By Seino van Breugel
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Additional info for A Grammar of Atong
The languages Shafer regards as closest linguistic relatives of Atong are: Rabha, Ruga, Kont, Tintekiya, Cooch Behar and Kot. Shafer’s classification is the result of a thorough phonological comparison between the languages of the Baric Subdivision. In Joseph and Burling (2006: 1), Boro-Garo is presented as “one of the longest recognised and most coherent subgroups of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages”. Boro-Garo, where Boro is just a different way to spell Bodo, consists of four 1 THE ATONG LANGUAGE AND ITS SPEAKERS 28 subgroups, viz.
Garos and Atongs intermarry and share the same surnames. A surname is made up of two components that refer to groups of people which Burling (1963: 22-23) refers to as “sib” and “moiety”. I will refer to the components of the surname as first and second surname. In the surname Mongsrang Sangma, for example, the component Mongsrang is the first surname and Sangma the second surname. The second surname represents what Burling (1963: 22) refers to as a matrilineal descent group. There are five of those groups within the Garo ethnic community “which, ideally, should be completely exogamous” (idem).
4 Linguistic environment, language status and language use The Atong are surrounded by speakers of different Garo dialects on all sides of their language area. 1 for more details about ethnic affiliation, and Burling 2004:9 for more information about the term Garo). Burling (2004: 9) reports that there are more than half a million Garos in India and “well over a hundred thousand” in Bangladesh. The Garo language is written and has a standardised form often referred to as A•chik. The standard form is based mainly on the A•we dialect of Garo spoken in the northern part of the Garo hills (see Burling 2004: 11).