Friday, June 22, 2007

Can Tani Language become a lingua franca of Tani Group?

But what is Tani Language? Do we really have a language called Tani Language? Is it the language spoken by the Apatani’s or the Nyishi’s or the Adi’s or any other tribe of Tani group? But then, don’t their languages differ not to be quite intelligible enough amongst themselves? So, when Tani Federation Forum (TTF) based at Guwahati called for making Tani Language as lingua franca of Tani group, I wondered which Tani Language they were referring to.

Unification bid by the Tanis

ITANAGAR, June 18: The Tanis of Arunachal Pradesh and Asom irrespective of their boundaries, religion and political identities have decided to unify and unite in their greater interest.

This was the unanimous decision taken at the first plenary session of Guwahati-based Tani Federation Forum (TFF) held at North Lakhimpur yesterday with the participation of representatives from both states. Former Arunachal Minister Tadar Taniang was the chief guest.

Though the tribe society was passing through a transition, the session opposed the imposition of Sanskrit language and called for its replacement by Tani language, which could serve as lingua-franca and integrate the entire tribe living in various part of the North East Region, according to TFF release.

-The Arunachal Times

Though, their call for unification of Tani groups is quite commendable yet I couldn’t understand their call for making Tani Language a lingua franca of Tani groups, when there is no common language amongst Tani group as Tani Language. Or do we have?

BTW, what is this TTF? Who are they? Why are they based at Guwahati when majority of Tani groups are settled at Arunachal Pradesh?


  • Tara Dagium

    I do not know much about the development going on but I think there is a need for the Tani language. It is need for the future of our state. The imposition of Hindi and Sanskrit has no value for the future of our people.
    Though Hindi is our national language but there is no profit for learning it rather than for namesake as it is our national language. We north-eastern people have even no chance to get a good future from this language.
    If we talk about Sanskrit. It also has no use for us rather than some extra knowledge.
    But the creation of our Tani language will save the future of our state as our culture and language which is our identity is on the stake. The younger generation is forgetting their mother tongue.
    So rather we must be optimistic and contribute for the creation of the Tani language.

  • buru

    Agreed fully with Dagyium.

    AG, I have never heard of TFF-maybe another one of those usual 'welfare associations' working for welfare of its officebearers :) ?
    But choosing Assam as venue may not be wrong as the Largest single Tani group--Mishings--3 lakhs plus-reside there.Also the organisers of TFF seem to have forgotten the Tani people in China(Tibet)--the 3000plus Bokars in Pemako,Medog,Mainling etc.

    It will not be difficult to evolve a common Tani Language --by working backwards and identifying the common words or root words.For eg the cane haversack is called Rache/Radum etc in Tagin/Galo/Libo but called Nara in Nyishi & Apatani--hence Nara is the root word.
    Similarly for Quiver it is Gebbu in Galo but Ugi in Nyishi & Hills Miri so Ugi is the root word etc etc.
    I think without further ado we should adopt the Tani script so painfully worked out by Tony Koyu(see Echo, on Sunday?)

    It is really ridiculous we learn Sanskrit instead of our own disappearing language unless we want to be Pujaris?? Learn too much Hindi and be ridiculed in North India as Bahadurs and Dazoos??

    Time to stop being hypnotized by pseudopatriotism has come.

  • AG

    @Tara, my only concern is that if this TTF is not upto some communal card game. Being the majority group in the state, whatever we do would be put under the scanner by other groups of the state. May be this insecurity has led to demand of greater autonomy by some groups of the state. And when there is no language as Tani Language, which you seem to agree too (“….contribute for the creation of Tani Language”), where is the question of replacing Sanskrit (Sanskrit..? I never knew we speak sanskrit in our state, ain’t it either Hindi or Assamese?) with Tani Language to be made as ligua franca? To prove my point, if there was a language called Tani Language, wouldn’t we, the Tani group be communicating in that language? BTW, who has imposed Sanskrit (?) or Hindi or Assamese to be the lingua franca of the state? I guess no one. It was need for a common language that we adopted this language. Here don’t mistake me for advocating for either Hindi or Assamese as the lingua franca of the state. I too feel that there should be a common language for better communication and understanding amongst we Arunachalees for all round development. But how to evolve one that is acceptable by all and to think of Tani Language, if at all devised, as future of the state, I won’t even dream of making it the lingua franca of the state because in that case we would be imposing this Tani language on other communities.

    And to talk about preserving our culture and mother tongue, stick to your mother tongue while talking with your fellow brethren's and don't just ape blindly other's culture and custom.

    @buru, thx for pointing out that largest tani group are at Assam (hadn't researched well about the statistics :-(). So, North Lakhimpur as the venue was all the more justified.

    But, I don't agree with you that without further ado we should adopt Tani Script devised by Tony Koyu. What's wrong with the roman characters that we have been using so far? Is Tani script as devised by Tony Koyu really indigenous? What I feel is, it is amalgamation of devnagiri and bengali script. Even it is called Tani Lipi. Isn't Lipi a devanagiri word? And what purpose would this script solve when we don't have a common dialect/language? Let a common Tani language be evolved first and then script be devised that would really be indigenous to Tani group.

