Accepted paper:

Language Contact and Survival: An Example of the Rai Migrants


Vishnu Rai (Tribhuvan University)

Paper short abstract:

Rais of Nepal migrated to north India where Maithili is the dominant language. They lost much of their culture and language, and adopted Nepali as a link language not to lose their identity. This Nepali is a curious mixture of Rai languages, Nepali and Maithili –result of language contact.

Paper long abstract:

Some 250 years ago, Rais of Nepal migrated to the north India to save their life from the King of Gorakha. This area is inhabited by Maithili speaking communities. Rais are culturally one but they speak different languages. In course of time their culture and language suffered. They adopted Nepali as a link language to maintain their identity. This Nepali is different from the Nepali spoken in Nepal. Today, they speak a language which is a curious mixture of Rai languages, viz. Chamling, Bantaba, Koyu and Puma, Nepali and Maithili. This language is predominantly Nepali with fragments of Rai languages and borrowings from the Maithili language. It has adopted an ingenious way of nativizing the foreign words. The language shows complex constructions -a clear case of language contact. Some examples are given below. •Pum-Nep-Pum-Pum: kʌ-risa-ket-ku(ACT.PTCP-anger-V.NATIV-CAUS-NMLZ)'an angry man' •Maith.-Maith.-Pum: nʌi-mʌja-bo (NEG-good-GEN) nʌimʌjabo 'uninteresting' It is also believed that language does not borrow affixes. But lot of examples were found in which Rais borrowed prefixes and suffixes from Nepali and Maithili and digested them in their language. Here are some examples. •DAT - lagi: kitap-a cha-ci-bo-lagi las-i 'To bring the children's book.' (book-N.NATIV child-ns-GEN-DAT bring-3P) •VOC - re: kʌta gʌ-is re 'Where are you?' (where go-PT VOC) This shows that language develops its own means for survival when it is surrounded by more dominant languages.

panel MMM15
Migration and its linguistic consequences in South Asia and neighbouring regions