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Linguistic convergence within the 'Kachin' languages


Müller, André (2016). Linguistic convergence within the 'Kachin' languages. The Newsletter : International Institute for Asian Studies, (75):34-35.

Abstract

Speakers of the various Kachin languages often use the expression ‘Kachin’ or ‘Kachin language’ when speaking in English or Burmese to refer to the Jinghpaw language. There is, however, no single ‘Kachin’ language. The languages included in the super-ethnic category ‘Kachin’ include Jinghpaw itself, also spoken in China and Northeast India, where it is called ‘Singpho’; Zaiwa (Atsi), Lhaovo (Maru or Langsu), Lashi (Lachik or Lacid), Lisu, Rawang (Krangku), Ngochang (Maingtha or Achang, Ngachang), Pola (Bela), and Hpun. Pola has around 400 speakers and Hpun may no longer be spoken. As the recent work of Sadan, Robinne, and others has shown,2 the Burmese-language term ‘Kachin’ to refer to these peoples arose fairly recently in the context of colonial Burma. As a category, ‘Kachin’ may make sense most fully in English or Burmese, given that the term was created and given more meaning by successive governments to denote a category of people useful in the British colonial army. The question of how the people who now fall under this category may have understood themselves and their interconnections in the past and how their views have changed, may ultimately be unanswerable.

Abstract

Speakers of the various Kachin languages often use the expression ‘Kachin’ or ‘Kachin language’ when speaking in English or Burmese to refer to the Jinghpaw language. There is, however, no single ‘Kachin’ language. The languages included in the super-ethnic category ‘Kachin’ include Jinghpaw itself, also spoken in China and Northeast India, where it is called ‘Singpho’; Zaiwa (Atsi), Lhaovo (Maru or Langsu), Lashi (Lachik or Lacid), Lisu, Rawang (Krangku), Ngochang (Maingtha or Achang, Ngachang), Pola (Bela), and Hpun. Pola has around 400 speakers and Hpun may no longer be spoken. As the recent work of Sadan, Robinne, and others has shown,2 the Burmese-language term ‘Kachin’ to refer to these peoples arose fairly recently in the context of colonial Burma. As a category, ‘Kachin’ may make sense most fully in English or Burmese, given that the term was created and given more meaning by successive governments to denote a category of people useful in the British colonial army. The question of how the people who now fall under this category may have understood themselves and their interconnections in the past and how their views have changed, may ultimately be unanswerable.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Comparative Linguistics
Dewey Decimal Classification:490 Other languages
890 Other literatures
410 Linguistics
Language:English
Date:October 2016
Deposited On:18 Nov 2016 15:00
Last Modified:18 Nov 2016 15:07
Publisher:International Institute for Asian Studies
Funders:Schweizerischer Nationalsfonds
Free access at:Related URL. An embargo period may apply.
Related URLs:http://iias.asia/

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