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Mising language

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Mising language

Not to be confused with Hill Miri language or Katcha-Kadugli-Miri language.
Region Assam
Ethnicity Mishing
Native speakers 540,000  (2001 census)Template:Infobox language/ref
Language family
  • (Tibetan-Burman)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mrg (shared with Hill Miri)
Linguist List Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist

Mishing, also known as Plains Miri and Takam, is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by the Mishing people. There are over 500,000 speakers of the language, who inhabit mostly the Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Tinsukia districts of Assam. The premier literary body of Mishing language is known as 'Mishing Agom'.


Today, Mishing language is written in following manner:

Orthography and Lexicography of Standard Mishing Language for Academic Courses - Peter Pegu

An apex Mishing Language Body deserved consolidating its coterminous dialects, such as Aka, Dafla, Abor, Miri and Mishimi, (presently got their respective autonym), which sprang from same root, into an acceptable lingua franca for intra-community communication. Realization of this perceptive will make everyone proud of his mother-tongue for being inclusively developed into a written system. This will also boost readership, feasibility and social oneness – linguistic unity despite geographical diversity. Growth of literature will widen vertically and horizontally, in terms of quality and quantity.

That the vocal speeches of Mishing people upgraded to ‘Standard Mishing Language’ is the form of language with stabilized orthography eventually used for teaching, examination, diplomacy and in all formal written contexts. It is meant to be of wider audience, far beyond its native speakers usually found in a small closed up circle. National presence in its lexicography and orthographical technique facilitates modernization and catalyses standardization.

In the recent past, a few individuals as well as organizations had devised a not-so-popular technique to reduce the language to writing. The endeavor was not satisfactory, as we found underwhelming response from the receiving end and the same is vastly withdrawn from the primary schools, after brief introduction. At this point, therefore it is time for serious introspection on our part. Was the venture failed in view of conservative approach that led to technological bottleneck or due to Government’s apathy? Or, was it that a non-Standard version of the language being propagated? Bearing in mind the aspects of financial resources, man power, technological knowhow and social ambiance etc., the Mishing Society of Mumbai has attempted the task in the following manner.

To take the language forward from its oral tradition to orthographical treatise, we may advantageously fix conventional Roman alphabets for its lexicographical determinants. In the treatment, conservatively, the rule of ‘one sound-one symbol’ may not be suitable. Therefore, while the sounds of spoken Mishing are represented in writing by means of alphabetical mechanism, a rational norm has to be taken into consideration. The system therefore would not bear phonetically auto-generative instinct. In other words, Standard Mishing Language spelling is not strictly phonetic. Spelling anomalies would remain as part of learners’ grammar and need to be trained in class-rooms as exercise of an academic course.

Adoption of Alphabet: Consonants

1. The number, name, order and phonemes of the conventional Roman alphabet (for us English letters) with its four forms such as capital, cursive-capital, small, cursive-small, are introduced as the alphabet of Standard Mishing Language. For instance, the non-cursive small letters are: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.

2. Judging by the phonetic universe of the spoken part of the language, only nineteen alphabets suffice their usefulness for transcription of the speeches to writing. The letters c, f, h, q, v, x and z stands superfluous. But such rigidity leaves out of account the fact that the written language is not the same as the spoken language. In the words of Pink and Thomas: ‘the written language is an artificial product – more formal and exact than the spoken language; it is the product of generations of men of letters who have established a definite tradition in the matter of form and expression’ (English Grammar by M. Alderton Pink & S E Thomas). These excessive consonants have therefore been retained in the Alphabetical Chart to represent allophonic variances caused by vowel-compounding with them and also to represent sound realization of some rare accents. For instance, ‘C’ takes along with it only two vowels ‘a’ & ‘o’, as ca and co, at word-initial as well as intervocalic to give sounds like ‘kay’ & ‘ko’ (long o) respectively; such as cakon, paccan, giucan, co, cobang, cokang, coneng. Similarly, Q and Z precede with only one vowel ‘i’; such as qineet, qibiur, kahqi, meezing, ozing, zihbean. The digraph ‘ks’ would invariably be swapped by the letter ’x’; such as taxi, koxi, laxin, axi; ‘f’ in ‘uff’ – a sound realization while blowing out candles, ‘v’ in ‘ving-ving’, sound produced while wade hard on a floor, ‘h’ in ‘heeli’ - meaning there afar etc.

