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, Laos and Southern 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.
|ISO 639-2 / 5||mun|
Distribution of Munda language speakers in India
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.
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.
Munda consists of five uncontroversial branches. However, their interrelationship is debated.
The bipartite Diffloth (1974) classification is widely cited:
- North Munda
- South Munda
Diffloth (2005) retains Koraput (rejected by Anderson, below) but abandons South Munda and places Kharia–Juang with the northern languages:
- North Munda (2 branches)
- South Munda (3 branches)
However, in 2001, Anderson split Juang and Kharia apart from the Juang-Kharia branch and also excluded Gtaʔ from his former Gutob–Remo–Gtaʔ 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–Gtaʼ (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||Classification||Number of speakers||Location|
|Korku||North Munda: Korku||478,000||Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra|
|Bijori||North Munda: Kherwarian: Kherwari||25,000||Jharkhand, West Bengal|
|Koraku/Kodaku||North Munda: Kherwarian: Kherwari||15,000||Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh|
|Korwa||North Munda: Kherwarian: Kherwari||66,000||Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh|
|Mundari (inc. Bhumij dialect)||North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari||1,550,000||Jharkhand, West Bengal|
|Asuri||North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari||16,600||Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha|
|Koda||North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari||44,000||Bangladesh|
|Ho||North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari||3,800,000||Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh|
|Birhor||North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari||10,000||Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal|
|Santali||North Munda: Kherwarian: Santali||6,200,000||West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar|
|Mahali||North Munda: Kherwarian: Santali||33,000||Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal|
|Turi||North Munda: Kherwarian: Santali||2,000||Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal|
|Kharia||South Munda: Kharia-Juang||294,000||Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand|
|Juang||South Munda: Kharia-Juang||50,000||Odisha|
|Gataq/Gta||South Munda: Koraput: Remo||3,000||Odisha|
|Bondo/Remo||South Munda: Koraput: Remo||9,000||Odisha|
|Bodo Gadaba/Gutob||South Munda: Koraput: Remo||8,000||Odisha, Andhra Pradesh|
|Parengi/Gorum||South Munda: Koraput: Savara/Sora-Juray-Gorum||6,700||Odisha, Andhra Pradesh|
|Sora/Savara||South Munda: Koraput: Savara/Sora-Juray-Gorum||310,000||Odisha, Andhra Pradesh|
|Juray||South Munda: Koraput: Savara/Sora-Juray-Gorum||801,000||Odisha|
|Lodhi||South Munda: Koraput: Savara/Sora-Juray-Gorum||25,000||Odisha, West Bengal|
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- Bradley (2012) notes, MK in the wider sense including the Munda languages of eastern South Asia is also known as Austroasiatic
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- Munda languages at Living Tongues
- The Ho language webpage by K. David Harrison, Swarthmore College
- http://projekt.ht.lu.se/rwaai RWAAI (Repository and Workspace for Austroasiatic Intangible Heritage)
- http://hdl.handle.net/10050/00-0000-0000-0003-66EE-3@view Munda languages in RWAAI Digital Archive