Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Khasi language is one and it should grow stronger

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By Mankular Lamin Gashnga

It is time to strengthen the Khasi language so that it achieves a higher level of excellence. At this juncture when Khasi is being considered to be included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, it is high time that we contribute from all sides in order to strengthen the language and to make it more relevant for official and daily use. As all languages are tools, and as all tools need to be sharpened, Khasi language also needs a little bit of strengthening from its speakers and writers and in fact even from non-native speakers, if they can contribute. It will make the language more beautiful, nuanced and ultimately really functional.
Market value: Khasi language has a lot of market value today. Today’s youth are using the language in different forums and are trying to learn new ways of using the language. With the internet and social media, we should capitalise on these tools to help boost the relevance of the language. To achieve that, there are some things that need to be done by each one of us to contribute in whichever way we can, whether one is a student, a teacher, an officer, a politician, or anyone. We have to remember that the strength of the Khasi language depends on each one of us, the native speakers.
Technicalities: One of the ways of doing that is by helping to standardise the vocabulary, spellings and other technical aspects of the language. As it is today, a Khasi word can be spelled whichever way we want. For example, there are many types of spellings used randomly and arbitrarily because there is no authority to regulate the spellings and use of terms. I heard that there is an attempt by the government to do this and that it has created some Committee or body to solve this problem. I think this is a very good move by the Government.
Religious institutions also play a very big and important role in shaping the minds of the people. Leaders of all NGOs are also responsible for the unification and uniformity of the Khasi language. We cannot leave it as it is. Our leaders have to be serious about this and to create a fertile environment for the language.
The sum of the parts is greater than the parts: The Khasi language as a whole is a continuum of many dialects which are variations of the whole. Everybody knows that the written Khasi language is in the form of the Sohra dialect because the founders found it to be a more convenient dialect because it is more polished (because it is a khun khatduh, as Bhogtoram Mawroh so beautifully put it) both due to its diction as well as in its consistency. It worked and it is a success story that no one can deny. We should capitalise on this success of the missionaries and polish the language more by contributing to it vocabularies from other dialects like the Pnar, the Waar, the Maram and from whichever Khasi regional group that can contribute to help strengthen the standard written Khasi language.
This had already been done by some great writings in the Khasi language. One example is the incorporation into standard usage of the Pnar word ‘kurim’ for a spouse; I find it very classy and elegant instead of ‘lok.’ Also in literature the use of the Waar-Amwai words such as ‘khuri’ in the line ‘ka khuri jong nga ka shlei’,(my cup overfloweth) instead of ‘pela’; or when Soso Tham used the word ‘shuri’ in ‘dang lah kaba sohkhliang u ryndang ha ka juwar ban ia kaba pynsmiej ia u ha ka shuri,’ (better that my throat is scarred by the plough rather than tickle it with a knife). Such incorporations had added so much class to the Khasi language.
I had also heard some Pnar refer to wrestling as iaslait instead of ialympat which is interesting. I had even heard from Nangbah village one word which they used for video or movie, but which slipped my mind now. Also, I find the playful use of the term ‘koh ’siang’ with the term ‘koh’ derived from the Maram dialect, for a fox, to be adding quite a lively characteristic to the Khasi language. Therefore, from Maram, from Bhoi, from the four corners of our society we can incorporate words that will enrich our beautiful Khasi language. [On my part, I had tried to list down some Waar words to contribute. These are ‘hor’ for curd instead of malai; or hor for die/dice; iah rkew for divorce; ludong for commode/sink and others.] I don’t have to elaborate because I feel the readers have grasped the larger inclusion of words in the Khasi language. This cannot be achieved within a limited timeframe; sometimes not even in one generation, but we all should work towards it.
Later on we can also think about incorporating one or two more letters into the present Khasi alphabets in order to update its relevance in many spellings of words and names. Over time, the Khasi language that we know today will grow to become a monster of a language that will have an equal strength as many other major languages of the world. However, as I said, it takes time and it takes the right leaders.
Time to discard false pride and arrogance: Now is the time to unite and not to break the language into pieces. It is senseless to argue which room is the best room in the house when the whole house is on fire. We all remember the story of the oak tree that had been cut down for firewood by a woodcutter. When the woodcutter was breaking it down into pieces, he saw the tree weeping. Concerned, he asked why it was weeping. The tree replied, ‘That you had cut me down for firewood, I do not mind, for you are my enemy, but that you are using my own children as a wedge to tear me to pieces, is something I cannot bear to see.’ This is what we have become, children that tear into pieces their own mother, if we are to let this language conundrum to continue.

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