Boro language (India)

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बरʼ, बड़ो
The words Boro Rao (Boro language) written in Devanagari script
Native toNortheast India
RegionBodoland (Assam)
EthnicityBoro people
Native speakers
1.4 million (2011 census)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3brx

Boro[2] (बरʼ or बड़ो [bɔɽo]), also rendered Bodo,[3] is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken primarily by the Boros of Northeast India and the neighboring nations of Nepal and Bangladesh. It is an official language of the Indian state of Assam, predominantly spoken in the Bodoland Territorial Region.[4][5] It is also one of the twenty-two languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India.[6] Since 1975 the language has been written using the Devanagari script. It was formerly written using Latin and Eastern-Nagari scripts. Some scholars have suggested that the language used to have its own now lost script known as Deodhai.


As result of socio-political awakenings and movements launched by different Boro organisations since 1913, the language was introduced in 1963 as a medium of instruction in the primary schools in Boro dominated areas. Today, the Boro language serves as a medium of instruction up to the secondary level and it is an associated official language in the state of Assam. Boro language and literature have been offered as a post-graduate course at the University of Guwahati since 1996. There are a large number of Boro books on poetry, drama, short stories, novels, biography, travelogues, children's literature, and literary criticism. Though there exists different dialects, the Western Boro dialect Swnabari form used around Kokrajhar district has emerged as the standard.[7]

Writing system and script movement[edit]

It is reported that the Boro and the Dimasa languages used a script called Deodhai that is no longer attested.[8] 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 Boro, Assamese and Bengali, with Boro written in Assamese/Bengali script. In 1952, the Bodo Sahitya Sabha decided to use the Assamese script exclusively for the language.[9] In 1963 Boro was introduced in schools as a medium of instruction, in which Assamese script was used.[10] Into the 1960s the Boro language was predominantly written in Assamese/Bengali script, though the Christian community continued to use Latin for Boro.[11][10]

Boro Script Movement[edit]

With the Assamese Language Movement in Assam peaking in the 1960s the Boro community felt threatened and decided to not use the Assamese script.[12] After a series of proposals and expert committees the Bodo Sahitya Sabha reversed itself in 1970 and unanimously decided to adopt the Latin script for the language in its 11th annual conference.[10] 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 Boro leaders were advised by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to choose any Indian script other than Latin.[13] In defiance of the Assam Government the BSS, in April 1974, went ahead and published Bithorai, a Boro textbook, in Latin script and asked school teachers to follow it.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] This ended the Boro Script Movement.

Final Acceptance of Devanagari script[edit]

Boro-language textbooks for secondary schools written in Devanagari script

The Devanagari script for Boro was an unexpected development and it was not immediately accepted by the wider Boro community.[17] The BSS failed to implement the use of the Devanagari script, and writers continued to use the Assamese/Bengali and Latin scripts.[18] In 1982, ABSU included the demand of the Latin script in Boro 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 Boro language was to be included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Following this, the ABSU and the BSS surrendered and agreed to use the Devanagari script exclusively, and the matter was settled.


Kiryu (2012) suggests that the language of the Meche people and the Boro of Bengal are western dialects whereas the dialects in Assam are the eastern dialects of Boro. The western dialects differ in phonology and grammar but are mutually intelligible.[19] The Kokrajhar variety of the eastern dialects has been promoted as standard, at least for the eastern dialects.


The Boro 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 Boro language use tones to distinguish words. There are three different tones: high, medium and low. The difference between high and low tones is apparent and quite common.


There are 6 vowels in Boro.

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 at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of syllables.


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


Boro has 16 consonants.

Labial Alveolar Dorsal Glottal
IPA ROM Script IPA ROM Script IPA ROM Script IPA ROM Script
Nasal m m 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 ɾ ~ r r
Approximant voiced w w j y
lateral l l
  • The three voiceless aspirated stops, /pʰ, tʰ, /, 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 positions.
  • The consonants /pʰ, tʰ, kʰ, g, s, ɦ/ cannot appear at the end of indigenous Boro words but occur in loanwords.
  • The consonants /ŋ, j, w/ cannot appear at the beginning of words.


Since Boro is a tonal language, changes in tone affect the meaning:[20]

Examples of high and low tone and difference in meaning
High Meaning Low Meaning
Buh to beat Bu to swell
Hah mud, 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]

Sentences in Boro consist of either a "Subject + Verb" or a "Subject + Object + Verb".

