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Ho Grammar

Ho Grammar
Item Code: NAW258
Author: N. Ramswami
Publisher: Central Institute Of Indian Languages, Mysore
Language: Ho and English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 8173421293
Pages: 180
Other Details: 9.50 X 7.00 inch

Language distances in India are great in both structure and function, i.e. in both grammar and use. Each family has numerous languages, and there are also many language types. At the same time, the linguistic landscape in India Shows remarkable similarities due to areal pressure. While many lament about the lack of a single link language, each one of our major languages acts as binding force, and Mundari is one such language that acts as a binding force among the Austric languages spoken in the large tract of Eastern India. In fact, this is also the reason as to why there has not been any breakdown in communication here.

I have often thought that India’s national average figures of bilingualism (in 1991, it was 19.44% - significantly higher than the averages of 1961 which was 9.7%) and trilingualism (1991: 7.26%) only showed that because of the pressures of societal bilingualism, individuals become naturally bilingual, and they begin transporting features and structures of one language into another. A reality check may give us a greater number of both active and passive bilinguals. What it means is that large scale bilingualism makes the speakers of smaller languages to slowly shift to other languages — especially if the other language is understood widely. This last possibility is definitely alarming, as it may eventually result in "giving up" of one’s own speech variety. It will be interesting to study if that indeed is happening in the newly developed states and areas like Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, which are a haven for numerous smaller languages. These languages range between being branded as a dialect of a bigger entity to being an independent language, and Ho presents one such case.

The final picture in respect of the linguistic landscape of India will emerge only after a great deal of linguistic research — yet to be been done. At this point of time, we could only be tentative about the extent of linguistic plurality in a given linguistic space, because there are a large number of smaller and unclassified languages waiting to be described even in the Jharkhand-Chattisgarh-Bundelkhand region We are aware that different accounts give between 114 to a total of 216 to 401 languages in India, and none of these is based on a kind of survey done by Grierson.

In this context, it is important to note that the Census reports talk about ‘Rationalization of language labels’, but so far the activity of rationalization. has neither been based on dialect surveys nor on solid work in historical comparative linguistics. It has mostly based on the linguistic demography as it emerged from this gigantic activity of overall Census operations.

However, we are all otherwise aware that it is a huge linguistic net that is at work — with trends and influences running across language families and speech areas. It is, therefore, very important that some grammatical sketches like the one presented by N.Ramasamy here are brought to light, for the scholars and students in the field to make use of.

The work should also be useful for the native scholars in Jharkhand, whose help in the preparation of the book was invaluable.

Let me hope the work will be found to be contributing significantly in the area of Austric Studies, in which the expertise in India is dwindling as years pass by.


Ho means ‘Man’. In other Munda languages, Horo is the word that refers to human beings. Ho also refers to the language here. Grierson calls it Ho Kaji - the language of the Hos. The word Kaji has many meanings, including word, speech, and language.

Though the Hos claim to have originally migrated from Chota Nagpur, the native speech area of Ho is Singhbhum in Bihar. However, the speakers of Ho are also found in Orissa and West Bengal. In Orissa, the concentration of the Ho speakers is found in Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts. According to 1971 census, the total number of speakers of Ho is 7, 51,389.

As this language is spoken in both Bihar and Orissa, it is written in Devanagari and Oriya scripts in addition to Roman and Warang Kshiti writing system, created by the native speakers.

Mundari, Bhumij and Ho are closely related languages. Mundari is one of the North Munda languages spoken in Bihar, whereas Bhumij which is claimed by some to be one of the dialects of Mundari is spoken in Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal. Further, in my earlier studies, Bhumij has been shown to be a dialect of Mundari structurally (Ramaswami: 1992). However, it is not possible to establish clearly whether Ho is also a dialect of Mundari as it has been claimed by some or whether it is an independent language.

While Bhumij speakers accept their language as a dialect of Mundari, Ho speakers do not accept their language as a dialect of Mundari but they claim that their language is an independent language. Therefore, a detailed study of the language becomes necessary to tell whether Ho is a dialect of Mundari or an independent language from the structural point of view.

As could be seen here, it has been demonstrated that there are phonetic/phonemic and morphological differences between Ho and Mundari. Further, from the lexical point of view, Hasada and Naguri dialects of Mundari are more closely related to one another than to Ho (Deeney: 1978).

This introductory monograph tries to give some more differences to establish Ho as a language that is structurally different from Mundari. I hope the scholars in the field would find the materials and evidences presented here to be useful. In this connection atterapt has been made to compare structures of Mundari, Bhumij and Ho.

For this purpose, the following aspects namely sounds / Phonemes, pronouns, derivation tense and aspect, word order, coordination and degrees of comparison are taken into account as these aspects are available in all the three languages.

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