|Ka Ktien Khasi
কা কতিয়েন খাশি
Khasi written in the Bengali script
|Pronunciation||/ka kt̪eːn kʰasi/|
|Native to||India, Bangladesh|
|1.6 million (2001 census)|
|Latin (Khasi Alphabet)
Official language in
Khasi is an Austroasiatic language spoken primarily in Meghalaya state in India by the Khasi people. It is also spoken by a sizeable population in Assam and Bangladesh. Khasi is part of the Austroasiatic language family, and is related to Cambodian, Vietnamese and Mon languages of Southeast Asia, and the Munda branch of that family, which is spoken in east–central India.
Although most of the 1.6 million Khasi speakers are found in Meghalaya, the language is also spoken by a number of people in the hill districts of Assam bordering with Meghalaya and by a sizeable population of people living in Bangladesh, close to the Indian border. Khasi has been an official language in Meghalaya since 2005, and as of May 2012, was no longer considered endangered by UNESCO.
- 1 Speakers
- 2 Phonology
- 3 Morphology
- 4 Syntax
- 5 Dialects of Khasi
- 6 Script
- 7 Khasi Alphabet
- 8 Grammar
- 8.1 Nouns and noun phrases
- 8.2 Adjectives
- 8.3 Prepositions and prepositional phrases
- 8.4 Verbs and verb phrases
- 8.5 Sentences
- 9 Sample text in Khasi
- 10 Basic vocabulary
- 11 Publications in Khasi
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Khasi speakers are mostly found in East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills. It is also spoken by a number of people in the hill districts of Assam and by a small population of people living in Bangladesh. Khasi has been an official language in Meghalaya since 2005.
This section discusses mainly the phonology of Standard Khasi of the Shillong dialect as spoken in and around the capital of Shillong.
Khasi, mainly spoken in India's northeast, is surrounded by unrelated languages: Assamese to the north, Bengali to the south (both Indic languages), Garo (a Tibeto-Burman language) to the east, and a plethora of Tibeto-Burman languages including Manipuri, Mizo and Bodo.
Although over the course of time, language assimilation has occurred, Khasi retains some distinctive features:
- Unlike the surrounding Tibeto-Burman languages, Khasi is not a tonal language.
Khasi is an Austroasiatic language and has its distinct features of a large number of consonant conjuncts, with prefixing and infixing.
Khasi has a SVO syntax, similar to English, but unlike all Indian languages, with the notable exception of Kashmiri, which have SOV syntax.
Dialects of Khasi
There are two main groups of Khasi dialects: Sohra and Shillong. Khasi has significant dialectal variation. Other dialects are Bhoi Nonglung, Maram and War (not the same as the related War language). Bhoi Khasi in East Khasi Hills, Nongpoh block, and Nonglung in East Khasi Hills, Umksning block are very different from standard Khasi, with different word order. They are distinct enough to be sometimes considered separate languages. Sohra and War are lexically very similar.
The Sohra dialect is taken as Standard Khasi as it was the first dialect to be written in Latin and Bengali scripts by the British. Standard Khasi is in turn significantly different from the Shillong dialects (eight at most) which form a dialect continuum across the capital region.
In the past, the Khasi language had no script of its own. William Carey wrote the language with the Bengali script between 1813 and 1838. A large number of Khasi books were written in the Bengali script, including the famous book Ka Niyiom Jong Ka Khasi or The Religion 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.
Khasi in Latin script has a different system, distinct from that of English. Khasi uses a 23-letter alphabet by removing the letters c, f, q, v, x and z from the basic Latin alphabet and adding the diacritic letters ï and ñ, and the digraph ng, which is treated as a letter in its own right. Khasi in Bengali script uses all the letters of the Bengali alphabet.
- The peculiar placement of k is due to it replacing c. c and ch were originally used in place of k and kh. When c was removed from the alphabet, k was put in its place.
- The inclusion of g is only due to its presence in the letter ng. It is not used independently in any word of native origin.
- h represents both the sibilant sound as well as the glottal stop word-finally.
- y is not pronounced as in year, but acts as a schwa, and as a glottal stop between vowels. The sound in year is written with ï.
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)|
|Honey (Ka Ngap)||Bee (U Ngap)|
|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 relativiser. 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:
|you||are carrying||a basket||Til?|
|'Will you take a basket, Til? Phin shim ka khoh, 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
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Ïa ki bynriew baroh la kha laitluid bad ki ïaryngkat ha ka burom bad ki hok. Ha ki la bsiap da ka bor pyrkhat bad ka jingïatiplem bad ha ka mynsiem jingsngew shipara, ki dei ban ïatrei bynrap lang.
(Jinis 1 jong ka Jingpynbna-Ïar Satlak ïa ki Hok Longbriew-Manbriew)
jaː ki bɨnreʊ baːrɔʔ laː kʰaː lacloc bat ki jaːrɨŋkat haː kaː burɔm bat ki hɔk. haː ki laː bsjap daː kaː bɔːr pɨrkʰat bat kaː dʒɪŋjaːtɪplɛm bat haː kaː mɨnseːm dʒɨŋsɲɛʊ ʃiparaː ki dɛɪ ban jaːtrɛɪ bɨnrap laŋ
(dʒinɪs banɨŋkɔŋ dʒɔŋ kaː dʒɨŋpɨnbnaː-jaːr satlak jaː ki hɔk lɔŋbreʊ manbreʊ)
To the human all are born free and they equal in the dignity and the rights. In them are endowed with the power thought and the conscience and in the spirit feeling fraternity they should to work assist together.
(Article first of the Declaration Universal of the Rights Humanity)
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should work towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood.
|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?|
|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.||Happy journey|
|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.
- Khasi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- https://scriptsource.org/cms/scripts/page.php?item_id=language_detail&key=kha Scripts of Khasi
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Khasi". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- "The Khasi language is no longer in danger". United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 4 June 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
- http://cexstshillong.gov.in/abshillong.htm Shillong govt official website
- 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|