|Native to||India, Bangladesh, Burma|
|Region||Mizoram, Tripura, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tahan, Nagaland|
Official language in
|Mizo language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
The Mizo language, or Mizo ṭawng, is spoken natively by the Mizo people in the Mizoram state of India, Chin State in Burma, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The language is also known as Lushai, a colonial term, as the Lushei people were the first to have external exposure. Though still common, Lushai (or Lusei, or Lushei) is considered incorrect by the Mizo themselves. Much poetic language is derived from Pawi, Paite, and Hmar, and most known ancient poems considered to be in the Mizo language are actually in Pawi.
The Mizo language belongs to the Kukish branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. The numerous clans of the Mizo had respective dialects, amongst which the Lushei (Lusei, by Mizo themselves) dialect was most common, and which subsequently became the Mizo language and the lingua franca of the Kuki peoples due to its extensive and exclusive use by the Christian missionaries.
The Mizo alphabet is based on the Roman script and has 25 letters, namely:
A circumflex ^ was later added to the vowels to indicate long vowels, viz., â, ê, î, ô, û, which were insufficient to fully express Mizo tone. Recently, a leading newspaper in Mizoram, Vanglaini, the magazine Kristian Ṭhalai, and other publishers began using á, à, ä, é, è, ë, í, ì, ï, ó, ò, ú, ù, ü to indicate the long intonations and tones. However, this does not differentiate the different intonations that short tones can have.
Relation with other languages
The Mizo language is related to the other languages of the Sino-Tibetan family. The Kukish languages (which native Mizo speakers call Zohnahthlâk ṭawngho/Mizo ṭawngho) have a substantial amount of words in common.
Mizo and Sino-Tibetan languages
The following table illustrates the similarity between Mizo ṭawng and some other members of the Sino-Tibetan family. The words given are cognates, whose origins could be traced back to the proto-language Proto-Sino-Tibetan (given in the first column of the table).
|Proto-Sino-Tibetan||Mizo language||Standard Chinese character (Pīnyīn)||Early Middle Chinese||Old Chinese||Written Tibetan||Written Burmese||Bodo||Tripuri(Kokborok)||Trung||English meaning|
|*sĭj(H) (? / ś-)||thi||死 (sǐ)||si'||sjid||shi-ba||se||thøi||thwi/thui||ɕi||die|
|*nă-||nang||汝 (rǔ)||-||-||-||-||nøng||nung/nwng||nǎ||thou (you)|
|*druaŋ||chhung (inside)||中(zhōng) (middle)||ṭüŋ ṭǜŋ||truŋ truŋs||gźuŋ||ǝtwaŋh||-||-||a3-tuŋ1 (middle)|
|*tī̆kʷ||tâwk (enough, sufficient)||淑 (shú, shū, chù)||-||-||sdug (pretty, nice)||thǝuk (be worth, have certain value; be lucky)||-||-||-|
|*chēŋ (be blue, green)||hring (green)||青 (qīng) (green)||chieŋ||shēŋ||-||-||-|
|*ch[ē]t||sât||切 (qiē, qiè)||chiet||shīt||zed||ćhać||-||tandi/Hradi||-||to cut|
Mizo and Burmese
The following few words suggest that Mizo and the Burmese are of the same family: kun ("to bend"), kam ("bank of a river"), kha ("bitter"), sam ("hair"), mei ("fire"), that ("to kill"), ni ("sun") hnih ("two") li ("four") nga ("five")
The Mizo language has eight tones and intonations for each of the vowels a, aw, e, i and u, four of which are reduced tones and the other four long tones. The vowel o has only three tones, all of them of the reduced type; it has almost exactly the same sound as the diphthong /oʊ/ found in American English. However, the vowels can be represented as follows:
|Close||i [i], [ɨ], [iː]||u [u], [ʊ], [ʊː]|
|Mid||e [e], [ɛ], [ɛː]||aw [o], [ɔ], [ɔː]|
|Open||a [ʌ], [a], [ɑ], [ɑː], [ä]|
The vowel o has almost exactly the same sound as the diphthong // in American English.
|Starting with a||Starting with e||Starting with i||Starting with u|
|ai (/aɪ̯/, /ɑːi/ or /ai/)||ei (/eɪ̯/, /ɛi/ or /ɛɪ̯/)||ia (/ɪə̯/ /ɪa/, /ɪa/ or /ɪa̭/)||ua (/u̯a/ or /ua̭/)|
|au (/aʊ̯/, /ɑːʊ̯/)||eu (/ɛu/, /eʊ/ or /eʊ̯/)||iu (/ɪʊ̯/ or /iw/)||ui (/ɥi/ or /ʔwi/)|
Mizo ṭawng has the following triphthongs:
- iai, as in iai, piai
- iau as in riau ruau, tiau tuau etc.
