Majhi language

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Majhi
RegionNepal, India
EthnicityMajhi people
Native speakers
L1 44,800, L2 1,320 (worldwide)[1]
Devanagari
Language codes
ISO 639-3mjz
Glottologmajh1253[2]

Majhi is an Indo-European language spoken in parts of Nepal and some small pockets of neighboring India.[3]:1 The language is associated with the Majhi people, an ethnic group in those regions who dwell historically near the Saptakoshi River and its tributaries and elsewhere in central and eastern Nepal. The Majhi people generally subsist off of work associated with rivers, including fishing and ferrying.[3]:2 Majhi is written using the Devanagari writing system.[1]

Ethnologue classifies Mahji as a 6b threatened language. There are roughly 24,400 L1 speakers of Majhi in Nepal and roughly 46,120 L1 and L2 speakers of the language around the globe.[1] Most of the Majhi speakers in Nepal are bilingual with the more predominant Nepali language,[3]:2 and the latter language is replacing Majhi in use.[1] Majhi's lack of official status, use in education, in media, in print, etc. places the survival of the language in a precarious position.[3]:2

Phonology[edit]

Vowels[edit]

Majhi has a total of 13 vowels, five of which are diphthongs.[3]:6, 8

Front Central Back
High i u
High-mid e o
Low-mid ə

əː

Low a

N.B. Diphthongs in Majhi include: eu, əu, au, əi, oi.[3]:8 The vowels /ɜː, acː/ do not occur anywhere except in the word-final position while other vowels can appear in any position in a word.[3]:7

Consonants[edit]

Majhi has a total of 29 consonants, covering six different areas of articulation and seven different modes of articulation.[3]:9 In the chart below, symbols to the right are voiced, and those to the left voiceless.

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
vl. vd. vl. vd. vl. vd. vl. vd. vl. vd. vl. vd.
Stops p

ph

b

bh

t

th

d

dh

ṭh

ḍh

k

kh

g

gh

Affricates ts

tsh

dz

dzh

Fricatives s h
Nasals m n ŋ
Lateral l
Trill r
Glides w j

Syllable structure[edit]

Majhi allows consonant clusters to form in the onset but not the coda. However, researchers believe that further study on syllable structure is necessary to ascertain a fuller understanding of the syllable structure.[3]:17 When Majhi features two consonants in the onset, the second consonant will be a glide (/j, w/).[3]:13 Some examples of the syllable structure are included in the chart below.

Pattern Example Translation
CVC nun 'salt'
CCV hje 'this'
CCVC sjal 'jackal'
CV ṭe.ṭhi 'niece'[3]:17

Morphology[edit]

Affixation[edit]

Derivational affixation[edit]

Majhi uses affixation to derive words through nominalization, verbalization, and negation. For nominalizers and verbalizers, Majhi uses suffixation. For negation, Majhi uses prefixation. Examples are included in the chart below.

Example 1[3]:19 Example 2[3]:58 Example 3[3]:58 Example 4[3]:70
Function Nominalizer

(from verb)

Verbalizer

(from noun)

Verbalizer

(from adjective)

Negator

(noun to noun)

Majhi hiṭh-ai nid-ai moṭ-ai [note 1] dzun-bal
Gloss walk-NOML sleep-VERBL fat-VERBL PROH-speak.imp[note 2]
Translation 'the walking' 'to be asleep' 'to be fat' 'don't speak'

Inflectional affixation[edit]

Majhi uses morphemes to inflect words (specifically, to decline nouns and to conjugate verbs). Nouns are declined for case, number, and gender. Nouns are also declined for pronominal possessive suffixes, which indicate the possessor of the noun (see example below).[3]:43 Verbs are conjugated for person, number, tense, aspect, and mood.[3]:89

Example 1[3]:21 Example 2[3]:19 Example 3[3]:48
Function Noun declension Noun declension (with

pronominal possessive suffix)

Verb conjugation
Majhi bari-ka buhari-r siddha-naĩ
Gloss field-LOC daughter-in-law-POSS.2SG finish-PST.1SG
Translation 'in the field' 'your daughter-in-law' 'I finished'

Other morphological processes[edit]

Compounding[edit]

Majhi can form new words by combining two roots. In the example below, combining the words for grandfather and grandmother yields the plural grandparents.[3]:22

First Root Second Root Combined New Word
adze adza adzeadza
'grandfather' 'grandmother' 'grandparents'

Reduplication[edit]

Majhi sometimes completely reduplicates a full noun, verb, adjective, or adverb form in order to add extra emphasis. For nouns, Majhi also adds a suffix "-e" to the first instance of the noun. For example, the noun "kapal" means 'head,' and, when it is reduplicated with the suffix as "kapal-e kapal," the combined phrase means 'all heads.'[3]:20 Verbs do not have such a suffix. For example, the verb "bəl-ni" means 'I said,' but, when reduplicated "bəl-ni bəl-ni," the combined reduplication would mean 'I said it (which I will definitely not change).'[3]:89 Adjectives can be reduplicated for emphasis in the same manner. For example, the adjective "lamo" means "long," and, when it is reduplicated as "lamo lmao," it means very long.[3]:54 Adverbs can be reduplicated in the same manner as adjectives. For example, the adverb "tshiṭo" means 'quickly,' and, when it is reduplicated as "tshiṭo tshiṭo," it means 'very quickly.'[3]:96

Particles[edit]

Mahji features several particles that perform various functions, including indicating questions, emphasis, and hearsay.[3]:73, 97 Mahji also shares some particles with Nepali.[3]:97 Examples of some Mahji particles are given below.

Question particle te[edit]

The particle te comes at the end of a sentence and indicates a question.[3]:97

hək-lə

become-PRF

pətshi

after

keti

what

kha-a-i

eat-CAUS-INF

te

PRT

hək-lə pətshi keti kha-a-i te

become-PRF after what eat-CAUS-INF PRT

'After the child was born, what was fed to her?'

Contrastive, emphatic particle ta[edit]

Mahji uses the particle ta in order to provide an emphatic contrast.[3]:97

muĩ

I

ta

PRT

dzainai

go-PST.1SG

muĩ ta dzainai

I PRT go-PST.1SG

'Now I go (as for me)."

Hearsay particle ni[edit]

Mahji uses the hearsay particle ni to indicate an uncertain secondhand knowledge.[3]:73

keṭo

boy

a-le

come-PST.3SG

ni

HS

keṭo a-le ni

boy come-PST.3SG HS

'The boy came (they say).'

Syntax[edit]

Standard word order[edit]

The basic word order of Majhi is SOV.[3]:111 This word order is fairly consistent across the language. Mahji is an in situ language for wh-questions and yes-no questions, meaning that it maintains its standard word order for questions.[3]:118 The three examples below illustrate this word order:

Declarative sentence[3]:85

Subject

ram-in

Ram-ERG

Object

kam

work

Verb

sək-le

finish-PST.3SG

Subject Object Verb

ram-in kam sək-le

Ram-ERG work finish-PST.3SG

'Ram finished the work.'

Wh-question[3]:119

Subject

tui

you

Quantity

kətte

how-much

Object

mun

liquor

Verb

kha-tshəs

eat-NPST.2SG

Subject Quantity Object Verb

tui kətte mun kha-tshəs

you how-much liquor eat-NPST.2SG

'How much liquor do you drink?'

Yes-no question[3]:120

Subject

hoi-nin

he-ERG

Object

gai

cow

Verb

ban-le

tie-PST

Subject Object Verb

hoi-nin gai ban-le

he-ERG cow tie-PST

'Did he tie the cow?'

Noun phrases and adpositional phrases[edit]

Possessee + possessor[edit]

With the possessee + possessor relationship (genitive modifiers), the possessor precedes the possessee.[3]:105

bãs-kərə

bamboo-GEN

tsoja

splinter

bãs-kərə tsoja

bamboo-GEN splinter

'the splinter of bamboo'

Adposition + noun phrase[edit]

Majhi uses adpositions as analytical rather than synthetic markers.[3]:28 In the example below, the noun phrase also appears with a specific case (the genitive case) with this postposition.[3]:29

kaṭh-kərə

wood-GEN

lagi

for

kaṭh-kərə lagi

wood-GEN for

'for wood'

Adverb placement[edit]

In Mahji, the adverb generally precedes the verb. For example, see below.[3]:96

Subject

hoi-nin

He-ERG

Adverb

bhərkhər

recently

Object

kətha

story

Verb

sun-le

heard-PST.3SG

Subject Adverb Object Verb

hoi-nin bhərkhər kətha sun-le

He-ERG recently story heard-PST.3SG

'He has recently heard the story.'

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The grammar lists the adjective as 'moṭo,' but context would suggest that 'moṭ' is the root unless there is some transformation, which the grammar does not describe.
  2. ^ The abbreviation PROH indicates a prohibition.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Majhi". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2019-04-20.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Majhi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am Dhakal, Dubi Nanda (2014). A Grammar of Majhi. Munich: LINCOM EUROPA. ISBN 9783862885497.