Rai Mother Tongue Speakers

The population census, 2058 has shown 22 Rai mother tongues and there are 11 other mother tongues not mentioned in the report which are Athpaharai, Belhare, Chhukwa, Lambichong, Fangduwali, Lumba yakha, Polmacha, Waling, Mugali, Bungla and Sotang. The additional information on these mother tongues are based on the various reference materials and Gerd Hansson The Rai of Eastern Nepal. Ethnic and Linguistic grouping edited by Prof. Werner Winter and Findings of the Linguistic Survey of Nepal (1991).

From the philological point of view, the Gerd Hansson Report is, more or less, perfect. It has made a comprehensive study and analysis of Rai languages and their speakers. The discussion about the following mother tongues not included in the Gerd Hansson report, is to asses if they eligible to be included in the mother tongues speakers’ census.

  1. Polmacha:
    Polmacha has been recognized by Yosheo Nishi and the National Language policy Advisory commission only and has been placed as a sub-group of Chamling language. The reports by Nishi and the commission are based on the secondary sources of data and so, it is not reliable. It has no publication and also not mentioned in the latest linguistic survey of UNESCO. As such, there is no justification in listing this mother tongue among the Rai mother tongues.
  2. Waling:
    Linguistic like Brian Honghton Hodgson, Austin Hale, Maria Hari,
    Burkhard and George A. Grierson have included Waling as mother tongue and Nishi and the Advisory committee have followed them. According to Dr. Madhav Prasad Pokhrel, Waling was included in the preliminary data of the mother tongues but was not in the final report. Waling may be regarded as dialect of Bantawa and at present, it has been fully merged into Bantawa mother tongue and has no independent identity. Waling, thus, may be listed as an extinct mother tongue.
  3. Mugali:
    Rais living at Muga, Dhankuta district, are knon as ‘Mugali’ and
    their mother tongue as ‘Lambichong’. Though recognized by Nishi, Advisory committee and Bhasha and Sahitya Parisad, it lacks philological proofs and has been replaced by Bantawa language od Dhankuta, and therefore, may not be listed as one of the mother tongues of Kirat Rais.
  4. Sotang:
    Sotang Rais live in Solukhumbu district. A linguistic survey conducted by Kiraya,and Bhasha and Sahitya Parisad and Linguists like Austin Hale, Maria Hari Burkhard, Dor Bahadur Bistha and Nagendra Sharma have recognized Sotang as a mother tongue according to the report.but they have listed it in the sub- group of Kulang language. Dr. Prapanacharya is also of the similar opinion. Sotang mother tongue has also not been mentioned in the final report of the population report.

Other Kirat mother tongues not included in the population report:

  1. Athpaharia:
    Predominantly living around the headquarters of Dhankuta district,
    there are many written works available about Athpaharia Rai. Publications are also available about their evereaday life, socio-cultural aspects and grammar on the mother tongue.
  2. Belhare:
    Spoken by Rais living at Belhare village in Dhankuta district,
    ‘Belhare’ is the mother tongue of Athpaharia Rais of Belhare. Some people regard this mother tongue as a dialect of Athpahariya language or some people claim it Athpahariya language. Dr. Hansson also has mentioned them as closely inter-related language but with different grammar. A recent report by UNESCO has mentioned it as a sub-group of Kirat language and unless an advance study and research proves it otherwise, it seems appropriate to list Belhare as one of the mother tongues of Kirat Rai.
  3. Bungla:
    Dr. Hansson has listed this language under the western sub-group of Sam language and Bhasha and Sahitya Parishad has also recognized it seminally. The population census has included as Sam mother tongue. Listed as a moribund mother tongue by Dr. Hansson, and due to lack of other proofs, Bungla mother tongue seems appropriate to be placed under Sam language group.
  4. Lumbayakha:
    ‘Lumba’ is one of the major sub-caste of Kirat Yakhas and the language spoken by them is known as ‘Lumbayakha’. The population census has listed it as a separate mother tongue. As it has own independent identity, it seems better to exclude it from the list of the mother tongues of Kirat Rais.
  5. Chhukwa/Chakwa/Pohing:
    The mother tongue spoken by Chhukwa/Chukwa/Pohing Rais living
    around Kulung villages in Bhojpur district has been listed as moribund, nearly extinct or extinct mother tongue.
  6. Fangduwali:
    Various linguistic survey reports have shown Fangduwali as moribund
    or nearly extinct language or in an appalling condition. One study has shown a close proximity between Fangduwali and Athpaharia language. An advance study and research on this language seems necessary.
  7. Lambichang:      [See (3) Mugali]

Correction in the population of Rai Mother Tongue Speakers:

The 22 languages in the population census and other 11 languages not included in the report, make up altogether 33 mother tongues of Kirat Rais at present and it was emphasized to make them focal point while studying and researching on all Rai mother tongues. But until a full research work on the 7 mother tongues not included in the report, is completed only 26 mother tongues are to be listed.
To determine the number of Rai Languages a synchronic and diachronic study and analysis of these languages is necessary studies based on the similarities and dissimilarities of the languages help to categorize them into language, dialect and sub-dialects. It may not be possible to visit Rai populated regions due to unfavorable circumstances for this purpose. But Kathmandu valley where different mother tongues speaker Rai communities live, may be a favorable place to study their languages.
There cannot be two opinions about maintaining record of the extinct languages and protecting and developing the existing Rai mother tongues.

