Endangered Language Alliance
Bishnupriya Manipuri is classified as an Eastern Indo-Aryan language, related to such major regional languages as Bengali and Assamese. The label “Manipuri” is due to the origins of the language in the Indian state of Manipur, from which speakers had to flee during political and ethnic upheavals of the 18th and 19th centuries. Notably, speakers of the language appear to have had prolonged contact with Meitei, a Tibeto-Burman language (sometimes called Manipuri), and so Bishnupriya, although clearly Indo-Aryan, has picked up Tibeto-Burman features as well. Two dialects have been identified, Madai Gang “Queen’s village” and Rajar Gang “King’s village”, the first of which shows more influence from Tibeto-Burman Meithei, though they are apparently mutually intelligible to a significant degree. Madai Gang is more akin to Assamese and Meitei, whereas Rajar Gang is more akin to Bengali.
It was thought by many that Bishnupriya Manipuri would not withstand these pressures. Today, however, Bishnupriya Manipuri is recognized by the Indian state governments of Assam and Tripura, and the language is used in primary education in these two states. Local and national television stations have featured Bishnupriya, as have radio stations, print media, and other formats. There is also significant activity with new media and new technologies, with language activists using Wikipedia, Facebook, and other platforms. The language has a significant and ongoing written tradition, employing the Bengali alphabet. Nonetheless, the emigration of Bishnupriya people and the adoption of major languages such as Bengali, Assamese, Hindi, and English may have long-term repercussions for the language.
The following is a collection of words and phrases in Bishnupriya Manipuri made by Daniel Kaufman in collaboration with Uttam Singha: