Problems in the Analysis of Manipuri Language. P C Thoudam
  Home > Chapter 1
  Chapter  I
  Chapter  II
  Chapter  III
  Chapter  IV
  Chapter  V


Chapter I

Demographic and ethnographic information

1.1. Name of the language


      The anthropologists, it is said that, use the term self-referent or auto-denomination for the name a group of individuals use to refer to themselves.  The term Manipuri is used to mean the Meiteis. But this name Manipuri is a recent one and now it has become the self-referent for the Meiteis. The Burmese people called the Manipuris kǝthe, the Ahoms called them the mekhɑli, the tribal population in the state and surrounding areas still call the Manipuris mitәy or mәytәy. In the earlier records it is also found that Manipur is known as mәytrәbɑk, that is mәytǝy+lәybɑk or mәytǝy+lәypɑk or mitǝy+lǝybɑk or mitәy+lǝypɑk. kǝŋlǝypɑk is another name of Manipur.


The language is also known by the name mǝytәyron or mitәyron till the
of Calcutta
recognized it as a major vernacular for the
Matriculation examination sometime in the middle of the 20th century

in the name of Manipuri language. Meiteiron is the combination of two words, Meitei and Lon. Meitei is the name of the people and Lon means language. It literally means the language of the Meitei people. In the records of the NEFA Department and in the Report of the North Eastern Hill  Areas  available  in  the  British   Museum,
  London before 1920 the name of the language is written as the Meiteis or the Meeteis or the Meitheis or the Meetheis.  This has been supplemented by the works of Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India, Hudson, The Meitheis, and the text books printed in Assamese-Bengali Script for the Pre-Primary and Primary Schools prepared by Makar Singha and others. Whatever may be earlier name, the language is now known as Manipuri, both by the native speakers of the language as well as the outsiders.


1.2             The People


 The Meiteis are known for their bravery. They are still animistic in their  religious beliefs, believing in a variety of good, neutral and evil spirits. They were converted into Hinduism sometime in the 18th century during the reign of King Pamheiba (Garibniwaj). They still worship their ancestral Gods along with the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. They also worship the forest deities (Umang Lais) and their family gods. The forest deities are their ancestors. From the religious point of view, the Meiteis can be divided into three groups. They are – the Vaisnab Hindus, the Meitei Marup (Sanamahi cult) and the Meitei Christians. The Vaisnabs are those who worship the Hindu Gods and Goddesses and perform the Hindu rituals. The Meitei Marup are the revivalists, and the Meitei Christians are those who have been converted to Christianity. The main occupation and source of income is agriculture and cottage industries. Handloom and handicrafts is another  occupation   and   is also another source ofincome. The people are very neat and clean and begging is disliked by most of the people. Hardly any beggar is seen in the streets. The beggars if found in the streets are generally mentally retarded people.


They have the sense of patriotism and love for the motherland. Thus they fought the powerful British army for the independence of their land and for their sovereignty. They have a close-knit society. They are normally simple and straightforward. Their society is patriarchal.


1.3.    The Language


      The language is spoken mainly in Manipur. It is also spoken in Assam , Tripura and parts of West Bengal in the country and in Myanmar ( Burma ) and Bangladesh , outside the country. It has several distinctive features different from most of the Tibeto-Burman Languages. This is the most important language of the family. It is agglutinative and monosyllabic. In this language, the affixes play the most important role in the structure of the language. Therefore, special attention and care shall be taken at the time of Immediate Constituent analysis so that we may not end up with wrong conclusions.  The probable dangers are incorrect identifications of the strings and generating wrong structures (sentences, phrases, etc) and framing of wrong rewrite rules. etc.  Further, the analysis of the language on the basis of the gloss totaling discarding its own structure shall be avoided.


1.4.   The Language Family


Manipuri belongs to the ramified group of Tibeto Burman languages.  It deserves a separate place under the group Bodo-Kuki-Naga-Meitei. This term/nomenclature is coined taking into account the similarities of the languages belonging to these groups under the Tibeto-Burman Sub-family. These languages have very close similarity in several areas of morphology, which in turn becomes the Syntax of these   languages.   Therefore,  a   purely    clear -cut demarcation between morphology and syntax is not possible for these languages and particularly for Manipuri. These are being treated separately. Manipuri has shown relationships with both the Naga and Kuki languages. History has proved that there were seven principalities in the region. They frequently fought among themselves, although there were marriage alliances amongst them. Later, these seven principalities become one under the Mangangs (Meiteis).  This might have been the cause of the Manipuri archaic forms being different from the archaic forms of most of the Tibeto_Burman Languages.


1.5. Status


Manipuri is the lingua franca in the state of Manipur. This is the official language of Manipur and it has been used as official language before Manipur got independence and joined the Indian Union. Manipur became part of Indian Union only in the late part of the year 1949. Manipuri is the medium of instruction in all levels of Education while English is another language, which is also used in the courts, offices, etc. and as the medium of instruction.


Manipuri language is not yet planned properly. Although it has been included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution not much work has been done for its development and standardization. The language needs proper planning. It shall be codified and standardized. The most unfortunate experience is the kind of research and planning of the language and the wrong approach adopted by the people involved in the planning of the language. In other words their approach is not in the right direction. It may be due to their inept knowledge of linguistics although they are trained and obtained the degrees in linguistics. This has prompted me to work on this project and prepare this report. It may be noted down that whatever has been put in this report is not final but there shall be sufficient logic to prove, in case of what has been mentioned in this report are considered inconsistent or unreliable. The traditional theory of grammar, which has for a long time been into our veins, shall not be allowed to dominate when we are observing the data of the language and in its analysis.


1.6.  Dialects


 Manipuri has several dialects. But now due to improved transport and communication as well as free mixing among the various groups or clans, including marriage alliances have made the differences negligible. Even the varieties of speech in the Cachar district of Assam and Jiribam of Manipur have become almost similar with the Imphal Dialect, which is considered the Standard form of speech, because of frequent conversation and intermixing.  However, the form of speech found in Tripura in the country and Myanmar and Bangladesh outside the country still show clear dialectal variation. In short still the deviation is very large in the case of Tripura , Bangladesh and Myanmar .


Many Aryan and Iranian words are found in the Manipuri vocabulary. However, it has started vanishing gradually. They are being substituted by the newly coined terms/words or by the archaic forms or by the English forms. This might have been the    result   of   the    revivalists    who    have    been demanding for the retention and use of the archaic Manipuri forms. On the other hand the Bishnupriya Manipuris, taking advantage of these loan words have been making claims that they are real Manipuris. The Bishnupriyas, who were captives of war and were not allowed to enter the mainland and were kept at Lammangdong, later on named Bishnupur , which was called Bishenpur by the British. So their claim that they are the real Manipuris cannot be relied upon. I don’t like to go deep into the issue because it has no relevance to my work. But it is necessary to mention that the name of the land is Meitrabak or Kangleipak. This is sufficient enough to refute the claim of the Bishnupriyas, who are speakers of vulgar Bengali.