The Tai Ahom Language in Assam : Language Shift and The Process of Socio-Cultural Assimilation — Dr. Anita konwar, Asst. Professor, , Donation, Cheraidoi



Introduction
                 India beng a land of the people of different caste,community and religion has different regional languages. Assam, the abode of different ethnic groups has different languages and dialects. The Tai ahoms are the descendants of the ethnic tai people that accompanied the Tai Prince Suo Kaa Faa in to the Brahmaputra valley in 1228 and ruled the area of six centuries in the early 13th century, Muong Mao was a small kingdom of tai people, related to the Shan, in present day Yonnan province, China. in 1228, Suo Kaa Gas, a prince of Muong Mao began his journey with about 9000 followers, mostly men. He crossed the patkai hills and reached the Brahmaputra valley in 1228. He moved from place to place, searching for a seat.  He decided not to attack Morans and Borahis but befriend them instead.
Suo Kaa Faa and his followers established the ahom kingdom (1228-1826) and the ahom dynasty ruled and expanded the kingdom until the British gained control of the region through the treaty of yandaboo upon winning the first Anglo-Burmese war in 1826.
The culture of the modern ahom people is a syncretic blend of the original tai culture, the indigenous Tibeto-Burmans and hunduism. Many of the tai followers of Suo Ka Faa were unaccompanied males who subsequently married into the local communities. some ethnic groups, including the Tabeto-Burman speaking borahi people,  were completely subsumed into the ahom community. Members of other communities,  based on their allegiance to the ahom kingdom or the usefulness of their talents were accepted as ahimsa.Gradually, the indo-aryan Assamese language replaced the tai-ahom language as the ahoms converted tho hunduism and other aspects of Indian culture.
The tai ahom dynasty had reigned in Assam over six hundred years. Though they had their own languages,  the tai ahom language which was prevalent during the reign of the ahom kings was gradually replaced by Assamese languages. The language in classified in a north western sub-grouping of South western tai owing to close affinities with shan, khamti and,more distantly,Thai.The language today is used chiefly for liturgical purpose. It retains cultural significance and is used for religious chants and to read literature. Their are different socio-cultural and political factors behind the language shift. The hinduization of the ahoms was one of the major reason behind their inclination towards the Assamese language. Though the Assamese language become an official as well as spoken language for the tai ahoms, the influence of the tai ahom language is also perceptible in the case of Assamese language. Many words of the tai ahom languages have enriched the vocabulary of the Assamese language.
Objective & Methodology:
This paper aims at analyzing those factors leading to the language shift from the tai ahom to the Assamese language and the process of socio-cutural assimilation of the tai ahimsa.The methodology applied in the paper is analytical method.
[05/03 20:03] Kalyan Jyoti: Analysis:
The name of this land was not Assam before the arrival of the tai speaking people. according to Dr. Banikanta Kakoti, the name 'Assam' is associated with the 'Shaan' who came to in 1228 AD. The local people called them as 'Assam, Ahom'. In ahom language 'Sam' means defeated. when 'Aa' prefix is combined win it 'Assam'. After the tai ahoms had come to this land,  they included the bold, courageous men in their group with a view to from one powerful nation bya giving them indication with 'Aao-hom'.
In 1228 AD, Suo Kaa Faa, the predecessor of the tai ahoms landed in saumar after crossing the patkai hills. At that time, the upper part of Assam was known as Saumar and the lower part was known as kamrup. Suo Kaa Faa established his kingdom in charaideo.when swaragadeo Chao Lung Suo Kaa Faa established the ahom kingdom, one question arose regarding the use of language - weather the ahom people will continue the tai ahom language or accept the language of the defeated people. when the tai ahoms came to the new land, there were few men with them. The ahoms started matrimonial alliances with the local people. By accepting the local language. they intermingled with the local people. one of the traditions of the tai ahoms was history writing. so the use of the tai ahom language was confined only to history writing and religious writing.

