Bodo language

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Bodo Rao in Devanagari script.svg
The words Boro Rao (Bodo language) written in Devanagari script
Native toNortheast India
EthnicityBodo people
Native speakers
1.5 million (2011 census)[1]
Devanagari (official)
Latin alphabet (frequently used)
Official status
Official language in
 India (Bodoland, Assam)
Language codes
ISO 639-3brx

Bodo (बर'/बड़ [bɔɽo]), Boro or Mech,[3] is the Sino-Tibetan language spoken primarily by the Bodo people of Northeast India, Nepal and Bengal. It is official language of the Bodoland Autonomous region and co-official language of the state of Assam in India[4] It is also one of the 22 scheduled languages that is given a special constitutional status in India. Since 1963, the language has been written using the Devanagari script. It was formerly written using Latin and Assamese script. Some scholars have suggested that the language used to have its own now lost script known as Deodhai.


In the aftermath of socio-political awakening and movement launched by the Bodo organisations since 1913, the language was introduced as the medium of instruction (1963) in the primary schools in Bodo dominated areas. The Bodo language serves as a medium of instruction up to the secondary level and an associated official language in the state of Assam. The language has attained a position of pride with the opening of the post-graduate course in Bodo language and literature in the University of Guwahati in 1996. The Bodo language has to its credit a large number of books of poetry, drama, short stories, novels, biography, travelogues, children's literature, and literary criticism. Though the spoken language has been affected by other communities, especially the Assamese, in and around Udalguri, it is still to be heard in its pure form, in and around Kokrajhar district.[citation needed]

Writing system and script movement[edit]

It is reported that the Bodo and the Dimasa languages used a script called Deodhai that is no longer attested.[5] The Latin script was used first to write down the language, when a prayer book was published in 1843, and then extensively used by Endle beginning 1884 and in 1904, when the script was used to teach children. The first use of the Assamese/Bengali script occurred in 1915 (Boroni Fisa o Ayen) and the first magazine, Bibar (1924-1940) was tri-lingual in Bodo, Assamese and Bengali, with Bodo written in Assamese/Bengali script. In 1952, the Bodo Sahitya Sabha decided to use the Assamese script exclusively for the language.[6] In 1963 Bodo was introduced in schools as a medium of instruction, in which Assamese script was used.[7] Into the 1960s the Bodo language was predominantly written in Assamese/Bengali script, though the Christian community continued to use Latin for Bodo.[8][9]

Bodo Script Movement[edit]

With the Assamese Language movement in Assam peaking in the 1960s the Bodo community felt threatened and decided to not use the Assamese script.[10] After a series of proposals and expert committees, in 1970 the Bodo Sahitya Sabha reversed itself and unanimously decided to adopt the Latin script for the language in its 11th annual conference.[11] The BSS submitted this demand to the Assam Government in 1971, which was rejected on the grounds that the Latin script was of foreign origin. This instigated a movement for the Latin script which became a part of the movement for a separate state, Udayachal, then led by the Plains Tribe Council of Assam (PTCA). In this context, the Bodo leaders were advised by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to choose any Indian script other than Latin.[12] In defiance of the Assam Government, in April 1974 the BSS went ahead and published Bithorai, a Bodo textbook, in Latin script and asked school teachers to follow it.[13]

Retaliating against the unilateral decision, the Assam Government withheld grants to schools using the Latin script. This triggered a phase of active movement that was joined by the All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU) and the PTCA. This led to a critical situation in November 1974 when fifteen volunteers of the movement died in a police firing, and many others were injured. Unable to resolve the issue, the Assam Government referred the matter to the Union Government.[14] In the discussion, the Union Government suggested Devanagari script as the solution to the problem, which the BSS accepted in the Memorandum of Understanding in April 1975, and adopted later year in the Annual Conference.[15] This ended the Bodo Script Movement.

Final Acceptance of Devanagari script[edit]

Bodo language textbooks for secondary schools written in Devanagari script

The Devanagari script for Bodo was an unexpected development and it was not immediately accepted by the wider Bodo community.[16] The BSS failed to implement the use of the Devanagari script, and writers continued to use the Assamese/Bengali and Latin scripts.[17] In 1982, ABSU included the demand of the Latin script in Bodo schools in its charter of Demands. Following an expert committee report, constituted by BSS, the Bodoland Autonomous Council adopted a resolution to use Latin script in its territory, which the Assam Government too accepted.

Nevertheless, in the discussion with the Bodo Liberation Tigers, the Union Government demanded the implementation of the earlier agreement with the BSS on the use of the Devanagari script if the Bodo language was to be included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Following this, the ABSU and the BSS agreed to use the Devanagari script exclusively, and the matter was finally settled.


The Bodo language has a total of 30 phonemes: 6 vowels, 16 consonants, and 8 diphthongs—with a strong prevalence of the high back unrounded vowel /ɯ/. The Bodo language use tones to distinguish words. There are three different tones used in the language: high, medium and low. The difference between high and low tone is apparent and quite common.


There are six vowels in Bodo language.

Front Central Back
IPA ROM Script IPA ROM Script IPA ROM Script
Close i i u u
ɯ w
Close-mid e e o o
Open a a
  • All vowels occur in all three positions.


i o u
i iu
e eo
a ai ao
o oi
u ui
ɯ ɯi ɯu


The Bodo language has sixteen consonants.

