Problems in the Analysis of Manipuri Language. P C Thoudam
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Chapter 5


5.0.  The major problems in the analysis of Manipuri in particular and most of the Tibeto-Burman Languages in general are pointed out above. There are areas which might not have covered or missed in this analysis.  Some of the areas are knowingly left out because it is considered unimportant. In some cases the problems are not illustrated in detail because it is a well known fact to all those who are working on the language.


From the chapters above it can be concluded that the problems have been mainly due to the following factors.


1)     Lack of knowledge of the subject;


2)     Working on incomplete or sometimes cooked up data which cannot be relied upon;


3)     Wrong translation;


4)     Insufficient or incorrect morphological analysis, particularly in the division of the morphemes (overlooking the 6 principles of Nida);


5)     Misleading glosses for the words and sentences;


6)     Willful suppression of facts, e.g. leaving away all those information which they cannot digest from the analysis;


7)     Based on the information sheet/data sheet not adequate/proper for the analysis of the language, i.e. collection of data on the format prepared for the collection information of other languages;


8)     False classification of the form-classes and the grammatical categories, thereby instituting several classes/categories which do not exist in the language at all;


9)     Trying to fit in the data in the grammatical frame of a foreign/alien language;


10) Lack of experience in handling monosyllabic and agglutinative languages belonging to a different language family different from his/her mother tongue or the structure of the language he/she is acquainted with its analysis;


11) Wrong choice of informant;


12)  Analysis of the language fully depending on the gloss and not on the structure of the language, and




5.1. Since of the scholars have very little knowledge of Linguistics and also they are not able to throw away their age old misconception of the grammar of Manipuri Language, they used to make wrong statements.  As mentioned earlier, from childhood days they have been given the impression that Manipuri grammar has no difference with English grammar or grammar of other known languages to them, they have a feeling that all grammatical categories are present in all languages. Thus, they feel that in Manipuri also like English and Hindi grammar or for that matter Sanskrit or Bengali grammar is similar to Manipuri. To them Manipuri grammar is not different from English grammar. All the categories including Prepositions and Post-positions are available in Manipuri.


Unfortunately, this notion is still with some scholars who are trained in linguistics. For them the trouble is they never tried to analyze the language from the structure of the Language i.e. Manipuri. They always tried to look back after considering it primarily with the English Grammar.


5.2.Several works on the language are found working on incomplete data. It is unfortunate that many students of linguistics from Manipur working on the analysis of the language are either students from the English Medium Schools or they have studied outside Manipur from the early days.  They also depend on those fellow students who have also the same background. Their knowledge of the language is incomplete. Therefore, their data may be termed cooked up or incomplete and cannot be relied upon.



5.3. There are cases of giving wrong glosses and translations. By virtue of their ignorance they have given the meanings wrongly. They never thought that whether the meaning is suitable for the word. There are several reasons. One of the reason is they have not understood that many of the nouns in Manipuri and other Tibeto-Burman Languages are metaphysical entities. In Manipuri there are several verb roots to which the suffix {-b« ~ -p«} is added then it becomes nouns. But almost all the scholars working on the language have given the meaning of the word as ‘to eat’. The fact is this is not the meaning.  This has become a noun and unlike gerund it can take all nominal affixes and it becomes the object of the sentence.  The meaning of this form according to the structure of Manipuri is a metaphysical entity called or known as ‘eat’.


In the following sentence -

«y cAb« tokle ‘I have stopped eating’

I   eat+nominalizer  stop+complete


The English gloss given at the right hand side is different from the gloss given below the Manipuri words. «y means I, cAb« which has two morphemes cA- and -b« has the meaning ‘eat’ and ‘nominalizer’ respectively and tokle has also two morphemes tok-  means ‘stop’ and   -le means ‘complete’.  It one questioned, ‘what I stopped?’ the reply is cAb« ‘eat(n)’.  Hence cAb« no longer remain verb. It has become the object in the sentence.  If the analysis is based on the English gloss it is natural that the analysis cannot be correct.




5.4. There are several instances where the morphophonemic alternations are overlooked. Apart from this there are several cases where the homophonous forms are not being identified properly. The cases of the

{-de ~ -te} >  {-d« ~ -t«} and {-ke ~ -ge} > {-k« ~ -g«} etc. and the institution of {-g«ni ~ -k«ni} which is the combination of the morphemes {-ke} and

{-ni}  as marker. It is difficult to rely on such works.