  • buru

    At last it is getting interesting , but I think we need more educated members here.

    AG, I am totally against communalization of anything,and, even if a Tani Language is devised it should only be imposed in Tani areas and nowhere else.Even in Tani areas non-Tanis should be left with option of not taking it.

    Nobody can impose a lingua franca even if we try to.So by imposing Tani language compulsorily, till, say Secondary level, we can only hope that it becomes lingua franca in Tani areas(only) in say, 15-20 years.
    Your point on Tani Lipi is well taken.We can improve on it, and maybe even replace it with something better? I have no idea what exactly was the origin of this 'lipi' but it has a remote resemblance to Thai script?

    No culture was born with a script--they all developed over time.Some like Mongolian & Korean script were specifically developed as a distinct measure of ethnic identity(even though well developed scripts from surrounding cultures were already in use), which is why I am advocating it instead of Roman numerals. You may be interested to know that the Mishing adaptation of Roman numerals is most well-developed among all Tani groups and they even have functional books! Such a script will be useful even without a common language as each Tani tribe can introduce books in respective languages written in this script in their own areas for say,upto primary level?
    The state Govt should forthwith stop Sanskrit as an optional--it is an atrocious waste of our brain.Even if they put Assamese it would atleast serve us well in Assam.

  • AG

    "[....]You may be interested to know that the Mishing adaptation of Roman numerals is most well-developed among all Tani groups and they even have functional books!" you got it there again Buru, when you can adapt roman numerals to be used as the script, why should anyone waste such a time devising a new script called tani lipi (which i feel is in very nascent stage and needs refining) and teach from the basics when people can very well write in roman script their language.

  • Anonymous

    At first sight the idea of a common language looks very attractive. The basic argument underlying this idea is the following one : Mizoram has Mizo as State language, Tripura has Tripuri and Bengali, Meghalaya has Khasi and Garo, Assam has Assamese, so Arunachal should have a common language too. Also it's easy to point Hindi or English as external languages. So there is a good chance for that idea to remain in Arunachalees’ minds for a long time.

    However, a few basic things are worth being remembered here :

    - 1°) Other people not belonging to the Tani group will necessary feel left aside as this language will be alien to them. They may event resent it as a kind of hegemony from the central group, so that it is likely to be a factor of disharmony between the various communities.
    - 2°) Even for members of the Tani group it will be a new language to learn. For there is only two ways for artificially creating a new language out of several distinct languages :
    a) to pick up almost randomly a word from one language and another from another language. It means that for any given tribe of the Tani group, only a limited number of words will be selected from their own mother-tongue. The main part of the vocabulary will have to be learned from other neighbouring languages.
    b) to find the root-word for each word. It is more scientifically grounded and impartial, but requires a long and careful work which only linguists can do. In this case too, for each given Tani tribe only a small percentage is likely to be chosen from own mother-tongue, maybe even less than in the first case.

    Whatever method is selected, in both cases the result will not be a language, but a pidgin. And all pidgins which have ever been created on earth are 100 times poorer than any language, written or not. So everybody will just be able to express basic ideas and sentiments. For that reason no rich literature is likely to be ever produced out of it. That's exactly what has been happening with Nagamese for a few decades.
    Most important, if this pidgin becomes implemented in schools no place will be left for the preservation and promotion of true mother-tongues. They would be considered more or less as backward dialects, not even languages. In that way the situation could be worse than today. Now seen from the National level it is likely that nobody will consider this new ‘language‘, just as nobody seems to be considering Nagamese as a true language today.

    From here, 2 possibilities :

    1°) It is adopted as a common language, and implemented in schools, in the hope of slowly REPLACING the various mother-tongues. In this case all the native languages are really in great danger. All of them will at once be considered as mere ‘dialects’, and speaking one of them will be considered as speaking an improper form of Tani.

    2°) It's being debated for years, and nobody can find a consensus, even for the script between Devanagri, Roman or Tani Lipi. In this case, it is less harmfull for Apatani, Adi, Nyishi, etc. But while the debate continues it is likely that nothing is done seriously to preserve or promote the local languages. The project of a ‘new language’ is also conveying this idea that the local languages are something ‘backward’ from which a modern State should eventually get rid of. Thus, waiting for the common language to come, people will keep on being encouraged to turn on Hindi or English only….

