Research Scholar, Department of Bodo
Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam, India

In this paper, an attempt has been made to discuss the system of pluralization in Bodo and Assamese language of Assam in a comparative manner. Though both the languages belong to two different language families, yet they possess some common characters, as they have been living together since the time immemorial. The present work discusses the process of pluralization by suffixation and reduplication in a comparative as well as in contrastive manner. The main objective of this paper is to analyze and to draw out the similarities and dissimilarities between the languages in relation to pluralization.

Keywords: Pluralization, Suffixation, Zero Suffix, Reduplication

The Bodo language is originated from Tibeto-Burman group of the Sino-Tibetan language family, which is the second largest language family of the world. The family is quite extensive and consists of two main branches Tibeto-Burman and Siamese-Chinese. Himalayan, Tibetan, North Assam and Assam Burmese are four major branches of the Tibeto-Burman group and Bodo language belongs to Assam Burmese group. Under this Bodo group there are several minor languages such as Garo, Rabha, Dimasa, Tiwa, Kokborok etc. which are spoken mainly in Assam and the adjacent areas of North-Eastern regions of India as well as in West Bengal, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The Assamese language is the State language of Assam. The language is originated from Indo-Aryan group of greater Indo-European language family. The language is rich in her literature. It is spoken mainly in Assam and the adjacent areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
The paper attempts to discuss the process of pluralization by suffixation and reduplication. As both the languages are from different sources, it is trying to discuss in a comparative as well as in contrastive manner. The main objective of this paper is to analyze the process of pluralization in Bodo and Assamese language and to draw out the similarities as well as dissimilarities between the languages. It also aims to study how both the languages shows some common characteristics in relation to pluralization though they belong to two different language families.
As per methodology is concerned, this paper is primarily based on secondary data which have been collected through reviewing books, journals, souvenirs etc. However, some valuable information have been collected from the persons having knowledge on this subject as well as some personal observation and views are added to analyze the data.

4.Results and Discussion
Pluralization is the way of transferring the nominals from singular to plural. It is a part of Morphology. In both the language Bodo and Assamese, pluralization can be formed by suffixation and by reduplication. In word level, suffixation is the primary way of pluralization and in sentence level by reduplication. Pluralization is related to noun, pronoun and adjective. Through this discussion, the process of pluralization is going to be analyzed by suffixation and reduplication. 

4.1 Suffixation
In Bodo, there are only three plural suffixes, which can be added to the singular noun, pronoun and adjective. To indicate singular there is no use of suffix with the nominal bases. The plural suffixes are -phɯr, -mɯn and -sɯr. These suffixes are the morphological conditioning allomorphs of suffix -phɯr. The plural suffixes are principal inflectional nominal suffixes and can be added to all the nominals and adjectives. The Assamese plural suffixes are numerous than that of Bodo. The suffixes are -bor, -bilak, -hɒt, and -lok, which are also morphological conditioning allomorphs of   -bor.

The suffix -phɯr and -bor have the similar distribution in both the language respectively. The plural suffix -phɯr can be added to all other nominals, which do not take -mɯn and -sɯr. The -phɯr is a very common plural nominal suffix. It comes with noun, pronoun and adjective. Both the suffixes come with animate and inanimate objects. The Bodo suffix -phɯr and Assamese -bor represent an equivalent meaning. e.g.-
(1) daw-phɯr-a                    bir-laŋ-dɯŋ
birds-PL-NOM          fly-take away-CONT
(birds are flying away.)

(2)be-phɯr         mɯzaŋ   phithai
          This-PL          good      fruit
          (These are good fruits.)

(3) sɔrai-bor  ur-i       gol
          birds-PL   fly-SUB  go-IPA         
          (Birds have flown away.)

(4) bɒstu-bor         xua
          thing-PL       eat
          (Eat the things.)

