Tag: Language

February 18, 2018 /

We speak Mnar in Jirang, a language so different, mutually unintelligible from Khasi. My training in linguistics tells me this is a different variety of the Khasian languages. There are several of them. While we share so many of the ways in which we talk about the world, about our experiences of it, languages are also different. To call a language a language and to mark variances as dialects, is a political process and very often do not do justice to the variants. If we look at Norwegian and Swedish, they share many more similarities than Standard Khasi and Mnar, and yet they are languages, because they are spoken in different countries. So for historical reasons and political reasons, Standard Khasi has become “the Language”, and all the others, dialects.

May 12, 2017 /

What do you do when you hear a hear a voice from 1928 rushing to tell you the Parable of the prodigal son? Did our language sound like that? Why did he stumble? Who was he? Where did he record it? How was the narrator chosen? Did he get paid for it or was he forced to do begaar? When we discovered these scratchy gramophone recordings done for The Linguistic Survey of India in 1928-29 we had to share it. For us reasons are not merely historical or linguistic but emotional like divining the dead. So go ahead and listen to our ancestors speaking Khasi, Pnar and War.

January 23, 2017 /

Paradoxically, all traditions are invented (and re-invented) at some point of time. If the Wancho script beats the odds and survives, it will become a tradition in twenty years. No other script seems to have managed the feat in this century. Well, not quite: Klingon, the fictional language of the Klingon people in the Star Trek movies of the 1970s and 80s was invented with a vocabulary and a grammar to give realism to the dialogue. Fans have extended it become a spoken language, complete with songs, poetry, and a script, even a language institute.

June 28, 2016 /

I am in Calcutta. At least I think this is Calcutta. I was told that I would be journeying into the heartland of the bhodrolok and the East Bengalis of Shillong coloured my expectations and bias. Upon arrival though I feel as though somethings have been missed. Like the city, the information hardly seems fresh. It is not current.