A Detailed Study on The Process of Word Formation in Rabha

Author: Nilanjana Chowdhyry (Jadavpur University, India)
Speaker: Nilanjana Chowdhyry
Topic: Language Documentation
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 General Session


The Rabha of North Bengal was separated from their original unified tribe at least a century ago. The Rabha Language has quite a few dialects but my main concern in this paper is to focus mainly on the word formation aspects of standard Rabha variety which is seen during the study based on the data collected from the village which was a part of the vitality analysis of the speech community.The language has its own numeric system which is gradually falling into disuse. The Word Formation Process consists of a combination of morphemes that are rule-governed. In case of bound morphemes, morphemes are not seen to appear separately, but mainly with the affixes.  Agglutinating characteristic is a typological phenomenon in the structure of word. Some of the observations seen during the study are–

  • Inflection, consists of number, tense and case. For example: the word eniŋ is used for dual cases, eniŋ fuŋ means ‘two trees’; and t̪akri is used for plural cases, t̪akri fuŋ means ‘many trees’
  • The usage of tense has 3 distinct morphemes which are added to the root verb to indicate the three different types of tense. If the root word is sa which means ‘to eat’, by adding -t̪ana, –it̪a and –na with the root word changes it to past, present and future respectively.
  • Due to contact with other languages, Rabha borrows numerous loan words from almost all the languages that it comes in contact with, like tebɛl, kʰata
  • Reduplication is also seen in Rabha. Like, sʌmi sʌmi bocʰoit̪ɛ afa the literal translation of which means ‘bring sweet sweet mangoes’
  • Rabha also shows the compounding, that is, (Noun + Noun) or (Noun + Verb)
  • Derivational Process is also seen in the language. This is accomplished by adding affixes. Example: aŋ cort̪ana pæsa niganən the literal translation of which is in Bengali, that is, আমি চুরি করেছি টাকার দরকারে

The study is based on an extensive fieldwork in North Kairbari Forest Basti, Madarihat, Alipurdur. The data primarily has been collected based on own encounter with people in the village, through interviews with the Koch speakers. The methods used for the collection of the data are: Interviews, audio recording and questionnaire. The data has been collected from almost 15 – 20 informants, which includes male and female of all age groups.

ChagPidan: 1988 : Pt-1,2,3 & 4 : Primer Written in Standard Rabha Language’
Champai: 1978 : A Collection of Baikhu Songs, ed : Listi Rongkho, Baida

Keywords: rabha, word formation process, analysis, preliminary investigation