Mongsen Ao language
|260,000 (2001 census)|
? Dordar (Yacham)
Mongsen Ao is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by the Ao of Nagaland in northeast India. Conventionally classified as "Naga", the Ao languages are not clearly related to other Naga languages. Gordon (2005) estimates that there are 141,000 speakers of Mongsen and Chungli Ao.
Missionary grammars from the late 19th century exist. A grammatical description is Gowda (1975). Coupe (2003) is one of the few acoustic studies published on a Kuki-Chin-Naga language (only three exist). Coupe also has a reference grammar in progress.
The Ao Naga tribes of Nagaland speak three languages: Chungli, Mongsen, and Changki. (J.P.Mills 1921). Chungli Ao and Mongsen Ao are spoken in majority of the Ao villages whereas Changki speakers form the minor speakers.
Chungli as a common Ao language
During the American Baptist Mission to Naga Hills, Dr E.W.Clark first came in contact with the Molungkimong village that paved the way for a common Ao language. Chungli Ao is spoken in Molungkimong and Molungyimsen and other villages throughout Ao territory by roughly 60% of the Ao-speaking population. The speech of Molungkimong is the prestige dialect due to Baptist missionaries' influence. Most Ao can speak Chungli even if they are from Mongsen-speaking regions. Chungli is taught in schools. Various trans-Dikhu neighbouring dialects of Chungli Ao are spoken east of the Dikhu River in Yacham, Tengsa, and Longla. These are poorly documented; Yacham and Tengsa may be separate languages (van Driem 2001).
Mongsen Ao is spoken primarily in the western part of Ao territory. The Changki dialect is spoken only in 3 villages - Changki, Japu and Longjemdang - which is poorly documented though reportedly related to Mongsen Ao. Some Changki speakers can fluently converse in both Mongsen and Chungli, but a Mongsen Ao cannot speak Changki or understand it, whereas a Chungli can hardly understand or speak Changki. Chungli Ao and Mongsen Ao are not mutually intelligible. (Escamilla 2012) The speech of each Ao village has its own distinctive characteristics. Many villages contain both Chungli and Mongsen speakers.
This section describes the sound system of Mongsen Ao as spoken in Waromung village and is based on Coupe (2003).
Mongsen Ao has 20 (or 21) consonants:
- Dental consonants /t, tʰ, ts, tsʰ, s, z, n, l/ are laminal denti-alveolar.
- The post-alveolar approximant /ɹ/ varies from an apical post-alveolar to a subapical retroflex articulation: [ɹ̠~ɻ].
- The glottal stop /ʔ/ occurs only at the end of words. However, in this position it contrasts with words ending in vowels: /āmī/ 'spear' vs. /āmīʔ/ 'person'. When a suffix is added to such words, the /ʔ/ is deleted: /tʃàʔ/ 'to eat' + /-ʉ̄ʔ/ CAUS → /tʃàʉʔ/ 'to cause to eat'. Thus, the glottal stop has a somewhat marginal phonemic status.
Mongsen Ao has 6 vowels:
- The high central /ʉ/ is rounded.
- The two low vowels /a, a̰/ differ in terms of phonation type. /a/ has modal voice (i.e. normal phonation); /a̰/ has creaky voice (also known as vocal fry, laryngealization). Coupe (2003) argues that this is a separate vowel phoneme and not a tone, a glottal stop, or resulting from prosodic effects.
All are register tones.
Syllable and phonotactics
The generalized syllable structure of Ao is abbreviated as the following:
- Any of the 20 consonants may appear as an optional syllable onset (excluding the word-final /ʔ/).
- All 6 vowels may occur as the syllable nucleus.
- The optional glide elements following the head vowel are essentially non-syllabic offglide realizations of the 4 vowels /i, ʉ, u, a/. For example, /jàuŋ/ → [jàu̯ŋ] 'species of centipede'.
- The following are the possible tautsyllabic combinations: [iu̯, ia̯, əʉ̯, əu̯, ai̯, aʉ̯, au̯].
- The following consonants may occur in the optional syllable coda: unaspirated stops, nasals, and the rhotic /p, t, k, m, n, ŋ, ɹ/. The glottal stop with its restricted distribution also occurs but only word-finally.
All syllables occur with one of the three tones. In a VG sequence, tone only occurs the vowel head.
|This section requires expansion. (May 2008)|
Ao is an SOV language with postpositions. Adjectives, numerals and demonstratives follow the nouns they modify, whilst relative clauses may be either externally or internally headed. Adverbial subordinators are suffixes attached to the verb and the end of the subordinate clause.
The Ao alphabet is based on the Latin script and was developed in the 1880s by the Christian missionary Edward W. Clark for Chungli Ao. The system is not based on phonemic principles and does not represent tone. A Christian Bible was published using the orthography in 1964. Coupe (2003) suggests a more consistent alphabet for Mongsen Ao.
|Mongsen Ao language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
- Ao Naga Tribe
- Bible Translation in Ao Naga (Language in India)
- Narrating an Ao Naga Folktale (Language in India)
- Clark, E. W. (1981). The Ao-Naga Grammar with Illustrations, Phrases, and Vocabulary. Delhi: Gian Publications, Mittal Publishers Distributors. (Original work published 1893).
- Coupe, A. R. (2003). A Phonetic and Phonological Description of Ao: A Tibeto-Burman Language of Nagaland, North-east India. Pacific Linguistics (No. 543). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University. ISBN 0-85883-519-3.
- Escamilla, R. M. (2012). An Updated Typology of Causative Constructions: Form-Function Mappings in Hupa (California Athabaskan), Chungli Ao (Tibeto-Burman), and Beyond. Unpublished PhD dissertation, U.C. Berkeley.
- Gowda, K. S. Gurubasave. (1972). Ao-Naga Phonetic Reader. CIIL Phonetic Reader Series (No. 7). Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages.
- Gowda, K. S. Gurubasave. (1975). Ao Grammar. Grammar series (No. 1). Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages.
- Mills, J. P (1921). The Ao Naga.