Deciphering the Verbal Morphology of the Mahale Language

Towhid Bin Muzaffar*, Haroonuzzaman
Independent University, Bangladesh


As the powerful languages of the world are continuously pushing the powerless languages to the fringe, the peripheral languages are always on the brink of extinction. That is why the key purpose of the current paper is to document an endangered language, Mahale, spoken by an indigenous community in Northern Bangladesh by describing its grammar for its revitalization. This process of documentation is one of the nine criteria deemed necessary for the revitalization of any endangered language. UNESCO states that out of the 6000 plus languages spoken today, about half will become extinct in about a hundred years (UNESCO 2003). Thus, the impact of our study ensures that this endangered language is described and documented for revitalization. The subjects of our study are the Mahale people who live in two villages in Northern Bangladesh. The data was collected through focused group discussions and interviews of native speakers of the Mahale language in these two villages. The onomasiological elicitations collected through intensive interviews of Mahale persons have been analyzed and compared to describe the various grammatical systems – nominal, pronominal, adjectival, adverbial, and verbal. The project is ongoing since 2012. The duration of this study is from 2017 to 2018. During this period, several field trips were made to the project sites. As the major area of this study is the verbal system, the different tenses and aspects have been looked into in this paper. The analysis of the data enables us to assert that there are morphological markings for at least two tenses and two aspects in the Mahale language. Mahale distinguishes the Past and Non-past tenses. The future tense is not morphologically marked. In terms of aspect, we find morphological markings for two aspects, namely, Perfective and Imperfective. The Imperfective aspect has a three-way marking system namely, Present Imperfective, Past Imperfective, and Future Imperfective. The Perfective aspect has a two-way distinction namely, the Perfective and the Future Perfective.


endangered language, preservation, linguistics, morphology

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