A STUDY ON CLASSIFIERS IN BORO AND GARO LANGUAGE

Daithun Baro
Research Scholar, Deptt. of Bodo, Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam, India

Abstract
Classifiers or numeral definitives are discussed under the head of morphology. Boro and Garo have the use of classifiers to represent the qualitative and quantitative classification of objects or articles. It depends on the physical shape, size and state of the objects. Some of the classifiers used in Boro and Garo are monosyllabic in nature; and bound morpheme from morphological point of view. On the other hand some words representing independent meaning are also used as classifiers in both the languages. Interestingly, the classifiers precede the numeral in both the language and it is one of the peculiar characteristic of TB languages.  Classifier-numerals occur before or after the nouns in Boro and Garo language. The main objective of this paper is to draw out the structural patterns and types of classifiers and their uses in the language. Hope, this study will help in preserving and documenting this two ethnic languages Boro and Garo.

Keywords: Classifiers, Nominal classifiers, Verbal classifiers, Measures, Containers and Time classifier

1.   Introduction
Boro and Garo language belong to Tibeto-Burman branch of Sino-Tibetan family, which is the second largest family in the world. The Boro language is one of the major languages of North-East India, particularly in Assam which is an associate state language of Assam. It is worth mentioning that Boros are the single largest community among the tribal in Assam. They have their basic concentration in Assam and adjacent states Meghalaya, West Bengal, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Some of them are also spread in Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

On the contrary, the Garos are major habitants of Meghalaya state of North-East India. These Garo peoples live in a hilly district in the western part of the Indian state of Meghalaya, but about 100,000 live across the border in Bangladesh, most of them just south of the Garo Hills. Smaller settlements are found in several locations in Assam, in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, in Tripura state and near Modhupur in Bangladesh (Burling, 1961). In Assam, the Garos are found mainly in Kamrup, Goalpara and Dhubri districts and sporadically found in the Udalguri, Kokrajhar, Morigaon, Karbi Anglong districts. Some of them are scattered in neighbouring states- Tripura, Nagaland and West Bengal.

2. Objective
The objective of this paper is to draw out the typological features of classifiers in Boro and Garo language and different types of classifiers and their uses in the languages. The study is also trying to find out the similarities in the field of classifiers of these two cognate languages. Therefore, to intimate the common features a good study and intrinsic observation is to be required. This study will also enrich in the academic sphere of the society as well as the language researchers a lot.

3. Methodology

The study of analysis is based on morphological as well as lexical points of view. Data for this study has been collected from primary and secondary sources. The information have been collected from field, while the secondary information have been collected from some renowned books and PhD theses. A few data are collected from internet browsers also.

4. Results and Discussion

4.1 Classifiers
In many languages of Tibeto-Burman group, a number is never used without being accompanied by a special class of morphemes, known as numeral classifier. Classifier is a fairly extensive class of morphemes, defined by the fact that the members of the class can occur directly before one of the quantifiers and form a word with it (Burling, 1961).  Classifier can be defined as a classifier classifies the object enumerated according to various criteria of size, nature, quality etc. (Bhattacharya, 2007), so it clarifies the semantic classification of objects.

Classifier or numeral definitive is discussed under the head of morphology. Boro and Garo have the use of classifiers to represent the semantic classification of objects or articles, i.e. it depends on the physical shape, size and state of the objects. Some of these are related with human or non-human beings, gods and ghosts etc. Classifiers in Boro and Garo are typically single syllabics and a few are bi-syllabics. It occurs with numeral and the classifiers precede the numeral. Classifiers occur before or after the nouns in both the languages, e.g.- Boro- /sa-se mansi/ ‘ a man’, / bibar bar-se/ ‘a flower’; Garo- /sak-sa mande/ ‘a man’, /matchu maŋ-sa/ ‘a cow’ etc. The examples are stated below in figure. 


In most cases, classifiers are used as bound morphemes. Such classifiers have no independent meaning, for which they cannot define anything without numerals. So, classifiers are fully dependent on numerals and are also known as numeral definitive.

The typology of classifiers in Boro and Garo are quite different from other Indo-Aryan languages like Bangla and Assamese. In these languages classifiers are placed after the numerals. Boro and Garo language have sufficient examples of classifiers. Hence, classifiers are generally rich in Boro and Garo language.

4.2 Types of Classifiers
In Boro and Garo languages, linguistically classifiers may be discussed by categorizing into two heads -
(a) Nominal Classifier
(b) Verbal Classifier
A detailed discussion has been given under with sufficient examples.

