The origin and development of early Khasi language (written) and Khasi literature cannot be separated from the history of the Christian missions in the Khasi and Jaintia hills. With the initial contact of Krishna Chandra Pal with some Khasis in 1+12 at Bhologanj in Syllhet district of present day Bangladesh (the East Bengal in India), the Serampore Baptist Mission started evangelism in the hills. Though Chandra Pal worked only for a few months among the Khasis, Carey was enthusiastic to translate the New Testament of the Bible into Khasi. The one and only Khasi literate was found to assist the translation of the bible into the Khasi language. This was in the year 1813-14. Since literacy was then in Bengali, translation was by the use of the Bengali script. Around 1816, a few translated versions of the Gospel of Matthew were printed and distributed among some Khasis who could read the Bengali script. The years later, a landmark was made- when the Khashee New Testament was printed by the Serampore Mission though a branch of the Mission was set up in Sohra (Cherrapunjee) in 1833, along with the first school for Khasis. By 1838 the Mission had to close down because of some problems.
One door closed, another opened for the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Mission saw the beginning of a remarkable interaction with faraway, oriental Khasis. Thomas Jones and his wife arrived at Cherrapunjee in 1841. They set about the work of educating the Khasis and translating the scriptures, assisted by few literate Khasis, especially u Laithat. In the same year the first Khasi boo, “Ka Kot Pule Nngkong” (Khasi First Reader) was printed, along with “Ka Kitab Nyngkong” (AB). It was in these two primers that the 21 alphabets in the Roman Script, were introduced. There were five vowel sounds a, e, i, o, u and sixteen consonant b, k, d, g, Ng, h, j, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, w, y. It was much later, in 1896, that two more sounds, Ї (pronounced as yii) and ñ (pronounced as eiñ) were added, brings a total the total number of alphabets to 23. The decision to change the script from Bengali to roman was because it was found that the latter was more suited to the sound system of Khasi. For example, the Khasi language in Bengali script rendering of the Lord’s Prayer is almost incomprehensible to most Khasis “Ho ujunga bandra ubasyong ha beneng u kpa, kajungphi kakartteng babha ‘unmane long’. The same transcribed in Roman script reads “Ko Kypa jong ngi uba ha byneng; long ka Bakhuid ka Kyrteng jong me” (1846).
The latter is much truer to the pronunciation and sound systems of Khasi, and this version is comprehensible even to modern day Khasi readers. Thomas Jones one become known later as “U kpa ki dak thoh khasi” (Father of the Khasi Alphabet)/ “U Kpa ka thoh Khasi” (Father of Khasi Writing). The following is a list of his contribution to Khasi literacy, education and Khasi writings.
1. 1841- Ka Kitab Nyngkong (AB) (First Book) 2. 1841- Ka Kot Pule Banyngkong (Khasi First Reader) 3. 1841- Ka Kot Shaphang ka jingkoit Jingkhiah (Health Book) 4. 1841- Ka Jingai i Mei (Translation of Rhodd Mam) 5. 1841- Ka Kot Tikir (Christian Cathecism) 6. 1842- Ka Jingduwai U Trai (Lord’s Prayer) 7. 1843- Ka Testament Bathymmai (Portions of the New Testament) 8. 1843- Ka Kot Nongialam (Lessons on Christ Teachings) 9. 1845- Hymns from the Cottage Hymn Book; T. Jones. 10. 1846- Ka Jingduwai u Trai (Revised Version of the Lord’s Prayer) 11. 1846- Bengali Translation of James 3:12-27 12. 1846- Ka Kospel u Mathaios (Gospel of Matthew) 13. 1848- Translation of the Ten Commandments: W. Lewis
Though Thomas Jones laid the foundation for written Khasi, it was left to other succeeding missionaries, especially John Roberts, to continue and improves the task of translation and writing of religious and other writings in Khasi especially those to be used in school and church. The following is a list of books written by missionaries and others.
