Angami: the Language of the Enchanting Hills



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Written  by A. Avtans
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Angami (known as Angami Naga in linguistics fraternity) is a language spoken by around 132,225 people (2001 Census) primarily in the enchanting Naga Hills of Kohima district of Nagaland state of India. Angami belongs to the Angami-pochuri sub-branch of Tibeto-Burman family of languages. Though Angami has several varieties, principal varieties are Kohima, Khonoma and Chokri (though it has acquired an independent status over time). Kohima variety is the standard language (popularly known as common language among Angamis) which is used in published religious and academic texts. This common language is known as Tenyidie in Angami.

Earliest writings on Angami language dates back to the days of British in India. Captain J. Butter published his ‘Rough notes on the Angami Nagas and their Language’ in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol.44 Part 1) in 1875. Later R.B. McCabe wrote his ‘Outline Grammar of the Angami Naga Language’ in the year 1887 basing his analysis on Khonoma, Mozema and Jotsoma varieties. Some other works includes the likes of Rivenburg (1905), Grierson (1903), Supplee (1930), Haralu (1933) and several significant works by American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society in the early 20th century.

R. Sekhose, probably the first native Angami to write on the language, says –

‘Angami language is a very peculiar language. A word may mean many different things, which can only be distinguished by High and low tones’ (Angami Dictionary with English Equivalent words, 1984). Sekhose has also published significant works such as Angami Idiomatic Expressions (1967) and Angami Naga Folklore (1970).

Angami is written using Roman script together with the conventions adopted by the Angami Language Committee in the year 1939. Tone is not marked in the orthography of Angami.

A brief summary of the linguistic research done on Angami can be cited as follows (in chronological order):

·

Capt. J Butler: Rough notes on the Angami Nagas and their language, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. 44 Part 1, 1875.

R.B. McCabe: Outline Grammar of the Angami Naga Language (with vocabulary and illustrative sentences), Calcutta, 1887.

S.W. Rivenburg: Phrases in English and Angami Naga, Kohima, 1905.

George Abraham Grierson: Linguistic Survey of India, Vol.3 Part 2, Calcutta, 1903.

J.E.T.: A Primer of Angami Naga, Kohima, 1915

J.H. Hutton: The Angami Nagas, London, 1921.

Angami Leshü Keriau, American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society, Kohima, 1923.

G.W. Supplee: Kephrüda Keriau – First Reader in Angami Naga, Kohima, 1930.

Hisale Pienünuo: The First Gate into Angami and English, Kohima, 1931.

Haralu: Angami-English Dictionary Part 1, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol.29, 1933.

Robin Burlings: Angami Naga Phonemics and Word List, Indian Linguistics, Vol. 21, 1960.

G.E. Marrison: The Classification of the Naga Languages of North-East India, Vols 1 & 2, London, 1967.

R. Sekhose Angami: Angami Idiomatic Expressions, Kohima, 1967

R. Sekhose Angami: Angami Naga Folklore, Kohima, 1970

Angami Vyakaran (in Hindi), Nagaland Bhasha Parishad, Kohima, 1970

R. Sekhose Angami: Angami Naga Word Divisions and Spelling, Kohima, 1973

N. Ravindran: Angami Phonetic Reader, CIIL, Mysore, 1974.

R. Sekhose Angami: Angami Dictionary with English Equivalent words, Kohima, 1984.

P.P. Giridhar: Angami Grammar, CIIL, Mysore, 1980.

P.P. Giridhar: Angami-English Dictionary, CIIL, Mysore, 1987.

Ram Kripal Kumar: Hindi-Angami Dwibhashi Kosh (in Hindi), CIH, Agra, 2006.

Angami is not only spoken and understood by Angami people but also by Chakhesang, Zeliang, Pochuri and Rengama people who live in Kohima district. Today Angami Naga is offered as a subject in Nagaland University, Kohima up to the level of Ph.D. Ura Academy is the institution established for the development and propagation of Angami language and is situated in Kohima, Nagaland.

Angami Alphabet Chart:

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

ü

ǝ

o

o

ny

ny

b

b

f

f

üi

ǝi

ou

ou

t

t

m

m

v

v

a

a

k

k

th

th

pf

pf

w

w

ai

ai

kh

kh

d

d

bv

bv

wh

wh

i

i

g

g

n

n

y

y

s

s

ie

ie

ng

ng

ts

ts

yh

yh

sh

sh

u

u

c

c

tsh

tsh

r

r

z

z

uo

uo

ch

ch

dz

dz

rh

rh

zh

zh

e

e

j

j

p

p

l

l

h

h

ei

ei

jh

jh

ph

ph

lh

lh

Angami is a sweet language to ears (even though I cannot understand much of it). Especially all the the “Uu”(Exclamation when you see an acquaintance) and ” Hoe” (Yes) expressions. Still you will not regret learning bits and pieces of this quite beautiful and fascinating language of equally endowed and very warm hearted people who live in Naga Hills.

To be continued (I am trying to learn more).

