Annotated Swadesh wordlists for the Northeast Dravidan group (Dravidian family).

Languages included:
Kurux [ned-kur]; Malto [ned-mlt].


I. Kurux

Grignard 1924 = Grignard, A. An Oraon-English Dictionary. New Delhi: Unity Book Service (reprint 1986). // The largest and most authoritative dictionary of the Kurux language, thoroughly illustrated by numerous examples of lexical usage.

Ahmad et al. 2011 = Sayed Ahmad, Amy Kim, Seung Kim, Mridul Sangma. The Kurux of Bangladesh: A Sociolinguistic Survey. SIL Electronic Survey Report. // Sociolinguistic survey of several varieties of Kurux, conducted in July 2005. Contains 300-item wordlists for several dialectal varieties of the language, although accuracy of phonetic and semantic notation may be placed under serious doubt.

II. Malto

Droese 1884 = Droese, Ernest. Introduction to the Malto language. Agra: Secundra Orphanage Press. // The earliest, and still quite relevant, grammatical description of Malto, accompanied by a large vocabulary.

Mahapatra 1987 = Mahapatra, B. P. Malto-Hindi-English dictionary. Manasagangotri: Central Institute of Indian Languages. // The most recent Malto dictionary, based on the Malpaharia dialect.

Mahapatra 1979 = Mahapatra, B. P. Malto: An Ethnosemantic Study. Manasagangotri: Central Institute of Indian Languages. // A grammatical description of Malto, concentrating on specific issues such as the nominal classificatory system of the language.


I. Kurux

1. General.

As of now, the only large dictionaries for the Kurux language are the ones that have been compiled in the early XXth century by F. Hahn (1903) and A. Grignard (1924). Of those, Grignard's dictionary is inarguably the largest, most accurate and authoritative, and has been used as the primary source of data in T. Burrow & M. B. Emeneau's "Dravidian Etymological Dictionary"; small amounts of data collected by other researchers later on mostly confirm this accuracy.

For comparative purposes, we also include alternate transcriptions of Kurux entries taken from a recent (2005) survey of a SIL team [Ahmad et al. 2011]. The survey was conducted in four locations in Bangladesh (Gabindanagar, Boldipukur, Lohanipara, Dulhapur) as well as one location (Dima) in West Bengal, India. Analysis of the lists reveals significant discrepancies between the Dima subdialect and the others, however: (a) the majority of these discrepancies are externally driven, i. e. are caused by various replacements by borrowing from the neighboring Indo-Aryan languages; (b) in a few cases comparison with Grignard's dictionary makes us suspect that the discrepancies stem from undetected semantic nuances and "quasi-synonimies" rather than genuine basic lexicon replacement. For that reason, we do not include data from the Dima speech variety of Kurux as a separate wordlist, but merely mention it in the footnotes.

2. Transliteration.

Kurux phonology is relatively simple, and A. Grignard's transcription includes very few idiosyncratic particularities that are not specific for typical Dravidologist transcription as a whole. The complete list of transliterated symbols is as follows:

Grignard 1924 UTS
c č
ch čʰ
j ǯ
k_h_ x
ʼ ʔ
a, e, o ă, ĕ, ŏ

The transcription used by the SIL team in [Ahmad et al. 2011] is predictably close to the IPA standard and does not require any special UTS transliteration other than the standard conversions specified in the "UTS transcription guide" (e. g. ʃ = š, etc.). However, it should be noted that:

(a) the transcription in [Ahmad et al. 2011] is phonetically rather than phonologically oriented; this implies the presence of various additional vocalic qualities, such as ɐ, ɛ, ı, ɔ, and ʋ, which we preserve for accuracy, but which generally correspond to simple a, e, i, o, u in Grignard's notation and have no phonemic value; likewise, ɾ and r are simply positional variants of a single phoneme that Grignard and Hahn always transcribe as r;

(b) intervocalic geminated consonants are consistently marked in [Ahmad et al. 2011] as combinations of "t + consonant". This is phonologically (and phonetically!) awkward, and we re-convert them back to geminates in our transcription: that is, tkʰ = UTS kkʰ, tɖʒ = UTS ǯǯ, etc.;

(c) surprisingly, the source never graphically distinguishes between short and long vowels, or between dental/alveolar and retroflex consonants, although both of these distinctions are well attested in earlier sources and confirmed by external data in other Dravidian languages. This should be attributed to an inaccuracy on behalf of the SIL team.

II. Malto

1. General.

According to B. P. Mahapatra [1979], modern Malto is represented by three distinct dialects: Malpaharia, Sawriya Paharia, and Kumarbhag. Of these, Malpaharia is the most widely spoken, and quite close to Sawriya, whereas Kumarbhag is distinguished by several peculiarities (such as the phonetic development *q- > 0-, etc.). Our basic source on Malto is the dictionary [Mahapatra 1987], based primarily on the Malpaharia dialect, but also listing occasional Sawriya and Kumarbhag forms, usually when they have no direct lexical equivalent in Malpaharia.

The complete Swadesh list can only be extracted for Malpaharia (we list some of the dialectal forms in the notes section), but it should be noted that the dictionary is somewhat flawed, showing significant semantic inaccuracy (many of the meanings are glossed in a generalized fashion, leading to an increase in the number of "technical synonyms") and listing numerous Indo-Aryan borrowings that may or may not have penetrated the "basic" sphere of usage, without any textual evidence to allow us to draw our own conclusions.

Consequently, it is important to compare Mahapatra's data, on a consistent basis, with the earlier "classic" Malto dictionary [Droese 1884]. Droese does not specify the particular dialect from which he drew his grammatical description and vocabulary; it is clearly not Kumarbhag, but it does not fully match Mahapatra's Malpaharia or Sawriya, either. In a few cases of lexical choice, Droese's vocabulary is closer to Sawriya (see 'nose', 'small', 'snake', etc.) than to Malpaharia, but it is hard to make a definitive statement. In any case, the overall number of discrepancies between Droese and Mahapatra is so small (moreover, some of them may be ascribed to inaccuracy on the part of the author rather than true lexical divergence), that it would not make sense to offer two separate wordlists. We rely on [Mahapatra 1987] as our default source and list all of Droese's equivalents in the notes section.

2. Transliteration.

The phonemic system of Malto, just like the one in Kurux, is relatively simple. Below is a complete list of the "idiosyncrasies" of Mahapatra's and Droese's transcriptions and their correlations with the UTS system.

Mahapatra 1987 Droese 1884 UTS
c ch ɕ
j j ʓ
n_ ɲ

Database compiled by: G. Starostin (last additions: May 2014).