    However, true solutions to this problem are not so hard to imagine, provided people acknowledge that creating a pidgin just for calling it Arunachalee language leads to nowhere. The Government of Nagaland seem to have understood it now, but it took 40 years.
    The only long-term solution is to refuse to make a choice between global and local languages. People should be taught in the two. But really taught, not just left by themselves. In other words, English should be recognized as the State language as it is now, but the local languages such as Apatani, Adi etc., should also be taught from primary school on, each as a compulsory second language, the language selected varying from place to place. For eg. Apatani language would be taught in Ziro area and Adi in Pasighat. People having migrated to different parts of the state, or non ST residents in Arunachal would be given the possibility of choosing Hindi as their second compulsory language. Thus the medium of education would remain English throughout the State, but at the same time pupils and students would gradually familiarize themselves with their mother tongue. Actually they would learn at school the written form of the language they speak at home, they will understand the grammar, the levels of language, and would also become familiar with the literature in their mother-tongues. This would not hamper the use of English, but would ensure a general transmission of the local languages at every generation. The teaching of Hindi as a third compulsory language can also been considered, but separately, in order not to interfere with the teaching of local languages.

  • AG

    @ anonymous,

    Despite having said that “I too feel that there should be a common language for better communication and understanding amongst we Arunachalees for all round development”, I do agree with you that for sake of creating a common Arunachalee language, we should not create a pidgin and certainly I wouldn’t vouch for a pidgin to be a common Arunachalee language. In regards of creation of Tani Language, either picking random words from each distinct languages or in a more scientific way from a ‘root word’, wouldn’t we be creating a pidgin out of a pidgin. Don't we have enough words derived from Assamese, English and Hindi already in our language? Shouldn’t we leave the language as it is without further messing with the language? And then as mentioned by you there is always this danger of losing our own distinct mother tongue.

    Also, I don’t see any purpose being solved by devising a common language except that it will set us back by some 10 to 15 years at the minimum to learn that language and actually bringing it to some meaningful use. And if the sole purpose of devising a common script like Tani Lipi, as is being done by the likes of Tony Koyu, is to preserve the tradition, custom and culture by documentation, then I very well feel that Roman script would serve much better purpose as you are familiar with that script and you don’t have to waste your time & mind learning the new script and you could actually start documenting your custom, culture and tradition right now instead of waiting for another 10-15 years. In case of the Apatani’s or the Nyishi’s I find anthropological work of Prof. Christoph Von Heimendorf, quite well documented in roman script. Even the local term and the pronunciations are much better expressed than the contemporary local researchers.

    When thinking of introducing local languages at schools, I wonder, would it be worth introducing local languages at schools when parents encourage their children to speak either English or Hindi over their mother tongue? Besides, we don’t have experts to teach that subject.

    Having said that, I would say, forget creation of common Tani Language or a common script, the need of the hour is to encourage your mother tongue at your home first-don’t use Hindi or English over your mother tongue at home, if you really want to save your mother tongue and only after that we may consider introducing the local languages at schools and that too if the need be. It would be futile imposing local languages at schools and over burdening the pupils/students when you don’t encourage your mother tongue at home, because in that case, the younger generation would learn the language for the sake of passing the exams without actually trying to understand their mother tongue. Remember, what we people generally do, we learn Hindi or Sanskrit just for sake of passing the exams and after that we don’t know what is Hindi or Sanskrit, right.

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree with the above statements. What would really be advisable is a common script (a script, not a language) using Roman characters for at least all languages of the central group. And to devise one would not be as difficult as some people think. For a good comparison, Mizo and all related Kuki-Chin languages of Manipur nowadays use more or less the same Roman script, and the differences between them are no less than between the various languages of the Tani group. For that I also agree that earlier attempts such as Haimendorf’s works may constitute a reliable basis. Really it doesn’t seem to be a big problem for trained linguists and anthropologists to devise such a script, even taking into account the various intonations of the different languages.
    My comments on introducing local languages at schools were primarily for those people who do their schooling from boarding schools and are facing the problem of being cut off from their home speaking environment from childhood. As a large part of them is going to become the intellectual elite of the State, I think we should not accept that a linguistic gap between the elite and the general population is encouraged by the educational system itself. So something should be done at least for them. A lot of students who have joined those boarding schools are now sincerely willing to learn their mother-tongues, but it’s a bit late for them and they are almost in the situation of adults having to learn a foreign language. They need help.

  • Nani Riniyo

    Nice discussions going on here. To talk about having common language it's like dreaming of building castle in the air. I do agree with the necessity of a common language in our state but, creating a Tani language will be almost like a pidgin itself and I don't think that it will help us in preserving our identity.

    Agreeing with AG and analysing critically, most of the words used to describe something which were new to our zone are mostly borrowed words from english, hindi and assamese. Our dialogues are very unique and different from others with lesser words. At this moment of time as Mr. Anonymous has talked about lignuist expert and anthropologists help in developing some script, at this age of modernization and civilization we are in the criss cross junction of the life (neither too expert in others language nor better in our own mother tongue), there is a need of finding some linguistic experts and to created some better techniques to preserve our unique dialoagues of the state. Thus, instead of creating common language we should make ourselves aware of the necessity to preserve our own mother tongue. This can be started from our home itself as a first place of teaching and learning.

  • buru

    All the points made so far by all are well considered.I would however like to put a few rejoinders to Ms Anonymous' excellent post:

    1.Communal disharmony:
    I have dwelled on this in the previous post--the idea is to impose only in Tani areas to Tani people.In fact we can encourage others like the Mishmis etc to form their own initiatives too.

