The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - 'Notes on the Wild Tribes Inhabiting the So-Called Naga Hills, on our North-East Frontier of India', by Col. R.G. Woodthorpe, 1881

caption: Mr Hyde Clarke's comments on the diversity of languages
medium: notes
person: Hyde Clarke/ Mr
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1881
refnum: given at a meeting of the Anthropological Institute, 1881
text: Mr Hyde Clarke, in responding to Col. Godwin-Austen's observations as to the diversity of languages, proposed another explanation. Thus for monkey there were four words, for elephant three. That these were not of local origin could be proved by tracing their affinities elsewhere, and then we find the four forms for monkey, 'takwi', 'simai', 'veh', and 'suchi', represented as 'tekawu', 'dsima', 'wai', and 'tsakar'; the forms for elephant, 'lokniu', 'puok', and 'shiti', appearing as 'ulonga', 'opowo', and 'ndshogo'. So in like way for many other words, as tiger, cow, goat, fish, head, ear, hair, mouth, hand, bone, blood, sun, moon, star, day, night, to-day tomorrow, no, not, I, we, thou, you, he, they, Indeed, wherever tested, the general results were the same. Not only was this found to be so as to dissimilar roots, but as to dialectic variations for the 'ma' and 'nak' of not, for the 'masi' and 'nasi' of cow. These facts serve to show the position of the Naga languages, and to throw light on the early Naga history. The languages must be those of tribes, forming a league before the occupation of the Naga country, and becoming diversified or distinguished after occupation, not being variants from one original stock. Another result is this, that languages belong to much higher culture than that now prevailing among the Nagas, and to a very ancient culture. The relation is to the group which included the Akkad, the Khita, and all that the speaker had described as Khitoid. One curious parallel in this way is with the Eten or Eteng of Peru, a similar isolated population. The languages are not those of (83) populations in the present condition of the Nagas, but of higher populations and apparently of a white race.
text: The Nagas represent sections of populations governed by a former dominant race driven up into the mountains, and there is no reason to assume that the Nagas are descendants of the dominant race, or that they have not been affected by the intermarriage or immigration of the neighbouring races. They transmit in all probability the languages of the races which gave the earliest culture to India, antecedent to the Kolarians and the Dracidians. There is not much preserved by the classic geographers conform to those found in other parts of Asia and in Europe, occupied by corresponding dominant populations, and which names are consequently anterior to the Aryans. The Naga languages are invaluable for investigations in pre-historic philology and archaeology, and in this sense the tables of Colonel Woodthorpe are of more than local importance.
text: The president, Colonel Keating, and Professor Flower also joined in the discussion.