Accepted paper:

A linguistic study of identity, belonging and honorification in Santal society


Tanima Bagchi (Indian Institute of Technology Madras)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates how younger Santali speakers of Jharkhand use honorification as the medium of indigenous identity affirmation and preservation through the linguistic tool of address pronouns, as a result of their exposure to a wider world of co-existing and mutually benefiting identities.

Paper long abstract:

The concept of duality is considered as the honorific feature in the Santal society. This paper explores this concept with regard to stranger and kinship. Young Santals of Jharkhand use second person dual pronoun /aben/ as honorific pronoun to address a stranger whereas elderly speakers use second person singular pronoun /am/ as a marker of social intimacy to address a stranger. Interestingly, the dual pronoun is also used among avoidance relationships to address kin members while the singular pronoun is used in all other family relationships as well as among villagers. In order to understand this linguistic variation in address pronouns used for strangers, it is important to take into account history of migration and resulting marginalization of Santals. This usage of singular pronoun form by elderly Santali speakers for both kin members as well as for strangers is a linguistic effort on their part (?) to be socially included within dominant linguistic communities. Young Santali speakers, on the other hand, are more aware of their tribal identity and acknowledge the distance between themselves and other linguistic communities. As a result, they use the dual pronoun to indicate avoidance and social distance with the stranger. This paper, therefore, shows a clear changing pattern of honorification among younger and elderly Santali speakers where social identities of the stranger and kin members cross-cut the concepts of proximity and belonging in Santal society.

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Indigenous imaginations: creative bodies and embodied resistance