Mettlesome Mahali (Assessing the Attitude and Vitality of Mahali Speakers in Siyan)

Authors: Simanti Bose, Sudipta Saha (Jadavpur University, India)
Speakers: Simanti Bose, Sudipta Saha
Strand: Applied Sociolinguistics
Session Type: General Session


The paper assesses the attitude and vitality of the Mahali speakers in Siyan village of Birbhum district of West Bengal, India. With regard to the present status of Mahali spoken in Siyan, the paper also studies its degree of endangerment.

Mahali is a Munda language of Austroasiatic family. According to CENSUS-2011 report, the total population of Mahali in India is nearly 1.5 lakhs. It is spoken in Orissa, Jharkhand and Bengal. In Bengal, this community is found in Purulia, Jhargram, Bardhaman and Birbhum districts, with a population of nearly 2000 only. There is no significant orthographic development towards this language yet. There are several varieties of Mahali which are apparently dependent on the place, people and their neighboring languages.

In this paper, the interview method was employed to collect the primary data. In addition, we have also gathered some information through inquiry and observation.

This paper propounds the following research objectives:
• To assess the attitude of the Mahali speakers towards this language.
• To ascertain the influence of the dominant languages on Mahali.
• To observe the language used in various domains.
• To determine the present status of the language through UNESCO language vitality factors and Fishman’s GID Scale.

It is intriguing to note that owing to their educational background and inaccessibility to newspapers, the community members lack the habit of reading it. However, they are sincerely active on social media and internet to access the latest updates about the world. Although they lack institution-based education and formal training, there is a growing usage of English words in their repertoire. Despite the fact that they actively use the internet and employ English lexical items in everyday life, both the younger and older generations fear losing their language and in the course their identity as well.

Keywords: Mahali, Attitude, Dominant language, Domains, Vitality