14. 1855- Ka Kot Laiphew: Griffith Hughes 15. 1857- Ka Scriptures History (History of the Scriptures) Robert Perry 16. 1857- Ka jingiaid u Pilgrim (Pilgrim’s Progress) Mrs. W. Lewis 17. 1876- Ka Kot Jingrwai (Khasi Hymnal consisting of 242 hymns translated or composed by Hugh Roberts and Jerman Jones: Also considered
to be the first book of Khasi poetry). 18. 1879- Ka Mary Jones (Bibliography of Mary Jones) by Hugh Roberts 19. 1882- Ka jingiaid u Pilgrim (revised version) John Robert 20. 1883- Ka History u Jisu Khrist (History of Jesus Christ): John Roberts 21. 1884- Ka Testament Barim. (Five Books of the Old Testament) John Roberts 22. 1889- U Nongkitkhubor (ed.) William (the first newspaper in Khasi) 23. 1891- Ka Kot Pule Baar. (Second Reader): John Roberts 24. 1891- Ka Kot Pule Balai (Third Reader): John Roberts 25. 1891- Ka Testament Barim II: John Roberts 26. 1891- Ka Testament Barim III: John Roberts 27. 1891- Ka Kot Bah (Khasi Bible) John Roberts 28. 1893- Ka Niam Khasi: R.S.Berry 29. 1893- Ka Niam Khein ki Khasi: R.S.Berry 30. 1893- Ka Kitab Jingphawar (Khasi Chants): R.S.Berry 31. 1893- Ka Niam Khasi (Khasi religion): Jeebon Roy 32. 1893- Ka Kitab shaphang uwei u Blei. (Book about one God) Jeebon Roy 33. 1895- Khasi Primer: C.L.Stephen 34. 1895- Ka Kot Pule Basaw (Fourth Reader): John Roberts 35. 1896- U Khasi Mynta (Khasi Now): Hormu Rai Diengdoh
The publication of the Khasi Readers for use in the school (between 1841-1895) paved the way for literacy and education. The Readers include stories, fables, essays, folktales, fairytales, poems, songs, including the very popular anthem –Ri Khasi, the six verses of which were composed by John Roberts. The Fourth Reader also has some Khasi “Phawar” (rhyming), ki ktien kynnoh (akin words, imitative and echo words), ki jingsneng tymmen (ancient wise sayings), ki ktien ia hap (synonyms), incorporating many elements of Khasi language and literary forms. Thus the seeds of literary writing were sown in the Readers. Perhaps it is for this reason that John Roberts was known as "U Kpa Ka Khasi Literashor" (Father of Khasi Literature).
He 1891 Khasi bible (Kot Bah) is also an important landmark in the development of the written Khasi language and literature. It is a source book of innumerable stories, documented records, history songs and many other literary and non-literary forms of writing. It also provided the language, the idioms, vocabulary (of coined words) and the diction of standard Khasi.
1889 is important for the budding Khasi writers like Radon Sing Berry, Joel Gatphoh, Morkha Joseph and others, who wrote articles for U Nongkitkhubor, the first Khasi newspaper. By 1893 R.S. Berry and Jeebon Roy had published their own works in Khasi contributing to an understanding Khasi thought rituals religion and culture and providing the basis for golden monumental works “The Khasis”. During this period a few works in English appeared, such as William Pryse “Introduction to the Khasi Language” (1855) and Hugh Roberts “Khasi Grammar” (1867).
