The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : 'Konyak Nagas' by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, (1969)

caption: Introduction
caption: huge linguistic variations from village to village; language learning
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York4:5
text: Communication presented a considerable problem. The Konyak dialect is a Tibeto-Burman tonal language of which not even a simple word list was known. Though I managed to compile a vocabulary, a skeleton grammar, and a large number of texts, my knowledge of the language was much too limited for serious conversation. Fortunately, many people, including even some children, spoke fluent Naga-Assamese, the lingua franca of the entire Naga Hills region. Having arrived with a slight knowledge of Assamese, I soon learned to speak and understand this language, and while at first I used an English-speaking Naga youth from another tribe as interpreter, I finally worked entirely through the medium of Naga-Assamese. Fluency in this language enabled me to converse at ease with most men of Wakching, but in other villages where less Assamese was spoken I often had to employ interpreters capable of translating from the local dialects into Naga-Assamese. There are numerous different and mutually not understandable dialects, and this great linguistic diversity is a characteristic feature of the Konyaks and one which distinguishes them from many linguistically more homogeneous Naga tribes. To ignore this diversity which coincides with a considerable cultural diversity and to concentrate in my work entirely on one village or one linguistic group would have resulted in a one-sided and incomplete picture, whereas the comparison of the divergent culture patterns prevailing in a wider area brought out the wide range of variations within the Konyak social system.