August 29, 2012


[There are some cases where clear pictures of NSAA influences in Magar also are visible. But such cases would not allow Nepali only claim the score, for Nepali is not the single NSAA-body to have been closely associated with Magars since yores. Despite such common NSAA-impact on Magar some particular instances supply vivid proofs of reciprocity of give and take between these two languages (Nepali and Magar). But, as my problem in this article is only to show Magar influences on Nepali, I am deliberately avoiding to gather numerous proofs of reciprocity, which would have been equally meaningful to deal with.]

By Balkrishna Pokhrel

Five Magar girls, from the Himalayas in their traditional costume, the cultural
 representatives of the entire Magar peoples of the Himalayas and beyond.
About thirty-five years ago when I had to teach language to Tribhuvan University students in the department of Nepali, I was of the opinion that of all the Tibeto-Burman languages of Nepal Newari was the one, which had lent a considerable number of useful words to Nepali. But it was much more amazing when evidence came to appear surprisingly otherwise. In fact, the more I inclined to identify the Tibeto-Burman borrowings in Nepali the more my previous put-for-words-were thoroughly dumb-founded, because to my knowledge now Magar evidence pinnacle the acme of such borrowings. It is normal and natural to expect a lot of Magar elements being accommodated in the Nepali vocabulary, because of all the tribes in Nepal Magars are the people who were the first to come into contact with the Khas people to whom use of Nepali, then simply known as Khas-Kura (i.e. Khas –speech), was confined. Even nowadays Magars maintain the most unique proximal neighborhood with the speakers of Nepali, who have lost their communal nomenclature after their annexation to the Nepali brotherhood, and after they erroneously smelt a sign of derogation in the once very proud name (viz. Khas) of their distant ancestors.

Now all the time I am fully confident of the fact that the prolonged duration of co-existence of the lingual duo (Magars as well as Nepali) might have left the deepest impact on either side. Here my attempt would be to show as to what extent Magar has influenced Nepali, and not to show the other way round.

It would not be unreasonable to repeat that my continuous findings have enabled me to state that no other Tibeto-Burman speech than Magar has played a vital role in giving Nepali a typical shape up to the extent where it differs from other New South Asian Aryan (NSAA) sisters. Let us keep it into our mind that Magars, not Newari as I thought previously, is the forerunner in lending Tibeto-Burman features to Nepali. In my recently completed book Nepali Nirvacan Bhag-3 (“Origin of Nepali Word – Part 3”), I have shown, more than 25 percent of the entries worth-seeking their Magar origin. In this dinky attempt, I have endeavored to analyze the role played by the Magar elements in the area of Nepali conjugations. Such a role is comparatively most apparent in forming the simple present. Nepali has deviated from its NSAA-sisters in this respect. On the way to their eastward movement speakers of Nepali might have come into contact with Magars. The more they rushed eastward the more they were closer to Magars. That is why the westernmost dialects of Nepali are least influenced by Magar whereas the easternmost ones are extremely affected. The intermediate dialects demonstrate the character in between.

To make understand this hitherto unnoticed language-mystery the author has chosen on the one hand Hindi, Maithili and Bengali as Nepalese’s NSAA-sisters whereas Baitadli and Jumli as its far western and central dialects, respectively. The duo (Magar and Nepali), of course, constitutes the nuclei of sample-sources. Instead of calling the literary dialect of Nepali by the name of ‘Nepali’ I have preferred to call it ‘Standard Nepali’ (St. Nep). If special heed is paid the comparative study based on these speeches is enough to convince one how the eastward movement of the Nepali speakers gradually increased the tendency of Magarization in their language. The main purpose of my present article is to invite the distinguished scholars to deal with the reciprocal give and take between the linguistic duos in a compact form by exemplifying some instances of Magarization in Nepali simple present. To make the problem better convincing Rominzation of the basic counterparts of the source-speeches I have preferred the spoken patterns rater than the spelt ones.

There are some cases where clear pictures of NSAA influences in Magar also are visible. But such cases would not allow Nepali only claim the score, for Nepali is not the single NSAA-body to have been closely associated with Magars since yores. Despite such common NSAA-impact on Magar some particular instances supply vivid proofs of reciprocity of give and take between these two languages (Nepali and Magar). But, as my problem in this article is only to show Magar influences on Nepali, I am deliberately avoiding to gather numerous proofs of reciprocity, which would have been equally meaningful to deal with.

