Meghalaya Language


Meghalaya language is a reflection of the rich culture of Meghalaya. Although the state language is English; but the principal languages of Meghalaya are Khasi, Garo and Jaintia.

To begin with the Meghalaya language, it can be said that Khasi is one of the chief languages of Meghalaya. Khasi, which is also spelled Khasia, Khassee, Cossyah and Kyi, is a branch of the Mon-Khmer family of the Austroasiatic stock; and is spoken by about 900,000 people residing in Meghalaya.

It is interesting to know that many words in the Khasi language have been borrowed from Indo-Aryan languages, the most important being Hindi and Bengali languages. Moreover, the Khasi language had no script of its own in its onset. But, it is said that William Carey was the first person to pen the language in Eastern Nagari script in the 18th century.

Garo also deserves a special mention in the languages of Meghalaya. In fact, it is noteworthy that Garo, like Khasi, is also the official language of Meghalaya. However, the language has a close affinity with the Bodo language, the official language of Assam. Garo, spoken by the majority of the population, is spoken in many dialects such as A'we, Chisak, A'beng, Ganching, Kamrup, A'chick, Dacca and Matchi.

Another language at Meghalaya, which deserves special mention among the languages of Meghalaya, is the language spoken by the people of the Jaintia hills. This language, as matter of fact, is a variation of the standard Khasi language. The Jaintia language is spoken, along with the Khasi language, by the tribal groups, viz. Khynriam, Bhoi, Pnar and War.

Thus, we find that the languages in Meghalaya shares the characteristic traits of the social-cultural pattern of the different regions of Meghalaya.

Garo

Garo, besides Khasi, is also the official language of Meghalaya. Garo in Meghalaya has close affinity with the Bodo language, the official language of Assam. Garo is used as the second language in Meghalaya and boasts of a literacy rate of 23% (according to 1971 census).

Garo does not have any myth related to the genesis of the language. The ancestors of the Garos hail from different countries, outside their homeland and it is remarkable that the Garo language of Meghalaya has a strong bearing upon their ancestry.

Further, talking about the dialects of Garo in Meghalaya, it can be said that the language follows distinctive patterns in the different areas of Meghalaya. Some of the important dialects that deserve special mention in this context are:
  • Matchi
  • Ruga
  • Ambeng
  • Atong
  • Matabengs
  • Akawe (also Awe)
  • Chibok
  • Gara-Ganching
  • Duals
  • Chisak Megam (also known as Lyngngam), etc.
Megam, which is known to be a sub-tribe of Garo, is also a dialect of Garo at Meghalaya. Besides, the Achik dialect is said to be a predominant dialect among the other intelligible dialects of Garo.

A snapshot at the Garo language of Meghalaya can be as follows:
  • Total number of speakers (Garo population in India) - 575,000 (according to 1997 census).
  • Region comprising the Garo speakers (including Meghalaya and the adjoining areas) - Garo Hills District, Goalpara, Karbi Anglong Districts, Kamrup, Kohima District, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts in West Bengal, the Udaipur subdivisions, and Kamalpur Sadar subdivision in south, north and west Tripura Districts respectively, and Bangladesh.
  • Language used - The standard Garo is used in most of the regions in Meghalaya.
Thus, as it is evident, Garo is one of the principal languages spoken by the residents of Meghalaya.

Khasi

Khasi is the official language of Meghalaya and is spoken by about 900,000 people residing in Meghalaya. The language spoken by the Khasi tribes hails from the Mon-Khmer family of the Austroasiatic society.

Khasi in Meghalaya is spoken by the people in the surrounding areas of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. In fact, the Khasi of Meghalaya is also spoken by the inhabitants of the adjoining areas such as Assam and Bangladesh.

It is noteworthy that on its very onset, this Khasi language of Meghalaya had no script of its own. But in the 18th century, William Carey tried to introduce a formal script for the language, following the Eastern Nagari script. Later many variations in the script was introduced; but the Roman script, which is akin to the Khasi language, was adopted.

It goes without that the Khasi at Meghalaya is a language that is rich in folklore and folktale. The language, in fact, reflects the socio-cultural vitality of Meghalaya. Therefore, many stories related to the ancestors, nature, wildlife and mythology are found in the Khasi language of Meghalaya.

In fact, it is through a study of the Khasi language that we can trace the ethnicity, culture and traditions of the Meghalayan culture. As such it can be said that the Khasi language is an integral part of Meghalaya.

Last Updated on : 14/06/2013