Tuesday, July 21, 2009


On the very day of 22nd July 2009, the moon will eclipse the sun as seen from India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Japan and the Marshall Islands. It is going to be the longest solar eclipse for over a century (predicted to last for 6 minute and 39 second) and this time the path of totality passes through India. This eclipse pass over India comes after almost a decade. The last two eclipses happened in 1999 and 1995.

The eclipse begins on the 22nd of July 2009 at around 5:30 am IST in India and spends almost two hours passing the subcontinent. The path of totality will pass through central India passing over Surat, Ujjain, Baroda, Bhopal, Patna, Darjeeling, and Dibrugarh in the far east.

( Source:Internet)

Tanii mythology about SOLAR ECLIPSE (Danyi tatih aniih nii)

In Tanii (Apatani) mythology, it is believed that the occurrence of SOLAR ECLIPSE is due to Ejang Tatih (Solar Frog) swallowing AYO-DANYI (The sun). In Tanii culture Ayo-Danyi is the mother of every one and she serves tirelessly everyone throughout. Due to her busy service to everyone, sometime she falls into the mouth of Ejang Tatih (Solar Frog) and solar frog tries to swallow up with its great force which causes solar eclipse.

It is old belief that Solar frog is allergic to loud sound and noise of any kind. So, when solar eclipse occurred, noises were made by ringing bells, plates and shouting by every members of family as to release the sun from EJANG TATIH (solar frog).

(Though this mythological belief has faded up with better understanding about the scientific facts behind the occurrence of Solar eclipse. We the present generation of Tanii has not seen any such scene happening during any of the earlier solar eclipse or neither expect to see on 22nd July’09. But, my mother told me that it used to happened in their childhood.)

Similar mythology of the ancient China

The ancient Chinese believed that solar eclipses occur when a legendary celestial dragon devours the Sun. They also believed that this dragon attacks the Moon during lunar eclipses. In the Chinese language, the term for eclipse was "chih" which also means "to eat". One ancient Chinese solar eclipse record describes a solar eclipse as "the Sun has been eaten".

It was a tradition in ancient China to bang drums and pots and make loud noise during eclipses to frighten that dragon away. Even more recently, in the nineteenth century, the Chinese navy fired its cannons during a lunar eclipse to scare the dragon that was eating the Moon.

Source: http://www.bibalex.org/eclipse2006/HistoricalObservationsofSolarEclipses.htm


A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth so that the Sun is fully or partially covered. This can only happen during a

new moon, when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction as seen from the Earth. At least two and up to five solar eclipses can occur each year on Earth, with between zero and two of them being total eclipses. Total solar eclipses are nevertheless rare at any location because during each eclipse totality exists only along a narrow corridor in the relatively tiny area of the Moon's umbra.

A Total eclipse in the umbra.
B Annular eclipse in the antumbra.
C Partial eclipse in the penumbra

(source: Wikipedia)


Don’ts During Solar Eclipse

  • Never watch the eclipse with a naked eye.
  • Don’t use Binoculars to view the eclipse.
  • Don’t use Telescope to view the eclipse.
  • Don’t use any cheap or easily available filters in Telescope or Binoculars to view the sun. Only specifically designed filters should be used with Telescope and Binoculars.
  • Don’t watch the eclipse using color film.
  • Don’t watch the eclipse with non-silver black and white film.
  • Don’t watch the eclipse with medical x-ray films with images on them.
  • Don’t use smoked glass to view the sun.
  • All developed films lack a silver emulsion and therefore it should not be used to view the eclipse.

Do’s During Solar Eclipse
  1. You should take the advice of an experienced person or a scientist before planning to view a Total Solar Eclipse
  2. Only use specifically designed spectacles designed with filters to view the eclipse.
  3. The safest method of viewing a Total Solar Eclipse is by projection, in which a small opening is used to cast the image of the Sun on a screen beyond the opening.
  4. It is safe to view the total phase of an eclipse (when the moon completely coves the sun) with naked eye. But one needs to know when to stop and start viewing the total phase. So this is bit risky.

(Source: Hindu blog)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Do you know the Tanii name for... ?

Do you know the Tanii name for this animal ? I asked a few people in Ziro, but couldn't get a conclusive answer. It's the Yellow-bellied Weasel (Mustela kathiah), a high dwelling mammal species found throughout the Himalayas, usually at an elevation of 1800 m and above, though in winter it may occasionally come down to lower than 1000 m. It is a carnivorous species, capturing mostly mice and rats, but also occasionally eating birds and small mammals. In some areas of Nepal Yellow-bellied weasels are kept as pets to chase and catch rodents inside houses.

