Letters and their sound in Apatani:
The Roman letters remain the most preferred script to write Apatani. Convention of writing Apatani using Roman scripts, as prevalent among Apatanis, are being reproduced here:
All the consonants, that is, b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y and z, sound as in English.
Each vowel in Apatani has a unique sound-
‘a’ as in
‘e’ as in set
‘e’ also as in ‘tader’[tad..r] (means intestinal worm in Apatani)
‘i’ as in sit, India etc
‘o’ as in pot, old etc
‘u’ as in bush
Double vowels (or repetition of a vowel):
aa long sound of a
ee long sound of i as in seen, teeth etc
ii sounds as in ‘siibin’ [s…bin] (means goat in Apatani)
oo long sound of u as in soon, spoon etc
Words in Apatani
Words in Apatani are mostly disyllabic except for few monosyllabic connectors, preposition (Apatani equivalent) and marker word elements (to be discussed later). Even the names of plants, animals and things are disyllabic.
On basis of morphology and origin, words in Apatani may be classify into three categories:
1. Proper words: These are the words which cannot be broken up into discrete monosyllabic linguistic elements ( which I shall call word elements). Some of the proper words include- aya (good, beautiful), jije (true, real), amu (false), abu (many), iche (little, few), aki (dog), miyu (man), sanii (tree) etc.
2. Formed or derived words: These words are made up of combination of word elements. For example-
i) a’ne [came] :- a [to come] + ne [marker for past tense]
ii) du’ba [sit together]:- du [to sit] + ba [marker for togetherness]
3. Borrowed words: Certain words like school, office, tea etc, do not have their equivalent words in Apatani, so, they are borrowed from other languages. That is, school and office words are borrowed from English and sa (tea) from Asamese.
Word elements may be classified into verb roots (vr) and markers (mr). A marker is generally suffixed with a verb root or combine with another marker to form a word. For example,
i. a [vr. to come] + ba [mr. together] :– a’ba [come together]
ii. a + ba + sii [mr. do] :– a’ba sii [come together]
iii. a + ba + sii + ne [mr. past form] :– a’ba siine [came together]
iv. a + ba + sii +ma [mr. no]:- a’ba siima [do not come]
v. a + ba + sii + ma + ne:- a’ba siima ne [did not come]
vi. mii [vr. to do] + kin [mr. shall/will] + do [mr. affirmative]:- mii’kin do [shall do]
vii. mii + kin + ma [mr. negative/no]:- mii’kin ma [shall not do]
viii. mii + la [mr. continuity] + do +ne:- mii’la done[was doing]
ix. mii + la + do + kin + ne:- mii’la dokin ne [should have been doing]
x. mii + king [mr. show] + do:- mii’king do [show how to do]
Thus, the word elements (as used in this text) may be understood as monosyllabic linguistic elements which do not seem to behave as proper word singly, though each assort independently and convey certain characteristic meaning, but combine among themselves to form disyllabic words (e.g, a’ba) or associated with disyllabic word singly or in combined state and act as kind of phrases (e.g, mii’kin do, mii’la done etc.).
**Note: Apostrophe/ accentuated mark [’] is being used after verb root in a word (as in a’ba) to make the verb root distinguisable in a word which helps in pronounciation and comprehension of the word. Its use is not mandatory.