    2.Pidgin language:
    I would call it pidgin were it picked up at random from various tribes and re-constituted but not if it is formed by scientific research of root word.It would be as pidgin as, say, Sanskrit sounds like pidgin to a speaker of Hindi/Assamese/Marathi etc as it contains a few words from each(or the other way round)being the original language from which all branched out eventually.Even our mother tongues/Hindi/English varies from place to place so all languages are some form of amalgamation of different dialects.At any rate no language is 'pure' in that language always evolves.Even if we have a few new words from other language it does not matter as every language has some words borrowed from others.

    3.Naga experience:
    Yes, Nagamese is a true pidgin; but no, the Nagaland Govt never tried to impose it as lingua franca as its declared official language from day1 has been English.And yes, Nagamese IS the lingua franca of Nagaland today, by usage-- and proof that pidgins do work!

    4.Tani language will be detrimental to mother tongues:
    It won't cos' Tani language will be to COMPLEMENT our mother tongues and not to replace it.I know more than one Tani language but does it make my mother tongue weaker? We all know English ,Hindi/Assamese does it make our mother tongue weaker unless we want it to(by not speaking!)?.BOTH Tani language and mother tongue can be taught simultaneously as, say,3rd language and 2nd language respectively with English as first.
    i.e. replace the position held by Hindi and Sanskrit.There is no need to fear about loss of Hindi as a useful tool because we will learn it anyway, whether taught in schools or not as it has gained enough momentum in this state(in addition to TV/Cinema/Cds etc).

    The only valid point is whether it is worth the time and effort.
    I do think it is worth the effort because of the following:

    i)It will give us a common platform and a feeling of brotherhood:
    We all know the communal situation in AP today and the animosity even within the Tanis.This is cos' we are totally cut-off from the internal discussions of other tribes and thus no rapport is built up. Using Hindi to communicate actually exaggerates the distance between different tribes as if we were aliens.It shames me to talk to fellow Tanis in Hindi outside the state when our languages are so similar?Tani language will be the bridge to harmony.

    ii)Cultural revival:
    Not everybody knows English or Hindi.This language being very similar to our mother tongue would be much easily picked up than say, Hindi or Sanskrit and be more popular.Now that different tribes have a common language it would help in the interchange of ideas and knowledge helping us to solve the puzzles of our language/migrations/religion and philosophy.

    Re Tani script it is Ok with me if Roman numerals are used but a locally devised script would still be good for above reasons too.In addition there are several words which cannot be pronounced using Roman numerals.
    Keep it coming.

  • AG

    @ anonymous,

    I do not agree with you that the education system is the main culprit behind the linguistic gap between new and older generation. What I feel is that it is the parenting that should be blamed for this linguistic gap. They failed to generate enough love for mother-tongue in their children. I do agree with you that those who sincerely want to learn their mother tongue needs help and should be given a chance to learn their mother tongue, but would introducing languages in the ‘primary level’ of schools really help them? It is not that the concept of introduction of local languages at schools new but it has actually been introduced at schools using the roman script in some districts, albeit with little success. And to make this subject successful, certain issues are there that needs to be addressed first. Like, is it enough to introduce the language in Government Schools alone? What about private and public schools-where people prefer to send their children for education than Government Schools. Do we have enough trained teachers to teach the language? Is the course content devised scientifically? Etc. etc. But then again, what purpose would introduction of local languages at schools solve other than encouragement of mother tongue-which I feel can be very well taught at home. Is it that since Assamese is taught as 2nd or 3rd language at Assam, Oriya as 2nd or 3rd language at Orissa etc. etc., we also need some language (local language) at schools? Or is it to satiate the whims and fancies of some hypocrite intellectuals who devised the concept but never seem to follow when it comes to their children?

    @ Riniyo, keep it coming.

    @ Buru,

    Well laid out arguments. I do agree with you that no languages are ‘pure’ as they do evolve over time and even the mother tongue varies from place to place. Branching out of Assamese/Hindi/ Marathi etc., from Sanskrit is quite understandable as Sanskrit is the root language and the other languages evolved from that language. But do we have a root language?

    When common ancestry (Abotani) can't diffuse the animosity among Tani's, do you really feel that common language would do the trick? If it can, I would surely vouch for common language even at the cost of creating a pidgin out of pidgin.

    It is not a common language that is needed but a will to exchange ideas and knowledge if we want to solve the mystery of origin, migration, religion and philosophy.

  • Anonymous

    @ AG
    I do agree with you on the necessary conditions that should accompany the implementation of local languages at schools. Certainly they should not be introduced in Government schools alone, otherwise the effect would be almost nil, or even would participate to their global reject from the parental side. Certainly also the course contents should be devised scientifically, we all probably have in mind or have seen some so-called ‘primers’ devised for NE local languages that are an absolute shame from a pedagogical point of view and, as you rightly say, seem to be there only ‘to satiate the whims and fancies of some hypocrite intellectuals who devised the concept but never seem to follow when it comes to their children’. I can only agree with that…

  • Nightscape

    Just one question to Buru: How did you arrive at the root word for various objects (cane haversack, quiver)which are either of Nyishi, Apatani or Hill-Miri origin. Mind you , I am a Nyishi, so it is not a case of sour grapes. I am just curious.