4.2.1 Nominal Classifiers
In this form, the classifiers take one noun denoting classifier and this classifier add to the numeral as prefix and form a word. In this context, most of the classifiers are used as bound morphemes in the languages. But, when it forms a word by prefixing with a numeral it specifies the nouns depending upon its shape, size and state of the objects. However, a few are found as free morph also.

Besides it, in Boro and Garo languages few numerals directly occur after the noun words which can be termed as non-classifiable nouns and they also function as classifiers. In Boro and Garo languages, maximum numbers of classifiers are found as noun denoting classifiers. Most of the Garo classifiers are common with Boro, and a few are slightly different. Examples are stated below.

(i)     Br. {ma-}, Gr. {maŋ-}: These noun-denoting classifiers are used with animals, birds, fish and insects etc. in both the languages. e.g.-

Boro:
dauthu ma-se
‘a dove’

mɯsɯu ma-nɯi
‘two cows’

Garo:
do?kru maŋ-sa
‘a dove’

matchu maŋ-gni
‘two cows’

(ii) Br. {sa-}, Gr. {sak-}: In Boro and Garo languages, these classifiers are used with human beings and gods. But in Garo it is also used with ghosts and occasionally for dolls. e.g.-

Boro:
mansi sa-se
‘a man’

sa-se gosai
‘a god’

Garo:
mande sak-sa
‘a man’

sak-sa mɯte         
‘a god’

(iii) Br. and Gr. {boza-}: It is used for large bunches of thatching grass, straw or of firewood, bamboo and others. e.g.-

Boro:
bon boza-se
‘a bundle of firewood’

gaŋsɯ boza-brɯi
‘four bundles of grass’

Garo:
ambol boza-sa
‘a bundle of firewood’

wa?a boza-gni
‘two bundles of bamboo’

ampaŋ boza-bri
‘four bundles of grass’


(iv) Br. and Gr. {zora-}: This is used with any pairs of things and teams of birds or animals. e.g.-

Boro:
sandal zora-se
‘a pairs of sandal’

dau zora-nɯi
‘two pairs of birds’

Garo:
sandel zͻra-sa
‘two pairs of birds’

do?o zora-gni
‘two pairs of birds’

(v) Br.{phaŋ-} and Garo {paŋ-}:In Boro and Garo, this classifier is used with any kind of trees, plants and weeds etc. e.g.-

Boro:
thalir phaŋ-se
‘a banana tree’

thuluŋsi phaŋ-se
‘a tulsi tree’

Garo:
te?rik phaŋ-sa
‘a banana tree’

tulusi phaŋ-sa
‘a tulsi tree’

(vi) Br.{dɯŋ-} and Garo {diŋ-}: It is used for long and thin things, like rope, wire, thread, hair, necklace, blood vessels, bamboo tie strips and with road also. e.g.-

Boro:
khanai dɯŋ-nɯi
‘two piece of hair’

lama dɯŋ-se   
      
‘a road’

Garo:
kni dɯŋ-gni
‘two piece of hair’

rama dɯŋ-sa
‘a road’

(vii) Br. and Gr. {daŋ-}:In both the languages, {daŋ-) is used for representing the sheaf or bunch of paddy, ears, fruits and such type of any species. e.g.-

Boro:
mai daŋ-se
‘an ear of paddy’

thalir daŋ-nɯi
‘two bunches of banana’

Garo:
mibidaŋ daŋ-sa
‘an ear of paddy’

te?rik daŋ-gni
‘two bunches of banana’

(viii) Br. {dab-}, Gar. {dam-}: These classifiers are used for locations or places like village, garden, market etc. e.g.-

Boro:
zajga dab-se         
‘a place’

gami dab- tham
‘three villages’

Garo:
biab dam-sa
‘a place’

soŋ dam-gitam
‘three villages’

(ix) Br. {goŋ-}, Gr. {ge-}: These are used with variety of household objects in everyday use, utensils, furniture, agricultural implements, musical instruments etc. e.g.-

Boro:
siphung goŋ-ba
‘five flutes’

thɯrsi goŋ-do
‘six discs’

Garo:
tilori ge-boŋa
‘five flutes’

tal ge-dok
‘six discs’

(x) Br. {gaŋ-}, Gr. {kiŋ-}: These classifiers are used with leaves of trees, books, wings, pieces of cloth, paper and with various flat things, e.g.-

Boro:
zi/si gaŋ-brɯi
‘four clothes’

bilai gaŋ-sni
‘seven leaves’

Garo:
ba?ra kiŋ-bri         
‘four clothes’

bizak  kiŋ-sni
‘seven leaves’

