A. Linguistic expression of culture:

1. Classifier system:

Assamese is one of the important Magadhan languages spoken in the Eastern part of India. Among the Magadhan languages, it makes the most extensive and elaborate use of classifiers.

Some classifiers prevalent in Assamese language are :

1. JƆn is used to signify a person, male with some amount of respect. Eg- manuh-jƆn “the man”.
2. zƆni (fem) is s/used after a noun or pronoun to indicate human beings, eg-mahuh-jani “the woman”. Sometimes, zƆni is also used to express the non-human feminine, eg-sƆrai zƆni “the bird”, PƆruwa-jƆni “the ant”.
3. jƆnā and gƆraki are used to express high respect for both man and woman, eg- kabi-jƆnā “the poet”, goxai-jƆnā “the goddess”, rastrapati-gƆrakī “the president”, tirotā-gƆrakī “the woman”.
4. -to has three forms -to, -ta, -ti, (a) -to lora-to, “the particular boy” (b) -ta is used only after numerals eg- eta, duta, tinita, “one, two, three”. (c) –ti is the diminutive form, eg- kesua-ti “the infant, besides expressing more affection or attachment to.
5. kosa, mutha and tar are used for things in bunches, eg- sabi-kosa “the bunch of key”, saul-mutha “a handful of rice”, suli-tāri or suli kosa “the bunch of hair”.
6. dal, dali, are used after nouns to indicate something long but round and solid, eg-bah-dal “the bamboo”, Kath-dal “the piece of wood”, bah-dali “the piece of bamboo”.

2. Kinship organization and Terminology:

There are different terms to indicate kinship in Assamese. Some terms are related to the maternal and some to the paternal or some related for both.

a. Paternal kinship: Pehi “father’s sister” Peha “husband of a father’s sister” khura or dƆdai “father’s younger brother” khuri “wife of father’s younger brother” koka “father’s father” deuta pita, bopai “father” zεtha, zethai “father’s elder brother” aita “father’s mother” nati “son’s daughter’s son” natini/ “son’s/daughter’s daughter” bhagin “sister’s son/daughter”

b. Maternal kinship: mahi “mother’s sister or step-mother is also mahi” mƆaha “mother’s sister’s husband” mama, momai “mother’s brother” mami “wife of mama momai” ai, ma “mother” aita, abu “mother’s mother” koka “mother’s father”

c. Both paternal and maternal terms: jethai “father’s mother’s elder sister” jetha “the husband of a father’s/mother’s elder sister”

d. In-law relations: deuta “father-in-law” (both sides) ma, ai “mother-in-law” (both sides) khulxali “wife’s brother/sister” bapu “husband’s younger brother” bhonti nƆnƆd “husband’s younger sister” biɔ̣i “son’s/daughter’s father-in-law” biɔ̣ni “son’s/daughter’s mother-in-law”

Different terms are used in Assamese to indicate elder brother or younger brother, kƆkai “elder brother” and bhai or bhaiti “younger brother”.

3) Body parts:

The following terms are used to indicate different body parts:

A) mukh “the face”, mur “the head”, kƆpal “the fore head”, gal “the cheek”, kan “the ear”, nak “the nose”, sƆku “the eye”, oath “the lip”.

B) hat “the hand” nakh “the nail”, aŋuli “the finger”, aŋulir gathi “knuckle”, hatƆr tƆlua “the palm”, hatar pithi “back of the hand”, mƆnibƆndh “the wrist”, bahu “the arm”, kilakuti “the elbow”, hatƆr-thari “fore arm”.

C) diŋi “the neck”, kandh or kan “the shoulder”.

D) bhƆri “the foot”, bhƆrir-aŋuli “the toe”, bhƆrir-tƆlua “sole of foot”, xƆru gathi or khar gathi “the ankle joint”, kƆlaphul or uru “the knee”, athur-ghila “knee capsule” karƆŋan or uru “the thigh”.

E) deh or ga “torso”, buku “the chest”, stƆn “the breast”, kami-har “the rib”, pEt “the belly”, nabhi or nai “the navel”, lingƆ “The penis”, zoni “the vagina”, tƆpina “the hip”, tika “the buttock”, pithi “the back”, razhar “the back bone”.

