Munda languages

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India, Bangladesh
Linguistic classification Austroasiatic
  • Munda
  • Kherwari (North)
  • Korku (North)
  • Kharia–Juang,Khonda
  • Koraput (Remo, Savara)
ISO 639-2 / 5 mun
Glottolog mund1335[1]
Distribution of Munda language speakers in India

The Munda languages are a language family spoken by about nine million people in central and eastern India and Bangladesh. They constitute a branch of the Austroasiatic language family, which means they are related to languages such as Mon and Khmer languages and Vietnamese, as well as minority languages in Thailand, Laos and Southern China.[2] The origins of the Munda languages are not known, but they predate the other languages of eastern India. Ho, Mundari, and Santali are notable languages of this group.[3][4]

The family is generally divided into two branches: North Munda, spoken in the Chota Nagpur Plateau of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Odisha, and South Munda, spoken in central Odisha and along the border between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.[5][6]

North Munda, of which Santali is the most widely spoken, is the larger group; its languages are spoken by about ninety percent of Munda speakers. After Santali, the Mundari and Ho languages rank next in number of speakers, followed by Korku and Sora. The remaining Munda languages are spoken by small, isolated groups of people and are poorly known.

Characteristics of the Munda languages include three grammatical numbers (singular, dual and plural), two genders (animate and inanimate), a distinction between inclusive and exclusive first person plural pronouns and the use of suffixes or auxiliaries to indicate tense.

In Munda sound systems, consonant sequences are infrequent except in the middle of a word. Other than in Korku, whose syllables show a distinction between high and low tone, accent is predictable in the Munda languages.


Munda consists of five uncontroversial branches. However, their interrelationship is debated.

Diffloth (1974)[edit]

The bipartite Diffloth (1974) classification is widely cited:

Diffloth (2005)[edit]

Diffloth (2005) retains Koraput (rejected by Anderson, below) but abandons South Munda and places Kharia–Juang with the northern languages:




 Core   Munda 


 North   Munda 



Anderson (1999)[edit]

Gregory Anderson's 1999 proposal is as follows.[7]

However, in 2001, Anderson split Juang and Kharia apart from the Juang-Kharia branch and also excluded Gtaʔ from his former Gutob–Remo–Gtaʔ branch. Thus, his 2001 proposal includes 5 branches for South Munda.

Anderson (2001)[edit]

Anderson (2001) follows Diffloth (1974) apart from rejecting the validity of Koraput. He proposes instead, on the basis of morphological comparisons, that Proto-South Munda split directly into Diffloth's three daughter groups, Kharia–Juang, Sora–Gorum (Savara), and Gutob–Remo–Gtaʼ (Remo).[8]

His South Munda branch contains the following five branches, while the North Munda branch is the same as those of Diffloth (1974) and Anderson (1999).

SoraGorum   JuangKhariaGutobRemoGtaʔ

  • Note: "↔" = shares certain innovative isoglosses (structural, lexical). In Austronesian and Papuan linguistics, this has been called a "linkage" by Malcolm Ross.


Language Name Classification Number of speakers Location
Korku North Munda: Korku 478,000 Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra
Bijori North Munda: Kherwarian: Kherwari 25,000 Jharkhand, West Bengal
Koraku/Kodaku North Munda: Kherwarian: Kherwari 15,000 Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh
Korwa North Munda: Kherwarian: Kherwari 66,000 Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh
Mundari (inc. Bhumij dialect) North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari 1,550,000 Jharkhand, West Bengal
Asuri North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari 16,600 Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha
Koda North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari 44,000 Bangladesh
Ho North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari 3,800,000 Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh
Birhor North Munda: Kherwarian: Mundari 10,000 Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal
Santali North Munda: Kherwarian: Santali 6,200,000 West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar
Mahali North Munda: Kherwarian: Santali 33,000 Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal
Turi North Munda: Kherwarian: Santali 2,000 Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal
Kharia South Munda: Kharia-Juang 294,000 Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand
Juang South Munda: Kharia-Juang 50,000 Odisha
Gataq/Gta South Munda: Koraput: Remo 3,000 Odisha
Bondo/Remo South Munda: Koraput: Remo 9,000 Odisha
Bodo Gadaba/Gutob South Munda: Koraput: Remo 8,000 Odisha, Andhra Pradesh
Parengi/Gorum South Munda: Koraput: Savara/Sora-Juray-Gorum 6,700 Odisha, Andhra Pradesh
Sora/Savara South Munda: Koraput: Savara/Sora-Juray-Gorum 310,000 Odisha, Andhra Pradesh
Juray South Munda: Koraput: Savara/Sora-Juray-Gorum 801,000 Odisha
Lodhi South Munda: Koraput: Savara/Sora-Juray-Gorum 25,000 Odisha, West Bengal

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Mundaic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Bradley (2012) notes, MK in the wider sense including the Munda languages of eastern South Asia is also known as Austroasiatic
  3. ^ Pinnow, Heinz-Jurgen. "A comparative study of the verb in Munda language" (PDF). Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Daladier, Anne. "Kinship and Spirit Terms Renewed as Classifiers of "Animate" Nouns and Their Reduced Combining Forms in Austroasiatic". Elanguage. Retrieved 22 March 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  5. ^ Bhattacharya, S. (1975). "Munda studies: A new classification of Munda". Indo-Iranian Journal. 17 (1): 97–101. doi:10.1163/000000075794742852. ISSN 1572-8536. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Munda languages". Retrieved 22 March 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  7. ^ Anderson, Gregory D.S. (1999). "A new classification of the Munda languages: Evidence from comparative verb morphology." Paper presented at 209th meeting of the American Oriental Society, Baltimore, MD.
  8. ^ Anderson, Gregory D S (2001). A New Classification of South Munda: Evidence from Comparative Verb Morphology. Indian Linguistics. 62. Poona: Linguistic Society of India. pp. 21–36. 

General references[edit]

  • Diffloth, Gérard. 1974. "Austro-Asiatic Languages". Encyclopædia Britannica. pp 480–484.
  • Diffloth, Gérard. 2005. "The contribution of linguistic palaeontology to the homeland of Austro-Asiatic". In: Sagart, Laurent, Roger Blench and Alicia Sanchez-Mazas (eds.). The Peopling of East Asia: Putting Together Archaeology, Linguistics and Genetics. RoutledgeCurzon. pp 79–82.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gregory D S Anderson, ed. (2008). Munda Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. 3. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-32890-X. 
  • Anderson, Gregory D S (2007). The Munda verb: typological perspectives. Trends in linguistics. 174. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-018965-0. 
  • Donegan, Patricia; David Stampe (2002). South-East Asian Features in the Munda Languages: Evidence for the Analytic-to-Synthetic Drift of Munda. In Patrick Chew, ed., Proceedings of the 28th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, Special Session on Tibeto-Burman and Southeast Asian Linguistics, in honor of Prof. James A. Matisoff. 111-129. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society. 
  • Śarmā, Devīdatta (2003). Munda: sub-stratum of Tibeto-Himalayan languages. Studies in Tibeto-Himalayan languages. 7. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. ISBN 81-7099-860-3. 
  • Newberry, J (2000). North Munda hieroglyphics. Victoria BC CA: J Newberry. 
  • Varma, Siddheshwar (1978). Munda and Dravidian languages: a linguistic analysis. Hoshiarpur: Vishveshvaranand Vishva Bandhu Institute of Sanskrit and Indological Studies, Panjab University. OCLC 25852225. 

External links[edit]