Monday, December 31, 2007

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2008!!!!!!!

This post is particularly posted to wish "HAPPY NEW YEAR -2008 " to the readers of this blog. On the eve of a New year, I m praying to the almight Ayo Danyi and Ato Piilo to bless us with a peace and harmony for entire mankind. I hope this coming new year-2008 is going to bring lots of happiness and prosperity in everybody's life. Here goes the famous song number on New Year wish from Tanii collection from Popi Sarmin-I.

Here, in this song it is saying that - on this auspicious time of new year, we are sending a new year wish to all those friends who are near and far. Specially those who are at far away places, though we can not see each other our wishes are always with you. Though letters and news can not reach at you the right time, do remember us in the eve of new year as because we always do remember you and feel yoour presence even in the absence. Happy new year....happy new year.....happy new year to you.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Learning Apatani language - Body parts 1 - the face

I wish this post can be useful to all those who are not (anymore ?) fluent in Tanii. With the help of my friends I have tried to collect as many words as I could relating to the vocabulary of head and face, as spoken in daily use. But some of them couldn’t be recalled. Does anyone know them, or know some more ?

click on the picture to enlarge

basic parts

?wrinkle line
khenyi amusideburns
mogo alocheekbone
lanyanback of the neck
miji lanchuAdam’s apple


mitin amueyebrow
mibu amueyelash
ami-miriline of the eyelid
ami nuriiris (or iris and pupil altogether ?)


yaru-rutuupper part of the ear
yaru pimiear lobe
yaru ubuear hole
ruhiear wax

yapin-pinyannose bridge
yapin ubunostril
tano piiyinasal mucous/discharge

gonchancorner of the mouth
gommumustache/ beard
ayo nyachuupper lip
akan nyachulower lip

mouth (inside)

hipyaincisor tooth
diipyo ahicanine tooth
?baby tooth
?wisdom tooth

P. Bouchery

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The verb 'to cut' in Tanii

Apatani is an amazing language. Several times I have heard people from NE say that their languages are ‘poor’ because they have no ‘gender’ nor ‘grammar’. It is true that most of them lack grammatical gender (as in Japanese, Chinese and in fact most East Asian languages) and that as a rule gender distinction is made when necessary, not systematically. It is true also that most of them don’t have a conjugational system equivalent for eg. to English tenses and moods. But it certainly DOES NOT mean that these languages are less elaborate !!!

As a matter of fact the subtlety of these languages lies elsewhere. Let’s consider for eg. the verb ‘TO CUT’ in Tanii. To denote an action which, in English, is rendered by only one word I have counted no less than…. 16 distinct verbs !

PA : to cut with a machete (dao, ilyo in Tanii)
TA : to cut with axe or spade
CHE : to cut with scissors
PI : to cut by razor or knife
O : to cut/till with spade
TII : to cut trees
PHO : 1. to cut logs; 2. to cut/chop bamboos to make containers
NI : to cut tree branches (in order to make trees grow straight and tall, esp. pine trees)
PI-I : to cut ears of corn for harvest
GYA : to cut stalks of millet for harvest
RII : 1. to cut into very small pieces (mince or powder); 2. to cut longer leaves of fully grown millet plants at the time of their transfer from nursery to fields.
PO : to cut bamboo stems into smaller sections
NYAR : to cut bamboos to make them sharp and pointed
KHEN : to cut someone else's bamboos as an act of revenge.
KHU : to cut legs of slaughtered animals
PIPHO/ MIIPHO : to cut oneself accidentally with some sharp material (knife, razor, bamboo splits, cane wickers, etc.)

Thus, using one syllable words, Apatani language is able to express :

1/ what is actually cut (trees, logs, branches, bamboos, bamboo sticks, ears of corn, millet stalks, millet leaves, legs of killed animals …)
2/ the tool that is used for cutting (dao, blade, knife, razor, axe, spade…)
3/ the way it is cut (accidentaly, intentionally as an act of vengeance, into small pieces, into shorter sections, as to make sharp and pointed items …)

It does not end here. For each of these verbs or verbal roots, a more specific meaning can be conveyed by adding appropriate suffixes. For eg., with the verb PA (cutting with dao) :

PATU-PAPO : to cut sth/sb (with dao) into pieces
PAMII : to cut meat (with dao) into small pieces
PAKHII : to cut meat with bone (with dao) into small pieces
PACHE : to cut something (with dao) so as to divide it
PALII : to cut something in
PAKUN-PAMU : to cut (with dao) hurriedly
PASU : to cut oneself (with dao)
PALO : to cut sth down (with dao) (for eg. a branch)
PADU : to cut sth down so as to destroy it (with dao)

Who said these languages are poor ?

