|ISO 639-2 / 5||mun|
Map of areas with significant concentration of Munda speakers
The Munda languages are a group of closely related languages spoken by about nine million people in India, spread across Central India, and East India up to Bangladesh. Historically, they have been called the Kolarian languages. They constitute a branch of the Austroasiatic language family, which means they are more distantly related to languages such as the Mon and Khmer languages, to Vietnamese, as well as to minority languages in Thailand and Laos and the minority Mangic languages of South China. Bhumij, Ho, Mundari, and Santali are notable Munda languages.
The family is generally divided into two branches: North Munda, spoken in the Chota Nagpur Plateau of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal and Bangladesh, 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 and recognized as an official language in India, has twice as many speakers as South Munda. 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, and are poorly described.
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, the use of suffixes or auxiliaries to indicate tense, and partial, total, and complex reduplication, as well as switch-reference. The Munda languages are also polysynthetic and agglutinating. In Munda sound systems, consonant sequences are infrequent except in the middle of a word.
Most linguists, including Paul Sidwell (2018), suggest that the Proto-Munda language probably split from proto-Austroasiatic somewhere in Indochina and arrived on the coast of modern-day Odisha about 4000–3500 years ago and spread after the Indo-Aryan migration to the region.
Rau and Sidwell (2019), along with Blench (2019), suggest that pre-Proto-Munda had arrived in the Mahanadi River Delta around 1,500 BCE from Southeast Asia via a maritime route, rather than overland. The Munda languages then subsequently spread up the Mahanadi watershed. 2021 studies suggest that Munda languages spread as far as Eastern Uttar Pradesh and impacted Eastern Indo-Aryan languages.
Munda consists of five uncontroversial branches (Korku as an isolate, Remo, Savara, Kherwar, and Kharia-Juang). However, their interrelationship is debated.
The bipartite Diffloth (1974) classification is widely cited:
Diffloth (2005) retains Koraput (rejected by Anderson, below) but abandons South Munda and places Kharia–Juang with the northern languages:
Gregory Anderson's 1999 proposal is as follows.
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).
Sora–Gorum Juang ↔ Kharia ↔ Gutob–Remo ↔ Gtaʔ
Paul Sidwell (2015:197) considers Munda to consist of 6 coordinate branches, and does not accept South Munda as a unified subgroup.
|Language name||Number of speakers (2011)||Location|
|Birjia||25,000||Jharkhand, West Bengal|
|Mundari (inc. Bhumij)||1,600,000||Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar|
|Asur||7,000||Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha|
|Ho||1,400,000||Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal|
|Santali||7,400,000||Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Assam, Bangladesh, Nepal|
|Korku||727,000||Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra|
|Kharia||298,000||Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh|
|Gutob||10,000||Odisha, Andhra Pradesh|
|Gorum||20||Odisha, Andhra Pradesh|
|Sora||410,000||Odisha, Andhra Pradesh|
|Lodhi||25,000||Odisha, West Bengal|
|Koda||47,300||West Bengal, Odisha, Bangladesh|
|Kol||1,600||West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bangladesh|
Main article: Proto-Munda language
The proto-forms have been reconstructed by Sidwell & Rau (2015: 319, 340-363). Proto-Munda reconstruction has since been revised and improved by Rau (2019).
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