Indian Languages: Mizo & Nagamiese

shaloo

Senior Member
English
These are the two official languages of Mizoram and Nagaland in East India.

I have some idea about these languages and one surprising thing I find about this is that they are supposed to be the so called scriptless languages, i.e., they are only spoken but there is no written form for them.
I just happened to spend a few days with some people from these Indian states. When I asked them about this, they said that if they wanted to
express in their language, they would write it in English.
This is what has been bugging me ever since.

Why is it that Mizo and Nagamiese, both being Indian languages, follow English as their script?

I know that there aren't many Mizo or Nagamiese speakers(in fact none, i guess:eek: ) but........if anyone knows, please let me know.:)
 
  • Captain Haddock

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Whoever said they would "write it in English" had poor English. :) What they probably meant was that Mizo is written with the Roman alphabet. Wikipedia's entry for Mizo confirms this.

    Wikipedia has no entry for Nagamese, but its article on Nagaland mentions it as having no script. Several other tribal languages (some using the Roman script) plus Assamese (which has its own script) seem to be more widely spoken in Nagaland.
     

    hapax legomenon

    New Member
    Hungary
    Naga-Assamese or Nagamese is a lingua franca spoken in Nagaland to enable communication between the 30 or so Naga tribes. It is a hybrid of basic Naga and Assamese.

    Several of the Naga tribes as well as the Mizo tribes have romanized writing systems developed by British missionaries to enable Bible translations. The literacy rates among these tribes are still very high (90%) for this reason (in stark contrast to the Hindu Assamese population for example).
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    I believe that most of Northeast India has been recently converted to Christianity...I always hear about mission trips there. Perhaps thats why the Roman alphabet is more popular than the indic ones (probably Assamese).
     

    Captain Haddock

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    That's very interesting, Hapax. I wonder if Nagamese is a creole, or a more complicated hybrid.

    The correlation between literacy and missionaries is something I've observed first-hand. The Christianized Karen tribes in Thailand and Burma have high literacy rates even though their living conditions would seem primitive to Westerners. This is thanks to missionaries who developed a writing system for Karen using the Burmese alphabet many decades ago.

    The old-style missionaries had that right: everyone in the world should have the opportunity to become literate and learn in his own language; if it doesn't have a writing system yet, make one!
     

    hapax legomenon

    New Member
    Hungary
    What is the goal of these missionaries? Improving daily life and literacy or converting?
    I don't think these goals are in conflict, Panjabigator. As protestants, they believe in the importance of presenting the Bible and the Word of God to everyone in their own language. This they can only do by teaching literacy (or creating it in the first place, as many missionaries did). Literacy in itself should then lead to further improvements in daily life, in morality and so on.

    The old-style missionaries had that right: everyone in the world should have the opportunity to become literate and learn in his own language; if it doesn't have a writing system yet, make one!
    Couldn't agree more, Captain. The labour of creating a written language from scratch for these tribes, and then successfully translating the Bible into it, must have been considerable.​

    Traditional Hindu societies (and Buddhist ones), by contrast, have professional priesthoods (the brahmins or monks) whose job it is to read and write. Peasants, warriors, artisans etc. in the traditional scheme had little or no reason to read or write, and rarely could.

    Frankly, since these tribes are "untouchables" from the strict Hindu point of view, only the protestant missionaries could create literacy (and therefore modern political identities) for them.
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    Well, the idea of comming in for the purpose of conversion really bothers me, but what is religion in the end anyway? Its better that they get get an improved lifestyle. It just appears to me that missionaries may have view that "Oh those poor backwards people...lets convert them out of their heathen ways."

    Can a moderator make this into a new thread?
     

    Captain Haddock

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    "Oh those poor backwards people...lets convert them out of their heathen ways."

    Certainly many missionaries have had that attitude — and left no lasting mark on the people they visited. Good riddance to them.

    On the other hand, it's those with the "let's help these people no one else will help" attitude that spend years giving up Western comforts to learn a tribal language, develop a writing system, build schools, print books, and so on.
     
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