4) Colour terms:

The primary colours are- kƆla “black”, bƆga “white”, raŋa “red” xeuzia “green”, halƆdia “yellow”, beguniya “violet”, nila “indigo”, kƆmƆla “orange”,

The following colour terms are also used in Assamese:

kƆjaza “ash”, mƆtiya “earthen/gray”, nilƆsiyua “bluish”, tiya pakhiya “parrot green”, shai bƆrƆniya “ash colour” muga “Fawn colour”, xonali “golden”, rupali “silvery”, akaxi “sky blue”.

5. Pronouns:

1.Pronoun of the first pers on singular is mƆi “I”. The first person plural is ami “we”.

2.The pronoun of the Second person (sing,) is tƆi “you” (intimate/inferior),tumi “you”, tƆi, tumi, eo, apuni are used in both the genders-masculine and feminine.

3.The pronoun of the third persons non-hon show gender distinction xi (mas.), “he” (intimate/inferior) and tai (fem.) “she (intimate/inferior)”

The honorific singular eo teo “he/she” and tekhet “he/she” are used in both the masculine and the feminine eg-

Eo, Eo Ram “He is Ram” tEo, teo xita “She is Sita” tekhet, tekhet Boruah “He is Baruah” tekhet, baruni “She is Baruani”

Structurally the pronoun apuni behaves like the other 3rd personal pronoun. It is the honorific and reflexive pronoun. But semantically apuni is second person. eg-

tai zai  “she goes” 
xi zai  “he goes” 
apuni zai  “you go”  

4. Demonstrative Pronouns is Xei “that” expressing distance of an object.

5. The relative pronouns is zi “which”

6. The interrogative pronoun is ki “what”

7. The Indefinite pronoun is keo, kono, eko “something in negative sense”.

6. Family organization and social Stratification:

The Assamese Hindu family is traditionally a joint family (zƆuthƆ pƆriyal). Nowadays, the trend is more towards nuclear families (xƆru pƆriyal).

Depending on the status in the society, people form gaonpas like dhƆni “rich”, dukhiya “poor”. ussƆ “high”, nis “low”.

Whereas Brahmin, Kayastha, Kshatriya, Baishya and others exist, depending upon their professions or duties.

Terms of address: pita, deuta “father”, ma “mother”, mama “maternal uncle”, baideu “elder sister”, bhindeu “elder sister’s husband” etc.

Terms of Reference: tor-deutar “your father” /inf./intimate), tomar deutara “your father “aponar deutak “your father (honorific).

These terms of addresses are peculiar to Assamese language as the terms vary in accordance with the persons.

8. Politeness expression:

i)    Adding - son with verb form, eg- 

a)   tכi ahibi-son     		“Please do come” 
b)   tumi ahiba-son	    	“Please do come” 
c)   apuni ahibכ-son 		“Please do come” 
ii)   -dei  is used after verb form to express politeness with firmness. 

a)   tכi  khabi-dei 		“do eat” 
b)  tumi khaba-dei		“do eat” 
c)  apuni khabכ-dei		“do eat” 

iii)  -na is used after verb form to express politeness and at the same time emphasis. 
a) za-na			“please go” 
b) zowa-na			“please go” 
c) zaok-na			“please go”  

9. Greeting and departure terms:

Greeting terms:  ah, aha, ahak “welcome”, “please come in” 

Departure terms: 

1)  zabi dei,  zaba dei,  jaba dei  			“OK bye”  
2)  ahibi dei, ahiba dei,  ahiba dei  			“Come again”
3)  zaba dei,  akau lСg pam,  zabכdei, akou ahibכ 
     dei, ahכk tenehכe “OK bye, we will meet again”, 	“See you again” 
4)   za, zowa, zoak   					“good bye”  

10. Men and Women’s speech:

The langauge used by men and women differs in many respects. Women use words like- (i) aila pƆsu, (2) ai sikan (shameful speech).

Usually, village women never express the name of their husband, father-in-law (xƆhur) and mother-in-law (xahu). If the husband’s name is pan (betel leaf), his wife will express the name as gƆsƆr pat (a tree leaf). But there is no restriction in the speech of man. However, they are found to avoid such words that are specially used by women.

There are some words, which are taboo among men and women. For example, both men and women never call a snake “a xap” at night. It is called dighal neziya or pƆka. Similarly, at night dhuna is referred to as gura dhup, like sun is called white (bƆga).