  • AG

    @ anonymous,
    I've gone through the 'primer' and agree with you that the so called 'primer' is a total shame from the pedagogical point of view.

    @ nightscape,
    Good question.:)

  • buru

    Ya good question.
    I'm short of time now, look out for an answer in a few days time!

  • buru


    First I am not a linguist by training but do try to work out such linguistic origins out of interest.
    I had used the word Nara and Ugi to illustrate how we may come to derive the original nomenclature used for a certain object etc when the Taniis did not branch out yet ie proto-Tani language.We may not be able to find out all, but I'm fairly sure a great deal may be found out if we pool our heads together.
    In the Tani languages words are usually derived from a mix of two words to denote a change in degree/function/tense etc. eg in some Nyishi dialects hand is 'lak' and branch is 'hekche'and finger 'lakche'(lak+hekche).Knowing the way words are formed,we can deconstruct lakche into lak+hekche due to knowledge of these two separate words.
    Now the problem is, some Tani languages only have the synthetic derivative(eg Lakche)but their speakers have forgotten about the primary words out of which they were derived(ie lak+hekche) whereas other Tani languages still use the primary words(lak&hekche) but have not synthesised(or forgotten)the derivative(ie lakche).If we combine all Tani languages such link/root words will be easy to pick up.
    Nara(Nyishi,apatani) is root for cane haversack how?
    When the Tanis were once still one tribe they must have used this word.Later after breakup they went their own ways and some tribes(eg Galo,pailibo etc) used a more advanced derivative 'Rache, Radum' etc to specify the whole thing while the Apatani and Nyishi continued using the old word.But in the process they forgot the root word 'nara'. How can I say this?
    Rache is made up of two syllables: Ra+ che.Obviously it was derived from two words(Nara + -che).-che in above languages is often used as a suffix to denote a small or compact thing(eg Paache--a small rat,mache--a small stunted man ,hakche--a small branch,etc.)So Rache=a compact nara.
    RADUM=nara +Adum (adum or dum is hair in above languages).So this is the nara covered in hair(a plant fibre from a mountain palm).

    Gibbu or Gebbu of above languages is similarly derived from Ugi/Uge cos GIBBU=Ugi + abu. Abu =a cylindrical hollow tube(here it ascribes to bamboo of course).Additionally arrow in Galo etc is 'Upuk 'therefore being similarly named to Ugi makes sense now.

    another example: Tao in Kurung Kumey Nyishi is a sweet jungle fig and it obviously is the root word for the Galo 'Oti/Hoti' used to describe the same fruit(Tao + ati or Tao+ Tisir; ati=nectar, tisir=sweet).Additional evidence:Galos have names for other figs very similar to Tao eg Tajik, Takuk, Takchin etc.

    Now the thing is Galos and Libos stare at a Nyishi when he speaks about a Nara,Ugi or Tao and a Nyishi stares at a Galo when the latter speaks about Rache, Oti or Gebbu!
    This is not a one-way ticket.I have found other examples where Nyishis are found using the derivatives while the others are still using the root words which the Nyishis have forgotten.

    Additionally a careful and detailed reconstruction of such words will also help us in identifying which tribes detached from the main Tanii group in what sequence.

    The only truely scientific study of the Tani languages was done by Sun-a Chinese,and Jackson? in 1993 but not avail on the net.

    Hope your doubt is cleared.

  • Nightscape

    Thanks Buru for the clarification. I should have seen the obvious link between the two, apparently different set of words. But that is the beauty of bringing heads together!

    Your explanation seems logical to me, also a non-linguist. Such a project, of tracing the root-word, holds promise as an alternative to a simple amalgamation of the Tani tongues. But I am concerned about one thing. I do hope, for the sake of acceptability, that most of the root words are not traced to one or two languages only, in which case, the other communities might distance themselves from such a project.

    This only points out the fact that scientific studies in this area are sorely needed.

  • buru


    Your fear is entirely justified as it is obvious that the tribe which detached itself earliest from the proto-tanii group will by logic have the least amount of root words and vice -versa.For this we need more maturity from such tribes.In addition we can use the words from such tribes in cases where the original /root-word is uncertain(to include them too). However this problem in my opinion should not be as great as we may fear because the Tanii languages are not as different as,say the Sanskritic languages and in fact you can understand most of what other tribes speak if spoken slowly.
    In my opinion the bigger problem will be to bring the differences of pronounciation of the two streams of Tanii dialects together--i.e. Western Branch(eg Galo,Nyishi,Bori,Bokar,Libo,Tagin,Hillmiri and Apatani) and the Eastern branch(Minyong,Mishing,Padam,Ashing,Shimong,Karko,Pasi etc)--this classif was by Sun1993.
    This would be overcome too should we try.However no politics,communal or otherwise should be played while drawing up such a language or else, like you said, the enterprise is doomed to fail.