3. The consonant digraphs ‘ng’ and ‘ny’ represent two allophonic variances of ‘n’, so also ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ of ‘s’ and then bh, dh, gh, kh, ph, th are respectively the aspirate-allophones of b, d, g, k, p and t.

4. Invariably, the allophones bh, ch, dh, gh, kh, ph, sh, th are deployed to evenly realize national vocabularies that enters through technological and academic channels; yet the articulation of the sounds of ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ are subtly heard in the language and being rationalized case-wise. Like – cheyh, no kapila edempe iton (non-approval expression)! Wish (or Eesh), oko poroge neka (sound made to drive away poultry), Ish, ish, ish … (coda of a lullaby, a gentle tune made after each stanza of a cradle song to nurse a child go to sleep)

Adoption of Alphabet: Vowels

1. Apart from long varieties, there are eight vowel sounds, against only five letters in the Standard Mishing Language Alphabet. Other two are rationally dealt with by superimposing vowel-digraphs and vowel-doubling technique as detail below: Sr. No. Place of articulation Vowels Nearest sound in English In Mising I Front open [a] /a/ in America /a/ in agom II Central half-open [e] /er/ in person (without the sound of r) /e/ in pe'jab III Front close [i] /i/ in ship /i/ in migom IV Back half-open [o] /o/ in boy /o/ in ongo V Back half-close [o] /o/ in molecule /o/ in Mohan VI Back close [u] /u/ in put /u/ in purang VII Front half-open [ea] [ey] /ea/ in heaven, bread /ey/ in they, survey /ea/ in geelean /ey/ in Doley VIII Central close [ee] [iu] [wi] [i] [y] The value of phoneme symbols /ee/, /iu/, /i/, /wi/ and /y/ represents only one vowel sound, which is like ‘ir’ in girl (with r silent) /ee/ in leegang /iu/ in siuhsang /wi/ in Tawid /i/ in geeding /y/ in qidy, tohdy

Notes on the vowels: -

(a) As can be seen from above, two distinct phonemes under serial numbers (IV) & (V) are denoted by a single vowel letter /o/. In its strictest term, the phoneme under (V) is weakly or never articulated in oral communications; but, of late, widely used in writings, particularly for position of this phoneme into two unambiguous allophones is easily audible, yet in Mishing, as in other Sanskritized Indian languages, members of this phoneme may be written with the same letter /o/.

(b) Contrary to this denotation of multiple phonemes with single letter, the phoneme representing a single sound under (VII) is denoted by a sequence of two letters (or digraph) as {ea and ey}. Similarly, phoneme under (VIII) is judiciously denoted by a set of one double-vowel, two vowel-digraphs and two single letters as {ee, iu, wi, i, and y}. The rational placement of the front-half-open sound denoted by ‘ea’ and ‘ey’ and central half-open phoneme denoted by ‘ee’, ‘iu’, ‘wi’, ‘i’ and ‘y’ is explained below separately.

© The feature in (b) relate to consonant phoneme too; where the phoneme /k/ is conventionally denoted by [k, c, q] and the phoneme /j/ occasion-ally by [j, z] under different morphophonemic transformations.

Positionning of multi-membered vowels: -

(a). The vowel-gemination ‘ee’ stands to give phonemic support to a consonant at initial position of the first or second syllable of a word; such as: - beero, deerdang, geekin, leengum, meelong, neekkur, peego, reegdum, seeggap, seekkap, teekum.

(b). In a word, the vowel cluster ‘iu’ takes position as a vowel phoneme either at the first syllable or at the last syllable, usually ‘r’ or ‘n’ ending words. In the case of initial syllable, ‘iu’ takes long sound and therefore it spontaneously groups with ‘h’ as ‘iuh’ to work as single phoneme. Examples – siuhsang, liuhlean, giuhtung, biuhsang, diuhjok, niuhjem, tiuhbar; and the examples of ‘iu’ in the final position: ambiur, deegiun, tabiur, qibiur.

© The combination ‘wi’ takes position as single vowel either at the beginning as head-word or after a vowel that immediately precedes, manifests as diphthong with the predecessor, at the intermediary position; such as – wia, wio, wingko, awin, Tawid, kewig,

(d) The front-close vowel ‘i’ has a phonemic manifestation of central-half-open vowel when ‘i’ comes close contact with ‘ng’, that is ‘ing’.