4.2.2 Verbal Classifiers
Verbal classifiers are very few in Boro language. In this formations, the numerals used as suffixes are always preceded by an intermediate suffix {-ga} which can be termed as multiplicative suffix. In Boro, {-ga-} is always used between a verb and a numeral, which functions as classifier, e.g.- /za-ga-se/ ‘one time eatable’. Here, {-ga-) is indicating the moment of time, done by verb /za/ ‘eat’. For example-
   
Boro:
(xi)
ɯŋkham
za-ga-se


Rice
eat- intermediate suffix/CLF –one


‘one time of eating rice’

(xii)
dɯi
lɯŋ-ga-se


water
drink-intermediate suffix/CLF-one


‘one time of drinking water’

(xiii)
simaŋ
nu-ga-se


dream         
see- intermediate suffix/CLF –one


‘one time of dreaming’

(xiv)
phaothina
dinthi/khinthi-ga-se


drama
show-intermediate suffix/CLF –one


‘one time of showing drama’

(xv)
dɯi
khao-ga-se


water
pool- intermediate suffix/CLF –one


‘one time of pulling water’

The above stated examples are only from Boro language. These have not been stated from Garo language. Although, Robbins Burling has described in details about the classifiers used in Garo language in his noted book ‘A Garo Grammar’, there is no distinct mention about the verbal classifiers. However, the writer also didn’t get any clue to find out the verbal classifiers which may be used in the Garo language.

4.3 Besides above discussions, lexically, classifiers come in many varieties, and several types can be distinguished, such as-

i) Measures                     ii) Container
iii) Time classifiers           iv) Shape
v) General                      vi) Groups and
vii) Pieces and Parts etc.
Here, three different types of classifiers have been discussed only.

4.3.1 Classifiers, Measures
Measure is one of the important parts of numeral classifiers; it depends on size, weight and price etc. Like other communities in India, Boro and Garo peoples are using habitually the ‘seer, tola, maund, furlung, mile, bigha, anna’ etc. to define the units of weight, measures and money or such type of any objects. This might be borrowing words from other languages. Though, all these are pronounced as per Boro and Garo articulatory system and used as numeral classifiers, and are followed directly by a quantifier. Besides it, both the languages have special uses since immemorial time for measures which are, Boro- {mu-, zolai-, zokhai-, akhai-, athum-, danda-, dhol-, phabu, phan, awai-}; Garo- {jak-, jak-pa-, kru, mik-, mik-jak-tom-, kruaŋ-ki, mi-jak-si-} etc. For example-

(a)  Br. {mu-}, Gr. {mik-}:It is used for with the measuring of any type of long and flat things like cloth, rope etc. e.g.- 

Boro:
zi mu-se
‘a cubit of cloth’

diruŋ mu-brɯi
‘four cubits of rope’
Garo:
ba?ra mɯk-sa
‘a cubit of cloth’

budu mɯk-bri
‘four cubits of rope’

(b)  Br. and Gr. {don-}: It is used to denote the quantity of measurement with a kind of small bamboo basket in both the languages. e,g.-

Boro:
mairoŋ don-se
‘a basketful of rice’

mairoŋ don-nɯi
‘two basketful of rice’

Garo:
miroŋ don-sa
‘a basketful of rice’

miroŋ don-gni
‘two basketful of rice’

(c) Br. {mutha-}, Gr. {zakeb-}: These classifiers are used with sheaves, betel leaves, bunch of paddy/rice etc. to denote the quantity of said objects. e.g.- 
Boro:
mairoŋ mutha-se
‘a sheave (n. handful)of rice’

phathɯi mutha-nɯi
‘two sheaves of betel-leaves’

Garo:
miroŋ zakeb-sa
‘a sheave (n. handful) of rice’

patoi zakeb-gni
‘two sheaves of betel-leaves’

(d) Br. {zokhai-}, Gr. {gonda-}: The classifiers used in Boro and Garo {zokhai & gonda} indicate the containing one fourth or quarter (4x1). These classifiers are used with birds, fruits and any other things in counting, e.g.-
 
Boro:
dau phisa zokhai-se
‘four chicks’

dau phisa zokhai- nɯi
‘eight chicks’

Garo:
do?o pisa gonda-sa         
‘four chicks’

do?o pisa gonda-gni
‘eight chicks’


4.3.2 Classifiers, Quanta or Containers
Another category of morphemes used as numeral classifier is quanta or containers. These types of classifiers are used to denote the containing in the objects such as- basket, pot, nest, cup etc. The morpheme used as classifiers are actually noun words. e.g.-