The picture below was taken at a market in Ziro. A specimen of Yellow-bellied Weasel, probably caught in a trap, was offered for sale, along with byako (Solanum torvum) and a variety of orange fruit.

Source: Rita Willaert's collection on Flickr.

Maybe a clue: I was told that this animal is called KEKKA in Adi (Padam dialect).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tanii "vegetables" (haman)

"Haman" (or Hamang) is a generic word most often translated as "vegetable". Such a translation is rough however, as under this designation one finds both cultivated and wild species. Also, not all cultivated plants fall into the category "haman". In fact, under the label "haman" the Taniis include a wide range of species whose leaves can be eaten, either raw or more often boiled. Other plants whose tubers, seeds, stems, shoots or fruits are eaten by humans belong to other plant categories.

How many are there ? While at Ziro I made a quick list with a couple of Tanii friends, and tried my best to identify them later. But no doubt that it is uncomplete and needs some correction. Your comments are welcome regarding their taste, culinary use, medicinal properties, etc. I sorted them simply by alphabetical order here:

1. aji padii haman
: Cardamine hirsuta.

aji padii haman
2. genda haman : Redflower Ragleaf; fireweed (Crassocephalum crepidioides). Also called halyan haman.

genda haman
3. giyan haman: Cabbage Leaf Mustard (Brassica juncea var. rugosa), Lai Pata in Assamese.

giyan haman
4. hiigu haman: Japanese parsley (Oenanthe javanica).

hiigu haman
5. hiika haman: surely not a "vegetable" in the strict sense, but a wild edible fern, of the Pteris genus.

hiika haman
6. hiipe haman : Elatostema platyphyllum, a green leafy vegetable collected from the forests. This one seems a bit doubtful. Are the leaves shown below really eaten by Taniis ?

hiipe haman
7. hiiro haman : I know almost nothing about this species.

8. khuyi haman
: Creeping Woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata, literally "sour vegetable"). Alternate names for this species : o haman; akho haman. The leaves which are eaten have a tangy taste.

khuyi haman (o haman; akho haman)
9. kochi haman : Dandelion (Taraxacum sp.). Literally 'bitter vegetable". The leaves are eaten and, as the name indicates, have a bitter taste.

kochi haman
10. kukulyu haman (in Hija) or kuku lyolye haman (in Bulla): a yet unidentified species that is not only eaten, but also used as a natural pesticide. Especially it is put into paro piiha (basket for carrying chickens) as a prevention against pests affecting poultry.

kukulyu haman/ kuku lyolye haman

11. luli haman: Nepalese smartweed (Persicaria nepalensis).

luli haman

12. mepi haman
Greater plantain (Plantago major), a common weed.

mepi haman

13. ngiilyan khiiko haman: Indian Pennywort (Centella asiatica). The leaves are either boiled or eaten raw with pila. This plant is said to be a good remedy for stomach disorders.

ngiilyan khiiko haman
14. pachu koyu haman. I know nothing about this species.

15. pakhu harbu haman.
I know nothing about this species.

16. pato haman.
The leaf has a bitter taste and can be used to garnish pike (a typical dish using ash filtered water). I know nothing else about this species.

17. nyihi tami haman
. I know nothing about this species.

18. raru haman
, commonly known in India as pahari peepal, its botanical name is
Piper mellusae or P. brachystachyum.

raru haman

19. riri haman (or riri tami ?): Mile-a-minute or Chinese creeper (Mikania micrantha), a perennial creeping climber, also a very invasive weed. I'm not sure this plant falls into the category "haman", though that name "riri haman" was given to me at Ziro. It may be simply a weed, "tami", as suggested by tdtara. Are the leaves eaten by humans ?

riri haman
20. siya haman: Chameleon Pant (Hottuniya cordata). It has a strong acid taste when eaten.

siya haman
21. tabu choka haman: The name would literally mean 'snake spit vegetable'. I have no further information regarding this species.

tape haman is the name for the tropical pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata), the leaves of which are also eaten. Tape is in usage in Hari, Bulla and Hong. It is called epe in Hija, whereas in Bamin-Michi the preferred designation seems to be ayo tape.

tape haman (ayo tape, epe)

23. tayi haman is a generic name for several Amaranth species (Amaranthus spp.).