Examples of sentences in Boro[7]
Subject + Verb Subject + Object + Verb
Ang mwnthiya Laimwn ah Apple jadwng
Nijwm ah undudwng Nwng wngkham jabai?
Ang fɯibai Ang nɯkhɯo mɯzang mɯnɯ



Bodo has a decimal system and counts to 10 with unique words, after which the number words combine to add to the larger number as shown in the chart below.[21]

Numerals in Boro and Garo language comparison
Number In Boro In English In Garo (A.chikku)
0 Latikho Zero
1 Se One Sa
2 Nwi Two Gni
3 Tham Three Gittam
4 Brwi Four Bri
5 Ba Five Bonga
6 Do Six Dok
7 Sni Seven Sni
8 Daen Eight Chet
9 Gu Nine Sku
10 Zi Ten Chikking
11 Zi se Eleven
12 Zi nwi Twelve
13 Zi tham 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
30 Tham Zi Thirty
40 Brwi Zi Forty
50 Ba Zi Fifty
60 Do Zi Sixty
70 Sni Zi Seventy
80 Daen Zi Eighty
90 Gu Zi Ninety
100 Zause/ Se zau One Hundred
200 Nwi zau Two Hundred
300 Tham zau Three Hundred
1,000 Se Rwza One Thousand
2,000 Nwi Rwza Two Thousand
10,000 Zi Rwza Ten Thousand


Boro 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.[22]

Sample text[edit]

The following is a sample text in Boro, of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with a transliteration (IAST) and transcription (IPA).[23]

Boro in Devanagari Script
गासै सुबुं आनो उदांयै मान सनमान आरो मोनथाय लाना जोनोम लायो। बिसोरो मोजां- गाज्रि सान्नो हानाय गोहो आरो सोलो दं। बिसोरो गावखौनो गाव बिदा फंबाय बायदि बाहाय लायनांगौ।
Transliteration (ISO 15919)
Gāsai subuṁ āno udāṁyai mān sanmān āro monthāy lānā jonom lāyo. Bisorā mojāṁ-gājri sānno hānāy goho āro solo daṁ. Bisoro gāvkhauno gāv bidā phaṁbāy bāydi bāhāy lāynāṁgau.
Boro in Latin script
Gaswi subung anw udangwi man sanman arw mwnthai lana jwnwm layw. Biswrw mwjang-gajri sannw hanai gwhw arw swlw dong. Biswrw gaokhwunw gao bida phongbai baidi bahai lainangwu.
Translation (grammatical)
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Census of India 2011: Language" (PDF). p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 June 2018.
  2. ^ "In terms of nomenclature, both Bodo and Boro are equally prevalent. The influential Bodo Sahitya Sabha (Bodo Literary Society) has approved the use of both Boro and Bodo to name the language. Many past and recent studies on the language like Burton-Page (1955), Bhat (1968), Bhattacharya (1977), Joseph and Burling (2001, 2006), Basumatary (2005), Boro (2007) and DeLancey (2010, 2011) have described the language as Boro. In this paper, we follow the name frequently used in these works on Boro and therefore use Boro." (Das & Mahanta 2019:1f)
  3. ^ "Table 1 - LSI: Bodo; Modern name: Boro" (Jaquesson 2017:101)
  4. ^ PTI (30 December 2020). "Assam Assembly Accords Associate Official Language Status To Bodo". NDTV. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  6. ^ "Languages Included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution".
  7. ^ a b "Boro language, RCILTS, IIT Guwahati". Archived from the original on 7 September 2005. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  8. ^ "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)
  9. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1335–1336)
  10. ^ a b c (Sarmah 2014:1336)
  11. ^ (Bhattacharya 1964:16)
  12. ^ "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)
  13. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1336–1337)
  14. ^ "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 Boro 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 Boro medium primary schools to introduce the Bithorai in Class - 1 in their own." (Sarmah 2014:1337)
  15. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1337)
  16. ^ "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)
  17. ^ (Sarmah 2014:1338)
  18. ^ "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 Boro writers continued the use of Assamese and Roman scripts instead of practicing the Devanagari script in their writings." (Sarmah 2014:1338)
  19. ^ (Kiryu 2012:10–11)
  20. ^ Mochari, Moniram (1985). Bodo-English Dictionary. Bengtol, Kokrajhar: The Bodo Catholic Youth Association.
  21. ^ Brahma, Aleendra (2009). "Sino-Tibetan Languages: Bodo". Numeral Systems of the World's Languages.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ "Bodo language and alphabet". Retrieved 7 August 2023.


External links[edit]