Munda languages

Munda languages
India, Bangladesh
Linguistic classification: Austro-Asiatic
  • Munda
Kherwari (North)
Korku (North)
Koraput (Remo, Savara)
ISO 639-2 and 639-5: mun
Distribution of Munda language speakers in India

The Munda languages are a language family spoken by about nine million people in central and eastern India and Bangladesh. They constitute a branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family, which means they are distantly related to Vietnamese and Khmer (Cambodian). The origins of the Munda languages are not known, though they predate the other languages of eastern India. Ho, Mundari, and Santhali are notable languages of this group.

The family is generally divided into two branches: North Munda, spoken in the Chota Nagpur Plateau of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bengal, and Orissa, and South Munda, spoken in central Orissa and along the border between Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

North Munda, of which Santhali is the chief language, is the larger of the two groups; its languages are spoken by about nine-tenths of Munda speakers. After Santhali, the Mundari and Ho languages rank next in number of speakers, followed by Korku and Sora. The remaining Munda languages are spoken by small, isolated groups of people and are little known.

Characteristics of the Munda languages include three grammatical numbers (singular, dual, and plural), two genders (animate and inanimate), a distinction between inclusive and exclusive first person plural pronouns, and the use of either suffixes or auxiliaries to indicate tense. In Munda sound systems, consonant sequences are infrequent except in the middle of a word. Other than in Korku, where syllables show a distinction between high and low tone, accent is predictable in the Munda languages.



Munda consists of five uncontroversial branches. However, their interrelationship is debated.

Diffloth (1974)

The bipartite Diffloth (1974) classification is widely cited:

  • North Munda
    • Korku
    • Kherwarian
      • Kherwari branch: Agariya, Bijori, Koraku
      • Mundari branch: Mundari, Bhumij, Asuri, Koda, Ho, Birhor
      • Santhali branch: Santhali, Mahali, Turi
  • South Munda
    • Kharia–Juang: Kharia, Juang
    • Koraput Munda
      • Remo branch: Gata (Gta), Bondo (Remo), Bodo Gadaba (Gutob)
      • Savara branch [Sora–Juray–Gorum] : Parengi (Gorum), Sora (Savara), Juray, Lodhi

Diffloth (2005)

Diffloth (2005) retains Koraput (rejected by Anderson, below) but abandons South Munda and places Kharia–Juang with the northern languages:




 Core   Munda 


 North   Munda 



Anderson (1999)

Gregory Anderson's 1999 proposal is as follows.[1] Individual languages are highlighted in italics.

  • North Munda (2 branches)
    • Korku
    • Kherwarian
      • Santhali
      • Mundari
  • South Munda (3 branches)
    • Kharia–Juang
      • Juang
      • Kharia
    • Sora–Gorum
      • Sora
      • Gorum
    • Gutob–Remo–Gtaʔ
      • Gutob–Remo
        • Gutob
        • Remo
      • Gtaʔ
        • Plains Gtaʔ
        • Hill Gtaʔ

However, in 2001, Anderson split Juang and Kharia apart from the Juang-Kharia branch and also excluded Gtaʔ from his former Gutob–Remo–Gtaʔ branch. Thus, his 2001 proposal includes 5 branches for South Munda.

Anderson (2001)

Anderson (2001) follows Diffloth (1974) apart from rejecting the validity of Koraput. He proposes instead, on the basis of morphological comparisons, that Proto-South Munda split directly into Diffloth's three daughter groups, Kharia–Juang, Sora–Gorum (Savara), and Gutob–Remo–Gtaʼ (Remo).[2]

His South Munda branch contains the following five branches, while the North Munda branch is the same as those of Diffloth (1974) and Anderson (1999).

Sora–Gorum   JuangKhariaGutob–RemoGtaʔ
  • Note: "↔" = shares certain innovative isoglosses (structural, lexical). In Austronesian and Papuan linguistics, this has been called a "linkage" by Malcolm Ross.

See also



  1. ^ Anderson, Gregory D.S. (1999). "A new classification of the Munda languages: Evidence from comparative verb morphology." Paper presented at 209th meeting of the American Oriental Society, Baltimore, MD.
  2. ^ Anderson, Gregory D S (2001). A New Classification of South Munda: Evidence from Comparative Verb Morphology. Indian Linguistics. 62. Poona: Linguistic Society of India. pp. 21–36. 

General references

  • Diffloth, Gérard. 1974. "Austro-Asiatic Languages". Encyclopædia Britannica. pp 480–484.
  • Diffloth, Gérard. 2005. "The contribution of linguistic palaeontology to the homeland of Austro-Asiatic". In: Sagart, Laurent, Roger Blench and Alicia Sanchez-Mazas (eds.). The Peopling of East Asia: Putting Together Archaeology, Linguistics and Genetics. RoutledgeCurzon. pp 79–82.

Further reading

  • Gregory D S Anderson, ed (2008). Munda Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. 3. Routledge. ISBN 041532890X. 
  • Anderson, Gregory D S (2007). The Munda verb: typological perspectives. Trends in linguistics. 174. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110189650. 
  • Śarmā, Devīdatta (2003). Munda: sub-stratum of Tibeto-Himalayan languages. Studies in Tibeto-Himalayan languages. 7. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. ISBN 8170998603. 
  • Newberry, J (2000). North Munda hieroglyphics. Victoria BC CA: J Newberry. 
  • Varma, Siddheshwar (1978). Munda and Dravidian languages: a linguistic analysis. Hoshiarpur: Vishveshvaranand Vishva Bandhu Institute of Sanskrit and Indological Studies, Panjab University. OCLC 25852225. 

External links

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