I have chosen ten verbal roots from all the source speeches mentioned above. The roots are serialized below:
  1. Ö Jāt -              (do)
  2. Ö si -                (die)
  3. Ö phin -            (cook)
  4. Ö dathup          (beat)
  5. Ö dinh -            (get)
  6. Ö dā -               (keep)
  7. Ö te -                (say)
  8. Ö se -               (hear)
  9. Ö jyā -              (eat)
  10. Ö binh -            (send)

All over this article these serial numbers will be carefully maintained in order to facilitate to grasp the problem properly. Below we are enlisting all the counterparts from all the source-source speeches accordingly to the same number of serializing. For this, it is better to abbreviate the names of all the sources-speeches-

H. (Hindi), B. (Bengali), MTH. (Maithili), BTD. (Baitadli), J. (Jumli), SN. (Standard Nepali), and M. (Magar). Below is the list of ten roots from all the source-speeches.

S.N.     H.        B         MTH   BTD.   J.         SN.      M.                  ENG.  

1.      Ö kar-        Ö kar-  Ö kar-  Ö gar-  Ö gar-  Ö gar-  Öjāt-                do
2.      Ö mar-       Ö mar- Ö mar- Ö mar- Ö mar- Ö mar- Ösi-                 die
3.      Ö pakā       Ö rān-  Ö rān-  ÖpakanÖpakanÖpakāuÖphin-             cook
4.      Ö mār-       Ö mār- Ö mār- Ö pit     Ö pit     Ö pit     Ö dathup          beat
5.      Ö pā           Ö pā     Ö pā     Ö pau-  Ö pau-  Ö pāu   Ö dinh              get
6.      Ö rakh-      Örākh- Örakh- Örākh- Örākh- Örākh- Ö dā                 keep
7.      Ö kah         Ö bol-   Öbajh- Öbhun Öbhun  Öbhan Ö te-                 say
8.      Ö sun-        Ö son-  Ö sun-  Ö sun   Ö yun   Ö xun   Ö se-                hear
9.      Ö khā-        Ö khā-  Ö khā-  Ö khā- Ö khā-  Ö khā-  Ö jyā                eat
10.  Ö bhej-       Öpathā-Ö pathā-ÖpathauÖpathaÖpathāuÖ bhnh        send

Table: Ten Verbal Roots from the Source Speeches

To fulfill the desired objective I have selected the simple present examples in the third person only. As Magar conjugation does not respond to the number or the gender variation our materials to justify the claim of Magar impact comes to be conveniently handy, as for example Magar ‘Jātle’ (<Öjāt; serial No. 1) bears four separate meanings (he does, she does, men do, women do) which can only be differentiated with the help of context. Unless the situation is known one is helpless to discern as to which of the four meanings the form ‘jātle’ is denoting. The same is true with other verbal forms also.

Now step-by-step I intend to cite the simple present (third person) forms of all the verbal roots in all the source-speeches chosen herein.

1.      ‘do’- root forms

 H. kartā hai; B. karite che; MTH. Karit chai; BTD. Garancha; J. gaddo cha (for an older gardo cha); SN. Garcha; M. jātle (does).

In all the cases the structural meaning is ‘doing is’ (i.e. – ing +is), except in Magar and standard Nepali where this (does’) structurally is ‘do is’ (i.e., root +is). Here Magarization is distinctly traceable in the standard Nepali ‘root +is’ form

2.      ‘die’ - root forms

H. martāhai; B., marite che; MTH.marait chai; BTD. Marancha; J. maddocha(for an older mordocha); SN. Marcha; M. sile (dies).

Here also all are functionally ‘dies’ and structurally ‘dying is’, but exceptionally standard Nepali and Magar are, although functionally ‘dies’, but structurally ‘die is’.

3.      ‘cook’ – root forms

H. pakātā hai; B. rānite che; MTH. rannit chai; BTD. Pakauncha; J. pakauno cha; SN. Pakāũcha; M. phinle (cooks).
Here Magar is left alone to bear the ‘cook is ‘form. Nepali shows kinship with other NSAA-sisters by choosing ‘cooking is ‘ form instead of the ‘cook is’ as is found in Magar. It is important to keep into mind that Nepali simple present does not share affinity with Magar ‘root + is’ form if the concerning root is unlocked (i.e., if it ends with a vowel). In such unlocked roots Nepali simple conjugates structurally with the device ‘-ing + is’ which is a regular tendency of its NSAA-sisters.