- uai, as in uai, zuai, tuai, vuai
- uau, as in riau ruau, tiau tuau, suau suau
Mizo has the following consonants. The first symbol is its orthographical form and the second one its representation in the IPA.
|Plosive||voiceless||p [p]||t [t]||k [k]||h [ʔ]1|
|aspirated||ph [pʰ]||th [tʰ]||kh [kʰ]|
|voiced||b [b]||d [d]|
|aspirated||chh [t͡sʰ], [tʃʰ]|
|aspirated lateral||thl [t͡lʰ]|
|aspirated flap||ṭh [t͡rʰ]|
|Fricative||voiceless||f [f]||s [s]||h [h]|
|voiced||v [v]||z [z]||l [l]|
|Nasal||plain||m [m]||n [n]||ng [ŋ]|
|aspirated||hm [ʰm]||hn [ʰn]||ngh [ʰŋ]|
|Liquid||plain||r [r]||l l|
|aspirated||hr [ʰr]||hl [ʰl]|
|glottalized1||rh [rʔ]||lh [lʔ]|
- The glottal and glottalized consonants appear only in final position.
Mizo is a tonal language, in which differences in pitch and pitch contour can change the meanings of words. Tone systems have developed independently in many of the daughter languages largely through simplifications in the set of possible syllable-final and syllable-initial consonants. Typically, a distinction between voiceless and voiced initial consonants is replaced by a distinction between high and low tone, while falling and rising tones developed from syllable-final h and glottal stop, which themselves often reflect earlier consonants.
The eight tones and intonations that the vowel a (and the vowels aw, e, i, u, and this constitutes all the tones in the Mizo language) can have can be shown by the letter sequence p-a-n-g, as follows:
- long high tone: páng as in páng là (which has the same intonation as sáng in the sentence Thingküng sáng tak kan huanah a ding).
- long low tone: pàng as in Tui a kawt pàng pâng mai (which has the same intonation as vàng in the word vànglaini).
- peaking tone: pâng as in Tui a kawt pàng pâng mai (which has the same intonation as thlûk in I hla phuah thlûk chu a va mawi ve).
- dipping tone: päng as in Tuibur a hmuam päng mai (which has the same intonation as säm in Kan huan ka säm vêl mai mai).
- short rising tone: pǎng as in naupǎng (which has the same intonation as thǎng in Kan huanah thǎng ka kam).
- short falling tone: pȧng as in I va inkhuih pȧng ve? (which has the same intonation as pȧn in I lam ka rawn pȧn)
- short mid tone: pang as in A dik lo nghâl pang (which has the same tone as man in Sazu ka man)
- short low tone: pạng as in I pạng a sá a nih kha (which has the same tone as chạl in I chạlah thosí a fù).
