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Academic Paper


Title: Assamese
Author: Shakuntala Mahanta
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati
Linguistic Field: Language Documentation
Subject Language: Assamese
Abstract: The variety described here is representative of colloquial Assamese spoken in the eastern districts of Assam. Assam is a North-Eastern state of India, therefore Assamese and creoles of Assamese like Nagamese are spoken in the different North-Eastern states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and also the neighbouring country of Bhutan. Approximately 15 million people speak Assamese in India (see Ethnologue, Gordon 2005, which lists 15,374,000 speakers including those in Bhutan and Bangladesh). In the pre-British era (until 1826), the kingdom of Assam was ruled by Ahom kings and the then capital was based in the Eastern district of Sibsagar and later in Jorhat. American missionaries established the first printing press in Sibsagar and in the year 1846 published a monthly periodical Arunodoi using the variety spoken in and around Sibsagar as the point of departure. This is the immediate reason which led to the acceptance of the formal variety spoken in eastern Assam (which roughly comprises of all the districts of Upper Assam). Having said that, the language spoken in these regions of Assam also show a certain degree of variation from the written form of the ‘standard’ language. As against the relative homogeneity of the variety spoken in eastern Assam, variation is considerable in certain other districts which would constitute the western part of Assam, comprising of the district of Kamrup up to Goalpara and Dhubri (see also Kakati 1962 and Grierson 1968). In contemporary Assam, for the purposes of mass media and communication, a certain neutral blend of eastern Assamese, without too many distinctive eastern features, like /ɹ/ deletion, which is a robust phenomenon in the eastern varieties, is still considered to be the norm. The lexis of Assamese is mainly Indo-Aryan, but it also has a sizeable amount of lexical items related to Bodo among other Tibeto-Burman languages (Kakati 1962), and there are a substantial number of items borrowed from Hindi, English and Bengali in recent times.

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This article appears IN Journal of the International Phonetic Association Vol. 42, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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