4.      ‘beat’- root forms

H. mārtā hai; B. mārite che; MTH. mārāit chai; BTD. pitancha; J. pitto cha (for an older pitto cha); SN. pitcha; M. datauple (beats).
 As the Nepali root is a locked one it accepts ‘beat is’ structure, which I have taken as token of Magarization. Its NSAA-sisters are ‘beating is’ as is usual to them.

5.      ‘get’ – root forms

H. pātā hai; B. pāite che; MTH. pābait chai; BTD. pauncha; J. pauno cha; SN. pāucha; M. dinhle (gets).

As all the unlocked roots this one (primary Ö pā-with secondary Ö pāu-) also shares affinity with other NSAA-sisters. Here also Magar is left alone to represent the ‘root + is’ structure.

6.      ‘keep’ – root forms

H. rakh tā hai; B. rākhite che; MTH. rakhit chai; BTD. rākhanche; J. rākhno cha; SN. rākhcha; M. dāle (keeps).
As in other locked roots, here also Nepali deviates from its NSAA-sisters and joins close familiarity with Magar. Obviously here also the structure is, as in Magar, ‘root + is’ (keep).

7.      ‘say’ – root forms

H. kahtā hai; B. bolite che; MTH. bājhait chai; BTD. bhunan-cha; J. bhunno cha; SN. bhancha; M. tele (says).
One should not be confused seeing ‘tele’ of Magar very akin to ‘tells’ of English, because this is quite accidental. Etymologically this form (tele) is an innovation of an older ‘dele’ (says). It so appears that in the say – form also Nepali favors the Magar counterpart.

8.      ‘hear’ – root forms

H. suntā hai; B. sonite che; MTH. sunait chai; BTD. sunancha; J xunno cha; SN. suncha; M. sele (hears).

Here also agreement between Nepali and Magar structures is beyond dispute.

9.      ‘eat’ – root forms

H. khatā hai; B. khāite che; MTH. khāit chai; BTD. kāncha; J. khāno cha; SN. khāncha; M. jyāle (eats).

Here again Magar is left alone with the structure ‘root + is’ because in other speeches it is structurally antagonism is such cases between Nepali and Magar is due to the unlocking of the Nepali root. In this particular case the concerning Nepali is root Ö khā- is clearly unlocked.

10.  ‘send’- root forms

H. bhejatā hai; B. pāthāito che; MTH. pathābait chai; BTD. pathaun- cha; J. pathauno cha; SN. pathāũcha; M. binhle (sends).

No Magar impact on the standard Nepali is seen here because as an unlocked root Nepali does not accept ‘root + is’ structure even sporadically. 

 Some necessary remarks 

 1. In the spoken Calcutta dialect of Bengali there forms like kƆocche (does), mƆcche       (dies), rānche (cooks), mācche (beats), pāche (gets), rākhche (keeps), bƆlche (says), sonche (hears), khācche (eats), pathācche (sends), etc. But these are not the cases of ‘root +is’ forms. There are two strong arguments that can defy the conception of their resemblance with ‘root +is’ structure. One argument is that their resemblance with ‘root +is’ structure is surfacial, because they function in Bengali as the present continuous. These are doubtlessly the modified developments of “-ing +is” forms, owing to the rapid phonological harmony, underwent a puzzling sound-change and, thus, came to resemble with ‘root + is’ forms. Another argument is that Bengali depends on uncompounded forms (khāe: eats; kƆre: does; bƆle: says, etc.) to express simple present. Actually the history of every ‘-ing + is’ goes to present continuous in all the NSAA-speeches. But gradually in all speeches the present continuous is surrendering to the simple present. In Nepali, Baitadi, Jumli and Maithili such surrender is complete while in Bengali it is in the process. To close up the dialogue a few words are adequate to state that whether blended (like kƆcche) or unblended (like kƆrite che) Bengali examples are far away from the process of Magarization.

2. There are two types of unlocked roots in Nepali- one type having a secondary root, and the other type denying such secondaries.

Only a very few unlocked roots in Nepali do not have secondary counterparts. Some of such scant ‘merely primary’ unlocked roots are Ö jā- (go), Ö khā- (eat), Ö phu- (unfasten),Ö chu- (touch), etc. Our concerning conjugation of these roots are jāncha (goes), khāncha (eats), phuncha (unfastens), chuncha (touches), respectively. Distinctly these forms manifest ‘- ing +is’ structure, against ‘root +is’ structure. Had they been ‘root + is’ forms they would have appeared as jācha, khācha, phucha, and chucha respectively, which sound ridiculous even to hear.

There are a lot of verbs with unlocked roots having secondary roots in Nepali. Of these a few are shown below. 