Labial Alveolar Dorsal Glottal
IPA ROM Script IPA ROM Script IPA ROM Script IPA ROM Script
Nasal voiceless m m
voiced n n ŋ ng
Stop aspirated ph th kh
voiced b b d d ɡ g
Fricative voiceless s s
voiced z z ɦ h
Flap/Trill voiced ɾ r
Approximant voiceless w w
voiced j y
lateral l l
  • The three voiceless aspirated stops, /pʰ, tʰ, kʰ/, are unreleased in syllable final position. Their unaspirated voiced counterparts are released and cannot occur word final position.
  • Sometimes /pʰ, tʰ, kʰ, s/ are pronounced as /b, d, g, z/ respectively.
  • The consonants /b, d, m, n, ɾ, l/ can occur in all position.
  • The consonants /pʰ, tʰ, kʰ, g, s, ɦ/ cannot appear in word final positions in indigenous Bodo words, but can occur in loan words.
  • The consonants /ŋ, y, w/ cannot appear in word initial positions.


Bodo is a tonal language.


Examples of high and low tone and the difference of meaning
High Meaning Low Meaning
Buh to beat Bu to swell
Hah earth, to be able Ha to cut
Hahm to get thin Ham to get well
Gwdwh to sink Gwdw past
Jah to eat Ja to be
Rahn to get dry Ran to divide


Sentence structure[edit]

The sentences in Bodo language consist of either a "Subject + Verb" or "Subject + Object + Verb".

Examples of sentences in Bodo language[citation needed]
Subject + Verb Subject + Object + Verb
Ang mwntiya Laimwn ah Apple jadwng
Nijwm ah wndudwng Nwng wngkam jabai?


The numerals used in Bodo language are :

Numerals in Bodo language
Number In Bodo language In English
0 Latikho Zero
1 Se One
2 Nwi Two
3 Tam Three
4 Brwi Four
5 Ba Five
6 Do Six
7 Sni Seven
8 Daen Eight
9 Gu Nine
10 Zi Ten
11 Zi se Eleven
12 Zi nwi Twelve
13 Zi tam Thirteen
14 Zi brwi Fourteen
15 Zi ba Fifteen
16 Zi do Sixteen
17 Zi sni Seventeen
18 Zi daen Eighteen
19 Zi gu Nineteen
20 Nwi zi Twenty
100 Zwouse One Hundred
200 Nwi zwou Two Hundred
300 Tam zwou Three Hundred
1,000 Se Rwza One Thousand
2,000 Nwi Rwza Two Thousand
10,000 Zi Rwza Ten Thousand

[citation needed]


Bodo is a compulsory subject till class 10 in tribal areas of Assam who do not want to study Assamese. The subject is mandatory in all schools including those under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS). The legislation was passed in the assembly in August 2017.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bodo-Mech". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Abley, Mark. "The verbs of Boro". Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  4. ^ "OMG! These 8 famous facts about India are actually myths | Free Press Journal". Archived from the original on 19 August 2017. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Bishnu Prasad Rabha, the famous Artist of Assam, told me that in ancient times there were a kind of Deodhai scripts among the Kacharis (Boros and Dimasas). Sri Rabha represented in writing the Deodhai alphabet as gathered from an informant in Dimapur which was noted for the Kachari reign and remains representing the art and architecture. As this form of Deodhai scripts is no longer in vogue, I leave the matter for further enlightenment." (Bhattacharya 1964:15–16)
  6. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1335–1336)
  7. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1336)
  8. ^ (Bhattacharya 1964:16)
  9. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1336)
  10. ^ "The Assamese language movement of 1960 had stirred up their keenness to have separate script other than the Assamese, preferably the Roman script." (Sarmah 2014:1336)
  11. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1336)
  12. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1336–1337)
  13. ^ "On 22nd April, 1974 the Bodo Sahitya Sabha without the approval of the State Government adopted the Roman Script as the sole script for the Bodo language. The Sabha declared its decision to introduce Bithorai , an elementary textbook written in the Roman script, in the school curriculum. The Sabha appealed to all the teachers of Bodo medium primary schools to introduce the Bithorai in Class - 1 in their own." (Sarmah 2014:1337)
  14. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1337)
  15. ^ "The representatives of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha signed a memorandum with the Union Government on 9th April, 1975, agreeing to adopt the Devanagari script for the Bodo language." (Sarmah 2014:1337)
  16. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1338)
  17. ^ "The failure of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha to show sincerity on the implementation of Devanagari script in strict sense sent a wrong message to the younger generation. They thought that the adoption of the Devanagari script is a temporary arrangement. Taking the advantage, a group of Bodo writers continued the use of Assamese and Roman scripts instead of practicing the Devanagari script in their writings." (Sarmah 2014:1338)
  18. ^ Mochari, Moniram (1985). Bodo-English Dictionary. Bengtol, Kokrajhar: The Bodo Catholic Youth Association.
  19. ^ "Assam to make Assamese mandatory till Class 10; Bodo, Bengali options for some". 19 April 2017. Archived from the original on 22 April 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2017.


External links[edit]