  • AG


    Great read. Your explanation has made me take back my earlier stand that "Do we have a root language?" We may actually be able to trace out the root language or evolve a common Tani language if we sincerely strive to.

    Could you point another source from where may I obtain the work of Sun?

    Going quite off topic, why don't you consider sharing your knowledge by doing some posts for this blog. I'd appreciate if you do. Do mail me at arunachaldiary[at]gmail[dot]com

  • Anonymous

    ‘Tanis should unite despite divisive factors’
    GUWAHATI, July 30 – The first plenary session of the Tani Federal Forum (TFF) was held recently at North Lakhimpur town recently. It was attended by many delegates from Assam and Arunachal. Tadar Taniang, former Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, was the chief guest.

    A TFF press release said in this meeting the aims, objectives and vision of the TFF was discussed and deliberated on. It felt that the Tani Society was divided over religion, region and social aspects though they were of common ancestors Abu Tani. The meeting resolved that the Tanis should unite irrespective of all the divisive factors or regional conditions. The House was common and united in the feeling that the imposition of languages like Sanskrit in India and Mandarin in China was instrumental in Tani people forgetting and losing their own culture and tradition. The Tani are called as Lobha in China, Mishings in Assam and Adis, Nyishis, Hillmiris, Tagins and Apatani’s in Arunachal Pradesh. It also felt that the community was going through a transition migratory phases, the release informed.

    In the meeting social worker JK Riba, entrepreneur Dheeraj Pao and environmental activist T Nabam were once again elected as president, secretary general and convener respectively. Lecturer Satyanath Doley, Sanjib Doley and Lileswar Kaman were selected to work as office-bearers, the release pointed out.

    The TFF further appealed to all social organisations working for the greater Tani cause like the Mishing Mimag Kegang, TMPK, Nyishi Elite Society, Adi Bane Keba, Galo Welfare Society and others to write to its central office at 103 Sagar Apartments, Manik Nagar, Zoo Road, Guwahati - 5 for its views and suggestions. It is launching a website for the Tani community which will cover all aspects of their origin, migration, beliefs, culture, tradition both in China & India and also the achievements of the present generation, the release added.
    -source "ASSAM TRIBUNE"

  • buru

    It is better if comments are posted non-anonymously so that we atleast get to know each others pseudonyms!
    Anyway if a Tani website is put up it is great news.
    AG,Some points:
    *Lhoba/lopa/klopa etc are Tibetan words which roughly tranlates to "Southerners" and can be applied to any ap people, including Idus.
    *The linguistic study of Tani languages by Sun 1993 is prob copyrighted property of Berkeley University,USA.I could only lay my hands on some summaries of certain chapters only(lost).
    *My knowledge and time being limited i will contribute via comments when necessary only:)

  • Nightscape

    Unity of spirit and feelings of brotherhood are all fine words, but in our context, how 'real' can the unity get? As is abundantly clear by now, based on cartography, our people are divided between Tibet (even if it is a small number), Arunachal and Assam. I don't intend to rake up feelings of divisiveness and alienation, but how many of us are actually comfortable with Mishings as our brethren. Granted, we share the same linguistic traditions, but in terms of material culture (food, dress, dwelling, festival), religion, and dare I say, even ethos and mores,as well as(and here I might be accused of simple reductionism and prejudice) sheer biology (in terms of facial-features etc) the Mishings seem to us more like Assamese, or at any rate one of the plains people. That is one thing: the challenge of seeing our southern-most people as, well, one of our people.

    Secondly, does the purported exercise in unity have any other thrust-area, other than language (which in any case is nebulous and more wistful than practical, at least now)? It can be said that these are early days yet; however, is anything contemplated along political lines? This is an area of concern, seeing that any proposal on extension of ST privilege to Mishings in Arunachal has always been met with much hullaballoo and misgivings.

  • Buru

    You have asked some unpleasant but pertinent questions.Good for it.
    I think to start with, we the educated ones should set our sights at a lower and achievable target than at some idealistic high point.As a first target we should just try to collect our History,Language and Mythology and try to make some sense out of it.
    Then re-create a common language if not a sript: This I believe is the single most important qualifier for the success of coming targets--why even wives &husbands, sons&parents grow apart if they don't have a common language or interact regularly at personal levels: Hindi or English will never bring us together beyond superficial 'brotherhood'.
    Re Mishings: They are the most numerous AND the most accomplished intellectually among the Tanis: The list of Doctors/Engineers/Lawyers/Journalists/Scientists/Pilots/Expatriates etc among them are numerous.Physically they are darker due to extra sunexposure only;On average they prob are the most physically endowed too--the Brits have mentioned their fine physique and height.
    I believe you being a Nyishi and thus being more distant phyically&liguistically have naturally less feelings of kinship--but among Minyongs,Pasis and Padams the Mishings are quite at home in many ways and some even can trace their common roots!
    I think we need not really be afraid of them swamping us--the idea is to be united at heart&mind--we are not asking them to migrate back to AP;)

