Problems in the Analysis of Manipuri Language. P C Thoudam
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Chapter 4

Other grammatical Observations

4.0. Several scholars working on Manipuri or other Tibeto-Burman languages have been trying to analyze the language using the medium/model which is acquainted to them. This practice is not encouraging because the languages have their own particular structures. There are differences among the languages coming under the same family.  We have noticed that Punjabi is tonal. Arabic like the Tibeto-Burman languages is agglutinative. Our main concern shall be to disseminate the various components of the sentences and the words, like the motor mechanic (Langacker) and show it to the world. In doing so we must try to analyze the language in terms of its structure and contents and not to fit its information (data) to an earlier framed model of some other language. 


In this chapter emphasis is given in the grammatical categories. These include – Number, Gender, Case, Tense, Aspect, Modality, etc. Let us examine them:


4.1. Number:  This concern with the singular and plural numbers. It is hard to accept that here are singular and plural numbers in Manipuri. Manu scholars have shown that there are numbers. Some scholars claim that {-siN}, {-khoy} etc are plural markers. This is not correct. They have been claiming that ucek ‘bird’ is singular and uceksiN is plural. If uceksiN is plural then we must have




uceksiN m«yAm. But this is not acceptable in Manipuri. However it is found that ucek  m«yAmsiN and  ucek m«yAm are used in the language. It must be kept in mind that m«yAm means ’many’, as such it has nothing to do with the plurality.


With regard to the {-khoy ~ -hoy} which occurs with personal pronouns and which has been claimed as plural markers, it may be noted that it occurs with the nouns like tomb«khoy, tomb«khoygi etc. The meaning here is Tomba and others. Hence it cannot be considered as plural.


In both the above cases one common instance is there is no inflection i.e. change in the verbs whenever these markers are added to the nouns or pronouns.


    4.2. Gender: Another problem is the institution of

   the category of Gender in the language. Although

   natural gender is present there is no grammatical

   gender.  Many scholars have shown the gender

   distinction by adding {-pi ~ -bi} in several different

   classes of words. In fact this is an {-i} insertion

   because most of the cases where they made this

   distinction are on the derived forms. For example:


            Male                                       Female

       ph«j«b« ‘beauty(n)          ph«j«bi ‘beauty (n)

       «yonb«seller                     «yonbi   ‘seller’

       yenbAcock                         yenbi ‘hen’

       phisAb«weaver              phisAbi ‘weaver’





Their claim is in the above examples those ending with « are masculine and whoever ends with i are feminine. It is really funny because the scholars have borrowed the Hindi system and tried to posit the same in Manipuri language. If we examine the following sentences it can be seen clearly that these are not gender distinctions; Examples:


s«nAh«nbi phisAb« h«ySanahanbi know weaving’

 Sanahanbi  weave(n) expert/know

tomb« phisAb« h«y  Tomba knows weaving’

 Tomba  weave(n) expert/know          

 ph«j«b« nupim«cA «m« lAkle ‘A beautiful girl has come’

 beautiful (n) girl       one/a come+complete


The following illustration will make it more clear:

n«Ngi n«mA phi sAb« h«y ‘your mother knows how to weave’

mAgi m«buN phi sAb« h«y ‘Her brother knows how to weave’

mAgi m«mAsu m«buNsu phi sAb« h«y ‘Both her mother and brother know how to weave’


From the above examples it is clear that there is not grammatical gender distinction in this language. Sanahanbi is a Female while Tomba is a Male. But in both the cases the word phisAb« is used. In the same way ph«j«b«beautyful (n)’ is used with nupim«cA ‘girl’. In the same manner n«mA ‘your mother’ and m«buN ‘her brother’ also have the same form sAb«, although one is male and the other is female. Therefore, the institution of gender in Manipuri is a misnomer.




4.3. Case: In Manipuri there are four main case affixes indicating Nominative, Accusative, Genetive and Locative. Some scholars claim that the Instrumental case is also there, while some scholars do not like to mention it.


The Nominative case marker is {-n«}. In the sentence tomb«n« cAwb« phuy meaning Tomba beat Chaoba, tomb« is in the nominative case because it has the nominative case marker {-n«} and also it is the subject in the sentence.


The Accusative case marker is {-bu ~ -pu}. In the sentence tomb«n« cAwb«bu phuy meaning ‘Tomba beat Chaoba’, cAwb« is in the accusative case because it is associated with the accusative case marker {-bu}. It is the object in the sentence.  From the examples given in the Nominative and Accusative case it can be ascertained that the accusative case is optional in Manipuri. It means the object in the sentence can be marked or not.