11. Naming (Ethnonomy and Exonomy):

i) Epic based and mythical names - Rām, Lakṣhman, xitā, xābitrī, Bhīm, Ɔrjun, NƆkul, xƆhadev, Rādhā, Rukmini, SivƆ, KrishnƆ, Gouri, BhƆbāni.

ii) Name after the days of the week: Robiram, xombaru, mƆnclu, budheswar, brihƆspƆtiya, xƆniya.

(iii) Names after the months of the year: BƆhāgu, BƆhābi, Jethuā, xaonā, BhādƆi, Ahina, Kātiram,
Aghona, Puha, MƆghāi, Phāguna, Phāguni.

(iv) Names after flowers: “Padumi, Golapi, Champa, Tagar.

(v) Name (Exonomy): Daisy, Lily, Rosey, Eliza, Violina, Helen, Dolly etc.

12. Concepts of space and time:

Conception of time:

	1) etia  	“now” 

	2) tetiya	“then” 

	3) ketiya	“when” 

	4) jetiya	“then” 

	5) כthכni	“then” 

	6) tahani 	“at that time long past” 
	7) kahani	“when (long past)”? 

Conception of space: 

	1) kכ’t		“where” 

	2) zכ’t		“where” 
	3) ta’t		“there”

	4) כt-tכt	“here and there” 

	5) zo’t-to’t,	“any where” 

13. Myths and Mythology (including origin of myths):

Myths and legends are the creation of people who could not explain various phenomena, whether natural or man-made.

Myths describe various social phenomena, which are not common to the present day society. They deal with phenomena of the remotest past. The characters delineated in myths are super-human beings. As such, myths are considered sacred and the people to whom this category of verbal art belongs believe in them implicitly. They are the matter of faith to them.

Myth found on creation of Ahom: the Satsari Assam Buranji goes like this: Before creation, there was nothing, except water. Being worried, brahma-the all creator attempted thrice to create man but in vain. Finding no other alternative, he then planted a creeper of gourd. A big gourd fruit was seen to grow on the creeper. The creator opened the gourd. He saw a man inside the gourd. The man was quite ignorant- like a beast. In accordance with the advice of Brahman, Indra-the king of heaven directed his messenger Nang-ku-Nalh to instruct the man so that he could rule over the earth. When he had learnt everything, the man began to rule as instructed. Thus the tradition of SƆrgƆdeu, i.e. “king of Heaven” started.

To give another instance of myth in medieval Assam, one from the Jayantia Buranji may be mentioned: Long ago, Bhima, the Second Pandava, came to Jayantia kingdom to collect revenue for the Rajasuya Yagña to be solemnized at Indraprastha. Indrasen Rai, the Jayantia king did not welcome Bhima. Being angry with Indrasen, Bhima squeezed his buttocks in such a way that his testicles were totally crushed. Thus the king was emasculated. The act of emasculation is known as Khasi Kora or Khahi kora and that is why king Indrasen became popularly known as “Khasi” and the city he dwelt in came to be known as Khasipur. Even the dynasty of Indrasen is known as the Khasipur dynasty.

14. Belief systems:

Beliefs come down traditionally from generation to generation. Some of the popular beliefs in Assam are:

a.‘When a crow (kauri) crows sweetly’ (rƆmƆliai), a guest may come.
b.‘When a crow crows repeatedly’ (ghƆne ka ka korile) some misfortune is likely to occur.
c.‘When an owl (phecha) huts mildly’ (urulidile) it is supposed that some marriage
is likely to be held. d.‘When an owl huts impatiently’ (niu niu karile) it is believed that some one may die.
e.‘When a cat runs in front of a vehicle’ (mekuriya garir agere gole), some accident may occur.
f.‘When a cat licks its legs’ (mekuriya bhari chelekile) people believe that a guest may come.
g.‘When one martin is seen’ (eta shalika dekhile) sorrow may occur.
1)‘When two martins are seen’ (duta shalika dekhile) joy may come
2)‘When three martins are seen’ (tinita shalika dekhile) one may get letters.
3)‘When four martins are seen’ (charita shalika dekhile), a guest may come.

