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Bangla author highlights Bishnupriya Manipuri in US

Ramlal Sinha
Guwahati, Oct 8

Uttam Singha of Pouri International, Bangladesh delivered a speech at the Endangered Language Fair (ELA) at New York Public Library, New York on the uniqueness of Bishnupriya Manipuri language and its similarities with other languages.

Placing Bishnupriya Manipuri language in the Bengali-Assamese sub-group of the eastern zone of Indo-Aryan languages, Singha said that the two dialects of Bishnupriya Manipuri language — Rajargaon (king’s village) and Madoigaon (queen’s village) — have influences of both Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burmese languages. He was specific in saying that while the Madoigaon dialect has more Tibeto-Burmese words (Meitei), the Rajargaon dialect has been influenced by Indo-Aryan languages, including Bengali. He corroborated his statement by citing a number of example of words that are commonly used in Rajargaon and Madoigaon dialects of Bishnupriya Manipuri. 

On the uniqueness of the language, Singha said that unlike Bengali and most other Indo-Aryan languages, in Bishnupriya Manipuri the verb changes in conformity with person and gender.On culture, Singha said that both the Manipuris — the Bishnupriyas and the Meiteis — have a common culture, and Manipuri dance is among the six classical dances of India. He also said that most Bishnupriya Manipuris were bilingual, with knowledge of both Bishnupriya and Meitei, till 1960. He, however, said that at present very few Bishnupriya Manipuris know Meitei.

On the number of Bishnupriya Manipuri speakers, Singha failed to give a clear picture as statistics available on this front differ widely. According to him, while “ethnologue” puts the number at 40,000, Wikipedia puts it at 400,000. The number in New York is around 20, he said.

On languages of Bangladesh, he referred to the population of the country which according to him stood at 153,281,000. “There are 42 languages belonging to four major families — Tibeto-Burmese with 814,000 speakers, Austro-Asiatic has 185,000 speakers while 47,000 speak Dravidian language and the rest are indo-Aryan,” he said. Meanwhile, based on the lecture delivered by Uttam Singha, the classifiers at the endangered language fair said: ““Bishnupriya Manipuri language really sits on the border of Indo-Aryan 
and Tibeto-Burman (Burmese) languages”.

According to them, the influence of Meitei on Bishnupriya Manipuri has not been investigated thoroughly. “But there has been a few works on Bishnupriya Manipuri, mostly looking at the historical phonology, and the relation to Indo-Aryan. But in our very brief work, we found other things, which seem to be very Tibeto-Burman in nature, even though they’ve been put it into Indo-Aryan syntax…” they said.

Courtesy: Seven Sisters Post


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