|ISO 639-2 / 5||mun|
Distribution of Munda language speakers in India
The Munda languages are a language family spoken by about nine million people in central and eastern India and Bangladesh. They constitute a branch of the Austroasiatic language family, which means they are related to languages such as Mon and Khmer languages and Vietnamese, as well as minority languages in Thailand and Laos and the minority Mangic languages of South China. The origins of the Munda languages are not known, but they predate the other languages of eastern India. Ho, Mundari, and Santali are notable languages of this group.
The family is generally divided into two branches: North Munda, spoken in the Chota Nagpur Plateau of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Odisha, and South Munda, spoken in central Odisha and along the border between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
North Munda, of which Santali is the most widely spoken, is the larger group; its languages are spoken by about ninety percent of Munda speakers. After Santali, the Mundari and Ho languages rank next in number of speakers, followed by Korku and Sora. The remaining Munda languages are spoken by small, isolated groups of people and are poorly known.
Characteristics of the Munda languages include three grammatical numbers (singular, dual and plural), two genders (animate and inanimate), a distinction between inclusive and exclusive first person plural pronouns and the use of suffixes or auxiliaries to indicate tense. The Munda languages are also polysynthetic and agglutinating.
In Munda sound systems, consonant sequences are infrequent except in the middle of a word. Other than in Korku, whose syllables show a distinction between high and low tone, accent is predictable in the Munda languages.
Most linguists, like Paul Sidwell (2018), suggest that the proto-Munda language probably split from Austroasiatic somewhere in what is today southern China or Southeast Asia and arrived in eastern India about 4000-3500 years ago after Indo-Aryan migration to Odisha.
Rau and Sidwell (2019), along with Blench (2019), suggest that pre-Proto-Munda had arrived in the Mahanadi River Delta around 1,500 BCE from Southeast Asia via a maritime route, rather than overland. The Munda languages then subsequently spread up the Mahanadi watershed.
Munda consists of five uncontroversial branches. However, their interrelationship is debated.
The bipartite Diffloth (1974) classification is widely cited:
Diffloth (2005) retains Koraput (rejected by Anderson, below) but abandons South Munda and places Kharia-Juang with the northern languages:
However, in 2001, Anderson split Juang and Kharia apart from the Juang-Kharia branch and also excluded Gta? from his former Gutob-Remo-Gta? branch. Thus, his 2001 proposal includes 5 branches for South Munda.
Anderson (2001) follows Diffloth (1974) apart from rejecting the validity of Koraput. He proposes instead, on the basis of morphological comparisons, that Proto-South Munda split directly into Diffloth's three daughter groups, Kharia-Juang, Sora-Gorum (Savara), and Gutob-Remo-Gta' (Remo).
His South Munda branch contains the following five branches, while the North Munda branch is the same as those of Diffloth (1974) and Anderson (1999).
|Language Name||Number of speakers||Location|
|Korku||727,100||Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra|
|Birjia||25,000||Jharkhand, West Bengal|
|Korwa||28,400||Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh|
|Mundari (inc. Bhumij dialect)||1,100,000||Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Assam, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal|
|Asur||7,000||Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha|
|Ho||1,400,000||Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh|
|Birhor||2,000||Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal|
|Santali||7,400,000||West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar|
|Mahali||33,000||Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal|
|Turi||2,000||Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal|
|Kharia||298,000||Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand|
|Gutob||8,000||Odisha, Andhra Pradesh|
|Gorum||Odisha, Andhra Pradesh|
|Sora||410,000||Odisha, Andhra Pradesh|
|Lodhi||25,000||Odisha, West Bengal|
The following Proto-Munda lexical proto-forms have been reconstructed by Sidwell & Rau (2015: 319, 340-363). Two asterisks are given to denote the tentative, preliminary state of the proto-language reconstruction.
|to burn (vt.)||**gE?p|
|die (of a person)||**gO?j|
|to drink (water)||**u?t, **u?k|
|fish (n.)||**ka, **kadO(?)|
|hair (of head)||**su?k|
|heart, liver||**(g?)rE, **?im|
|to lie (down)||**g?ti?c|
|root (of a tree)||**rE?t|
|to speak, say||**sun, **gam, **kaj|
|to stand||**t?na?, **tg?|
|to walk, go||**sEn|