Photo Courtsy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dagmaraka/

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17 thoughts on “Angami: the Language of the Enchanting Hills

  1. Your information was very helpful. I’m an anthropology post-grad at U of Wales in Lampeter, UK with research on Angami dreams and visions. Anyway, my lovely wife happens to be Angami – we met during an expedition back in 2003 for a Christian youth camp. Since then I have worked on learning the language, but as you rightly point out, it is quite difficult. I speak Spanish, French, and have dabbled in some Eastern European languages – so i consider myself adept at learning languages….but not Angami. Anyway, thanks for listing the biblio at the end…very helpful.

  2. Hello,
    I have a question. I am married to a Naga man and I would like to learn Angami (Tenyidie). Where can I buy books to help me with this, like a grammar book?

    I really hope you can help me.

  3. Hi Sylvia,
    Thanks for visiting my blog.
    I can understand how earnestly you want to learn Angami language….:-)
    As if now we do not have very good language learning materials for Tenyidie like we have in Hindi or in other Indian languages but some of them published by CIIL are worth buying and are also readily available from them.
    Try this Angami Language Primer for Adults

    http://www.ciil.org/Main/Announcement/Nagaland/angami/INDEXPAGE.htm

    Also try Reading Angami Grammar here at

    http://www.ciil-grammars.org/angami/index.asp

    You can buy some of the Angami books listed in my article from here
    Publication Unit
    Mr M.N. Chandrashekar
    Publication Unit i/c
    Central Institute of Indian Languages,
    Manasagangothri,
    Mysore – 570 009
    Phone: 0821-2345182, 0821-2345040
    Mobile:9008799056
    EMail: chandrashekar@ciil.stpmy.soft.net
    chandrashekarciil@yahoo.co.in
    Website:

    http://www.ciil.org/Main/Publications/publication.asp

    All the best !

  4. I found this post (albeit many months later) via a Google search on my great-grandfather’s name: G.W. Supplee. Grandaddy Supplee was an almost larger-than-life personality; his gifts in music and language came together when it came to Angami. He and his wife Ruth were missionaries in Nagaland from 1921 until 1949. Grandaddy’s eldest daughter (my grandmother) returned to Nagaland in 1986. Though she had not been back since 1940, she was still able to speak to the people in some of the local tongue. Near the end of her life, she suffered a stroke. One of the signs for our family was that she could lapse into Angami instead of English. What I wouldn’t give to have a copy of the primer Grandaddy wrote back in 1930!

    Though only two family members remain who could speak or understand Angami, many more family stories of ours reference it. From all I’ve heard, it is a very beautiful, difficult, and lasting language!

  5. Hi,

    I am a language professional from Chennai. For one of a multilingualism oriented project, we are searching for Angami and other Nagaland language experts to translate 2 lines from English into their languages. The lines are from Tirukkural, a classical but simple text. We are publishing a multilingual book and your translation will be used with due credit of your name and very short introduction about your language.

    Please let me know if you are interested in translating two lines of the literature.

    thanks and regards
    Senthil

  6. Hello Senthil
    I will let you know soon about people who can help you in this regard
    I guess there will be many persons willing to translate in their mother tongues
    regards
    Abhishek

  7. Mr Senthil Nathan and Mr Avtans:

    You might like to take a look at this book on Angami language (known as Tenyidie ):

    Kuolie, D. 2006. Structural description of Tenyidie: a Tibeto-Burman language of Nagaland. Kohima: Ura Academy Publications division. (revised PhD thesis submitted to Deccan College , Pune)

    Dr Kuolie teaches at Nagaland University in Kohima.

  8. 2 Stanley: Your grand mother must have gone for the inauguration of Supplee School in Kohima which was established in 1986! I can send you a photo of the school building if you want!

  9. Thankyou for the informative write up.

    Where can I get a copy of the following:

    Hisale Pienünuo: The First Gate into Angami and English, Kohima, 1931.

    Haralu: Angami-English Dictionary Part 1, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol.29, 1933.

    Thanks

  10. Indeed! Angami dialect (Tenyidie) is a beautiful language. :-) You guys are doing a really great job. I appreciate your efforts in trying to uplift this very beautiful language. Keep it up! A big thank you to all those people who are learning Tenyidie and doing research work in this language. Nieko pezie, gracias, arigato, danke, dhanyavda, gamsahadneda, xièxiè, spasibo, bahut bahut shukriya. :-)

  11. Hello Abishek.

    wonderfull initiative, thank you a million. small but important sugestion for correction. The people residing in and around Kohima are called as Angami, Chakheshang, Rengma, Pochuri, Zeliang and Pomai tribes. Every tribe have a dialact of there own but the root of that dialact traces back to the Angami dialact which is known as Tenyidie and is used as the common language of all the above mentioned tribes known as Tenyimia. Instead of Angami Language, the right term would be Tenyidie language.

    Dziesetseinuo (Atsei)
    Research Scholar,
    Tenyidie Deptt.
    Nagaland University.

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