In Assamese, there is also another plural indicating suffix i.e.  -bilak which is similar to that of -bor. The suffix -bor is used mostly to indicate honor, whereas the suffix -bilak does not show honor. Both the suffixes can be added to nouns, pronouns and adjectives. e.g.-  
(5) sɔrai-bilak        ur-i              gol
          birds-PL       fly-SUB        go-IPA        
          (Birds have flown away.)
(6) manuh-bilak    nɒ-gol
          man-PL                 NEG-go-IPA
          (have not gone.)

(7) ei-bilak ni-niba
          this-PL         NEG-take
          (Do not take these.)

In Assamese, there is another plural suffix i.e. -hɒt, which can be added to both noun and pronoun to indicate honor and non-honor. e.g.-
(8) Ram-hɒt-e                gol
            Ram-PL-NOM       go-IPA
          (Ram and his friends have gone.)      

(9) i-hɒt-e   xua    nai
          3PL-NOM     sleep NEG- be
          (They have not slept.)

(10) xura-hɒt-ɔr  ghɒr-ɒt      za-m
           Uncle-PL-CG house-LOC  go-FUT
          (shall/will go to uncle’s house.)

However, there can be seen some exceptional case in Bodo. The adjectival geder(big/elder), bɯrai (old) used as kinship terms may take -phɯr plural suffix to indicate honor in relation to mean singular but sometime to mean plural in a collective sense. The relative noun geder-phɯr (husband’s elder brother / wife’s elder sister) or bɯrai-phɯr (Father in law) are the good examples in this regards.

In Bodo, there are some especial kinship terms such as bewai(husband’s/wife’s elder brother/sister), undɯi (her sister’s husband) take the suffix -phɯr is added only to denote respect or honor but not to mean plural. Here the kinship bewai-phɯr (husband’s/wife’s elder brother/sister) and undɯi-phɯr (her sister’s husband) take the plural suffix -phɯr indicates honor but not plural. But the Assamese kinship terms bhai-khahur  andzi-xahu (husband’s or wife’s elder brother or sister) and zuwai (her sister’s husband or son in law) similar to Bodo do not take such kind of suffix.

In Bodo the first person plural number zɯŋand in Assamese ami also take plural suffix  -phɯr and -bor respectively to indicate negligence as well as proud sense in a collective situation. e.g.-
(12) zɯŋ-phɯr-khɯu       ma     khalam-gɯn
           1PL-PL-ACC          what  do-FUT
          (What can do        to us?)

 (13) zɯŋ-phɯr-lai          bɔbe-aw     thaŋ-gɯn.
            1PL-PL-MUDS      where-LOC go-FUT
          (Where do we will go?)

(14) ami-bor-e-nu                    kɔt               par-im
  1PL-PL-NOM-EMPH        where          can-PFV
 (How hardly we can do !)

(15) ami-bor-ɔk    kun-e-u                na-mate
 3PL-PL-ACC                   who-NOM-EMPH    NEG-call
(Nobody call us !)

In order to indicate plural, the suffix -mɯn is added to noun and pronoun. Somehow, the suffix -mɯn shows honor in plural. In Bodo the plural suffix -mɯn comes with proper Noun and relation indicating noun such as ada (my elder brother) apha (my father), ai (my mother). In Assamese, there is no any particular type of suffix, which is similar to that of -mɯn.  The suffix -hɒt can be used to indicate the same. e.g.-
(16)ai-mɯn          phɯi-dɯŋ
          mother-PL   come-CONT
          (Mother and her friends are coming.)

(17) apha-mɯn-a  thaŋ-bai
             1father-PL-NOM  go-IPA
            (My father and his friends have gone.)

(18) bibari-mɯn   dugɯi-dɯŋ
          bibari-PL      bath- CONT
          (Bibari and her friends are bathing.)

(19) ma-hɒt ah-ise
          mother-PL   come-PFV
          (Mother and her friends are coming.)

(20) Mazoni-hɒt-e           nach-ise
          Mazoni-PL-NOM     dance- CONT
          (Mazoni and her friends are dancing.)
The suffix -mɯn comes with the pronouns nɯŋthaŋ (you honorific) or bithaŋ (S/he honorific) belonging to second person and third person honorific form respectively to indicate plural. However, it does not occur with first person. e.g.–
(21)nɯŋthaŋ-mɯn-a    phɯi-bai
          2HonPL-NOM          come- IPA
          (You have come.)