P. Bouchery

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tanii Aju-I

Apatanis are known for their excellence in arts and crafts. Both men and women are very creative in arts and crafts making. In this post I have tried to bring out some of the artefacts that we used in typical Apatani households, though some of them are on the verge of vanishing, and others have already become obsolete due to modernisation.

These are the artefacts used in daily life. Punyu are made up of bamboo splits and yaju is a mug made of bamboo. Embin khanchu is the lided basket made of cane wicker and used for storing husked rice. Nowadays these are being replaced by steel spoons, plastic/metal mugs and containers.
These are the traditional haversacks used by Tanii men in olden days. Still menfolk in villages use Lera for carrying foods and other stuffs during their long distance journeys, e.g. visiting neighbouring places and jungle trips. The use of Lecha is limited to some rituals related only. People don't use this for daily purpose, this is a kind of warrior dress of Taniis. Lera and Lecha are only used by menfolk of the community.

Yatii: this is the traditional rain shield consisting of a framework of cane wickers or bamboo splits covered with the dried leaves of some trees. This is used by both Tanii men and women. Nowadays, only very few people are making use of Yatii. This has been replaced by umbrellas and rain coats.

Chiru: this is a typical hand made leather bag used by Apatani men. Chiru were generally made from hides of domesticated animal such as cows and dogs. It is no longer used by Taniis of the present generation. The practice of making chiru has almost vanished as youths no longer use them. They have been replaced by hand woven bags or those bought from markets.
Siitin is the warrior's shield used by Tanii menfolk in olden days. In present days, Siitin is used for other traditional rituals as well as for a decoration purpose. In every Tanii house it is prefered to have one siitin to represent the presence of menfolk in the family. Subu Saha, as the name indicates, is the plaited cane rope used for capturing and taming cattle, i.e. mithuns (Bos frontalis, subu in Tanii) and cows.

Yasan Yara: In Apatani households we have got many type of baskets made of cane wickers as well as of bamboo splits, and each of them is made for a specific purpose. Yasan Yara is the netted cane basket made for fetching firewood from nearby bije (bamboo groove) or more (forest).

(These photos are taken from Tanii Aju-The Heritages Photos Archives of Apatanis authored by-Gyati Kobin(APCS))

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ngunu Ganda-Ziro

Ngunu ka Ziro ganda, ngunu Tanii miyu mika dri hullo bulyin giiko ganda. Ngunu ganda si supun hoka kapyoja ganda ako…putu-puko, myodi-yasi si ano kapyo do. Yapun hoka jormu si ano kapyodo, kille-sigan hoka yasi si kiilo-kiilo, aji-lyapyo sii salyi kiina. Takun apu, piita apu, sembo apu, papi apu, bagan rinyo pulyin lyi ho ngunu Ziro hii ano kapyoja. Ngunu ka Ziro mi Arunachal Pradesh hoka kapyoja ganda ako pa kidu. Hopa, ngunu Tanii miyu atan si ato ganda mi darii-pyabya dopa bula doko da ano ayakendo!

Billo anyan ho, ngunu ka aba-apa atan hii bije-siko, more-giira, aji-lyapyo mi ano aya butii. Hopa billo anyan so Ziro si taka koso ano kapyotii. Billo, gari-paji ka abu domaran so, miyu atan ka abu dulinmaran so, ngunu Ziro si ano kapyoyatii. Siinyan-sillo miyu mima abuyapa dulin lala kula, ngunu ka diinan-tananii, yasi-yamu pa sali-sapa mi pako so ngunu ka Ziro si alo lolin lyi kamyan jami ano karu yala do. Siisi ngunu Tanii miyu atan si hendi biido la more mopa daka sali-sapa atan mi gobii chibii mako da arida alyi nii anyan so ngunu ka Ziro hii karu yane do. Ngunu ato ganda mi, aya pa kalyan-talyan biido koda sii ano ayakendo nii.