  • Buru

    Nightscape ,
    While we are on the Topic, you may also be interested to know that the word for loincloth in Seppa Nyishi is 'Hoge' while in the Minyong/Padam/Mishing group it is 'Hugi' or 'ugi'. This shows 2 things--our ancestors in the beginning wore the (loin)cloth and that Nyishis and the Minyong group had the same common ancestors(ie they were prob not differentiated into tribes then)!
    It is even more interesting to note that languages considered closer to Nyishi like Tagins and Galos call the loincloth 'Sab' or 'Sabi' ,so how did this happen?
    Apatani considered closer to Western Tanii lingo has the word for 'speak/spoke' as 'luto/ludo' which is the same as those of Minyong/Mishings/Padams while the nearer Nyishis/Hillmiris/Galos have it as "Mento/Manto/Berto" why?? Whereas It has the word for rice as "Ambin" which is ditto used by Galos/Nyishis/Hillmiris?

    The secret is waiting to be unspooled and for this we need more co-operation and less politics.

  • Nightscape

    I do wonder if all the conferences and symposiums on "common language for Arunachal" and a common Tani Language have led to any concrete actions on the ground.

    I've been hearing of these exercises for well nigh a decade, and it does not seem like anything has been done. I might be wrong, and might not have been looking in the right places, but a decade is a decade, right? Have actual attempts, or mere beginnings (apart from conferences) to tackle these interests- in terms of a compendium of the structure of the individual languages, an attempt at a comparative study,a blueprint of the scientific methods to be followed, etc.,- been hazarded as yet? If yes, where do I find the evidence, and if no, what needs to be done? More conferences? Meetings and discussions are not bad, in fact they are sine quo non for democratic and modern societies, but if some things were actually done in the wake of these discussions it would have given us the much-needed foundation to further work upon.

    Having understood the utmost necessity of our particular preoccupation, what do you think needs to be done pronto. If it is more discussions (which wouldn't hurt) how do we make it inclusive, efficient, and more goal-oriented, not only aspiration-wise, but practically?

    As always, your observations reveal a furious mind and an impartial stance! Hats off! I concur with your suggestion that as of now we need to be concerned with the less problematic, albeit important task of pursuing linguistic and cultural endeavours, but I am sure some of the issues I raised (eg. legal status and identity of Mishings in Arunachal) would be of some concern in the coming days. Having said that, the attempts to answer these and linguistic tangles need to be negotiated with.

  • AG

    When Nightscape said, “Unity of spirit and feelings of brotherhood are all fine words, but in our context, how 'real' can the unity get?”-he has a justified apprehension here. I’m not saying that Mishings would migrate back to Arunachal or being largest amongst the Tani group as pointed out by Buru, they would swamp us, but I have apprehensions that there may be a larger political interest of TFF other than the unity and brotherhood among the Tanis—say for example, as pointed out by Nightscape, legal status and identity of mishings at Arunachal in which case migration of Mishings back to Arunachal can't be ruled out or the intention of carving out of Tani Land out of Arunachal, Assam, Tibet and China almost akin to greater Nagalim-which at this juncture, I would say, we would be into serious uncomfortable situation. Until and unless someone from TFF highlight their thrust areas and what they actually want to achieve with this TFF, we are left with little clue but to speculate.

    Thx, for the inputs. Hope I would be able to put the pieces together someday and make sense out of it and hopefully a post out of it.

    And if not posts, your contribution/inputs through comments are always welcome and I do really appreciate you for this.

  • Pascal

    AG, I've got a copy of that Sun-Jackson's thesis on Tani languages. In case you still would like to get it, just let me know.

  • AG

    @ Pascal,
    Sure I'd love to get that thesis and I would be thankful to you if you could provide me the same.

  • AG

    Thx a lot for the Sun-Jackson's thesis.

  • yasiyalow

    AG, share a copy of the thesis.

  • AG

    @ Yasiyalow,

    I forgot your mail id so, mail me your e-mail id at arunachaldiary[at]gmail[dot]com

  • Nightscape

    It would be nice if the thesis could be put up in some file sharing site so that whoever wants can download it. What do you say AG? And of course thanks is due to Pascal.

  • yasiyalow

    Hi Ag! I sent you e -mail somedays back. Waiting for your reply. As suggested by Nightscape, why dont we find a means to sgare it with everyone.

  • yasiyalow

    Hi AG ! Thanx. I got your mail.

  • AG

    @ Nightscape,
    Your suggestion is quite good but I don't know if it would be ethical to put up others work in a file sharing site. So, why not mail me your mail id instead, if you want a copy of that thesis.

    @ Yasiyalow,
    haven't been able to mail you all the parts of the thesis because of the connectivity out here and my preoccupation with some other works. Hopefully, i'd mail you the remaining parts in a days to come.