(22)bithaŋ -mɯn-a dɯisa-aw thaŋ-dɯŋ
           3HonPL-NOM   rivulet-LOC go-PFV
          (They have gone to rivulet.)

The -sɯr is a plural suffix, which comes only with pronouns. It can be added to second person non-honorific form nɯŋ (you) and third person non-honorific form bi (S/he). In Assamese, there is also only one plural suffix –lok, which can be added to honorific pronouns belonging to second person. Though the use of -sɯr and –lok is different yet it works the same in both the language.  e.g.-
(23) nɯŋ-sɯr        ma              khalam-dɯŋ ?
            2PL            what           do-CONT
          (What are you doing?)   

(24) bi-sɯr  dɯisa-jaw   thaŋ-dɯŋ
           3PL             river-LOC     go-CONT
          (They have gone to the river.)

(25) tuma-lok-e     kot    za-ba
            2Hon-PL-NOM  where    go-PFV
            (Where will you go?)

(26) eo-lok ijat     na-thake
           2Hon-PL     here   NEG-stay
          (They do not stay here.)

4.2 Zero Suffix
In some cases the collective numbers in adjectival forms like- gɯbaŋ~bɯrza (lots of), ese (few) etc. indicate the uncountable quantities of the noun. In these contexts, noun bases (not Pronoun) are interpreted to be plural forms either with allomorphic zero suffixes or without any plural indicating suffixes. (Bhattacharya 1977:155). In Assamese also, there is many collective adjectivals are used to indicate plural without suffixation such as bɒhu,ɒzasrɒ, xɒkɒl, mɒkha etc.occur frequently in the language. e.g. –
  (27)gɯbaŋ mansi(Ø)     phɯi-dɯŋ
          many people         come-CONT
          (Many people are coming.)

(28)bɯrza   ɯŋkham(Ø)  za-dɯŋ
          lots of          rice              eat-CONT
          (Eating lots of rice.)

     (29)bɒhu          manuh(Ø)   ah-isil
          many man            come-PST
           (Many people came.)

     (30) ɒzɒsrɔ       pɒkhi ur-ile
          many bird    fly-IPA
          (Many birds have flown.)
In general, the simple or assertive sentences, the noun bases take the plural suffix but, in case of W/H sentence the noun phrase take plural suffix though there is a collective adjectival form. e.g. –
(31)gɯbaŋ  mansi-phɯr  phɯi-dɯŋ
          many man-PL        come-CONT
           (Many people are coming.)

       (32) ɒzɒsrɔ  pɒkhi-bor         kɔt     za-i
            Many     bird-PL             where  go-HAB
          (Where do the birds go?)

As like the collective adjectival, sometime the numerals also indicate the number whether it is singular or plural. Here the noun bases do not take plural suffixes but the numeral distinctly indicates the meaning. e.g. –
(33) ma-brɯi        daw(Ø)        thɯi-bai
            CLF-four    bird              die-IPA
           (Four birds have died.)

(34) sa-bazi mansi(Ø)  phɯi-dɯŋ
           CLF-fifty     man      come-CONT
          (Fifty men are coming.)

(35) dɔh-zɔn         manuh   ah-ise
          ten-CLF       man        come-IPA
            (Ten people have come.)

(36)pas-ta   sɔrai   mɔr-il
          five-CLF       bird   die-IPA
             (Five birds have died.)

Sometime the noun bases may also take plural suffix though the numerals distinctly indicates the numbers of the nouns in Bodo, but in Assamese, there is no use of plural suffix as mentioned in the above examples. e.g. -

(37) sa-bazi mansi-phɯr    phɯi-dɯŋ
               CLF-fifty  man-PL         come-CONT
             (Fifty people are coming.)