Ngunu Tanii mulangru aha phuye pa giila, ngunu ka Ziro mi kapyodopa busa. Ziro hoka sanii-sanko mi tiima/pamasa. Ato ka bije-more so abu yapa bije/sanii alyi biisa. Aji-lyapyo miter darii-pyabya dopa bunya sa. Sigan-siley miter kacho mado pa bunya sa. Ato ka lengo-byago, ari-apii, ali-lenda miter darii dopa busa. Ngunu ganda mi supun ho kiiningjapa, kapyojapa, dariijapa busa.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Apatani language appears on Free Language website

“Let us save Tanii” has recently been included in the Free Language list of learning language blogs. Free Language is a well known website whose aim is to “document and categorize quality available resources for learning languages" (such as English, Hindi and many more..). Most of these resources are free, and it is nice to see Apatani (Tanii agung) appear on this website. Here is their comment : Save Tanii Language Blog and Website

Save Tanii Logo

"Got an email the other day from the person that runs the Save Tanii Website.

It is, indeed, a sad thing to lose a language. I wish the best to this project and hope that it succeeds in bringing some attention to the language and culture of the Apatani people."

Thanks to the author of this post.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Google Earth vs Yahoo Maps for Ziro Plateau

Yahoo maps proves to be better than Google earth for displaying an overall view of Ziro plateau :

At least Hapoli and the main villages are clearly visible, as well as roads between them. But, as for other towns of Arunachal Pradesh, it soon becomes a blur when you try to zoom to locate the houses or streets... Here there is not much difference between the two. You can try it from Google earth or Yahoo Local Maps.
***Location of Ziro in India Map

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How many words for ‘rice’ in Tanii ?

English language basically has two words :

- paddy, which refers to the unhulled raw rice, especially when it is still in the field (called paddy-field when flooded)
- rice, which refers either to the cooked state, or to the species in the general sense (hence ‘rice-field’ is also appropriate).

But for a culture with such a deep relationship with rice as the Taniis, it is not surprising to find various words for expressing rice in its various stages of growth and preparation, depending on whether it is husked or unhusked, cooked or uncooked…
Beginning from the generic word for seed, PYALYI (PYALI). When it is first sprouted in nurseries (miding) it is known as ENI. Becoming a rice plant, the names changes from ENI to ENDI. After months of maturing it is harvested, the ear (elyang) is separated from its stalk, then the grain from the ear. This unhulled raw rice (still called paddy in English) is referred to as EMO. When the hull or chaff (empi, piinan) is removed, you finally get EMBIN, the basic word for husked but uncooked rice. Another possible word is PANYI. This unpolished brown rice is the simplest form of ready-to-cook rice. At this stage, the rice may be steamed or boiled. Once it is cooked, it is no longer called EMBIN, but becomes APIN. There is apparently another word, DO, which applies to the rice set apart for pounding. AMU refers to the quantity of grain, or to the paddy crop as quantity, either in the field (aji amu), or stored in baskets or in granaries.

Note that most of the words used for ‘rice’ or for describing parts of the paddy plant use the same prefix, EN- (or EM- , esp. before m, b and p letters). Thus :

embin : husked raw rice
emo : paddy (as crop)
empii : husk
endi : paddy (as rice plant)
eni : paddy sprout
enkho : paddy stem
entii : harvest (of paddy)

For that reason, in order to maintain the unity of this ‘word family’, spellings such as ‘ambing’ and ‘ankho’ which are sometimes seen in publications, should be discarded. The same prefix is also present in 3 words refering to 3 months of the Tanii calendar viz., Enda (May-June), Empii (June-July), and Emo (November-December).

There may be some more words that I missed, so please add your comments.
P. Bouchery

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Learning Apatani language : an easy way to memorize nouns

I don’t speak Apatani, nor do I belong to the Apatani community. But I have recently become interested in the NE language issue as a social anthropologist. Being a stranger to ‘Tanii agun’, I am in a perfect position to apprehend the difficulties of this language as soon as I try learn a couple of sentences… Incidentally I have found that the word structure itself (what is called ‘morphology’ by linguists) can help beginers in the learning process. I hope this post will be useful to others too.

In Tanii, most nouns have 2 syllables : a-ki (dog), ya-ru (ear), etc. The second syllable is considered as the root of the word, and the first syllable as a prefix. In Tanii each root is necessarily preceded by a prefix.















A most interesting feature of Tanii prefixes is that they tend to function as classifiers. It means that a same prefix will apply to words which belong to the same ‘family’

Example :

The most common prefix for four-legged animals (quadrupeds) is SII-.








stag, antelope


small deer











siimyo, siiso, siiyin

3 wild cat species

It does not mean that ALL names of quadrupeds use the prefix SII-. There are in fact many ‘exceptions’ such as ami (cat), patii (tiger), hoggya (clouded leopard) etc. But as a rule a majority of them will do so.