Books and other publications which came out in the early 20th century are: 1903- U Nongap Phira : Sib Charan Roy 1903- U Lurshai : Soso Tham 1906- Khasi English Dictionary: Nissor Singh Lyngdoh 1915- Kausik (a Novel) : Hari Charan roy 1918- English-Khasi Dictionary 1920- U Phawer Aesop (translation of Aesop’s Fables) : Soso Tham 1924- U Tipsngi (a Drama) : Dino Nath 1925- Ki Poetry Khasi : Edrenel Chyne 1925- Ki Poetry Khasi : Soso Tham 1931-32- Ka Jingshai jong ka ri Khasi: M. Bareh 1936-37- Ka Riti Jong ki Ri ka laiphew Syiem : G.Costa 1937- Ka Pansngiat Ksiar : H.Elias 1937- Ka Kot Niam Khasi : H.Lyngdoh 1938- Ki Syiem Khasi bad Synteng : H.Lyngdoh 1939- Translation of Cantlie’s notes on Khasi Law : T.Cajee 1941- Ki Umjer Ksiar 1941- Ki Sngi Barim u Hynniew trep : Soso Tham
According to Hugh Roberts “the dialect of Cherrapunjee is taken as a standard because it is the purest, as universally acknowledged by the natives, besides being more amendable to systematical arrangement than the ‘patois’ of the smaller villages’ (p 14, he went on saying that “ugly barbarianism i.e., dialectal variations) such as sngoi (for sngi), massoi (for massi, now spelt masi), lom (for lum), loi (for leit), iam (for em) and others should be avoided. It is clear from the above statement that Roberts, like others in his time, were “purists’, brought up in the classical traditional approach. This is also evident from the fact that he wrote about “Complete Paradigm for the conjugation of all verbs, based on native usage, the usus loquendi,…have been supplied.
A few more observation by Roberts will throw some light on the Khasi then "the Khasis have no written language of their own, and therefore no literature of any kind. There are no materials as far as we know, from which to connect their present with the past, or trace out a history for them. This entire absence of native literature however, suggests a long period of isolation from the more civilized race" (XVI). Thus, the steady progress in the use of written khasi through newsletter, newspaper, textbooks, poetry, prose and drama, more importantly the use of Ka Kot Bah (Khasi Bible), in the length and breadth of the Khasi Jaintia hills, helped to spread literacy and education among the Khasis. Another important aspect is the evolution of a standard dialect, based on the Sohra (Cherrapunjee) dialect in the southern slopes of the khasi hills. The reason being, the importance of Cherrapunjee as an administrative, educational and religious headquarter of the British. It is this Sohra dialect which linked the various sub-groups i.e., the Jaintia (Pnar) in the East, the War-Jaintia in the South-east, the Bhoi in the north, the Lyngngam in the West, and the Khynriam (Khasi) in the central region. Much later, when the headquarter was shifted to the more hospitable Shillong area, the Sohra dialect was transported to Shillong which became the capital of undivided Assam.
1. GENETIC: According to Peter W. Schmidt (1906) the 'Austric - family' comprises the Austronesian and Austro-Asiatic as its sub-families. Indeed, the great Austric family of speech comprises a far wider area of the globe including Indonesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. J.H. Hutton pointed out that the Austro-Asiatic was at one time the most widely spread language in the world. It spreads from central India to New Zealand and from Madagascar upto Eastern Island (West of South America).
The important Austric languages in India are Kol or Munda, Khasi and Nicobarese. Munda group of languages is spoken in Central and Eastern India, Monkhmer group which includes Khasi and Nicobarese spoken in Meghalaya and the Nicobar Islands.
The myth, once widely subscribed to, about the Khasi being as isolated and unique has been exploded by linguists like J.R. Logan (1853) and P.W. Schmidt (1906), who found that they were neither isolated nor unique. At least in the form of speech they can be linked on the one hand to the great Monkhmer family in the east, and on the other, to the Mundari speaking Ho, Santal, Kharia, Birhor and other languages in the west.
Below are the classifications of Austro-Asiatic Language Family (Diffloth, 1974 cited in Encyclopedia Britannia and Diffloth, 2005).
Austro - Asiatic Munda Monkhmer Northern Southern North East South -Korku -Kharia-Juang -Kherwarian -Koraput-Munda Khasi Paluangic Khmuic Kutuic Bahnaric Khmer Pearic Mon Aslian Nico- Khmuic barese
A.D 1,000 AD 0 1,000 B.C 2,000B.C 3,000 B.C 4,000 B.C 5,000 B.C | | | | | | | Korku Kherwarian Kharia-Juang Munda Koraput Khasian Pakanic Khasi-Khmuic Eastern Paluangic Western Paluangic Khmuic Vietic Vieto-Katuic Eastern katuic Western katuic Khmero-Vietic Western Bahnaric Northwestern Bahnaric Northern Bahnaric Central Bahnaric Khmero-Bahnaric Southern Bahnaric Khmeric Monic Northern Asli Asli-Monic Senoic Southern Asli Nico-Monic Nicobarese
Fig 2Source: Paul Sidwell’s, Monkhmer languages. /www.anu.edu.au/
Typological classification refers to the classification based on linguistic structures. This type of classification is further divided into: Word Order typology and Morphological typology.
