Culture and Ethno-linguistic Aspects of Koyas

Author: Devanpalli Srikanth Kumar (University of Mysore, India)
Speaker: Devanpalli Srikanth Kumar
Topic: Ethnographical Language Work
The GLOCAL CALA 2023 General Session


This paper discusses the ethno-linguistic aspects of Koyas, a community residing in various localities throughout India. The Koyas are of the largest ancient tribal communities, covering parts of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh borders of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra States. The Koyas population is 568,019 (11.3%), according to a 2001 census. This tribe has similarities with the Gonds in social structure. An important tribal ceremony is Marriage. Marriage occurs between the different clans only, and not within the same clan. Generally, marriage occurs in four ways; by love & elopement, by capture, by service, and by negotiations (arranged marriage). Koyas practice shamanism, who are labeled vedʒu, meaning ‘cure’. These shamans cure all types of general diseases, such as severe fever, chickenpox, coughs & colds, and aches, and exorcise spirits.

The study constitutes a pilot attempt to observe cultural aspects such as the Marriage System, Hunting, Shamanism, Festivals, and so forth of these communities. Here, the intentions included to document Koya community language and cultural models and praxis. This study focuses on ways in which Koya culture is reflected in and expressed through its language. The linguistic framework for the study is a lexico-semantic comparative one.

After a preliminary survey on the Koyas, the study found that no ethno-linguistic work has been conducted on the Koya communities as yet, despite work existing on aspects such as grammar, and dictionaries of Koya language. This study involves solely fieldwork, conducted in the Kummuru and Thummala villages of the Chinturu mandal East Godavari district, in December 2017. There, the number of native speakers are more highly concentrated. The study employs interviews, conversations, direct observation, and audio-visual documentation, as well as interaction with the community. For recording the ethno-linguistic aspects, modern electronic devices such as digital sound recorders, digital cameras, and laptops are used.

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Keywords: Koyas