Primary roots                 Secondary roots

Ö gā- (sing)                      Ö gāu – (sing)
Ö ā – (come)                    Ö āu – (come)
Ö nuhā- (take bath)         Ö nuhāu – (take bath)
Ö suhā – (suit)                 Ö suhāu – (suit)

These are two types (primary and secondary) of roots are not equipotent or equivalent. Mostly primary roots are seen forming past tense (khā-yo): he ate, āayo: he came, and working as imperative (gā: you just do sing, ā: you just do come, etc.). The secondary roots are seen forming types like simple present, e.g. gāũcha (he sings), āũcha (he comes), etc. This, of course does not belong to the ‘root +is’ structure.

3. Secondary roots belonging to the unlocked class have the peculiarity that they have two alternative ways of conjugation in forming simple present. They never differ in meaning, e.g. 

First Alternative -                      Second Alternative 

gāũcha (sings)                             gāũdacha (sing)
āũcha (comes)                             āũdcha (comes)
nuhāũcha (takes bath)                nuāũdacha (takes bath)
Suhāũcha (suits)                          suhāũdacha (suits)

It is needless to say that both the alternative types have relation with (ing +is) structure.

4. It has been made clear already that locked roots in Nepali are the only instances where ‘root + is’ structure is detected. But such roots are also of two types – the first with two alternative forms and the second with three alternative forms. There is not a single locked root in Nepali, which may show only one alternative in simple present. This unveils that the number of alternative simple present forms in locked roots ranges from two to three. Such roots being locked by a voiced consonant give us only two synonymous alternative simple present forms, whereas the roots being locked by an unvoiced consonant give us three forms of the same categorical strength. Following examples are enough to make the fact clear. 

A.                         Locked roots with two alternatives

Ö gar – (do)
(a)               garcha (does) –root+ is
(b)               gardcha (does) – - ing+ is

   Ö bhan – (says)
(a)              bhancha (says ) – root + is
(b)              bhandacha (says) – - ing + is

   Ö chod – (quit)
(a)          chodcha (quits) – root +is
(b)          choddacha ( quits) - -ing + is

B.                         Locked roots with three alternative
Ö sak – (can)
(a)               sakcha (he can) – root+ is
(b)               sakdacha (he can) – ing + is
(c)                saktacha (he can) – ing + is

     Ö nāc – (dance)
(a)    naccha (dances) – root + is
(b)    nacdacha (dances) –ing+ is
(c)     nactacha (dances) – ing + is

   Ö pit (beat)

(a)    pitcha (beats) – root + is
(b)    pitdacha ( beats) – ing + is
(c)     pittacha (beats) – ing + is

Of all the locked and unlocked roots only those bearing simple present forms with ‘root + is’ structure are found affected by Magarization. On the contrary those simple present forms manifesting ‘- ing + is’ structure are firmly tenacious towards their normal NSAA- attitude. 


No Magarization is traceable in Hindi, Bengali and Maithili simple present, as they absolutely refute the construction based on ‘root + is’ structure. Similarly, in this regard Nepal spoken in Baitadi and Jumla is also free from its tendency. This means that Nepali speakers (Khas or Parbate people) were not in close contact with the Magars so long as they did not cross the Karnali Zone. It does not suggest that no Magar abodes were over there. Certainly Magars were indigenous there too, but there social contamination was perhaps not so effective there. There is proverb in Nepali – magarko bihemā khas nāsti, khasko bihemā magar nāsti (“There is no Khas guest in the wedding ceremony of a Magar, and vice versa”). The proverb seems to have emerged when the two people were not good (or even bad) neighbors.

The moment Khas people with their kura (speech) moved eastward from their ancient habitat (now commonly known as Baisi) Magar influence on their tongue gradually became more and more frequent. Such influences are worth detecting in grammar as well as in vocabulary.

But despite the enormous Magar impact on Nepali it still inherits NSAA characters in a satisfactory degree. An un-debatable exemplification is born by numerous ‘ing + is’ simple present forms of the third personal verbs in Nepali. This hitherto neglected linguistic fact may inspire our scholars to carry on a similar study on a larger scale, on convergence of Nepal language with Magar as a result of their proximity.

*  The author is one of the  renowned linguists of Nepal. This paper was presented at the 17th Annual Conference of the Linguistic Society of Nepal, November 27, 1996, Biratnagar, Morang and  was later published in Journal of Nepalese Studies Vol. 1 No. 2 1996. Royal Nepal Academy, Katmandu, Nepal