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Linguistic Description and Comprehensive Documentation of Mewahang, an undescribed Tibeto-Burman language of Nepal

It is called SILI NACH 'cultural dance' which is quite popular not noly in Mewahnag community but also in Rai-Kiranti community.

Deposit page image for the collection “Linguistic Description and Comprehensive Documentation of Mewahang, an undescribed Tibeto-Burman language of Nepal”. Click on image to access collection.

Language Mewahang
Depositor Narayan Sharma
Affiliation Department of Linguistics, University of Oregon
Location Nepal
Deposit ID 0499
Grant ID IPF0253
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the deposit

Mewahang is spoken in the eastern-part of Nepal. Balali (Western) dialect is spoken in the village of Bala, while Yaphule (Eastern) dialect is spoken in the village of Yaphu in Sankhuwasabha district. This collection investigates morphosyntax of both dialects based on a documentation of a culturally significant rich oral tradition rapidly disappearing, unique oral tradition, recipes and shamanistic ritual practices.

The primary data was collected by Narayan Sharma, linguist and principal investigator, along with the assistance of Namita Rai, Jiten Rai, and Anjana Rai (transcribers of the project), and other community member themselves who contributed for the project.

The collection includes an annotated audio-visual documentation corpus with wide range of about 200 speakers belonging in different gender, education, age etc. It also includes a very unique ritual live performance of GHARCHINTA, along with other important rituals like KHAMANAG and SILI NACH, and wedding.

The picture at the top shows SILI NACH (Step dance), performed spontaneously by the Mangtewa community in the village of Mangtewa.


Group represented

The collection created within this project focuses on Mewahang speakers of both Balali Dialect and Yaphule Dialect of Sankhuwasabha district of Nepal. Both dialects are considered standard dialects of both Western and Eastern Mewahang. In the Western Mewahang, the dialect is mainly spoken in Bala village and the retention rate is gradually lowered to Chirkhuwa village (50%) then to Yamdang (5%), while in Eastern Mewahang, the Yaphule dialect is mainly spoken in the village of Yaphu, and the retention is lowered to Mangtewa village (50%) and Tamku village (1%). The Mewahang language spoken in Yamdang and Tamku is almost in the verge of extinction. The language will be lost in Yamdang and Yaphu very soon unless there is any promotional programs that help children to speak that language.


Language information

Mewahang is an oral Tibeto-Burman language of the Kiranti subgroup (Upper-Arun) spoken by approximately 900 people in the Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal.

The Mewahang language has two dialects: Western Mewahang, Balali dialect spoken in the village of Bala and Eastern Mewahang, Yaphule dialect, spoken in the village of Yaphu. The Mewahang people are shifting to Nepali, a lingua franca, while their own language appears to be endangered. With some exception in some households in Yaphu, the children no longer speak the Mewahang language.

The Mewahang spoken areas are surrounded by the neighbouring Kiranti languages: to the west are the Kulung (cf. Tolsma 2006), and their eastern neighbours are the Lohorung (cf. van Driem 2001). The Yamphu are settled to the north of the Mewahang (cf. Rutgers 1998), and to their south are the Sampang (Hanßon 1991).

Mewahang verbs, as Kiranti verbs in general, are characterised by a complex system of agreement where the verbs agree with both Agent (A) and Patient (P) arguments. However, the Mewahang verbal agreement is not always straightforward. Unlike Central Kiranti languages, such as Puma where dative marking is obligatory for animate P arguments and Goal (G) arguments, Mewahang uses consistently an absolutive case for all Patient (P), Theme (T), and Goal (G) arguments. Mewahang appears to be unusual among Kiranti languages in using only a single morpheme for negation, a suffix to express non-past and a prefix to express past tense. Many Kiranti languages possess double or triple negative marking (cf. Sharma 2014).


Special characteristics

This deposit includes data from both Bala and Yaphu village, along with the villages of Chirkhuwa, Yamdang, Mangtewa, Tamku, khandbari and Kathmandu. The dialect spoken in the village of Bala is quite similar in spoken in Chirkhuwa and Yamdanag, while the dialect spoken in Yaphu is quite similar spoken in Mangtewa and Tamku villages.


Deposit contents

All bundles in this collection are audio-video recordings. There are about 75 hours of audio-video data to date, along with 12 hours of transcribed and translated digital corpus. This total recorded data can further be categorized in the following genres:

(1) 18 hours of data about narrative (myth, story, folktale etc)

(2) 3.5 hours of conversation

(3) 19 hours of ritual (marriage, gharchinta, khamang, nuwangi, origin etc)

(4) 30 hours of description (daily account, life history, autobiography, family)

(5) 3.15 hours of singing

(6) 0.15 hours of poetry

(7) 1 hour of recipe

There are also:

(1) 3 hours of recording of wedding which is entirely in Nepali, not in Mewahang

(2) More than 100 comprehensive verb paradigms

(3) More than 300 elicited sentences covering different morphosyntactic constructions


Deposit history

The data for this collection was collected during the Individual postdoctoral research of Narayan Sharma, the principal investigator. The first set of data was collected in April 2018 and second set of data was collected in May-June 2018, and third set of data was collected in August-Sep 2018, when Narayan Sharma went for field work to the research site, along with the research assistant Namita Rai. She was not not involved with the PI in the second round of data collection in Yaphu, Mangtewa and Tamku village.

Some important recordings will be collected by RA, Namita Rai in the village while she lives in Khandbari and is doing her transcription and translation.


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Sharma, Narayan P. 2019. Linguistic Description and Comprehensive Documentation of Mewahang, an undescribed Tibeto-Burman language of Nepal. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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