The ahimsa had reigned for long six hundred years, so they influenced the Assamese language and culture. The ahimsa had cultural exchange with the local people. so the various words of ahom language had an entry into the Assamese language. The tai ahoms had immense contribution to Assamese language in to the field of history writing. The historical writings were started in 13th century and helped in the dissemination and development of Assamese prose style in the 15th century. The tai ahom language has enriched the Assamese language. examples of the assimilation of tai ahom words with Assamese words:

Ahom words              Assamese words
Kai/Chai                        Kakai
Kareng                          Kareng
Buranji                           Buranji
Lao                                Lao(wine)
Phuk                               Phuk(Chant)
Raap                               Raap(Interest)
Khin                                Khin(thin)
Chaklang      Chaklang(marriage system)
Chagmai(cook)   Changmai(a title)
Chao-dang                     Chaodang
Chalk                              Choka(Sharp)
Make            Jak-Jamak(Pompous)
Kai-Ki-Ni          Kakini(Betel Nut)
Ma'am                           Maam(rice)
Lik-Chau                Lik-Chou(servent)
Khi-la-n-ji                 Khilanjia(local)
   Many tai ahom words are assimilated into Assamese language. Though the language, there is a socio-cutural assimilation with the local people and helped in the formation of the greater Assamese society.
Tai ahom influence is also seen in the name of places. For example,
Tingkhong_____ Ting means high, khang means place
Tipam______To means place ,Pam means low (a low place)
Trok_______Place of butter (Ti means place and lok means butter)
Khamti_______ place of gold (kham means gold. Ti means place)
Namti______Place of water (Nam means water and Ti means place)
In tai ahom language, in other to refer to water or river the word 'Nam' is used. For example:
Nam-dang ---------muddy water (Name means water or river, daeng means red)
Namrup--------- The sixth river (Nam means water or river and Ruk means six)
In tai ahom language, the accent is very important. one word man have different meaning depending on the accent of the word. on the basis of accent, same works may have eight to nine meaning. This unique characteristics off the ahom language has influenced the Assamese language. as the Ahom reigned in the upper part of Assam for six hundred years, And assimilated with the Assamese society,so their is a difference in the tonal quality of the language of the lower Assam.
The most significant contributions of the ahoms are the tradition of history writing and the system of administration. The ahoms
[05/03 20:03] Kalyan Jyoti: Though the ahoms were the conqueror, they did not impose their language on the local people. The ahoms become bilinguals with the constant influence of the local languages especially the Assamese languages. one of the important reasons is that few ahom people came with the ahom King, so it was not possible for them to establish a big empire without the help of the local people. it was the administrative diplomacy of the ahom administrators that they employed the local people in different regal affairs.  in this way they work the hearts and support of the local people by showing respect to the local language win its practice in royal interactions. from 17th century onwards, the Assamese language began to have a firm grip where this ahoms started writing their history in Assamese as well as in ahom language. The gradual shifitng of the language reflects the socio-cultural assimilation of the ahoms Wit the local people. The ahoms had matrimonial relation with the local people. The children knew the mother's language and gradually the influence of the ahom language decline in the next generation. another reason for the decline of ahom language is the complexity of the language. This language is tonal and monosyllabic in nature. The phonetic system of language is difficult. The ahom become more interested in a comparatively simple and timeless Assamese language.
within the rise of vaisnative movement initiated bya srimanta sankaradeva in 16th century AD,Assamese came onto the forefront. one of the principal factor of the ahom's inclination towards the Assamese language is the Hinduization process if the ahoms. In the beginning of the 17th century during the region of king Rudra Singha,the process if hunduization started. The Assamese language also got an equal status line that of the Tao ahom language in the royal court. Gradually the Assamese language got more importance and the Tao ahom language faded away. it is because of the hinduization process that the ahom kings accept Hindu names like Rudra Singha, Rajeshwar Singha etc. besides their Tai Ahom names.
Conclusion:
The tai ahom came in contact win different communities like Kachari,Chutiya,Moran,Miriam,Lalung etc. with their diverse cultural and language since this time of their arrival. it is the far-sightedness of the first ahom king Chao Lung Suo Kaa Faa that he assimilated the aborigines to build his kingdom. The socio cultural assimilation is perceptible in the tai ahoms willingness to acknowledged the local culture and language. Tho assimilation leads to the development of the Assamese language.The language shift form the tai ahom to Assamese is the part of the socio-cultural assimilation of the ahoms with the other communities. To build a vast kingdom.it was essential for the king of unite all, irrespective of their socio-cutural differences, language can play a better role in bridging the gap among the different communities. By accepting the Assamese language as the mode of communication,the tai ahoms were successful in establishing a greater Assamese society. Assamese language also attains hybridity by including a large number of ahom words for places ,rivers, hills, And lakes.

Worked Cited:
Boruah, Sri Bimalakanta. Tai Bhasha.Jorhat:Assam Sahitya Sabha, 1974.
Buragohain, Sri Hem, ed. Che-Rai-Doi. Sibsagar:Hemkosh Press,1984.
Gogoi, Chow Lokeswar. Tai Jana Sanskriti, Part I. Gauahati:Chukapha Research Center, 1994.