24. lanchan tayi haman: Joseph's coat (Amaranthus tricolor). It is named "red" (lanchan) variety because of the red color which is especially apparent on young leaves.

lanchan tayi haman
25. pulu tayi haman: Spiny Amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus). It is accurately named "white" (pulu) variety, as it bears tiny white flowers in bunches.

26. yorkhun haman: toothache plant; paracress (Acmella oleracea), a flowering herb whose small leaves are eaten.

yorkhun haman

Other cultivated species, which are usually considered as "vegetables" in other languages, are not listed here, as Tanii do not regard them as "haman".


Saturday, April 18, 2009

The very basics of Tanii syntax : word order (1)

The words in a Tanii sentence have a certain order which is quite different from the word order in English or Hindi. See how puzzling it can be for a non-Tanii speaker:

Mo ngiimi, ngiika lemba hokii tolyiku ho gari pa bagiiku*.
--me- my village from went down car by carried/brought

In this sentence, the only construction that follows the word order in English is ..... 'my village'...

What does it mean ? Well, simply this :

"He gave me a lift when I was returning from my village."

To explain the rules for this sentence construction alone would require several posts. So let's start here from the very begining, i.e. by outlining the basics of Tanii morphosyntax (word order and sentence construction) in the most simple way:

1. The basic order is Subject-Object-Verb (SOV), that is, Tanii is a verb-final language as are most Tibeto-Burman languages.

Molu yasan mi babindo
-- -- -O------------ V
They are carrying wood together.

Note 1: Unlike English and many Western languages, it is not always necessary to include a verb.

Insi subu pe ha ?
Is that a mithun (literally. "that mithun + interr. ?")

Siika tarii si hu kii ?
Whose shirt is this ? (lit. 'this shirt whose ?')

Note 2: It is also not necessary to include a pronoun at the begining of every sentence. As a rule, things which are already understood/known or can be deduced from context are often not said. Quite often a simple Object-Verb structure is a complete sentence, ie. the subject is omitted. This is especially true when the subject is a personal pronoun.

Apin diitiiku ha ?
Have you had your lunch/dinner ? (lit. "have already eaten rice ?")

No hokii ?
Where are you coming from (lit. 'where from' ?)

2. Adverbs always occur pre-verbally, although they do not always immediately precede the verb.

Aki hii goropa pido
The dog is barking loudly

Ngo so kiiran adu
I often come here

3. Adjectives can precede or follow the head noun they qualify.
  • labi ala : right hand
  • tado tasan: yellow bead or necklace
  • ato abi-tarii: own/personal cloth
  • kochi haman: bitter vegetable (usual name for the Spiny Sowthisle, Sonchus Asper).

  • yasan sensii: dried wood
  • subu pulu: white mithun
  • hime dema: bad/naughty boy
  • biidan dara: stiff cliff

Note: a small number of adjectives can occur both before and after a head noun, depending on their use.

anyan niti : new year
niti diiro-yasi : new/modern medicine

Note regarding double adjective (adjective that qualifies another adjective): where English systematically puts it in first position, Tanii rather puts it in second position.

lanchan koman: dark red

pilan ranban: brownish yellow

4. As a rule determiners follow the head noun.

Subu si ano dorrodo
This mithun is very big

But Tanii also has "split determiners". Here, one part precedes the noun while the other part follows it.
hiika hime si
that kid

5. Numerals follow the head noun.

Miyu ako
One person

Subu dornye
Two mithuns

6. When numerals are combined with adjectives, the order is:


Subu atu dore

N---- A --Num.

One mithun calf

alyi anii dorngohe

N----A -----Num.

Five sows/female pigs

alyi-lyinii atu kone

N----A -----A ---Num.

one small female pig.

7. Questions particles occur pre- and post-verbally.

  • - a) The question particles or wh- constituents (who, what, when, why, etc.) precede the verb.

niida akindo ?

When will they come ?

Mo niido kii Ziro ho dudu ?
How long has he been living in Ziro for ? (lit. since when ?)
  • - b) The "yes/no question"particles follow the verb.

No aya siido ha ?
Are you alright ?

*Retrieved from "Tanii agun lu'sa" blog.


Thursday, March 19, 2009


'DA', 'DO', 'DU' are among the sounds most often heard in Tanii conversation. The reason is, those ‘words’ or particles have two very important grammatical functions which, however should not be confused.