15. Worldview as reflected in the lexicon and syntax:

Lexicon related to world view:

i.tribhubƆn, trizƆgƆt or tinibhubƆn which implies that there are 3 worlds, swƆrgƆ (heaven), prithibi (earth) and patal (hell), comprising the universe.
j.sat sagar tera nadi- seven seas and thirteen rivers.
k.golokdham- the heaven

1. eke chƆre tribhubƆn dekhuam- I shall show you three worlds
(tribhubƆn) with one slap.
2. teo golƆ dhamƆloi gƆti kƆrile- He has gone to the heaven i.e. golokdham.
3. etia xei ramo nai, azodyo nai- times have changed- there is no Ram, no Ayodhya now.

16. Proverbs, Idioms and Abuses:

A proverb is a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.
1. Ɔdin kathƆr thorako nƆlƆgaba (Do not use unknown wood even for the tooth of the rice pedal).
2. ahisa bhƆkƆt bƆha xilƆt, lƆrchƆr kƆrile lmƆriba kilƆt (As you have come, devotee, sit on the stone, if you move you will be beaten).
3. kaurir bahƆt kulir dima (A cuckoo’s egg in a crow’s nest)
4. kerketuwai tamol khai neulƆk bandhi kobai (the squirrel eat the areca nut, the mongoose is tied up and beaten).
5. khud khai pet nƆstƆ (Eating broken rice and upsetting the stomach)
6. gat nai sal bakoli, mƆd khai tin tekeli (He is skinny but he drinks three pots of liquor).
7. sore niya gorur bate ghah (There is grass on every road for a stolen cow).
8. tini bhagƆriya matit xƆguneo xƆ nakhai (A vulture would not eat a carcass on a land owned by three co-sharers)
9. tilƆke tal kƆra (To make a sesame into a palm fruit).


Idiom means “a group of words” established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words”.
1. ghƆr gona (home sick)
2. dhodƆr pƆsƆla (hopelessly lazy person)
3. khori diya (to cremate a dead body)
4. Ɔzin patƆki (a disagreeable and wicked person)
5. tupai bur mara (to deny altogether what one has done or what one knows).
6. roh lכga (to get or feel sullen or sulky)
7. bu-bu ba-ba kara (to babble as a child), the news (in bad sense) spread through secret gossip.

1. mannai mƆra (may the cholera take you).
2. bhairer lalak (brother’s husband).
3. barhanir kobkhowa (beaten by broom) the bad person desening insult/disrespect).
4. hagagu khowa (Stool eater -person with low taste).
5. haram jada (one born of a swine).
6. hram khor (eater of pork).
7. bhenti mara (to become endinet with the whole family).
8. sālā kukurƆr powali (son of a bitch).

17. Indigenous knowledge systems:

An Indigenous knowledge system is the knowledge of the people of a particular community, which is available locally.

1. bhat khai uthi khai tinita khilika, tar gharat nai bemarƆr tilika (He who takes three shilika fruits after meals, never falls ill).
2. kanƆt kƆsu nabhit tEl, tar gharat nai bezƆr mel (No doctor comes to his house who regularly puts red in his ears and oil in his navel).
3. pube hah pƆssime bah, dƆkkhine dhuwa uttƆre guwa (Ducks in the east, bamboo in the west, open space in the south and arecanut in the north).

18. Ceremonies: Birth, Naming, Puberty, Marriage and Death:

Ceremony related to Birth:
1) panchamrit khuwa (panchamrit is a mixture of five sweets, viz- milk, curd, sugar, ghee and honey) which is offered to a child.
2) puhƆn biya (ceremony performed in the eighth month of a women’s first conception).
3) ashauch khedoswa (ceremony held to remove defilement on account of birth or death of a relative)

Ceremony related to naming:
1. ganani or namakaran (The ceremony of giving a name to a child)

Ceremony related to puberty:
1. tolani biya (the ceremony performed when a girl reaches the age of puberty)
2. dhuweni biya or pupotsab or nowai-tolani (The ceremony of puberty)

Ceremony related to Marriage:

1. joran diya or tekeli diya (a kind of customary ceremony prevalent mostly amongst the Hindu Community prior to the marriage).
1. tElar bhar diya or jorƆn dia (is known as telar bhar dia in lower Assam).
2.suwaguri tola or suwag tola (a ceremony of drawing water from a river or a tank, which is performed at the house of the bridegroom when he is about to proceed to the bride’s house and later upon the arrival there, by the females belonging to the respective parties).
3.pani tola (act of bringing water ceremonially from a river or a tank to bathe the bride or bridegroom during wedding ceremony).

