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
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
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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