Similarly, the most common prefix for birds is PA-




swan, goose


pigeon, dove






jungle fowl


jungle fowl (diff. species)



The ‘exceptions’ are : puha (crow), miichie (kite), pesu (hornbill), etc.

The most common prefix for fishes is NGI- or NGII- (from ngiiyi/ngihi : fish), with very few exceptions


Schizothorax sp.


weed fish (Dorikona)


unidentified species


unidentified species

A most common prefix for small terrestrial animals such as insects, molluscs, worms, etc. is TA-




tick, flea


head lice



















Exceptions : poper (butterfly), gonchi (dragonfly), kowa/kuha (grasshopper), nyanyi (honey bee), rimi (spider), dorgi (earthworm)...

A common prefix for trees, parts of trees, or pruducts obtained from trees is SAN- or SEN- (from sanii = tree), which becomes SAM-/SEM- before m, b, or p letters


Prunus nepalensis


Indian wild pear (Pyrus pashia)


Rhododendron arboreum, a rhododendron species


a wild tree species whose fruit is used as spice


a tree species of ritual importance during Myoko


a tree species whose leaves are used as natural dye

sanko bacho

a tree species


branch of a tree







The prefix for words which depict parts of the arm or hand is LA- (from ala = hand)


upper arm














finger nail


hand palm



Similarly, the prefix for words depicting parts of the leg or foot is LII- (from ali = leg)




back of the knee














big toe


toe nail

Note that there is a correspondence between terms of upper and lower members. Thus :

langa (wrist) corresponds to liinga (ankle)

lachi (finger) <=> liichi (toe)

lanii (thumb) <=> liinii (big toe)

lahin/layin (finger nail) <=> liihin/liiyin (toe nail)

lapyo (palm) <=> liipyo (sole)

It means that by knowing the words related to the hand and arms, corresponding terms for leg and foot can be easily deduced.

Most prefixes are of this type, i.e. they give us some clue to understand the meaning of the word to which they are attached. The only prefix which gives no information, hence called ‘neutral prefix’, is A-. It is however a widespread one. It applies in particular to kinship terms (aba, ama, ate, ata, abang, anu, aku, ato, ayo, etc..) or words related to body parts (anying, alyo, ami, amu, aha, etc.), but not only. That is the reason why, in a Tanii dictionary, words whose first letter is A are the most numerous.

I have found that this peculiar feature of Tanii language helps to memorize a great deal of words. We can first get familiarized with the various families, then learn the exceptions. Knowing the most common prefixes also help to grasp the meaning of an unknown word when heard for the first time. But in order to avoid confusion it implies that, once identified, prefixes must be written in various words always using the same spelling.

P. Bouchery, University of Poitiers, France

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Babo in Tanii (Apatani) culture

Babo’, or tall T-shaped wooden poles with thatch flags on the top towering above the roofs of houses, are a unique feature of Tanii villages. They play a prominent role every year during the time of Myoko festival when they are set up in front of the lapan and become the seat of various rituals. A few decades ago at this occasion men used to perform daring aerial acrobatics using the long cane rope (boha) tied to the tops of the masts. Young men in particular tried to demonstrate their skills by doing saumersaults over the rope. This activity was not without danger however, and for that reason the tradition has gradually fallen into decay. It seems that it has not been played on Ziro plateau since the 70’s or early 80’s. But the rituals associated with them continue to be performed every year during Myoko.

Two types of babo are erected :

  • a smaller one, santin babo, is set up by households for every male child and attached to the house front porch (byago), the number of poles varying from house to house according to the number of sons. The household head and male members of the family go to the forest and get straight tree trunks which are later decorated. Lacking the required solidity, these are not made for acrobatic activities.

A Tanii village lane along which santing babo can be
seen adjoining almost every house front verandah (byago)

  • a bigger type, akha babo, is erected on a clan basis and set up in front of almost every lapan. This mast is a solid wooden structure that may reach up to 15-20 meters high. The tree trunks are cut and dragged from the forests by a collective effort of male members of the clan. They are ceremonially pitched on the eve of the festival after having been decorated

The babo structure, i.e. the tree trunk holding the decorations which are attached to it, incorporates a fixed number of elements that are not only essential to its functioning but are also of symbolic or ritual importance :

· babo taper : 4 elongated planks of 5-6 meters long arranged so as to form a narrow twin-armed platform. They are first shaved with a dao and tied together in pairs with cane strips, then the two wooden arms are inserted horizontally into what will become the top of the mast. A space is left between the upper (ayo taper) and the lower structure (akan taper) for wrapping the cane rope on which acrobatics are performed.

