|Native to||India, Bangladesh|
|840,000 (2001 census)|
Official language in
Khasi is an Austroasiatic language spoken primarily in Meghalaya state in India by the Khasi people. Khasi is part of the Austroasiatic language family, and is fairly closely related to the Munda branch of that family, which is spoken in east–central India.
Although most of the 865,000 Khasi speakers are found in Meghalaya state, the language is also spoken by a number of people in the hill districts of Assam bordering with Meghalaya and by a sizable population of people living in Bangladesh, close to the Indian border. Khasi has been "associate official language" in Meghalaya since 2005, and as of May 2012, was no longer considered endangered by UNESCO.
Khasi is rich in folklore and folktale, and behind most of the names of hills, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, birds, flowers, and animals there is a story.
- 1 Dialects
- 2 Script
- 3 Phonology
- 4 Grammar
- 4.1 Nouns and noun phrases
- 4.2 Adjectives
- 4.3 Prepositions and prepositional phrases
- 4.4 Verbs and verb phrases
- 4.5 Sentences
- 4.6 Sample text in Khasi
- 4.7 Some Khasi words and phrases
- 4.8 Numbers
- 5 Publications in Khasi
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Khasi has significant dialectal variation. Several dialects have only partial mutual intelligibility, and Bhoi and Nonglung are distinct enough to be sometimes considered separate languages. Other dialects are Cherrapunji (Sohra), Khynriam, and War (not the same as the related War language); Cherrapunji and War are 75% similar lexically. Cherrapunji is standard.
In the past, the Khasi language had no script of its own. William Carey attempted to write the language with the Assamese script between 1813 and 1838. A large number of Khasi books were written in the Assamese script, including the famous book Ka Niyiom Jong Ka Khasi or The Rule of the Khasis, which is an important manuscript of the Khasi religion. The Welsh missionary, Thomas Jones, in 1841 wrote the language in the Latin script. As a result, the Latin alphabet of the language has a few similarities with the Welsh alphabet. The first journal in Khasi was UNongkit Khubor (The Messenger) published at Mawphlang in 1889 by William Williams (missionary).
- Capital letters A, B, K, D, E, G, Ng, H, I, Ï, J, L, M, N, Ñ, O, P, R, S, T, U, W, Y.
- Small letters a, b, k, d, e, g, ng, h, i, ï, j, l, m, n, ñ, o, p, r, s, t, u, w, y,
|This section requires expansion. (October 2011)|
Nouns and noun phrases
The order of elements in a Khasi noun phrase is (Case marker)-(Demonstrative)-(Numeral)-(Classifier)-(Article)-Noun-(Adjective)-(Prepositional phrase)-(Relative clause), as can be seen from the following examples:
|'that girl who came yesterday'|
Khasi has a pervasive gender system. There are four genders in this language:
- u masculine
- ka feminine
- i diminutive
- ki plural
Humans and domestic animals have their natural gender:
- ka kmie `mother'
- u kpa `father'
- ka syiar `hen'
- u syiar `rooster'
Rabel (1961) writes: "the structure of a noun gives no indication of its gender, nor does its meaning, but Khasi natives are of the impression that nice, small creatures and things are feminine while big, ugly creatures and things are masculine....This impression is not born out by the facts. There are countless examples of desirable and lovely creatures with masculine gender as well as of unpleasant or ugly creatures with feminine gender"
Though there are several counterexamples, Rabel says that there is some semantic regularity in the assignment of gender for the following semantic classes:
|clothes||reptiles, insects, flora, trees|
|physical features of nature||heavenly bodies|
|manufactured articles||edible raw material|
|tools for polishing||tools for hammering, digging|
|trees of soft fibre||trees of hard fibre|
The matrilineal aspect of the society can also be observed in the general gender assignment, where so, all central and primary resources associated with day-to-day activities are signified as Feminine; whereas Masculine signifies the secondary, the dependent or the insignificant.
|Sun (Ka Sngi)||Moon (U Bnai)|
|Wood (Ka Dieng)||Tree (U Dieng)|
|House (Ka Ïing)||Column (U Rishot)|
|Cooked rice (Ka Ja)||Uncooked rice (U Khaw)|
Khasi has a classifier system, apparently used only with numerals. Between the numeral and noun, the classifier tylli is used for non-humans, and the classifier ngut is used for humans, e,g.
|'There are two birds in the cage.'|
|'There are three chiefs in the village.'|
There is some controversy about whether Khasi has a class of adjectives. Roberts cites examples like the following:
|'a good man'|
In nearly all instances of attributive adjectives, the apparent adjective has the prefix /ba-/, which seems to be a relativizer. There are, however, a few adjectives without the /ba-/ prefix:
|'a bad man'|
When the adjective is the main predicate, it may appear without any verb 'be':
|'The dog is mad.'|
In this environment, the adjective is preceded by an agreement marker, like a verb. Thus it may be that Khasi does not have a separate part of speech for adjectives, but that they are a subtype of verb.