1. Da, du, do as copular verbs or existential verbs

Linguists prefer to call them as copulas, and have noted their presence in many languages. The Tanii copulas “do”, “du”, “da”, in this regard, behave very much like the copula “da” of Japanese language, and occur similarly at the end of the clause or sentence.

San ude ho do.

There is a table in the house (lit. ‘a table lies in the house’)

In the above sentence the copular verb do stands as a single grammatical word, roughly equivalent to the verb "to be". It cannot be seen as a suffixation of the preceding word. The three copulas da, do and du inform about the position, or posture, of the subject.

- da => standing position/posture. Si subu da : Here is a mithun.

- do => lying position/posture. Si tabu sohe do. Here is a snake.

- du => sitting position/posture : Aki hii intosi du. A dog is sitting there.

Note: elements of landscape (forest, mountain, river, ….), houses, buildings, furniture and objects in general are conceptualised as being in a lying posture, whereas plants, esp. those having a straight stem or trunk (bamboos, canes, maize, etc.) are regarded as being in a sitting posture.

Intosi putu puro puye do. There is/lies one big mountain.

Bachin more ho ahi du. Bachin is a fruit that grows in the wild.

The common negative form of the three copular verbs is nyima.

Mo kii aki nyima. He has no dog.

As others verbs, the copular verbs da, do, and du combine with various suffixes inflecting them. Among those are:

Alyin apin diidu doku (do+ku). It's dinner time.

Yo nyima pa apin adin doye (do+ye). there was no meat, only rice was available.

Sii inso dane (da+ne). The cow was here/ There was a cow here.

Sipun ngo ano renge la dato (da+to). These days I have been feeling very tired.

No no ho date he ? (da+te). Where have you been ?

Yani kapyo lala la denki dota (do+ta). Yani is beautiful and sincere too.

Liihi do nii, subu so datii do (da+tii). There are footprints, so (I guess) there was a mithun here.

The past tense of the negative form is nyimane or nyimatii.

Bilo anyan ho siisi ka niti diiro-yasi si, Tanii lemba ho nyimatii.

In olden days there were no modern medicines in Tanii villages.

Other derivations are possible:

Sanii-sanko nyima koda miyu sanko nyikinma.

Without trees there could not be a place for humans to live.

In all cases, these derivated forms of da, do, du should be separated from the nouns, adverbs, prepositions or particles that precede.

2. DO, du as verbal suffixes

The existential verbs da, do, du, must be distinguished from their homophons appearing as verbal suffixations. For, among the many verbal suffixes used in Tanii language to inflect the verb, -do and -du are also found. As they too almost always occur in the last position, the possibility that these suffixes derive historically from the corresponding existential verbs cannot be ruled out. However, today they do not constitute grammatical words, in that they cannot stand alone but are dependent of a root verb that precedes. They are, in fact, part of the “conjugated” (or inflected) form of the verb, often occuring in combination with other suffixes.

Aba yayi lyodo. Daddy is tearing the outer skin of the bamboo.

That -do and -du are verbal suffixes here - and not copular verbs, is demonstrated by the fact that they also inflect the copular verbs themselves:

Subu hii more sansu ho dadu. Mithuns live in forests (in general).

Mo niido kii Ziro ho dudu ? How long has she been living in Ziro for ?

Anyan yanhe ho piilo barne dodu ? How many months are there in a year ? (general statement)

There are also semantic differences : -do and -du as verbal suffixes do not inform about the position of the subject (standing, sitting, lying), but specify the tense, mood or aspect of the verb.

- do :

o marker of the present tense or the present continuous.

No ludo. You are talking/speaking.

o Marker of the proximal past.

Obin ludo mo ami riibitalyi la. Obin said that he would buy a cat.

- du :

o marker of present tense, esp. the present continuous, first pers. sing.

Ngo adu. I'm coming.

o habitual present (used as a general statement to suggest things that occur in the present but not necessarily happening right now).

Dula lo aki randu. One ties dogs with ropes.

To summarize, when writing Tanii it is important that we do not confuse these two sets of words:

- Copular verbs da, do and du should stand alone, separated from the word that precedes:

Nehe baji do ? What time is it ?

Mokii oho hinhe du. She has three children.

- On the contrary, verbal suffixes -do and -du, because of their dependent nature, should be written attached to the verb root or to the adjective root. Here, only the root altogether with its suffix has the status of a grammatical word:

No ludo. You are talking/speaking.