The following table illustrates the pronunciations of various consonants, vowels and diphthongs found in the Mizo language:
|Zạwhtë ka hmù||zɒʔ.teː kʌ ʰmuː|
|Thlàpǔi a ëng||tlʰaː.pwi ʔʌ ʔɛːŋ|
|Tlángah kǎn láwn||tlaː.ŋʌʔ kʌn loːn|
|Phengphehlep chi hrang paruk ṭhu chungin ka en||pʰeːŋ.pʰɛ.lʰɛp tsi ʰraŋ pʌ.rʊk trʰʊ tsʊ.ŋin kʌ ɛn|
|Ṭahbelh chu chhunah kan hruai ve lo vang.||trʌʔ.bɛlʔ tsʊ tʃuː.nʌʔ kʌn ʰrwai veː loʊ vʌŋ(or lɔ.vʌŋ)|
|I va berh ve!||ʔɪ vʌ berʔ ve:|
|Khàuphár thạwvẹn vè êm êm rịngawt mai che u hian.||kʰauː.pʰaːr tʰɔ.vɛn veː ʔɛːm ʔɛːm ri.ŋɔt mai/mʌj tsɛ ʔʊ hjaːn|
|Nghakuai kan chiah||ʰŋa.kua̯ːi kan tsjaʔ|
|I zuan kai ngam ka ring.||ʔi zua̯ːn kaːi ŋam ka riŋ|
|Hläu miah lovin.||ʰlaṷ mjʌʔ lɔ.vin|
|Kuai tliak||kwai tljaːk|
|I tán liau liau||i taːn ljaʊ ljaʊ|
|I uar a ni lo maw?||ʔɪ ʔʊar ʔʌ nɪ loʊ ˈmɔː|
|Paih darh suh||pʌɪʔ dʌrʔ sʊʔ|
Mizo contains many analyzable polysyllables, which are polysyllabic units in which the individual syllables have meaning by themselves. In a true monosyllabic language, polysyllables are mostly confined to compound words, such as "lighthouse". The first syllables of compounds tend over time to be de-stressed, and may eventually be reduced to prefixed consonants. The word nuntheihna ("survival") is composed of nung ("to live"), theih ("possible") and na (a nominalizing suffix); likewise, theihna means "possibility". Virtually all polysyllabic morphemes in Mizo can be shown to have originated in this way. For example, the disyllabic form bakhwan ("butterfly"), which occurs in one dialect of the Trung (or Dulung) language of Yunnan, is actually a reduced form of the compound blak kwar, found in a closely related dialect. It is reported over 18 of the dialects share about 850 words with the same meaning. For example, ban ("arm"), ke ("leg"), thla ("wing", "month"), lu ("head") and kut ("hand").
Mizo declarative word order is Object-subject-verb (OSV). For example:
- Lehkhabu ka ziak (I write/am writing a book)
However, even if one says Ka ziak lehkhabu, its meaning is not changed, nor does it become incorrect; the word order becomes Subject-verb-object. But this form is used only in particular situations.
The verbs (called thiltih in Mizo) are not conjugated as in languages such as English and French by changing the desinence of words, but the tense (in a sentence) is clarified by the aspect and the addition of some particles, such as
- ang (for forming simple future),
- tawh (for forming simple past and past perfect),
- mék (for forming progressive tenses, present and past),
- dáwn (for forming simple future),
- dáwn mék (for forming near future),
Modification of verbs
Mizo verbs are often used in the Gerund, and most verbs change desinence in the Gerund; this modification is called tihdanglamna. This modified form is also used as the past participle. Some verbs which undergo modification are tabulated below:
|Mizo verb||Tihdanglam (modified form)||English meaning|
|ziak||ziah||ziak - to write |
ziah - writing (g.), written
|tât||tah||tât - to whet (such as a knife)|
tah - whetting (g.), whetted
|mà||mâk||mà - to divorce (said of a man divorcing his wife)|
mâk - divorcing (g.), divorced
However, even if the spelling of a verb is not changed, its tone is sometimes changed. For example, the verbs tum (to aim), hum (to protect) etc. change tones; the tone is lowered in the modified form. There is a third class of verbs - those which neither change tone nor are inflected (modified). Examples include hneh (to conquer), hnek (to strike with one's fist).
Modification of words is not restricted to verbs; adjectives, adverbs etc. are also modified.
There is no gender for nouns, and there are no articles. There are some specific suffixes for forming nouns from verbs and adjectives, the most common of which are -na and -zia. The suffix -na is used for forming nouns from both verbs and adjectives, whereas -zia is used specifically for nominalising adjectives. For example,
- tlù (v. to fall) - tlûkna (n. fall)
- hmu (v. to see) - hmuhna (n. sight, seeing, vision)
- süal (adj. evil) - sualna (n. sin)/sualzia (n. evilness)
Declension of nouns
|Case||Desinence||Tone (in pronunciation)||Examples|
|no change|| -
|Ergative||suffix -in for non-proper nouns, 'n for proper nouns||short low pitch for -in||1. tuiin|
|Instrumental||short high pitch on -in|
|Locative||suffix -ah||1. tuiah|
Nouns are pluralized by suffixing -te, -ho, -teho or -hote, for example:
|mipa - man|
mipate/mipaho - men
|naupang - child|
naupangte/-ho - children
The free form is mostly used for emphasis, and has to be used in conjunction with either the clitic form or an appropriate pronominal particle, as shown in the following examples:
- Kei (=I free form) ka (=I clitic form)lo tel ve kher a ngai em?. This is a somewhat emphatic way of saying Ka lo tel ve kher a ngai em?