Prepositions and prepositional phrases
Khasi appears to have a well-developed group of prepositions, among them
- bad 'with, and'
- da 'with (instrumental)'
- na 'from'
- ha 'in, at'
- jong 'of'
The following are examples of prepositional phrases:
|`Rain poured from the sky.'|
Verbs and verb phrases
Verbs agree with 3rd person subjects in gender, but there is no agreement for non-3rd persons (Roberts 1891):
|1st person||nga thoh ‘I write’||ngi thoh ‘we write’|
|2nd person||me thoh ‘you (fam.) write’ phi thoh ‘you (form.) write’||phi thoh ‘you (pl). write’|
|3rd person||u thoh ‘he writes’ ka thoh ‘she writes’||ki thoh ‘they write’|
The masculine and feminine markers /u/ and /ka/ are used even when there is a noun phrase subject (Roberts 1891:132):
|‘The cat meows.’|
Tense is shown through a set of particles that appear after the agreement markers but before the verb. Past is a particle /la/ and future is /yn/ (contracted to 'n after a vowel):
|U thoh.||He writes.|
|U la thoh.||He wrote.|
|Un thoh||He will write.|
Negation is also shown through a particle, /ym/ (contracted to 'm after a vowel), which appears between the agreement and the tense particle. There is a special past negation particle /shym/ in the past which replaces the ordinary past /la/ (Roberts 1891):
|Um thoh.||He doesn't write.|
|Um shym thoh.||He didn't write.|
|Um nym thoh||He won't write.|
The copula is an ordinary verb in Khasi, as in the following sentence:
|‘God is love’|
Khasi has a morphological causative /pn-/ (Rabel 1961). (This is spelled pyn in Roberts (1891):
|Base verb||Gloss||Causative verb||Gloss|
|hiar||come down||pynhiar||let down, export|
|ïaid||walk||pyn-ïaid||drive, put agoing|
Word order in simple sentences is subject–verb–object (SVO):
|‘The dog eats meat.’|
However, VSO order is also found, especially after certain initial particles, like hangta 'then' (Rabel 1961).
|'Then said the (little) mouse to Naam ...'|
Sometimes the object is preceded by a particle ya (spelled ia in Roberts 1891). Roberts says "ia, 'to', 'for', 'against' implies direct and immediate relation. Hence its being the sign of the dative and of the accusative case as well"
|'He gave the book to me.'|
It appears from Roberts (1891) that Khasi has differential object marking, since only some objects are marked accusative. Roberts notes that nouns that are definite usually have the accusative and those that are indefinite often do not.
Rabel (1961) says "the use of /ya/ is optional in the case of one object. In the case of two objects one of them must have /ya/ preceding.... If one of the objects is expressed by a pronoun, it must be preceded by /ya/."
Khasi has a passive, but it involves removing the agent of the sentence without putting the patient in subject position. (A type called the 'non-ascensional passive'). Compare the following active-passive pair (Roberts 1891) where the patient continues to have accusative case and remains in the object position:
|'They are building the house of wood.'|
|'The house is being built.'|
This type of passive is used, even when the passive agent is present in a prepositional phrase:
|'The cow was killed by U Miet.'|
Yes-no questions seem to be distinguished from statements only by intonation:
|'Will you take a basket, Til?|
Wh-questions don't involve moving the wh-element:
|Where is he going?'|
Subordinate clauses follow the main verb that selects them (Roberts 1891:169):
|'I know that you have done that'|
Relative clauses follow the nouns that they modify and agree in gender:
|'The girl who came yesterday has died.'|
Sample text in Khasi
|1. Ha kaba mynnyngkong U Blei u la thaw ia ka bneng bad ia ka khyndew. Bad ka pyrthei ka la long bakhlem dur bad kaba suda, bad ka jingdum ka la long halor ka khmat ka jingjylliew, bad U Mynsiem U Blei u da khih halor ki urn.||In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.|
Some Khasi words and phrases
|Khublei (khu-blei)||Thank you|
|Phi long kumno?||How are you? In short it is also used as “Kumno?”|
|Nga khlaiñ||I am fine.|
|Kumne||Short form response to ‘Kumno?’ meaning ‘like this’.|
|Dohkha (doh-kha)||fish (meat)|
|Dohsyiar (doh-syiar)||chicken (meat)|
|Jyntah (jyn-tah)||dish (meat/vegetable)|
|Ai biang seh||Please give again (serve again).|
|Ai um seh||Please give water.|
|Ai ja seh||Please give food (rice).|
|Ai jyntah seh||Please give (side dish) vegetable / meat.|
|Ai aiu?||Give what?|
|Ai kwai seh||Please give ‘kwai’.|
|Hangno? / Shano?||Where?|
|Khublei shibun.||Thank you very much.|
|Thiah suk.||Sleep well. (The equivalent of "Good Night".)|
|Kumno ngan leit sha Ward’s Lake?||How do I go to Ward’s Lake?|
|Katno ka dor une / kane?||What is the price of this? (une is masculine gender, kane is feminine gender and ine
is neutral gender)
|Leit suk.||Go in peace.|
|Reply is “Shong suk.”||Literal meaning is “Stay happy.”|
Publications in Khasi
There are a number of books (including novels, poetry, and religious works) as well as newspapers in the Khasi language. The most famous Khasi poet is U Soso Tham (1873–1940). The online newspaper U Mawphor is published in the Khasi language.
- Nagaraja, K.S. 1985. Khasi - A Descriptive Analysis. Poona: Deccan College Postgraduate Research Institute.
- Pryse, William. 1855. An Introduction To The Khasi Language. (Reproduced 1988)
- Rabel, Lili. 1961. Khasi, a language of Assam. Baton Rouge, La: Louisiana State Press.
- Rabel-Heymann. 1977. Gender in Khasi nouns. Journal of Mon-Khmer Studies 6:247-272
- Roberts, H. 1891. A grammar of the Khasi language for the use of schools, native students, officers and English residents. London : Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner.
- Singh, Nissor. 1906. Khasi-English dictionary. Shillong: Eastern Bengal and Assam State Secretariat Press.
|Khasi language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
- Online Khasi literature
- Entry for Khasi at the Language Information Service of India
- The World Atlas of Language Structures Online: Khasi
- Resource Center for Indian Language Technology Solutions: Khasi
- Khasi to English Vocabulary