Origin and development of Kirat Rai languages

The saying ” Ten Rais, ten languages, one kitchen”, is quite common in the Nepali society from time immemorial. This proves that though Rais are multi-lingual people yet are one and equal on the basis of social values and norms. The scientific study has shown that at present there are 26 Rais languages that have survived of in the process of the social development. The evaluation done after the institutional survey tour, has shown that the state of all the Rai languages was not found the same. It was noted that geographical structure, number of the speakers, competition with speakers of the other languages and lack of education have directly effect these languages.

Kirat Yayokha Bhasha and Bhasha Parishad conducted a five-week linguistic tour. This survey tour was conducted in the districts consisting of the original place of the Kirat Rais. After the survey tour, an inter-action programme was conducted in the district headquarters. This analytical article is based on the same inter-action programme, as well as on the individual experiences of the members of the survey team.It was found that all Rai languages were spoken in the hill areas lying to the east of the Sunakoshi river except at Balamta in Udyapur. According to findings, particularly, areas along the course of Dhudkoshi river were the origin of the Rai languages. Perhaps almost all Rai languages spread in the eastern region from the places of their origin some two centuries ago. This shows the place of origin of the Rai languages and the place of origin of all Rai people wherever they live (at present). For instance, the Rai languages spoken in Ilam, Panchthar and Taplejung had their roots in these areas. To find out the current state of the Kirat Rai words of almost all Rai language during the linguistic survey, preliminary result of these hundred words collected is shown in the following table:

Rai Language

Dialect Spoken Areas

District

Swadesh 100 words

Linguistic Condition

Remarks

Bambule

Bahuni Danda, Mancbhanjuang Thakle, Hilepani, Uba

Khotang, Okhaldunga

100

Good

Mags being published

Tilung

Pipchai, Chesmitar, Dikuwa

Khotang

85

On the verge of extinction

Lack of speakers

Jerung, Bungla Sam

Sadi, Balabu, Sisneri, Madhaupur, Sano Majhuwa, Nepal Danda

Okhaldunga,
Bhojpur

91
79

OK
On the verge of extinction

Lack of education
Lack of speakers

Kulung

Bung, Gudei, Cheskam, Chachaung

Solukhumbu

100

Good

Books also available

Khaling

Juvin, Yapel, Taksindu

Solukhumbu

100

Good

Books also available

Bahing

Ketuke, Mamkha, Adhery, Baruneshowr, Batase, Siplung

Okhaldunga,
Solukhumbu

100

Good

Books also available

Thulung

Necha, Deosa, Mukli, Lokhim

Solukhumbu

100

Good

Books also available

Lohrung

Manebhanjyang, Khadbari

Sankhuwasabha

100

Good

No publication

Yamphu

Pathibhara, Machapokahari, Thebe goan

Sankhuwasabha

95

OK

No publication

Mewahang

Yaku

Sankhuwasabha

88

OK

No publication

Sotang

Sotang

Solukhumbu

99

OK

No publication

Nachiring

Bakachol, Rakha, Bagdel

Khotang

99

OK

No publication

Koyu

Sandel, Rawa Khola

Khotang

65

On the verge of extinction

Lack of speaker

Dumi

Baksila, Rawa khola

Khotang

100

OK

Lack of speaker

Chamling

Central part of district

Khotang

100

Good

Books available

Pooma

Diplung, Chisapani, Devithan

Khotang

92

OK

No publication

Bantawa

Central & western part of district

Bhojpur

100

Good

Many publication

Sanpang

Kharmi, Khotang, Sanpang

Bhojpur

80

On the verge of extinction

Lack of speakers

Dumali / Khesang

Dungma, Khesang

Bhojpur

90

OK

No publication

Athpahariya

Around Dhankuta Bazaar

Dhankuta

100

OK

Under study

Belhariya

Belhara

Dhankuta

89

Worse

Lack of speakers

Mugali

Muga

Dhankuta

90

Worse

Lack of speakers

Chhintange

Chhintang, Khoku

Dhankuta

98

Worse

Lack of speakers

Chhiling / Chhula

Around Chungwang

Dhankuta

96

Worse

Lack of speakers

Chhukwa / Pohing

Khulung

Bhojpur

00

Extinct

No speakers

Phangduwali

Sunbaluwa, Banks of Arun river

Dhankuta

74

Worse

Lack of speakers

Yakha Rai

Mamling

Sankhuwasabha

88

Exists

Lack of speakers

Yakthung / Limbu

Myanglung, Jirikhimti

Tehrathum

100

Good

Many publication

The above-mentioned information has been cited from the report the Kirat Rais linguistic survey. Linguistic problems cannot be solved overnight. Linguists are required to slog through and at the same time we must be alert to protect and preserve our languages. Long term projects and untiring efforts are imperative for protection, preservation and development of Rai languages. In the past, some native and foreign scholars have tried to carry out some research work. Their attempts were not enough yet they should be taken as guidelines sooner or later, we are likely to forfeit the priceless linguistic treasures of our nation unless dictionaries, grammar and text-books are prepared in this age of acute competition.

Kirat Yayokha Bhasha and Sahity Parishad, however, is going ahead with its short and long term programmes even at the pace of a tortoise. A good news – linguists Dr.  Nobel Kishor Rai and Dr. Maureen Lee are already working on a Rai languages research project under the Nepal and Asian study center, TU and we believe our linguistic problems shall be brought to light by them.