5.5. Because of the incorrect constituent analysis there are several cases of providing wrong glosses.


5.6. Those engaged in the analysis of the language will choose such examples which are easy and it is suitable for their claims. In other words they select those examples which can be possible to prove their views only.  Any other example which will not fit to their definitions or which will be exception to their views shall not be incorporated in their work. Some such examples have been already incorporated in 4.4.above.


5.7. The information sheets prepared for collecting the data i.e. information for the analysis is insufficient for the analysis of the language and the Tibeto-Burman Languages. These languages having different grammatical structure require different information sheet. In other words there shall be a Field Manual for these languages which will be different from what has   been employed by the linguists at present. Since the linguists are depending on the existing Field manuals the information required for the analysis of these languages cannot be obtained in full.  This has virtually results to the defective or incomplete analysis of the language. Because of this the local scholars even could not do justice with their works.


5.8. Because of several factors mentioned in the chapters above there are wrong classifications of the word classes as well as grammatical categories in the language. The much talked phrase l«y «NANb« and «NANb« l«y which means ‘the red flower’ has been interpreted as noun phrase and noun compound etc. by these scholars. Such interpretation does not hold any logic.  This has resulted to wrong classification of the words.  To add to this shortcoming, they instituted classes like post-positions and prepositions.


5.9.  It is unfortunate that these scholars try to fit the Manipuri forms in the already prepared frame of other languages which are not related with it. They used a frame work of the grammar of an unrelated language. They wanted to establish all the Parts of Speech and the Grammatical categories of the language in Manipuri language. With the background they possess about grammar and with the frame on which they are trying to fit the data it has become a difficult task to make these scholars understand their limitations.


5.10.Another problem is the lack of experience in handling monosyllabic and agglutinative type of languages. In these languages almost all the syllables are morphemes and they have meaning.   This virtually means that every syllable has a function in the grammar of the language. At he same time because of the agglutinative in the nature of these languages, many morphemes can be added to the root as suffixes. This is termed simulfixes, which means simultaneous addition of suffixes in continuity. Therefore, in these languages the meaning or gloss cannot be taken as the basis of the analysis of the language. It shall be based on the structure of the language itself.  If your are analyzing Manipuri you will take the Manipuri language into account with no reference to any other language. The Manipuri sentence shall be taken as examples and it shall be cut into smaller pieces in the following order - clause, phrase, words, morphemes and phonemes.  For these languages this is the only approach to which we can find actual and genuine grammar.


5.11.  The most important thing is the choice of informants. The informants are chosen considering the convenience. But this is very dangerous. These informants sometimes try to impose their incomplete and unscientific knowledge on the scholars. The scholars also being interested to complete the assignment write down what these informants have pleaded. Thus, in lieu of getting the right picture of the grammar of the language we are getting a grammar which although acceptable to the mass is full of mistakes. And we found these grammars on the racks of the reknown libraries, we will read it and consider it correct. We will quote it in our works. It will be used as a reference. It is the treatise for us.This is the most unfortunate experience in our life.




Further, while collecting the information the field workers did not take the trouble of visiting the places. They invited some young people who could speak English and never tried to meet the old people in the villages. These young people sometime provide wrong vocabularies.


Finally I would like to say that some of the meanings given in the running form (running translation) shall in no case be used for the analysis of Manipuri. These are somewhat alike renderings of the words, phrases and sentences.


Footnotes :


1.        Some scholars used to write Meiteilon or Meeteilon. It may be noted that /l/ becomes /r/ in intervocalic positions in Manipuri except where there is a syllable boundary or two /l/s occur consecutively. It may also be taken into account whenever Meiteilon or Meeteilon is pronounced, there is always a short transition between the non-syllabic /i/ and the the /l/. Hence this will be violation of the phonetic law of the language.

2.        Phonetically it is /s/, but keeping the three way variation of the stop phonemes in Manipuri in view it deserves to presume as /ch/ [Refer 2.3.(a)].

3.        /l/ changes to /r/ in intervocalic positions and it cannot occur in initial and final positions while /l/ occurs in initial and final positions.Therfore, they may be presumed as allophones.