Mizo: a brief note
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Mizo (ISO 639-3: lus), also known as Lushai, is a language of the subgroup of Tibeto-Burman known as Kukish (Shafer), Chin, or Kuki-Chin. It is the official language of the Indian state of Mizoram. There are over half a million speakers in Mizoram and in neighboring areas of India, Bangladesh, and Burma. A writing system using the roman alphabet was designed by Christian missionaries in the 1890s, and literacy is widespread among speakers.
The material presented here was recorded by a University of California (Berkeley) doctoral student of linguistics, Edward Hillard, in 1976. The speaker is Mr Albert Siamkima Khawlring, M.A. (1938-1992), a noted writer and literary figure in Mizoram. Pu Siamkima was born and spent his early years in Lungleh, Mizoram, and later became a lecturer in English at Aizawl (also "Aijal"), the capital of Mizoram. Mr. Hillard has written a short biographical note and reminiscence of Pu Siamkima.
Pu Siamkima was recorded at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), where he was working on Mizo language and on Shakespeare at the invitation of the linguist and anthropologist Prof. F. K. Lehman.
The transcription is slightly revised standard Mizo orthography. Although Mizo is a tonal language, the orthography does not indicate tone. At the request of Prof. Lehman, Pu Siamkima, who was an enthusiastic student of linguistics, had carried out the fastidious task of marking tones in a copy of the standard Mizo dictionary (Lorrain 1940). In the morpheme glosses presented here, Mr Hillard added superscript numerals after each syllable to indicate lexical tone categories. This early transcription of Mizo tone may require revision in the light of more recent research on Chin languages. See Hillard 1992 for further information. Some grammatical abbreviations have been changed to accord with the Leipzig glossing rules.
Tualvungi and Zawlpala
This traditional folktale is the tragic story of the lovers Tualvungi and Zawlpala. Mr Hillard reports that Pu Siamkima, a teacher by profession, had been dissatisfied with two previous, extemporaneous recordings he had made of other stories (Hillard 1992) and insisted on reading the present story from a published version (Dawhraka 1964:97-101). We hope to present the other stories at a future date.
- Dahrawka, P.S. 1964. Mizo Thawnthu: Legends and Folk tales of the Mizo People. Aijal. Sasem Bookstall and Agency. pp. 97-101. [pdf of pages 97-99. We are looking for a scan of pages 100-101 and would appreciate help.]
- Hillard, Edward. 1992. "Whistle and Fontanel: two Mizo (Lushai) texts with commentary", Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 127-149.
- Lorrain, James Herbert. 1940. Dictionary of the Lushai language. Bibliotheca Indica, 261. Calcutta : Asiatic Society, 1940. xiv, 576 p. [Online version (Digital Dictionaries of South Asia, University of Chicago).]
B. Michailovsky, 19/12/2011