The Genetive case marker is {-ki ~ -gi}. In the sentence

 m«si tomb«gi lAyrikni meaning ‘This is Tomba’s book’, tomb« is in the genitive case because it carries the genitive marker {-gi}.


The Locative case marker is {-d« ~ -t«}. In the sentence m«hAk imphAld« l«y meaning ‘He lives/stays at Imphal’, imphAl is in the locative case because it has the locative case marker {-d«} attached to it.




The Instrumental case marker is also {-n«}. The controversy in this case is - m«hAkn« c«yn« thinb«ni ‘He pinched with a stick’

c«yn« thinb«ni pinched by stick’

In the first sentence the c«y is the instrument of the act because it was done by the subject m«hAk ‘he’ which has also the nominative case marker {-n«} attached to it. However in the second sentence there is no agent and it might have been a stick which was already there and it might have happened due to the negligence of the person.


Hence there are two opinions in it. Here my contention is that there is Instrumental case in the language. In both the sentences the hurting was due to the stick i.e. the object of the injury is the stick.


4.4. Tense: There is a misconception about the tense and tense logic in the language. Many scholars claimed that there will be no language on earth which has no tense distinction. Such statements are illogical and cannot be relied upon. They confused time with tense. It seems they have a misconception of the subject-matter. To me time is universal and tense is grammatical. Thus it is desired to say that Time grammatically marked is Tense. Therefore, tense must have markers. It may also be noted that in these languages there are cases where the past and future tense markers of those scholars who claim that there is tense are found attached to the same root.


There are claims that {-g«ni} which is the combination of the two morphemes {-ge} which becomes {-g«} whenever another affix is added after it and the copula {-ni} which has an infinitive/habitual sense in itself. It is surprising to note that these scholars have forgotten the Principle No. 6 of Nida’s Identification of Morphemes. It could have been nice if they take a look to the Principles of Nida before making such statements. The suffix

 {-ge} is the aspect marker indicating

non-realization/not performing/yet to perform/ not yet realized(Visible) etc. If we consider the examples cAgeeat+non realization (intention)’,cAg«d«rA eat+non-realization(intention)+Negation (doubt)+question’, cAg«nieat+non-realization(intention)+copula indicating is. Since the

act has not been done i.e. it has not been realized, it has a sense of future, but it is not future. This can be seen from the examination of the following sentences.


m«hAk lAk+l«m+m«+g«+ni’He might have come’

he        come+started +complete+non-reqlization+copula


According to them the sentence shall have the following morphemes


m«hAk lAk+l«m+m«+g«ni

he       come+start+complete+Future


The question is – ‘can a suffix indicating an act started sometime early whose commencement and completion is not known can go with future marker? These and several such instances create problems are there in the analysis of tense. This is the commonphenomenon in most of the Languages of the North eastern region of India . The findings of the seminar cum workshop on this issue organized by Manipur University sponsored by the Institute whose proceedings have been published are sufficient enough for this. Further, they shall give clear cut tense markers of the language, otherwise they have to be content with the findings of the workshop. The term unreal past is something which is absurd. How can past tense be divided into real and unreal?


4.5. Aspect:  All the affixes coming under this category had already been listed in the Verb suffixes. The major problem is the scholars working on these languages have confused aspect with tense. Although this is the most important section in the grammar of the language it has been treated with the verbs hence it is not discussed here.


4.6. Modality: This is another area where the scholars working on Manipuri language shall give proper attention. They confused modality with tense and they sometimes posit modality markers as tense markers. For example:


 {-khi}  definite’. This modality marker has been wrongly stated as past tense marker by several scholars working in Manipuri. Whenever there is the occurrence of this suffix they gave the past tense form of English in the gloss.


There are several cases where the words are classified according to the suffix or the root with which it is compounded. Why they have classified as process verbs, causative verbs, Benefactive verbs, Reflexive verbs, etc.  But in the examples given by them in the case of causative the causative root isadded with the verb root, which function as the head of the compound.  This is the case in the case Benefactive, Reflexive verbs as well.


There are cases where the phrases are confused. This is mainly because they cannot get the contents of the words. In other words they either failed to identify the constituents correctly or they have not been able to rewrite properly because of lack of knowledge of the deep structure of the phrases.


Manipuri language has a common tendency of shortening the forms by deleting some of the constituent particles. This is an area which require careful examination. For example cAg«ni is the shortened form of the phrase cAge hAyb«ni. Here cAge hAyb« is functioning as a Noun phrase and it cannot be separated. This has been overlooked by the people working on the language.


Finally all the analysis of the language is based/depended on the gloss ignoring the  structure of Manipuri Language. We are confused because we translate cAre as ‘ate’ and we institute tense in the language, which in the real sense is incorrect.