Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 10 : 6 June 2010
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.



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Honorifics and Speech Levels in Meiteiron

N. Pramodini, Ph.D.


Meiteiron has a complex and sophisticated honorific system with its lexical and morphological variants. This study attempts to demonstrate the use of honorifics and different speech levels in different contexts. These levels are marked by the use of various lexical and morphological variants. From the functional point of view it will be shown that at least there are five levels of speech in Meiteiron, namely ultrahigh, high, high plain, plain and low, which are clearly marked by the use of different suffixes and lexical items.


This paper attempts an analysis of honorifics and organization of speech levels in Meiteiron, with respect to various social and cultural values.

Meiteiron (known as Manipuri officially) is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the Indian North-Eastern state of Manipur, It is also spoken in the neigbhouring countries Bangladesh and Burma and neigbhouring state of Assam by the Meitei or Manipuri inhabitants of these places. It is the lingua-franca and official language of the state. It is the only language of Tibeto-Burman family (spoken in India) recognized by the VIII Schedule of Indian Constitution. This language is also known as or written as "Meithei" (Meitei) to the linguistic scholars in the west.

A clarification is required to be made here regarding the use of the ethnonym Meithei (Meitei) as it is being used wrongly for the language, i.e., Meiteiron. The terminology "Meithei" (Meitei) is the ethnonym while Meiteiron is the glossonym. And Meiteiron and Manipuri are the allonyms of the same language. I have used the glossonym Meiteiron in this paper as it is popularly known by this glossonym.

Variation in Meitei Honorific and Speech Levels System

The analysis of this speech behavior in terms of its ethnographic context shows a significant range of variation in Meitei honorific and speech levels system. The concept of "speech levels" was first propounded by Martin (1964). There have been extensive studies on honorific and speech levels in the language of South East and South Asia, for example, Korean (Sinn 1990; Hwang 1990; Pei 1992) , Japanese (Martin 1964; Miller 1967;Harada 1980; Shibatani 1990; Tsujimuara 1996)' Javanese (Greetz 1960), Hindi (Jain 1969), Tibetan (Agha 1998).

The present study examines the nature of Meitei indexical expression in particular sentence final forms and honorific vocabulary including the use of address terms, second personal pronouns, verb and nouns. Focusing upon the functional aspects of honorific in a speech event the honorifics can be categorized into an "addressee honorific" and "referent honorific" (Choy 1955 cited in Wang 1990). Both axes of honorifics are either morphologically or lexically expressed in Meiteiron with the "addressee honorific" having developed into a highly complex system as in the case of Korean (Wang 1990).

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Patterns of Indian Multilingualism | The Use of Catchy Words: A Case Study from Pakistan | Conquering Psychological Alienation - How Amy Tan Looks at It | I`gbo` Verbs of Communication | Honorifics and Speech Levels in Meiteiron | Social Functions of Metaphor - A Case Study Applying Tamil and Telugu Examples | Pragmatic Approaches and Models of Linguistic Politeness | Emerging Paradigms in Language Communication in India and Their Impact on the Corporate Competencies | Role of Encoding Temporal Fine Structure Cues in Time Compressed Word Recognition | Negotiating Boundaries: Arab-American Poetry and the Dilemmas of Dual Identity | The Role of Self-Directed Learning Strategy in Higher Education | Attitudes toward Women Expressed in the Speech of Male College Students | Teachers' Professional Development in ELT at Tertiary Level: ELTR Project of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan - A Case Study | The Changing Image of Women in Indian Writing in English - A Study of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things | The Administration of the East India Company: A History of Indian Progress: Native Education | Teaching English Language and Literature in Non-Native Context | Improving Chemmozhi Learning and Teaching - Descriptive Studies in Classical-Modern Tamil Grammar | Global Perspective of Teaching English Literature in Higher Education in Pakistan | Two Trends That Would Deface Classical-Modern Tamil - How to Reverse These Trends? | A PRINT VERSION OF ALL THE PAPERS OF JUNE 2010 ISSUE IN BOOK FORMAT | HOME PAGE of June 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

N. Pramodini, Ph.D.
Department of Linguistics
Manipur University
Imphal 795001
Manipur, India

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