· lako : a wooden stick inserted into each tip of the ayo taper and akan taper and joining them.

· lata : a long stick measuring approximately 2 meters tied horizontally at some distance from the top of babo.

· cholo : a wooden plank made in the shape of a machete (ilyo) on which designs are added by the use of charcoal, tied on the upper end of babo to what is seen as its ‘back side’. A decoration consisting of a bunch of bamboo sheaves or tassels hangs from the broader end.

· babo rinyo : basically a cane framework or rug-sized screen-like banners made of loops of cane (today sometimes replaced by some tissue or synthetic net) which is tied to and hangs from each tip of akan taper, in a manner that it sways rythmically in strong wind or when acrobatic performers apply a tensile load to the mast.

· rinyo pata : the lower part of of babo rinyo, a wooden plank of about 60 cm long attached to the loops of cane This element is usually decorated with geometrical motifs painted with black soots or charcoal.

· rinyo jompu (or rinyo some as called at Hari) : fine bamboo sheaves tied uniformly between the two pata, with one tip hanging down from the lower one. Altogether it makes up a kind of decorated panel.

· abyun-nanii : large wooden boards cut from the biggest trees of the forest which are manhandled to the village. Once packed tightly and stuck at the base of babo by means of wooden hammers, they serve as chocks to maintain the babo firmly into the ground. The wooden boards are fastened together with ropes (tiipii).

· boa (or boha): a cane rope wrapped around the mast between ayo and akan taper, first used to hoist the mast and then left hanging loosely from its top, on which acrobatics are performed. This rope is made out of a special type of cane called taser yaso (Calamus acanthospathus), in the same way mithun ropes are plaited. The lower end which is attached to a pole (botu) secures tightly to the ground at such a distance that the rope forms an angle of approximately 45-60° with the babo pole.

Erecting a babo

Due to its size and weight, the erection of an akha babo is a collective work involving the participation of 20 to 30 male members of the clan. It is interesting to note that the procedure has remained almost exactly the same since Prof. C. von F├╝rer-Haimendorf first shot it at Hong in 1944. The original video can be seen from this link.

The structure comprising the pole, taper and lata is erected first, then the other elements are added by someone escalating the mast. A dozen of long ropes are first tied to the taper structure and pole. Clan members act in three separate groups of about 10 people each : one group gets the mast hauled into position by pulling the ropes while a second one, holding bamboo poles, tries to lift the top of the structure. As the mast is being erected a third group sustains the base of the main pole and guides it into a hole that has been dig purposely. By means of wooden mallets the boards are hammered into position around the base of the mast to get it firmly tied into the ground.

Erecting a babo, Hong, March 2007 (Courtesy Ph. Ramirez, CNRS)

A man then scales the mast. Climbing is facilitated by the use of a rope which has been previously wrapped around it (see photo below). Having reached the lata stick and standing on it he can release most of the ropes from taper, leaving only the rope centrally attached to the mast (which will be used to performed acrobatics) plus one or two others at close distance from the mast. Then he climbs down the uppermost part of the mast and swings down the rest of the way on one of the remaining ropes

Securing boa around the mast, Hong, March 2007 (Courtesy Ph. Ramirez, CNRS)

In a very same manner the two banners (rinyo) are carried aloft and hanged at each tip of the taper structure. In Haimendorf's video a man then climbs up the uppermost part of the mast carrying cholo on his back and fix it to the end of the pole. In the 2007 scene, cholo is attached to the mast prior to its erection.


It is still unclear whether the proper name for this activity is boa be (boa = rope; be = to jump), boa behii (behii = to dive or saumersault) or boa beniin (beniin = jumping). Traditionally the strength and elasticity of the long rope were first tested by a few people who hanged from it and sprang onto it. The acrobatics performed were actually a kind of bobbling act using the tensile strength of boa, and the action basically consisted in pulling the rope down and letting it spring up. For the public performance two or three persons usually pulled on and handled the rope, impulsing an up and down movement, after what the rope was released and the jumper got himself propelled high up into the air. While swinging in the air he did somersaults on the elastic rope before an appreciative audience observing from below or from the various byago, as on the picture below. In those days where boa behii/benii was still popular during Myoko festival kids of both sexes often tried to participate to the game as they could by tiying small swing towards the lower end of the rope.

Apatani man performing boha behii/benii at Hari, 1954 (photograph by Verrier Elwin)

A scene showing the bobbling action from Haimendorf's silent film collection :