4.3 Pluralization by Reduplication
Reduplication is another way of pluralization in sentence level. By reduplicating the grammatical categories like nouns, pronouns and adjectives pluralization can be form in both the languages Bodo and Assamese. e.g. –
(38)aŋ         gami   gami  berai-dɯŋ
            1SG village RDP tour-CONT
           (I have visited each home.)
(39)ma        ma     khalam-gɯn
          what  what  do-FUT
           (What will do?)
(40)mɯzaŋ mɯzaŋ        phithai          za
          good  good            fruit             eat
            (Eat good fruits.)

(41)mɔi                 gao-e          gao-e           phur-isu
             1SG          village-LOC  RDP             to travel-CONT
          (I have visited each home.)
(42)ki                   ki        kɔr-iba
          what           what    do-FUT
           (What will do?)
       (43)val        val        phɔl    khua
         good    good fruit   eat
         (Eat good fruits.)

From the above discussion it is seen that the system of pluralization of Bodo and Assamese languages is very distinct and simple, and even Bodo is simpler than that of Assamese. Pluralization can be form suffixation and by reduplication in both the languages.

There are only three plural suffixes in Bodo, whereas there are four in Assamese. These suffixes play vital role in pluralization in the word level.

Reduplication is one of the important way of pluralization in the sentence level. Both the languages have the system of pluralization by reduplication.

It is to be mentioned here that no differences have been found in relation to pluralization in both word and sentence level in both the languages though both the languages are originated from two different language families namely Sino-Tibetan and Indo-European.

1        1st Person   
2        2nd Person
3        3rd Person
Ø       zero/null suffix (it is not the proper symbol)
ACC   Accusative case
CONT Continuous
CLF    Classifier
DEF   Definite Denoting Suffix
EMPH Emphatic Denoting Suffix
FUT    Future
IPA     Immediate past
LOC   Locative Case
MUDS Mutual Denoting Suffix
NEG   Negative
NOM  Nominative case
PFV    Perfective Aspect
PL      Plural
PST    Past Tense
SG     Singular

  • Brahma. Modern Bodo Grammar, Guwahati: NL Publications, 2013.
  • Bharali and B. Chakrabarty. Asomor Bhasha, (ed.), Guwahati: Banalata, 2013.
  • K. Kakati. Assamese it’s Formation and Development, (Reprint), Guwahati: LBS Publications, 2007.
  • G. C. Goswami. Structure of Assamese, Guwahati: Gauhati University Press, 1982.
  • J. Lyons.  Language and Linguistics: An Introduction, Cambridge: ambridge University Press, 1981.
  • L. V. Radhey. An Introductory Textbook of Linguistic and Phonetics, (15th Edition), Bareilly: Student Store, 2004-05.
  • M. R. Baro.  Assamese and Boro A Comparative and Contrastive Study, Guwahati: N.L. Publications, 2007.
  • M. R. Baro.  The Historical Development of Boro Language, Guwahati: N.L. Publications, 2007.
  • P. Basumatary. An Introduction to the Boro Language, New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 2005.
  • P. C. Bhattacharya. A Descriptive Analysis of the Boro Language, Guwahati: Gauhati University Press, 1977. (write title of the book correctly)
  • R. Burling. The Language of Madhupur Mandi (Garo), Vol-1 Grammar, New Delhi: BIBLIOPHILE South Asia in Association with PROMILLA & CO, 2004.
  • S. K. Chatterji. Kirata-Jana-Krti, Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1998.
  • S. P. Chainary.  Boro Raokhanthi,  Guwahati: Gumur Publications, 2008.
  • U.V. Joseph  & R. Burling. Linguistic of the Tibeto-Burman Area, Vol. 24.2, 2001. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share Every Sense on Art, Culture & Literature; Travel & Tourism; Commerce & Economy; Science & Technology; etc. Send us your Write-up by Email:


Share every sense on Art, Culture & Literature; Travel & Tourism; Commerce & Economy; Science & Technology; etc. Publish Article, Story, Poetry, Book Review, Travelogue, Recipe and News. Send us your creative contents written or transcreated in English at

Get Free Updates at Your Inbox! Enter Your Email Address:


Twitter Bird Gadget