Instrumental Case: The case of a noun functioning as the instrument for performing some action as suggested by the verb is instrumental. The instrumental case is marked by {-re} which has an allomorph {-edi}. While {-edi} is used with nouns functioning as mediums, {-re} is used elsewhere. ram -e kɔtari -re am kat -il -e Ram -NOM knife -INS mango cut -PST -PERS ‘Ram cut the mango with a knife.’ ghɔr -ɔt kʰirki -edi pʊhɔr ħʊma -l house -LOC door -INS light enter -PST ‘Light entered into the house through the window.’ Genitive Case: The genitive case is marked by {-r}, which has an allomorph {-ɔr}. All -C final nouns realize this genitive case in {-ɔr} and -V final by {-r}. tai -r kitap 3SG(F) -GEN book ‘Her book’ ram -ɔr ɡʰɔr Ram -GEN house ‘Ram’s house’

VERB: Verbs in Assamese subject themselves to various kinds of classification. If we look from a wider point of view, verbs in Assamese could be classified into two categories. They are— Main verbs and Auxiliary verbs. Main verbs can again be divided into simple and derived. Primary or simple stems: Verb roots themselves are considered as simple or primary verb stems. They are verb stems in their own rights because sometimes they are meaningful on their own, without being inflected for any markers. Such cases are found with the present imperative verb form for 2nd person inferior. The following examples can be seen: Verb Stem Meaning kha ‘You(INF) eat.’ za ‘You(INF) go.’ However, for other tenses, aspects and persons, the verb stems take regular inflection. For example:

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Verb Stem AM TM PM Meaning kha - - -ʊ̃ ‘I eat.’ kha - -l -ʊ̃ ‘I ate.’ kha - -m - ‘I shall eat.’ Thus it can be seen that the simple verb stems like kha takes different inflections as per the aspect, tense and person category regularly. Derived Stems: Derived stems are formed by adding different suffixes to the simple stem. This morphological process is termed as derivation. Derivational morphemes generate new words from existing ones, thereby widening the scope of expression. Derived stems do not fulfill any syntactic function but they meet only morphological and semantic necessities. This is true of Assamese derivatives also. Causative Verb Stems: The principle causative bound morpheme in Assamese is {-a} which has three other allomorphs {-ʊwa} and {-ija}. Stem Meaning Suffix Stem Meaning kar ‘do’ + -a > kar-a ‘cause to do’ bɔh ‘sit’ + -uwa > bɔh-ʊwa ‘cause to sit’ ʊla ‘take out’ + -ija > ʊl-ija ‘cause to come out’

Compound Verb Stems: Stem Meaning Stem Meaning Compound Verb Meaning bʰal ‘good’ + pa ‘get’ > bʰal pa ‘love’ onubhɔb ‘feeling + kɔr ‘do’ > onubhɔb kɔr ‘feel’ aɡur-i ‘surround-NF + dʰɔr ‘catch’ > aɡuri dh ɔr ‘suuround’

Verbal Inflections: Tense: Assamese verbs manifest a three-tier distinction, viz, present, past and future. They are marked by suffixation. Tense markers are directly suffixed to the verb stems if there does not involve any aspect markers. However, if there is any aspect marker, it invariably precedes the tense marker. The tense markers are not terminal suffixes; person markers invariably are added to them. While the past and the future tenses in Assamese are marked by suffixation, the present tense is marked by the absence of any overt suffixation which is generally expressed as {ø}. Present Tense: The verb stems themselves can express the present tense. There is no tense marker for the present tense. In other words, the present tense in Assamese is marked by {ø}. Person markers can directly be suffixed to the verb stems to mark the present tense. The present tense verb forms as realized by suffixation of various person markers could be seen from the following examples, where verb stems ending in different vowels and consonants are shown:

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Structure is: Verb stem + ø + person marker(s)

Verb Stem Meaning 1st Person 2nd Person

3rd Person Honorific Familiar Inferior

kha ‘eat’ kha-ʊ kha-i khʊ-w-a kha-ɔ kha-i ne ‘take’ ni-ʊ ni-j-e ni-j-a ni-j-ɔ ni-j-e an ‘bring’ an-ʊ an-e an-a an-ɔ an-e

In the above examples it may be seen that verb stems ending in {-e} change to {-i} when any person suffix is to be added to them. Past Tense: The past tense in Assamese is marked by {-l} which has another allomorph {-il}. {-l} occurs after vowel ending stems and {-il} after consonant ending stems. In the absence of aspect markers, past tense makers are directly suffixed to the verb stems and the person markers are thereafter added to them. Structure is: Verb stem + {-l}/{-il} + person marker(s) Verb Stem

Meaning 1st Person

2nd Person 3rd Person

Honorific Familiar Inferior kha ‘eat’ kha-l-ʊ kha-l-e kha-l-a kha-l-i kha-l-e ne ‘take’ ni-l-ʊ ni-l-e ni-l-a ni-l-i ni-l-e an ‘bring’ an-il-ʊ an-il-e an-il-a an-il-i an-il-e The morphophonemic changes to be noted in the above examples are that the stem final {-o} changes to {-u} and the stem final {-e} changes to {-i} when past tense marker is to be added to them. Future Tense: The future tense in Assamese is marked by {-b} which has three allomorphs {-ib}, {-m} and {-im}. {-b} and {-ib} occur with 2nd and 3rd persons while {-m} and {-im} occur with 1st person. Of these, {-b} and {-m} occur with vowel ending verb stems while {-ib} and {-im} occur with consonant ending verb stems. The following examples could be seen: Structure is: Verb stem + {-b}/{-ib}/{-m}/{-im} + person marker(s)

