Koro
Native toIndia
RegionArunachal Pradesh, India
Native speakers
1,500 (2011)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3jkr
Glottologkoro1316
ELPKoro (India)

Koro is known as a Tibeto-Burman language belonging to the Sino-Tibetan language family, even though it has resemblances to Tani farther to the east.[2] It has been argued that Koro is actually part of the Greater Siangic family, independent from but influenced by the Sino-Tibetan family.[3] Koro is spoken by about 1,500 people in the Koro-Aka tribe[1] who are found in the East Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India.[4] Few speakers are under 20 years old.[5] The majority of Koro speakers live in bilingual households in which one or more members speak Ako or another indigenous language rather than Koro.[6] The Koro-Aka tribe lives among the Aka (Hruso) tribe. However, the Koro-Aka people speak a very distantly related language from the remaining Aka tribe who speak Hruso-Aka.[7] Researchers hypothesize Koro may have originated from a group of people enslaved and brought to the area.[8] Since there are so few people who speak Koro, it is considered an endangered language.

Identification

Recognition in the academic literature of Koro as a distinct language goes back at least to the 2009 edition of the Ethnologue (Lewis 2009), which based its findings on a language survey conducted in 2005. It notes that Koro has only 9 percent lexical similarity with Hruso Aka, and that it is "highly dissimilar to neighboring languages".[9][1]

In October 2010, the National Geographic Daily News published an article corroborating the findings of the Ethnologue based on research conducted in 2008 by a linguistic team of David Harrison, Gregory Anderson, and Ganesh Murmu while documenting two Hruso languages (Aka and Miji) as part of National Geographic's "Enduring Voices" project.[5] It was reported to them as a dialect of Aka, but turned out to be highly divergent.

Mark Post and Roger Blench (2011)[10] propose that Koro is related to Milang in a branch, or perhaps independent family, they call Siangic.

See also

Phonology

Consonants

Below are the consonants of Koro.

Consonant Phonemes[11]
Biliabial Labial-dental Alveolar Palato-alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive p b t d k g ʔ
Fricative f v s z ʃ h
Affricate t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Flapped ɾ
Lateral l
Approximants w j

Phonemes to the left of a cell are voiceless while phonemes to the right are voiced with the exception of the glottal fricatives which are both voiceless.

The information from the chart above was collected from the most recent research done on the consonants of Koro. However, there are a few discrepancies of information between recent research and past research.

In Geissler’s work (2013), the articulation of /ʋ/ exists and can sound similar to /v/ or /w/ depending on the speaker. There is a possibility that the articulation of /ʔ/ is not a phoneme in Koro. While a phoneme is the smallest unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another, data suggests that /ʔ/ is instead used for other unidentified roles. For example, it can be used to separate vowels, such as [ma.leʔe.tɨŋ] which means ‘fast boy.’ In other examples, /ʔ/ disappears from phrases. The word ‘that’ in Koro is [baʔ], but strangely, the glottal stop disappears in the word [ba ŋɨn] which means ‘that house’.[12]

In Anderson’s work (2010), there exists an aspirated ph or /ɸ/. It is possible that Anderson’s data may have been influenced by the differences in speech between natives or the Hindi language used by his informants. In addition, his research does not include words that have no vowels in between consonants, but Blench argues that there are words with no vowels, resulting from the influence of the Hruso language spoken nearby. For example, the word ‘woman’ is ‘msn’ in Koro.[13]

There is a complementary distribution between the alveolar trill /r/ and the alveolar flap /ɾ/. The trill /r/ is heard in the beginning or end of a word while the flap /ɾ/ is heard in the middle of the word.[11]

Vowels

Below are the vowels of Koro.

Vowel Phonemes[14]
Monophthongs
Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-Mid e ə
Open-Mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

Koro has two confirmed types of vowels: oral and nasalized. There are very few diphthongs, such as -aj and -ej.[15] The existence of long vowels is uncertain; while Blench (2018) proposes that long vowels exist,[14] Anderson (2010) argues that only the long vowel a: might exist.[16]

Syllables

Koro words can have one or multiple syllables in them. The commonly seen syllable is CV, but there are plenty of other syllable structures in Koro such as CVC, CCV, and CCVC.[16]

There are usually three parts to a syllable: the onset, the nucleus, and the coda. The nucleus is usually a vowel, and the onset and the coda are consonants that come before or after the nucleus, respectively. Onsetless syllables, which are syllables that begin with a vowel, exist in Koro, but they do not have a coda. For a coda to exist, the syllable must have an onset. The observed rule is that onsets can have a maximum of two consonants while codas can have only one. In addition, nasal vowels and codas do not occur simultaneously together.[17]

Morphology

Nouns

Koro nouns can be formed with suffixes. For example, there are many common animal names that have the suffix ‘-le’ in the last syllable of each word.[18]

lele

pig

lele

pig

'pig'

ekile

dog

ekile

dog

'dog'

tʃole

chicken

tʃole

chicken

'chicken'

However, this is not always the case because in some words, the suffix ‘-le’ may not be present for an animal name or is present for another name that is not animal related.

gi-bu[19]

snake

gi-bu[19]

snake

‘snake’

ge-le[18]

cloth

ge-le[18]

cloth

‘cloth’

