Endangered Language Alliance
Koɖa belongs to the Munda language group within Austroasiatic language family. Following Anderson (2008), Munda languages divide into two major branches: North Munda and South Munda languages. Korku and Kherwarian are North Munda subgroups. Korku [kfq] is the only language in Korku subgroup, and Kherwarian languages include Santali [sat], Mundari [unr], Ho [hoc], Kol [elk], Birhor [biy], Asuri [asr], Turi [trd], Korwa [kfp], Koɖa, and so on. Kharia-Jauang, Gutob-Remo-Gtaʔ and Sora-Gorum are subgroups of South Munda. Kharia-Juang languages include Kharia [khr] and Juang [jun]; Gutob-Remo-Gtaʔ languages include Gutob [gbj], Remo [bfw], and Gtaʔ [gaq]; and, Sora-Gorum languages include Sora [srb] and Gorum [pcj]. Genetic relationships among Munda languages can be represented by a tree diagram like the one in figure 1 (following Anderson, 2008):
Neighboring Bengalis recognize Koɖas speakers as Bhuinga, which means “foreigners” in a derogative sense. Some Bengalis recognize Koɖas as a “sub caste” of the Santali community who speak “some dialect Santali tinged with Hindi.” The SIL survey also states that Koɖas are very much overlooked/ignored by the government, the neighboring societies, and even by the NGOs that are ubiquitous in the country. The Christian church, too, appears to have had little contact with or effect on the Koɖa culture, as many of the Koɖa still adhere to the Sonaton religion, and some to Hinduism. The same is true for the Kols, too (Kim et al., 2010, p. 18).
With regard to grammar of Koɖa, Konow (1906) briefly described the phonology and morphology of the language. He stated that the phonetic system of Koɖa is the same as that of Mundari. He presented a brief sketch of the inflectional system of Koɖa in comparison with that of Mundari. He maintained that the inflection of nouns and pronouns, and the conjugation of verbs in Koɖa are the same as those in Mundari respectively. Apparently, there has been no descriptive work on Koɖa since Konow’s brief description of 1906 (Anderson, 2008, p. 195).
SIL International conducted a sociolinguistic survey (Kim et al., 2010) on Kherwarian languages in Rajshahi, a northwestern district of Bangladesh in 2010. Kim et al. (2010) conducted a lexical similarity study, where “lexical similarities within and among Santal, Mahali, Mundari, Koda, and Kol were calculated as a percentage of words from a 307-item list, which resemble each other in sound (Kim et al., 2010, p. 23).” The 307-item list includes the natural phenomena, natural elements, time related expressions, food and vegetables animals, body parts, family relation, house hold items, daily activities, tools, and so on. The SIL survey (2010) states that “[e]ven though linguists have categorized Koɖa as a dialect of Mundari, the two Koɖa villages in our study share only a 61–67% similarity with the Mundari villages of Rajshahi. This could be due to the influence of other languages like Bangla and perhaps even Santali (though to a lesser degree). Thus, it’s possible that the influence of Bangla and Santali have over time decreased the lexical similarity of Koɖa with Mundari” (Kim et al, 2010, p. 28). Based on these findings, Ethnologue lists Koɖa as a language on its own right, exhibiting 49%–55% lexical similarity with Santali, 61%–67% with Mundari, and 57%–60% with Kol [ekl]. The same survey also states that “the Koɖa of Rajshahi perceive themselves to have a uniform speech” and “this is borne out by the result of the lexical similarity study” (Kim et al, 2010, p. 28). The survey does not include any grammatical description of Koɖa.
ELA researcher Ahmed Shamim has been documenting the Koɖa of Rajshahi, Bangladesh, recording speakers who live in Krishnapur, a village in Puthia, a sub-district of Rajshahi. The similarity of lexical items, pronominal forms, and grammatical features like case and verb conjugation suggest that Koɖa spoken in Krishnapur has a diachronic relationship with Koɖa described by Konow (1906) and can be considered the same language.