Ethno-Linguistic Vitality of Koch

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Satarupa Dattamajumdar


The Koch language is spoken in the states of Assam (Goalpara, Nagaon, Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Chirang, Bongaigao, Barpeta, Baksa, Udalguri, Karbi Anglong, Golaghat districts), Meghalaya (West Garo Hills, South-West Garo Hills, South Garo Hills and East Khasi Hills Districts). Koches are found in West Bengal (Northern part) and also in Bangladesh. The speaker strength of Koch in India according to 2011 census is 36,434. Koch community is the bilingual speakers of Assamese, Bengali, Garo, Hindi, and English. Contact situations of Koch with Assamese and Bengali languages have made the language vulnerable to language shift. The UNESCO report mentions Koch as ‘Definitely Endangered’1. Koch has gained the status of a scheduled tribe in Meghalaya in 1987. Kondakov (2013) traces six distinct dialects of Koch, viz., Wanang, Koch-Rabha (Kocha), Harigaya, Margan, Chapra and Tintekiya. He (2013:24) states, “The relationship between the six Koch speech varieties are rather complex. They represent a dialect chain that stretches out from Koch-Rabha in the north to Tintekiya Koch in the south.” This is diagrammatically represented as - Koch-Rabha(Kocha)→Wanang→Harigaya→Margan, Chapra→Tintekiya where the adjacent dialects exhibit more lexical similarity than those at the ends. Nine ethno-linguistic varieties of Koch (also mentioned in Kondakov, 2013:5) have been reported during field investigation. These are Harigaya, Wanang, Tintekiya, Margan, Chapra, Satpariya, Sankar, Banai and Koch Mandai.

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