The suffix -me is a plural marker for pronouns and, depending on the Koro speaker, for living things.[18]

nu

you

nu

you

‘you’

nu-me

you-PL

nu-me

you-PL

‘you’

ba

s/he

ba

s/he

‘s/he’

ba-me

s/he-PL

ba-me

s/he-PL

'they'

lele-me

pig-PL

lele-me

pig-PL

‘pigs’

The suffix ‘-gɨ’ is used to show possession, usually around a pronoun. This element may not be Koro’s alone but a cognate of other Tibeto-Burman languages as well.[20]

ne-gɨ

older-my

oɸo

sister

ne-gɨ oɸo

older-my sister

‘my older sister’

nu-gɨ

older-your

oɸo

sister

nu-gɨ oɸo

older-your sister

‘your older sister’

ne-gɨ

older-my

ama

brother

ne-gɨ ama

older-my brother

‘my older brother’

nu-gɨ

older-your

ama

brother

nu-gɨ ama

older-your brother

‘your older brother’

Pronouns in Koro have three types of persons: first, second, and third. These pronouns can either be singular or plural.[21]

Pronoun Types
Person Singular Plural
1st ne eme
2nd nu nu-me
3rd ba ba-me

Verbs

The suffix -ro is an imperative marker, which conveys a command or request to another person.[22]

ne-me

I-OBJ

gide-ro

see-IMP

ne-me gide-ro

I-OBJ see-IMP

‘look at me!’

The suffix -le is a negative imperative (prohibitive) marker, which conveys a command or request to not do an action to another person.[22]

ne-me

I-OBJ

gide-le

see-PROH

ne-me gide-le

I-OBJ see-PROH

‘don’t look at me!’

The suffix -ŋa is a negative indicative marker, which negates a statement or question.[23]

ne

I

muru-dɨ-m

man-DEF-OBJ

gide-gɨ

see-TAM.I

ne muru-dɨ-m gide-gɨ

I man-DEF-OBJ see-TAM.I

‘I saw the man’

ne

I

muru-dɨ-m

man-DEF

gide-ŋa

see-NEG-OBJ

ne muru-dɨ-m gide-ŋa

I man-DEF see-NEG-OBJ

‘I did not see the man’

Syntax

The basic word order of Koro is subject-object-verb.[23]

mɨsɨn

woman

kako

book

pɨrɨ-doĩje

read-PROG

mɨsɨn kako pɨrɨ-doĩje

woman book read-PROG

‘the woman is reading a book’

The structure of noun phrases usually follows demonstrative-noun-adjective-numerals. Demonstrative elements are determiners used to indicate a person or thing, such as the words: this, that, and those. Numerals do not need a numeral classifiers to help describe the quantity of a noun.[24]

ti

DEM

DEM

lele

pig

N

ma

black

ADJ

kala

three

NUM

ti lele ma kala

DEM pig black three

DEM N ADJ NUM

‘these three black pigs’

In ditransitive sentences in which there are two objects, the order usually follows subject-object1-object2-verb. Object 1 is the indirect object that is receiving the action while object 2 is the direct object being acted upon.[24]

ne

I

li

DET

muru-li-m

man-DEF-OBJ

lele

pig

rã-gɨ

give:TAM.I

ne li muru-li-m lele rã-gɨ

I DET man-DEF-OBJ pig give:TAM.I

‘I gave the pig to the man

Question words come after the subject or object.[25]

nu

you

SUBJ

[h]igina

what

Q.OBJ

gide-nde

see-INT

VERB

nu [h]igina gide-nde

you what see-INT

SUBJ Q.OBJ VERB

‘what did you see?’

nu-mɨ

you-OBJ

OBJ1

lele-de

pig-DEF

OBJ2

asuna

who

Q.SUBJ

rã-de

give-INT

VERB

nu-mɨ lele-de asuna rã-de

you-OBJ pig-DEF who give-INT

OBJ1 OBJ2 Q.SUBJ VERB

‘who gave you the pig?’

Notes


References

  • Abraham, Binny; Sako, Kara; Kinny, Elina; Zeliang, Isapdaile (2018). "Sociolinguistic Research among Selected Groups in Western Arunachal Pradesh Highlighting Monpa". SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2018-009. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  • Anderson, Gregory; Murmu, Ganesh (2010). "Preliminary Notes on Koro, A 'Hidden' Language of Arunachal Pradesh" (PDF). Indian Linguistics: 1–37. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  • Blench, Roger (2018). "The Koro Language of Arunachal Pradesh: Wordlist and Etymological Analysis" (PDF). McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  • Geissler, Christopher (2013). "Towards a Phonetic Description of Koro (thesis)". Institutional Scholarship. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  • Harrison, K. David (2010). The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Most Endangered Languages. National Geographic Society. ISBN 978-1-4262-0461-6.
  • "In Search for 'Last Speakers', a Great Discovery". National Public Radio. 5 October 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2010. (Some sound files)
  • Lewis, M. Paul; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D. (2015). "Koro". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (18 ed.). Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  • Morrison, Dan (2010). "'Hidden' Language Found in Remote Indian Tribe". National Geographic Daily News. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  • Post, Mark W.; Blench, Roger (2011). "Siangic: A new language phylum in North East India". 6th International Conference of the North East India Linguistics Society. Tezpur University, Assam, India.
  • Schmid, Randolph E. (2010). "Undocumented language found hidden in India". Associated Press.

Further reading