1. Word Order typology: The following are the characteristics of Khasi based on the word order typology:
1. Khasi is a verb medial language. Its basic word order pattern is Subject Verb Object (SVO). Example: u jɔn u ba:m ja 3MSG john MSG eat rice “John eats rice” 2. Khasi has preposition. Example: hapɔʔ kamra in room ‘In the room’ 3. The direct object precedes the indirect object. Example: u sa:m u yɔʔ ka jiŋai na ka susan MSG Sam MSG receive PNG present from FEM susan ‘Sam receives a gift from Susan’. 4. The adjectives follow the head noun. Example: ka kɔt ba bʰa PNG book AdjMkr good ‘A good book’ 5. Genitive follows the governing noun. Example: ka kɔt jɔŋ ŋa PNG book GEN I ‘My book’
It is to be mentioned here that the genitive marker in proper nouns is optional whereas in pronouns it is obligatory. Example: i) ka kɔt jɔŋ u ban PNG book GEN MSG ban ‘Ban’s book’ ii) ka kɔt Ø u ban PNG book GEN MSG ban ‘Ban’s book’ 6. The numerals precede the head noun. Example: ∫ipʰɛu tIrli ki yeŋ ten cl PNG house ‘Ten houses’
7. Classifiers: There are two classifiers in Khasi. They are ‘tılli’ and ‘ngut’. ‘tılli’ is used to refer to –human and ‘ngut’ is used to refer to + human. Example: i) a:r ŋut ki kʰinnaʔ two cl pl child ‘Two children’ ii) la:i tılli ki kɔt three cl pl book ‘Three books’ 8. In Khasi, the time adverbial follows place adverbial. Example: ka la leit ∫a delhi minnin FEM past go to delhi yesterday ‘She went to Delhi yesterday’ 9. Time and place adverbials occur in ascending order Time adverbials: ha ka pɔ:r san baje minstep ha ka ar tarik u lbɛr a:r hajar san loc PNG time five o’clock morning loc PNG two date PNG march two thousand five “At five o’clock in the morning on the 2nd of March 2005” Place adverbials: Ha nehu ha maulai ha ∫illɔŋ Loc nehu Loc mawlai Loc shillong “At NEHU in Mawlai in Shillong” 10. The Standard of Comparison follows the marker of comparison. Example: u ram u kham jrɔng ban ya u ∫am MSG ram MSG more tall than Acc MSG sham. ‘Ram is taller than Sham’. 11. Khasi is a left peripheral language. Khasi being a verb medial language has left peripheral complementizer. The complementizer preceded the embedded clause.
Example: ka lin ka ɔŋ ba ka- n wan minta. FEM lin FEM say Comp PNG fut come today ‘Lin said that she will come today’
Interrogatives in Khasi are of two types i) Wh-question, and ii) Yes/No questions. Questions words can occur in two positions: i) in the initial position and ii) in the final position. Both these forms are unmarked. The different types of Wh-question words in Khasi are as follows:
i) balɛi ‘why’ ii) haŋno ‘where’ iii) katno ‘what’/ ‘how much’ iv) kaei ‘what’ v) mano ‘who’ Example: i) haŋno ka kɔt ? where PNG book Where is the book? ii) ka kɔt haŋno ? PNG book where Where is the book? Yes/No questions do not take any question marker. They are rather expressed with the help of intonation. Example: pʰi laʔ dɛp bam ja You pst finish eat rice Have you eaten your food? In the above sentence, ‘bamja’ carries a rising pitch. Tag question markers occur post verbally. ym dei is a tag question marker.