(e) In a word-final, ‘y’ represents typically a vowel sound with central-half-open articulation; such as Deerby, taby, wimy, Regy, Seyhdy. (f) The vowel phoneme ‘ea’ is placed at the syllable-initial as well as at inter-locative positions; such as meanjek, meansrung, kahbeak, dojear, geelean.

(g) The vowel combination ‘ey’ is placed in the first syllable or at the word-final as last member of the word. When it is placed in the first syllable it takes a long sound and therefore associates with ‘h’ as ‘eyh’; such as: geyhla, beyhlong, deyhlum, leyhne, meyhsai, reyhsang. Some examples in word-final position are: takey, Doley, tatebealey, Pamey-Gam, Chintey, tateybealey.

Total Phonemes: - Thus, phonemes in the Standard Mishing Language, based on type of sounds produced, consists of (i) 16 conventional consonants represented by alphabets (b, d, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, w, x and y) (ii) 10 allophones (bh, ch, dh, gh, kh, ng, ny, ph, sh, th) (iii) 8 cardinal vowels (a, e, i, o, o, u, ea and ee; one ‘o’ is allophone of other) and (iv) 7 their long variances (ah, eh, ih, oh, uh, eyh, iuh; one ‘o’ has no long variety). The consonant phonemes of the letters c, f, q, v, and z have no standing of their own phonetically. Therefore a total of 41 phonemes (= 16 +10 + 8 + 7), with 26 consonant sounds and 15 vowels, including allophones, has been recorded in the Standard Mising Language, which is being denoted by 26 letters by taking some members independently and others by their digraphs or clusterings. It is pertinent to mention here that in English only twenty six alphabets are used in making as many as forty five sounds in the language (R. P. Ghost, Good English Grammar).

Orthography of Loaned-words: - (1). The Standard Mishing Language Scripts is not confined to Mishing language alone but it caters to the alphabetical need of any language of the world, as per as possible near to their native accent. No paucity of alphabets is therefore imposed upon.

(2). In the Standard Mishing Language, a model-orthography is considered as more crucial than mere conservation of the native-accent; which otherwise, often the latter becomes highly sentimental for vast majority. The question therefore persists, particularly for neologisms – whether spelling should be founded on the euphony of unskilled tongue or on rationale notion; that is, for instance, spelling of our country is Barod or Bharat? As an answer, this treatment takes along the rational line of national model, where, to some extent, the local accent would be overlooked orthographically, particularly when it comes to loaned words or the lexis being assimilated through code-switching process. However, the spellings of original Mishing words are constructed strictly on native phonetic.

(3). This is done to integrate the community orthographically and socially with the mainland, if not phonetically but remain within the national linguistic matrix. It has agreeably come to an understanding that there is no point, a handful of people in a vast population, writing Bharat as Barod, school as iskul, Chandigarh as Sondigor, Jorhat as Ju-rat. It is also kept in mind that the accent is an inborn phenomena; it cannot be perfectly adopted unless born as a member of that mother tongue. Accents remain otherwise uncorrupted with the mother-tongue, despite spellings (of loaned words). The English orthography, for example, is constructed according to English accent, but non-natives of the language take it to their own accent. Indian speaks English with Indian accent. Whatever may be the spelling, Mishing people will pronounce the word in their own accent only despite the spellings.

(4). Therefore, in this treatment, all English terms used in the language are spelled without alteration; ignoring Mishing intonation completely and likewise, the spellings of the national terminologies are also taken in similar manner as is transliterated into English from Sanskrit origin.

Irregular Pronunciations: Total realization of sound of each letter, as per its phonetic value, in a word is the pronunciation. Each letter or a sequence of letters corresponds to a pre-determined phoneme and therefore, in this treatment, the pronunciation of a word realized usually in that order. However, a few aberrations may be noted with awareness.

(1). As mentioned in the section 4(VIII) and with example four above, the phonetic value of vowel /i/ (front-close) often interchanges with the vowel-phoneme /ee/ (central-close); but customarily so, when /ng/ follows immediately after /i/. In other words, sound of /i/ is invariably realized as /ee/ in the word-syllable /ing/, irrespective of the spelling. Thus, /i/ of abing, meezing, oying, doling, neming etc. is pronounced with central-close articulation, like abeeng, meejeeng, oyeeng, doleeng, nemeeng etc., defying their spellings.