- Nangni (=you pl., free form) in (you pl., clitic form) zo tawh em? This is a somewhat emphatic way of saying Nangni in zo tawh em?
- Ani (he/she) a (s/he) kal ve chuan a ṭha lo vang.
The clitic form is also used as a genitive form of the pronoun.
Mizo pronouns, like Mizo nouns, are declined into cases as follows:
|Pronoun (Nominative case)||Genitive case||Accusative case||Ergative case|
|kei||keima||keimah, keimah min||keimahin=keima'n|
|keimah||keima||keimah, keimah min||keimahin=keima'n|
|keini||keini||keini, keini min||keini-in=keini'n|
|keimahni||keimahni||keimahni, keimahni min||keimahni-in=keimahni'n|
Mizo adjectives (Mizo: hrilhfiahna) follow the nouns they describe, as follows:
|1.||naupang||fel||a good child|
|2.||lehkhabu||chhiartlâk||a readable book|
For declarative sentences, negation is achieved by adding the particle lo (not) at the end of a sentence. For example,
|Lala a lo kal|
Lala is coming/Lala came
|Lala a lo kal lo|
Lala did not come
|Pathumin paruk a sem thei|
Three divides six
|Pathumin paruk a sem thei lo|
Three does not divide six
Also, for words such as engmah (nothing), tumah (nobody) etc., unlike English we have to add the negation particle lo; for example
Thus we have to use double negation for such cases.
Unique parts of speech in Mizo ṭawng
All kinds of Parts of Speech like noun, pronoun, verbs, etc. can be found in Mizo language with some additional unique kinds - post-positions and double adverbs.
Sample texts in Mizo ṭawng
The following is a sample text in Mizo of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
|Mi zawng zawng hi zalèna piang kan ni a, zahawmna leh dikna chanvoah intluk tlâng vek kan ni. Chhia leh ṭha hriatna fîm neia siam kan nih avangin kan mihring puite chungah inunauna thinlung kan pu tlat tur a ni.||All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience. Therefore, they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.|
Some Mizo words and phrases
|Ka läwm e||Thank you|
|I dam em?||How are you?|
|Ṭthà mâw? (informal)||How do you do?|
|Dár engzât nge?||What time is it now?|
|Khaw'nge i kal dáwn?||Where are you going?|
|Dam takin [(u) le]||Goodbye/Go in peace|
|Nûai(khat)||Hundred thousand/One lakh in Indian English|
The Mizo language has a thriving literature with Mizo departments in Mizoram University and Manipur University . The governing body is the Mizo Academy of Letters, which awards the annual literary prize MAL Book of the Year since 1989. The books awarded so far and their authors are tabulated below along with the years:
|Year||Book||Author||Comments on the book|
|1989||Ka Lungkham||B. Lalthangliana|
|1991||Zoram Khawvel-I||L. Keivom||Contemporary Mizo history|
|1993||Mizo Literature||B. Lalthangliana|
|1994||Kum za Kristian Zofate hmabâk||Bangalore Mizo Christian Fellowship|
|1995||Ram leh i tan chauh||H. Lallungmuana|
|1996||Bible leh Science||P.C. Biaksiama||Creationism|
|1997||Pasalṭha Khuangchera||Laltluangliana Khiangte||Drama|
|1999||Tlawm ve lo Lalnu Ropuiliani||Lalsangzuali Sailo||Mizo history|
|2000||Chawngmawii leh Hrangchhuana||R. Rozika||Novel|
|2001||Ka khualzin kawng||Robuanga|
|2002||Runlum Nuthai||L.Z. Sailo||Eulogy|
|2003||Kan Bible hi||Zairema||Theology|
|2006||Pasalṭhate ni hnuhnung||C. Lalnunchanga||Historical adventure novel|
|2007||Zofate zinkawngah zalenna mei a mit tur a ni lo||R. Zamawia||Factual description and idealization of Mizo uprising|
|2008||Chun chawi loh||Lalhriata||Novel|
|2009||Rintei zùnléng||Lalrammawia Ngente||Novel|
|2010||Beiseina Mittui||Samson Thanruma||Novel|
|2011||Zodinpuii (posthumously awarded)||Lalchhantluanga||Novel|
This award is only for books originally written in Mizo and not for translations, and it has been awarded every year since 1989. The award has been given to books on history and religion, but most of the winners are novels. Each year, the academy examines about a hundred books (in 2011, 149 books were examined), out of which it selects the top 20, and then first shortlistling it further to top 10, and then to top 5, then top 3, finally chooses the winner.