13. Reduplication: Khasi made used of the process of reduplication extensively. Khasi exhibits both total and partial reduplication. Some of the grammatical categories that can be reduplicated are noun, verb, adjectives, and adverbs. This can be attested by the following example:
Example: Adverb suki suki slow slow ‘slowly’ Example: Verb diʔ diʔ drink drink ‘drink’ Example: Adjectives bha bha good good ‘good’ Besides reduplication, onomatopoeia and echo words are also found.
Onomotopeic words in Khasi are found in abundant. They act as adverbs modifying verbs that precede them. In Khasi, we can have mimic word as in
Example: miau ‘cat’
In echo-words the second word is meaningless. The word will have its meaning only when it is attached to the first word.
Example: u ksoid u kʰrɛi ‘devil and the like’ ki mra:t ki mreŋ ‘animal and the like’
16. In Khasi, the negative markers occur before the verb. It has pre-verbal negative. The negative markers are –m and khlem. Khlem is used to indicate past and –m indicates future.
Example: u sam u khlem bam ja MSG sam MAS Neg eat rice ‘Sam did not eat rice’ ka- m ba:m PNG Neg eat “She will not eat” 17. Numerals: The pattern of numeral formation is Xx10/100+Y where X and Y is any numeral. Example: i) la:i pʰɛu san Three ten five ‘Thirty five’ ii) san spa: ʔ san five hundred five ‘Five hundred and five’
Morphological typology classifies languages into four types; isolating, agglutinating, inflectional and polysynthetic languages.
i) Isolating language: refers to a language where each word consists of just one morpheme. In isolating languages, all the words are invariable. There are no endings. Grammatical relationship is shown through the use of word order. An alternative term for isolating is analytic. Chinese and Vietnamese are often cited as best examples of isolating languages.
ii) Agglutinating: In agglutinating language, words are built up out of a long sequence of unit, with unit expressing a particular grammatical meaning in a clear one to one way. A sequence of fine affixes might express the meaning of ‘amo’ one for each category of person, number, tense voice and mood. Turkish, Finnish Japanese and Swahili form words in this way.
Swahili: I love you is expressed as ‘mimi ni na ku panda we we’, which is analyze as mimi ni na ku panda we we me I pre you love you
iii) Polysynthetic language: Polysynthetic language demonstrates morphologically complex, long word forms containing a mixture of agglutinating and inflectional features as in the construction typical of Eskimos, Mohawk and Australian languages. For example, the aboriginal language Tiwi expresses ‘I kept on eating’ as ‘ngirruunthingapikani’ which is analyzable as;
ngi - rru - unthing- apu- kani Pst for sometime eat repeatedly.
(iv) Inflectional language: Is a type of language established by comparative linguistics using structural criteria and focusing on the characteristic of the word. In inflectional languages word displays grammatical relationships morphologically: they typically contain more than one morpheme but unlike agglutinating languages, there is no one to one correspondence between these morphemes and the line or sequence of morphs. In Latin ‘amo’ meaning ‘I love’ the form simultaneously represents tense, first person, singular, present tense, active and indicative. This ‘fusing’ of properties has led to such languages being called inflectional.
This classification of languages is sometime a problem. Language cannot always be classified on the basis of morphological typology because not all languages belong to the same family share the same features as in the type of language above. A language may share a feature similar to an isolating type and it may also share a feature similar to an agglutinating type of or inflectional, in which case, a language may be said to be both isolating as well as agglutinating, for eg, English seems to account the features of agglutinating, inflectional and isolating according to these sentence.
(i) The girl will go to school- as an isolating. (ii) The tallest man have asking- as an inflecting. (iii) Anti-dis-establish-ment-arian-ism- as an agglutinating. Keeping in view the definitions of the types of languages mentioned above, Khasi exhibits the features of both isolating and
agglutinating languages. Example: (Isolating) i) u lam u ba:m sɔʔ MSG lam MSG eat fruit ‘Lam eats fruit’
(Agglutinating) ii) nɔŋ + hika:i NOM teach Teacher’
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