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Kurukh language

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Kurux, Oraon, Uraon
कुँड़ुख़, কুড়ুখ্, କୁଡ଼ୁଖ୍
'Kuṛux' or 'Kuṅṛux' in Kurukh Banna alphabet (top) and Tolong Siki alphabet (bottom)
'Kuṛux' or 'Kuṅṛux' in Kurukh Banna alphabet (top) and Tolong Siki alphabet (bottom)
Native toIndia, Bangladesh, and Nepal
RegionOdisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Bihar, Tripura[1]
Native speakers
2.28 million (2002–2011)[2][1][3]
  • Oraon
  • Kisan
  • Dhangar
Kurukh Banna
Tolong Siki
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
kru – Kurukh
xis – Kisan
ELPNepali Kurux

Kurukh (/ˈkʊrʊx/ or /ˈkʊrʊk/;[4] Devanagari: कुँड़ुख़, Kurukh pronunciation: [/kũɽux/]), also Kurux, Oraon or Uranw,[5] is a North Dravidian language spoken by the Kurukh (Oraon) and Kisan people of East India. It is spoken by about two million people in the Indian states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar and Tripura, as well as by 65,000 in northern Bangladesh, 28,600 of a dialect called Uranw in Nepal and about 5,000 in Bhutan. The most closely related language to Kurukh is Malto; together with Brahui, all three languages form the North Dravidian branch of the Dravidian language family. It is marked as being in a "vulnerable" state in UNESCO's list of endangered languages.[6] The Kisan dialect has 206,100 speakers as of 2011.


Kurukh belongs to the Northern Dravidian group of the Dravidian family languages,[7] and is closely related to Sauria Paharia and Kumarbhag Paharia, which are often together referred to as Malto.[8]

Dravidian language tree

Writing systems[edit]

Kurukh Banna script chart for the Kurukh language
Tolong Siki script (bold), next to Devanagari and Latin script

Kurukh is written in Devanagari, a script also used to write Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Nepali and other Indo-Aryan languages.

In 1991, Basudev Ram Khalkho from Odisha released the Kurukh Banna script. In Sundargarh district of Odisha the Kurukh Banna alphabet is taught and promoted by Kurukh Parha. Fonts have been developed and people are using it widely in books, magazines and other material. The alphabet is also used by Oraon people in the states of Chhattisgarh, Bengal, Jharkhand and Assam.[9]

In 1999, Narayan Oraon, a doctor, invented the alphabetic Tolong Siki script specifically for Kurukh. Many books and magazines have been published in Tolong Siki script, and it saw official recognition by the state of Jharkhand in 2007. The Kurukh Literary Society of India has been instrumental in spreading the Tolong Siki script for Kurukh literature.[10][11]

Geographical distribution[edit]

Kurukh language spoken mostly in Raigarh, Surguja, Jashpur of Chhattisgarh, Gumla, Ranchi, Lohardaga, Latehar, simdega of Jharkhand, Jharsuguda, Sundargarh and Sambalpur district of Odisha.

It is also spoken in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura states by Kurukh who are mostly Tea-garden workers.[1]


It is spoken by 2,053,000 people from the Oraon and Kisan tribes, with 1,834,000 and 219,000 speakers respectively. The literacy rate is 23% in Oraon and 17% in Kisan. Despite the large number of speakers, the language is considered to be endangered.[12] The governments of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have introduced the Kurukh language in schools with majority Kurukhar students. Jharkhand and West Bengal both list Kurukh as an official language of their respective states.[13] Bangladesh also has some speakers.