Verb Stem

Meaning 1st Person 2nd Person

3rd Person Honorific Familiar Inferior

kha ‘eat’ kha-m kha-b-ɔ kha-b-a kha-b-i kha-b-ɔ ne ‘take’ ni-m ni-b-ɔ ni-b-a ni-b-i ni-b-ɔ an ‘bring’ an-im an-ib-ɔ an-ib-a an-ib-i an-ib-ɔ

Aspectː Assamese verbs manifest aspectual contrasts. Three aspects could be identified in Assamese verbs. They are habitual or indefinite, perfective or completive and continuative or progressive. The aspect markers are directly added to the verb stem; tense marker, if any, is suffixed to the aspect markers. In the absence of tense marker, the

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person marker is directly added to the aspect marker. The aspect markers have no allomorphs. Habitual or Indefinite: It denotes the habitual occurrence of the action suggested by the verb. This aspect is relevant to all the tenses, viz, present, past and future. It is marked by {ø}. The following examples represent the habitual or indefinite aspect in all the three tenses: Tense Aspect Examples


Habitual or Indefinite

kɔ -ʊ̃ say -PERS ‘(I) say.’


kɔ -l -ʊ say -PAST -PERS ‘(I) said.’

Future kɔ -m say -FUT.PERS ‘(I) shall say.’

Perfective or Completive: The perfective or completive aspect denotes the completion of the action of the verb. Of all the aspects, this is clearly marked by a bound morpheme {-is}. It could express completion of action in both present and past tenses. However, Assamese does not manifest this aspect for future tense verbs. The following examples could be seen: Tense Aspect Examples


Perfective or Completive

kɔ -is -ʊ say -PERF -PERS ‘(I) have said.’


kɔ -is -il -ʊ Say -PERF -PAST -PERS ‘(I) had said.’

Future ---------- Progressive or Continuative: This aspect suggests that the action suggested by the main verb is in progression. This can be realized generally for present as well as past tenses and sometimes for future tense verbs too. The verbs in the progressive aspect are constructed periphrastically. A bound morpheme {-i} is suffixed to the main verb stem. This {-i} is the same bound morpheme that forms non-finite verb forms discussed under section of non-finite and then the fully inflected forms of the auxiliary verb stems as follow it in present and past tenses and by thak in the future tense. This auxiliary verb stems only carry tense and person by being inflected for these categories. The following examples could be seen:

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Tense Aspect Examples


Progressive or Continuative

kɔ -i as -ʊ say -NF AUX -1 ‘(I) am saying.’

Past kɔ -i as -il -ʊ say -NF AUX -PAST -1 ‘(I) was saying.’

Future kɔ -i thak -im say -NF AUX -FUT.1 ‘(I) shall be saying.’

SYNTAX: Word Order: The basic word order of the Assamese language is SOV (Subject-Object-Verb). But, as it has rich case system all other kinds of word order i.e. SVO, OSV, OVS, VOS and VSO can realize the same meaning which an SOV structure can. Out of them OSV is more frequently found in the native speakers’ speech. Sentence types: Based on the structure the sentences in Assamese are classified into three different kinds, namely, simple, complex and compound. Examples are given below: Simple: ħi kam -tʊ kɔr -ib -ɔ 3SG(M).NOM work -CLS do -FUT -PERS ‘He will do the work.’ Complex:

ħi kɔ -is -e ze ħi kam -tʊ kɔr -ib -ɔ 3SG(M).NOM say -ASP -PERS that 3SG(m).NOM work -CLS do -FUT -PERS ‘He said that he’ll do the work.’ Compound: ħi kɔ -is -e ze ħi kam -tʊ kɔr -ib -ɔ aru za -b -ɔ 3SG(M).NOM say -


that 3SG(m).NOM work -CLS

do -FUT


and go -FUT


‘He said that he’ll do the work and go’ Voice: Active Voice: In Assamese, when prominence is sought to be given to the doer of an action, the active form of voice is used. Verb in the case of active formation is controlled by the subject and never by the object. In terms of the category of person, the verb is in concordial relation with the subject nominals, i.e., here the question is of subject-verb agreement only, not of the object-verb agreement.

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ram -e bhat kha -l -e Ram -NOM rice eat -PAST -3 ‘Ram ate rice.’ Here the verb kʰa directly expresses the action performed by the subject nominal and hence the verb is in active voice. Passive Voice: Traditionally, in case a transitive verb is involved the construction is called passive. As mentioned above, passive in Assamese can be sub-categorized into three types: mʊr bh at kʰʊ -wa ho -l 1SG.GEN rice eat -NF be -PAST ‘My eating is over.’ amar bas -ɔt ʊtʰ -a hɔ -i 1SG.GEN bus -LOC get up -NF be -3 ‘We use to travel by bus.’ Bibliography:Bibliography:Bibliography:Bibliography:

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University Endle, Rev. Sidney, (1911) The Kacharis. Bina Library, Panbazar, Guwahati-01. Goswami, U. N. (1978). Gender system in Assameseː An introduction to Assamese, 37-

35, Mani-Manik Prakash, Guwahati, Assam. Kaur, Sugandha, (2007) Vowels in Bodo, A seminar paper. Encyclopedia of Asian History, Volume 1, Charles' Scribner's Sons, New York, 1988 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings, Volume 2, New York, Charles

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