4.3.3 Classifiers, Time
Time classifier is another subset of Boro and Garo classifiers. In this form, classifiers are suffixed with the nouns which are base form of numbers and are non-classifiable. Units of time can be used with numbers just as classifiers, but unlike ordinary classifiers the resulting phrase cannot be used with a noun. e.g.- 


4.4 Most interestingly, one thing is that with the limited number of nouns several different classifiers may be used in Boro and Garo language, depending upon the aspect of that noun which is to be emphasized. For specimen, in Boro and Garo, a single noun ‘thalir’ and ‘te?rik’ respectively can take many different classifiers are represents different meaning. Here, in general thailir and te?rik representing common banana and not others. But when taking the classifiers as in Boro {thai- akha-, daŋ-, zab-, phaŋ-, suba-} and in Garo {roŋ-, gar-, daŋ-, paŋ-, jak-} will represent different meaning based on that classifiers used along with it. Examples are shown below-

a) Boro:
thalir/thailir thai-se
‘a banana’

thalir/thailir akha-nɯi
‘two small bunches (hands) of banana’

thalir/thailir daŋ-tham
‘three large bunches (arms) of banana’

thalir/thailir zab-se
‘a layer of banana’

thalir/thailir phaŋ-se         
‘a banana tree’

thalir/thailir suba-se
‘a group of banana tree’

Garo:
te?rik roŋ-sa         
‘a banana’

te?rik gar-gni
‘two small bunches (hands) of banana’

te?rik daŋ-gitam
‘three large bunches (arms) of banana’

te?rik paŋ-sa
‘a banana tree’

te?rik jak-bri         
‘four banana leaves’
         
Here, one more example is given below-

b) Boro:
goi thai-se
‘a betel nut’

goi beda-nɯi         
‘two cluster of betel nut’

goi daŋ-brɯi         
‘four sheaves of betel nut’

goi thao-se
containing one-fourth or quarter (4x1) betel nut

Garo:
gue sre-sa
‘a betel nut’

gue beda-gni
‘two cluster of betel nut’

gue daŋ-bri
‘four sheaves of betel nut’
         

Therefore the outcome of the paper can be summarized as-

i)   This study will help those peoples who are interested in morphological study of Boro and Garo languages.
ii) It will help to know the authentic structures of classifiers of both the languages.
iii)  The study will help to collect the classifiers from both the languages, which are not in full written form but are still used orally by the native speakers.
4.5 Policy Implication
(i)    This study would help better understanding between two cognate languages Boro and Garo if it is done properly.
(ii)  This comparative study should be done in every linguistic aspects/branch which would help in academic as well as social sphere of both the society.
(iii) To develop these two indigenous languages of North-East India the more research work should be done properly in a scientific way. Therefore, the language technology should be applied if and when necessary.
(iv) Computational linguistic study is also another way to develop these languages which will help in documentation and preservation of these languages for future use as well as will help in the development of machine translation which is very important today.
4.6 Conclusion
In this paper, the author has discussed the typology of numeral classifiers in Boro and Garo languages, which are quite different from other TB languages like Burmese, Newar etc. and from Indo-Aryan languages. Also the author has noticed that there are numerous examples of noun functioning as classifiers than verbal denoting classifiers. It has also discussed in lexical view by categorising according to their nature and uses. It is no doubt that a number of loan words are also used in these languages because of influence of other languages due to their close habitation within a geographical boundary or it may happen unknowingly. Boro and Garo have more than hundreds of classifiers, and there is scope of increasing the classifiers based on their nature and uses in the languages.

Abbreviations and Symbols


Br.  -
Boro
Gr.  -
Garo
CLF -
Classifier
TB   -
Tibeto-Burman
?     -
glottal stop or raka (used in Garo language)
/ŋ/  -
velar voiced nasal
/j/   -
palatal voiced semi-vowel
/ɯ/  -
high-back unrounded vowel phoneme

References
  • P. C. Bhattacharya. Descriptive Analysis of the Boro Language. Guwahati: Gauhati University Press, second edition, 2007, p. 18.
  • R. Burling. A Garo Grammar. Poona, 1961, p. 51.
  • R. Burling. “The language of the Modhupur Mandi (Garo) Vol. II: The Lexicon.” Ann Arbor, Michigan. Available: http://www.influenzaarchive.org/ assed on April, 2003.
  • S. P. Chainary (2005). Boro and Garo: A Comparative Linguistic Analysis. (Unpublished Ph.D Thesis).Guwahati: Gauhati University Press.



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