Kurukh has five cardinal vowels. Each vowel has long, short nasalized and long nasalized counterparts.[14]

Kurukh simple vowels
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a


The table below illustrates the articulation of the consonants.[14]

Kurukh consonants
Labial Dental/
Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n (ɳ) ɲ ŋ
voiceless plain p t ʈ k ʔ
aspirated ʈʰ tʃʰ
voiced plain b d ɖ ɡ
aspirated ɖʱ dʒʱ ɡʱ
Fricative s (ʃ) x h
Rhotic plain ɾ ɽ
aspirated ɽʱ
Glide w l j
  • Medially voiced aspirates and voiced plosives + /h/ contrast, there are some minimal pairs like /dʱandha:/ "astonishment" and /dʱandʱa:/ "exertion". Clusters of voiced aspirates and /h/ are possible too as in /madʒʱhi:/ "middle" and /madʒʱis/ "zamindar's agent".[15]
  • Of the nasals, /m, n/ are phonemic; [ɳ] only occurs before retroflex plosives; /ŋ/ mostly occurs before other velars but can occur finally with deletion of previous /g/, there are cases where /ŋg/ and /ng/ contrast; /ɲ/ mostly occurs before post alveolars but /j/ can become /ɲ/ around nasal vowels as in /paɲɲa:/ (or /pãjja:/).[16]


Kurukh languages is taught as a subject in the schools of Jharkhand, Chhattishgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam.[17]

Sample phrases[edit]

Phrases English Translation
Nighai endra naame? What is your name?
Neen ekase ra'din? How are you? (Girl)
Neen ekase ra'dai? How are you? (Boy)
Een korem ra'dan. I am fine.
Neen ekshan kalalagdin? Where are you going? (Girl)
Neen ekshan kalalagday? Where are you going? (Boy)
Endra manja? What happened?
Ha'an Yes
Malla No
Een Mokha Lagdan. I am eating.
Neen mokha. You eat.
Neen ona. You drink
Aar mokha lagnar. They are eating.

Sample text[edit]


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.

Devanagari script[edit]

होर्मा आलारिन् हक् गहि बारे नू मल्लिन्ता अजादि अरा आण्टें मन्ना गहि हक़् ख़खर्कि रै। आरिन् लुर् अरा जिया गहि दव् बौसा ख़खकि रै अरा तम्है मझि नू मेल्-प्रें गहि बेव्हार् नन्ना चहि।

Latin script[edit]

Hōrmā ālārin hak gahi bāre nū mallintā azādi arā aṅṭēm mannā gahi haq xakharki raī. Ārin lur arā jiyā gahi dav bausā xakhakī raī arā tumhē majhi nū mēl-prēm gahi bēvhār nannā nā cahi.

Alternative names and dialects[edit]

Kurukh has a number of alternative names such as Uraon, Kurux, Kunrukh, Kunna, Urang, Morva, and Birhor. Two dialects, Oraon and Kisan, have 73% intelligibility between them. Oraon but not Kisan is currently being standardised. Kisan is currently endangered, with a decline rate of 12.3% from 1991 to 2001.[18]


  1. ^ a b c "Kurux". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  2. ^ "Statement 1: Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues - 2011". www.censusindia.gov.in. Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  3. ^ "Kurux, Nepali". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  4. ^ "Kurukh". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  5. ^ "Glottolog 4.5 - Nepali Kurux".
  6. ^ Evans, Lisa (15 April 2011). "Endangered Languages: The Full List". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Stassen, Leon (1997). Intransitive Predication. Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory. Oxford University Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0199258932.
  8. ^ PS Subrahmanyam, "Kurukh", in ELL2. Ethnologue assigns Nepali Kurux a separate iso code, kxl.
  9. ^ Mandal, Biswajit. "Kurukh Banna". Omniglot.
  10. ^ Ager, Simon. "Tolong Siki alphabet and the Kurukh language". Omniglot. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  11. ^ Pandey, Anshuman (8 April 2010). "Preliminary Proposal to Encode the Tolong Siki Script in the UCS" (PDF). Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  12. ^ Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine. Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Page 9.
  13. ^ "Kurukh given official language status in West Bengal". Jagranjosh.com. 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  14. ^ a b Kobayashi, Masato (2017-09-21). The Kurux language : grammar, texts and lexicon. Leiden. ISBN 9789004347663. OCLC 1000447436.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  15. ^ Kobayashi (2017), p. 35.
  16. ^ Kobayashi (2017), p. 36.
  17. ^ Singh, Shiv Sahay (2017-03-02). "Kurukh gets official language status in West Bengal". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  18. ^ ORGI. "Census of India: Growth of Non-Scheduled Languages-1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001". www.censusindia.gov.in. Retrieved 2017-10-15.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]