The academy also awards lifetime achievement in Mizo literature.
Some of the best-known Mizo writers include James Dokhuma, Ṭhuamtea Khawlhring, C. Laizawna, C. Lalnunchanga, Vanneihtluanga etc.
The Mizoram Press Information Bureau lists some twenty Mizo daily newspapers just in Aizawl city, as of March 2013. The following list gives some of the most well-known newspapers published in the Mizo language.
|Name of newspaper||Publication frequency||Editor||Place|
|Dumde||Daily||F. Lalbiakmawia (Fam)||Champhai|
|Ramlai Arsi||Daily||Lalremruata Ralte||Serchhip|
The Zozam Times| Daily| H.Laldinmawia| Aizawl
|Vanglaini chanchinbu,||Daily||K. Sapdanga||Aizawl|
|Zoram Thlirtu||Daily||Lalrinmawia Sailo||Aizawl|
Most of them are daily newspapers.
There are around 700,000 speakers of the Mizo language: 674,756 speakers in India (2001 census); 1,041 speakers in Bangladesh (1981 census); 12,500 speakers in Burma (1983 census).
Notes and references
- Distribution of the 100 non-scheduled languages
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Lushai". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Lalthangliana, B., 'Mizo tihin ṭawng a nei lo' tih kha, see also Matisoff, 'Language names' section
- Lalthangliana, B.: 2001, History and Culture of Mizo in India, Burma and Bangladesh, Aizawl. "Baptist Missionary Conference, 1892", p. 745
- The Mizo Wiktionary uses the additional symbols ạ, ǎ, ȧ, and likewise for the other vowels aw, e, i and u, to differentiate these
- See the guide here
- Mc Kinnon, John and Wanat Bruksasri (Editors): The Higlangders of Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Oxford University Press, 1983, p. 65.
- Lalthangliana, B.
- STEDT database.See also
- STEDT Database
- Weidert, Alfons, Component Analysis of Lushai Phonology, Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science, Series IV - Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, volume 2, Amsterdam: John Benjamins B.V., 1975.
- Zoppen Club, Mizo ṭawng thumal thar
- Sarmah, Priyankoo & Caroline Wiltshire, An acoustic study of Mizo tones and morpho-tonology.
- Govind, D., Priyankoo Sarmah, S.R. Mahadeva Prasanna, Role of pitch slope and duration in synthesized Mizo tones.
- Khoi Lam Thang, A phonological reconstruction of Proto-chin.
- Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, Workshop on Tone and Intonation: Theory, Typology and Computation.
- SCERT, Mizo Grammar, class XI & XII textbook (2002-).
- SCERT, Mizo Grammar and Composition, 2002.
- Chhangte, Lalnunthangi, The Grammar of Simple Clauses in Mizo
- This form is also used as the accusative
- UDHR in Mizo (Unicode Website) or OHCHR Website
- Vanglaini, April 24, 2012
- See the website
- "Vanglaini - Mizo Daily Since 1978". vanglaini.org. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
- The Ethnologue, 13th Edition, Barbara F. Grimes, Editor, 1996, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Inc.
- K. S. Singh: 1995, People of India-Mizoram, Volume XXXIII, Anthropological Survey of India, Calcutta.
- Grierson, G. A. (Ed.) (1904b). Tibeto-Burman Family: Specimens of the Kuki-Chin and Burma Groups, Volume III Part III of Linguistic Survey of India. Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta.
- Grierson, G. A: 1995, Languages of North-Eastern India, Gian Publishing House, New Delhi.
- Lunghnema, V., Mizo chanchin (B.C. 300 aṭanga 1929 A.D.), 1993.
- Zoramdinthara, Dr., Mizo Fiction: Emergence and Development. Ruby Press & Co.(New Delhi). 2013. ISBN 978-93-82395-16-4
- Lorrain, J. Herbert (James Herbert) Dictionary of the Lushai language. Calcutta : Asiatic Society, 1940. (Bibliotheca Indica, 261)
- Sino-Tibetan Etymological Dictionary and Thesaurus database
- Mizoram.nic.in Official website of Mizoram.
- Mizoram Presbyterian
- Mizoram Baptist
- Mizoram Adventist