A Salvage Linguistic Anthropological Study of Endangered Māṅgtā Language of West Bengal, India

Author: Sumahan Bandyopadhyay (Vidyasagar University)
Doyel Chatterjee (Dum Dum Motijheel Rabindra Mahavidyalaya, WBSU)
Speaker: Sumahan Bandyopadhyay, Doyel Chatterjee
Topic: Language Revitalization
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


The present paper is a salvage Linguistic Anthropology, in which attempt has been made to document a near – extinct language known as māṅgtā bhāsā and to suggest appropriate measures for saving it from complete extinction. The language is spoken by a few groups of the Bedia which is a Scheduled Tribe (ST) in India with a population of 88,772 as per Census of India,2011( Risley, [1891]1981; Das,2011, Bandyopadhyay,2012,2016, 2017). Bedia is a generic name for a number of vagrant gypsy like groups which Risley has divided into seven types. However, Das (2011) has found as many as forty three divisions (khom) among the Bedias. They live by a number of professions such as snake-charming, selling of medicinal herbs, showing chameleon art or multi-forming etc. All of them have become multilingual for interacting with speakers of different languages in the neighbourhood for the sake of their survival. Even the present generation has almost forgotten their native speech and their unawareness of the language becoming extinct is of concern. Elders still remember it and use it sometimes in the conversation with the fellow members of their community.

The ability to speak this language is construed with regard to the origin of their group. In fact the language gave them the identity of a separate tribal community while they demanded the status of ST in the recent past. Thus, socio-historically the māṅgtā language has a special significance. In spite of being a distinct speech, there is almost no study conducted on this language. This is one of the major reasons for taking up the present endeavour. The word māṅgtā is said to have been derived from māṅā that means ‘to ask for’ or ‘to beg’.

This project conducts morphological, phonological, syntactical and semantic studies on the māṅgtā language. Sociolinguistic aspects of this language have also been considered. The language has its root in the Indo-European language family with affinity to the Austro-Asiatic family. The paper interrogates whether māṅgtā can be called language or speech. The study required ethnographic field work, audio-visual archiving, and revitalization, along with sustainable livelihood protection of speakers of the language.


Bandyopadhyay, S. 2012. The Bedias: A Scheduled Tribe at the Margin of Caste. In Life and Lore-
Anthropological Reflections. Akshar Prakasani. Kolkata,Pp.32-47

2016. A Journey to Mangta: Life of a Snake Charmer Community. The Indian Journal of Anthropology 4(2): 61-64