Ceremony related to Death:
1.mukhagni (the ceremony of putting fire on the face of the corpse before lighting the funeral pyre).
2.tilani (a ceremony performed by some hindus on the third day after death).
3.chaturtha (The ceremony performed on the fourth day after death).
4.dƆha (a ceremony observed on the tenth day after death).
5.adyƆ ShardhƆ or xtuddhi (the first shraddhƆ ceremony performed after death).

19. Food System:

The main types of food are: 

1. Food to be taken by chewing (chobai khowa) such as rice (bhat), areca (tamol), coconut (narikal).
2. Food to be taken by licking (seleki khowa) such as honey (mau), sugar (seni), jaggery (gur).
3. Food to be taken by sucking (chuhi khowa) such as mango (am), kernel (anmathi), כmכra fruit (amara). 
4. Food to be taken by drinking (pi khowa), such as tea (chah), milk (gakhir), water (pani).

Favorite Assamese dishes are- rice and tomato, fish besides	

(1) khar (alkali) (2) tenga (sour), (3) jala (acrid), (4) tita (bitter), (5) kharicha (condiment made from the tender shoots of the bamboo) (6) patat diya (to juidiya) 7) jal dia 8) purikhowa (baking)

20. Dress or Ornaments-

1.chola - 		(blouse for female and shirt for male)
2.mekhela- 		(a kind of skirt used by Assamese female)
3.bhuni, dhuti or churiya (a man’s waist cloth dhoti) 
4.riha- 		(a kind of scarf worn by a woman) 
5.sadar- 		(a sheet or a covering for female.  Breast cloth)
6.seleng 		(a thin cloth wrapped round the body or thrown over the shoulders) 
7.tElus			(a sheet of cloth / a small wrapper)
8.mukh mocha / gamocha (a kind of Assamese towel, a napkin) 
9.aguran		 (a dress for female)
10.tiyani  		(a small waist cloth used in bathing by both male and female) 
11.khaniya kapor 	(A cotton cloth with a embroidered border folded double and wrapped 
round the body)
12. hachati 	 	(a small narrow cloth for holding betelnuts carried by the person) 
13. kapin		 (a small piece of cloth worn over the privities)
14. paguri 		(a turban) - there are several varieties of turban 
15. kamij		(a shirt for male) 
16. kurta 		(a shirt for male)


1.keru 		(a kind of ear ornament) 
2.moni-mala 	(a necklace)
3.Bala  	(a bracelet) 
4.kharu 	(a bracelet) 
5.muthi kharu	(a kind of bracelet worn on the wrist)
6.gam kharu 	(a kind of bracelet worn on the wrist) 
7.kכpali  	(an ornament for the forehead of women) 
8.kכpal zethi	(a kind of ornament worn on the forehead of women) 
9.kan-phuli 	(an ornament for the ear of the women) 
10.nak-phuli 	(an ornament for the nose of the women) 
11.thuriya	(a kind of female ear-ornament)
12.xatxכri  	(a necklace of seven strings) 
13.gכal pכta	(a string of beads worn on the neck) 
14.har  	(a gold or silver chain worn on the neck, a necklace)
15.kundal	(a kind of ear ornament, a ear-ring)
16.lokaparכ 	(an ear ornament resembling the fantail pigeon) 
17.anכthi 	(a finger ring) 
18.kariya 	(an ear ring) 
19.zonbiri 	(a crescent shaped ornament worn on the neck) 
20.dhol-madכli	(a drum shapped ornament suspended on a chain,which is worn round the neck). 

21. Loss of cultural vocabulary due to borrowing and cultural changes:

Some of the losses of cultural vocabulary due to borrowing and cultural changes are: Phura hƆba jowa, mokal phura, bahir phura, zihar phura - these words carry the same meaning-to ease oneself. But now-a-days, these words are seldom used among the village folks. These are now absolute words. In place of these words, xƆushh kƆra, hagibƆ zowa, paikhanaloi zowa, latrinƆloi jowa, are used to ease one self.

Use of idiomatic terms is reduced to the minimum, unlike the old people and these are only found in the books or lost altogether.

Similarly, use of the word dhari (a bamboo mat) is decreasing day by day. In place of dhari, now nat, saki, “chair” for kotha, “room” and for mez “table” etc are the examples with many more at the verge of loss.


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