  • speechmaker

    hi AG, was going through these posts after quite some gap.. my apologies on being busy elsewhere.. but am again starting to follow the blog and it is more interesting to read the comments now that so many other readers are aware of the blog from when i first came across this..
    btw mail me a copy of the thesis, would greatly appreciate the opportunity to see some serious and useful study on the area..

    mine is

  • wickedbom


  • pegubhai..the TANI quintessence

    Quite an intellectual discussion on Tani language...rhetoric and doubt of Tani identity should be discussed more elaborately that has triggered some sections of Tani groups with doubt and altruism.The Tani Nationality can nevertheless be is a milestone.

  • Buru

    Kape? Ai dung ai?

    Why dont you enable comment posting in your blog to anonymous posters? Its too much trouble to sign in using Google Account. You will get better traffic that way. You can modify that setting?
    * PS:You have wrongly classified Mishmis under Tani group in your blog.

  • AG

    @ pegubhai,
    Have gone through your blog..and would appreciate if you could throw more light on the formation of TFF and its thrust areas...and the concept of 'Tani Nationalism' :)

  • Uttam Pegu

    Hmm, great discussion here about Tani and Tani Langauge I am quite late, but finally I found this great site! Here is my piece of information about Largest Tani group.. The population of Mising Tani is 1,257,596 (as per 2006 estimate) Source :

    I have added the site in my bookmark :)

  • AG


    Thx for visiting.

  • bhaigeswar

    i visit you blog and happy to seen tani website.thanking you AG very much your works.

  • nega

    i too would like to get a copy of the work done by Sun on Tani language
    my email:

  • jyoti

    hi guys! though late but not much i believe. well, the initiatives by TFF is indeed commendable in unifying the Tani group through a common Tani language. however, while considering this the question of standardisation comes to the forefront. don't you guys think it will pose questions of linguistic superiority! we can have variety(-ies) of Tani language(-s), but standardisation ropes in complications...i believe a farsighted organisation like TFF should also take account of concerns.

  • Uttam Pegu

    All Tanis trace back their roots to Abo Tani, and that should be one unifying factor among us Tanis. I am quite sure that the languages spoken by all Tanis are same, but with time they have changed little from one group to other group. Since there was no written language, we could not stadardise and maintain it. But then why not standardise now ? If Hebrew could be brought back, why not Tani language ? Also, we must not forget, even Assamese has many dialects, specially in lower Assam.

  • buru


    I am impressed by Mising Tanis speaking their mother tongue even though they are engulfed by Assamese culture,economy,language and politics all around.My guesstimate is, among the new generation of all Tanis(that is till the teenager age group),Eastern Tanis(Mising, Minyong, Padam,Shimong,Pasi,etc) have overwhelmingly surpassed Western Tanis( eg Nyishi,Galo,Tagin,Hillsmiri,Bokar etc)in retention of not just language, but of culture as well (notable exception being Apatanis).

    Some tribes like Nyishis, Galos and Bokars are really pathethic--a very high proportion of the urbanised, semi-urbanised or even rural children among these people prefer to speak broken 'Hindi' at home over their mother tongue,with parents explicit consent--even though both parents are native speakers.Its my opinion is that these parents have an inferiority complex vis-a-vis mainland Hindi populace.I would rather teach Assamese to my kids than Hindi--its far more useful to the average Arunachali.

  • Uttam Pegu

    Thank you for some nice words about Eastern Tanis. Though town dwellers among Mising Tanis too speak Assamese as first language, but recent years, I think it has changed. Mising parents are teaching Mising Language to their children.

    It is disturbing to learn that our western Tani brothers ( except Apatani) are not doing enough to preserve their language, culture. I have exchanged few mails with few educated Nyishi people, they were quite knowledgeable about Nyishi traditions and culture as well as Tanis.

    As for Hindi part, I agree, Assamese may be more useful specially in NE than Hindi. We should learn more English than Hindi.

    Thank you for sharing your thought.

  • buru

    "I have exchanged few mails with few educated Nyishi people"

    ..and its very likely that their kids speak spurious Hindi at home as first language and know zilch about their culture.This is the recurring theme here..

  • bhaigeswar pagag

    thank you i seen some valuable knowledge cultivated from your website.Now a day our Tani people are proud to recognise to as a Engishtani or hindistani not Tani.Because they think Tanis are Jangalee or Buddhu.But it is wrong thinks.Which tribe has no langage ,they have nothings.One day they will disappear from the this world.Only seen them in museum or in the Zoologycal parks.Language,culture,religion are identity of societies.So I requested to all Tani peoples to learn their language of their childen from earlier years.
    Thanking you.

  • bhaigeswar pagag

    No divide Tani people.They want go milestone with hand to hand.They are peacefull people of North-Eastern India.They are speek same language,they have similiarirties culture.They live hilly and plain land of North-Eastern India.I think one day will develop their own language and they will recognise as a Tani.

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