(2). In the phonological study of the Standard Mishing Language, the pronunciations of the syllables /ink/ and /ing/ remain blatantly homophonous; sound of the first member /i/ is determined not by itself but by the last member. Thus, if the last member is ‘k’, then /i/ takes its own sound (front-close), but if ‘g’, sound of /i/ moves to /ee/ (central-close). Examples: asse' bingkang, apin doling, where /i/ in bingkang is front-close and /i/ in doling is central close.

(3). In the final syllable no word terminates with ‘sing’ but habitually with ‘shing’, and its pronunciation is taken-in with /i/-central-close, like namshing, tarshing, karshing, Ramshing, Mishing etc. This is one of the curious idiosyncrasies introduced lately in the Mising orthography.

Syncopation: - There is a tendency to shorten pronunciation of words that terminate with ‘ang’, ‘eng’, ‘ing’, ‘ong’ and ‘ung’. Such syncopated utterance of ‘ng-final’ words is common in the language and consequently calls for orthographical adjustments. But here too, a single rule cannot completely hold its ground without multiple eccentricities. A few regulative procedure have been formulated hereunder on the basis of tonal outcome as is generally witnessed today in the language and, in this treatment, we do follow the one as listed below:

(a) When a word with ‘ng-final’, usually a vowel as its penultimate member, follow a word with ‘consonant-initial’ then ‘ng’ from the former is dropped and the vowel at the end gives a long sound. Examples: Kebang Nebing is taken to Keba Nebing, Taleng dohmiur is written as Tale dohmiur, Mising tani as Mishee tani, Kombong takom as Kombo takom, Ollung rebat as Ollu rebat etc. No ‘h’ is necessary to be compounded if the word terminates with a vowel, as it is felt that the space between two words suffices to indicate the long-ness of the final vowel.

(b) If the first member of the succeeding word is either a vowel, or k or c or q or g or ng, the above rule does not hold good. Examples (with vowels): Mishing Agom not Mishee Agom, Pe'dong e'sar not Pedo esar, Neng iki not Ne iki, Pithang oying not pitha oying, Geging ugon not gegee ugon; and (with k as well as its allophones, g, and also with ng) Jikorong korong not jikoro korong, Abung cakon not abu cakon, Belang qiding not bela qiding, Dupong gasor not dupo gasor, Arung ngunnam not aru ngunnam.

© Based on sense and tense of a sentence, deviations are observed to the rule 3(a) above rules; such as: Ngommong bilang ka - not Ngommo bilang ka, Beemming lubi lang – not Beemmee lubi lang Rapid Speech: - The pronunciation of rapid speech has less control over the orthographic makeover of the language. In writing, this type of diaphonic variation is given less significant. Thus, irrespective of tonal differences in rapid speeches, it is, in this treatment, continued as Polome kumdung, not Polom, Takam Mishing Porine Kebang, not porin, bolope geeye, not bolop, sohpe geetok, not sop, etc.

Uniform Intonnation: - The participial suffix ‘la’ to an auxiliary-form of verb has been regularized and remains defiance to orthographical modification under euphonic influence. In another words, the phonetic dominance of last member of a word over first member of the succeeding word is ignored in standard orthography. Briefly, it is always ‘la’ in all orthographic conditions instead of ‘na’ or ‘ra’. Thus, in writing, it would be: wimme dorla dung, not dorra, dumdum manla dung, not manna, kitap tamla dung, not tamna and so on. However, without interference, it is up to the individual how he would vocalize spelling.

Voiced & Voiceless: - Out of 26 consonant sounds as mentioned above, the plosive members such as (p, t, k) have manifested as voiceless marker and, on the other hand their counterparts (b, d, g) are fully voiced and they together play an emblematic role in the construction of Mishing orthography. It is noted that in Mishing language ‘the voiced-voiceless opposition of plosives is lost in the final position; or in other words, bi-labial (p, b) dental (t, d) and velar (k, g) do not contrast one another phonetically’ (Tabu Tawid).

But, when a voiceless sound (p, t, k) at the word-final position of a word is immediately followed by a voiced sound to instantly form an enlarged cursive unit by means of agglutination or affixation or inflexion or derivative or participle or declension or conjugation or addition of graphemes etc., it is their voiced counterpart (b, d, g) that are realized. Examples- Tabap – tababe, Talap – talabe, Gupit – Gupide, Pait – Paide, Porok – poroge, Kopak – kopage etc. Retention of voiceless member in word-final: - Contrary to suggestions from certain quarters to the fact that a convention of using the voiced plosives in word-final positions instead of voiceless ones, like those of tabab instead of tabap, Bharad instead of Bharat, Gupid instead of Gupit, dag instead of dak etc., this technique has come out with a strong exception that the voiceless sounds of p, t, k in tabap, Bharat, talap, Gupit, dak are so prominently articulated in the vocalized communication, it would distort the shape of entire phonology of the language if ignored them orthographically and look out for orthographic adjustments without disturbing the morphophonemic makeover. Accordingly, rule of orthographic transformation takes its own course as described in the preceding paragraph, the spellings of the words with voiceless-final is being retained. There are audible difference between dak and dag, tat and tad, bob and bop, Pait and Paid, Bharad and Bharat, Rupnad and Rupnath phonetically, which cannot summarily be overlooked in orthographical terms.

De-agglutination: - A word is defined within cursive unit of the orthographical boundary. Multiplicity of suffix-combinations makes a word confusingly cumbersome and uncomprehensibly lengthened against the syllabic ethos of the Mishing language which is being recognized as characteristically monosyllabic. It is to say that a mingled version of spellings, like ‘geeleanbogorkinmameelo’ ‘sorkabbomdagnempe’ ‘getumnammempinedem’ needs liberation from such long entanglements. A rough-and-ready overall guideline is drawn herewith for casewise de-agglutination, maily to ease up readability and separate stem-words from ambiguous suffix-infested derivatives.

(1). Suffixex arising out of case-declasion are rationalized; such as: ‘Ajon kolo’ instead of ajonkolo. Here, ‘ajon’ and ‘kolo’ are taken as independent cursive unit. Similarly, ‘Meansru de’ instead of meansrude, ‘Ambiur bee’ instead of Ambiurbee and so on

(2). Suffix returns from the complicated system of inflexion have also been disjoined; such as Tani qiding, not taniqiding, kedan neng, not kedanneng, botte banne, not bottebanne, Kahqi bulu, not kahqibulu.

(3) Even sometimes the adjective maker-suffixes ‘ne’ and ‘nam’ are detached from the root verbs if syncopated the root to vowel-final word; such as teersodgu ma nam coti (mang is shortened to ma), geegorpo ne tani (geegorpong is syncopated to geegorpo).

(4). Words like – mang (negative), sin (too), lang (and), bee (nominative case, singular number), meen (along), meelo (if), and suffixes like – pe (verb adjectiviser etc.), dak (present tense indicative), dung (present tense indicative), kang (past tense indicative), ngai (past perfect tense indicative) etc. are qualified separately as independent cursive unit.

Within these lexiological frameworks as laid down above at different sections from ‘Adoption of Alphabets’ to ‘De-agglutination’ the Mishing Society of Mumbai have expounded this as one of the ‘long experimented and highly efficient orthographical techniques’ for reducing the Mishing language to writing in its embodiment and quintessence without facing technological or orthographical hiccups in any manner.


Few important historical milestones of Mishing language:

  1. First Mishing grammar was written in 1849 by Rev. Robinson in 'Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal' (Vol, 18, part 1, page 224).
  2. After that British Political officer, Joseph Francis Needham, based in Sadiya published another Mishing grammaer 'Outline grammar of the Shaiyang Miri Language as spoken by the Miris of that clan residing the neighbourhood of Sadiya', 1886.
  3. First Mishing books were published by Reverend JamesHerbert Lorrain in 1902 with name 'Isorke Doyinge'( Story of God) and Jisuke Doyinge ( Story of Jesus) in 1902.
  4. First Mishing dictionary was published in 1910, from Shillong by Reverend James Herbert Lorrain.
  5. After that, Rev. LWB Jackman published "Keyum kero Kitab (1914)", "Rom Kiding kela Korintian Doying (1916) and "Mathike Annam Baibal" (1917).

So, Mishing language was converted to written form with written grammar way back in 1849. Recently, since 1980, lot of books, magazines, news papers have been published in Mishing language.

In 2013, the first National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Mishing was awarded to KO : YAD (2012) directed by Manju Borah.[1]

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