Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mizo language (duhlian): Marker of Mizo Identity

Culture is a defining feature of a person's identity, contributing to how they see themselves and the groups with which they identify. Culture may be broadly defined as the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings, which is transmitted from one generation to another. Every community, cultural group or ethnic group has its own values, beliefs and ways of living. The observable aspects of culture such as food, clothing, celebrations, religion and language are only part of a person's cultural heritage. The shared values, customs and histories characteristic of culture shape the way a person thinks, behaves and views the world. A shared cultural heritage bonds the members of the group together and creates a sense of belonging through community acceptance.

Language is intrinsic to the expression of culture. As a means of communicating values, beliefs and customs, it has an important social function and fosters feelings of group identity and solidarity. It is the means by which culture and its traditions and shared values may be conveyed and preserved. Language is fundamental to cultural identity. This is so for people everywhere. For this reason, it is important that people keep their own language alive. As languages disappear, cultures die. The world becomes inherently a less interesting place, but we also sacrifice raw knowledge and the intellectual achievements of millennia. The use of community languages is important both for individual and group identity and for communication across generations.

This is also true in the context of Mizo or Zo. Our linguistic diversity has always been embedded in space, time and group, and has been reduced over the last hundred years with the arrival of the British. While 'Mizo-Duhlian' is now the dominant language, many people speak a language other than 'Mizo (duhlian)' as their first language within their families and communities. Over three "languages" (Lai, Mara and Hmar) other than Mizo (duhlian) are spoken in Mizoram today. The acquisition of proficiency in "Standard Mizo (duhlian)", together with the maintenance of community languages is therefore a significant issue in Mizoram and to their cognate tribes of Kuki, Thado, Paite and Zomi of Manipur, Zomi of Burma, Mru, Bawm, Pang and Lusei of Bangladesh, Hmar, Kuki and Lusei of Assam, and Lusei, Zo, Zhou and Falam of Tripura. Proficiency in 'Mizo (duhlian)' is critical for successful participation in the Mizo society and for exchanging information about the values and perspectives of cultures. Similarly, proficiency in first language skills is essential for self-enrichment and expression of identity. In large parts of Mizoram, the loss of a great number of dialects (eg Ralte, Fanai-Lai) means that for many people, Mizo (duhlian) is their first language and is a particular marker of identity. Mizo (duhlian) developed as a means of communication for Mizos between people of different clans/lineages/sub-groups and even with non-Mizo people of the Riangs (settle in western border of Mizoram and Tripura) and the Chakmas (settle in Southern border of Mizoram and Bangladesh). Mizo (duhlian) is now an important marker of identity for all "Mizos" irrespective of their kin-group, clan, lineage and sub-group.

12 comments:

I am Remruati, said...

I va fel ve ka blog ah te lo comment a, i hman chang chang in lo lut thin dawn nia aw......

Anonymous said...

Hi there, read ur opinions, but am still perplexed as to why someone like me has stopped speaking my language. Is it not possible that the place you reside determines the language u speak.
Regards
John Duhlian

sercop said...

Hi ! Henry here . ka link kha siamthar teh . xopa.blogspot.com ani tawh lo kanlab.blogspot.com zawk ni tawh e ..Cheers !

illusionaire said...

Pu Hruai,

Please visit:

Mizo Bloggers Directory

and register there. You can enter what you like about yourself :) I am planning to make a Directory of all the Mizo bloggers.

Thanx.

sawmpuia said...

a true prolific writer and language off course reflect the identity as your camera did so :-)

philo said...

An interesting move and yet would you insist on culture as being external to the individual rather than open the possibility of individual (in collaborating with others) also create culture and/or its boundaries. If the latter then, what are the dynamics involved in the creation process? Also 'identity' or should it be a more fluid 'proximity'...as humans tend to order our way of life ('culture')contiguously with social location. Just a few afterthoughts and thanks again for a thought-provoking one.

Philo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Calliopia said...

Epis, I personally think yours is a very basic, textbook, sociological look at language and culture. In the melted pot that defines our 21 st century world I think you need to see things in terms of grey areas and not just in black and white. People and cultures no longer live in clearly defined areas but have spread out in unimaginable ways so while the basics may still remain, I don't think it's approriate to use them as yardsticks in our current situation.
John Duhlian here for instance is probably a second generation Mizo born and brought up far away from Mizoram. And environment counts for a lot more than heredity in many things.

philo said...

ditto...Calliopia!

SEKIBUHCHHUAK said...

Ngaihnawm hle mai.Tawng hi chu kan identity chu a ni chiang alom.Vawn nun zel pawhkan tum zel tur a ni,a awl ai lo mai thei.

Culture pawh hi a inthlak danglam thin an tih kha:)awmna hmun a zirten,generation a zir ten.

sawmpuia said...

eh! hotupa chu i template te lo thlak kual vel a. I hming bul "H" ber mai hi a va riang vawh vawh ve a :-)

apatea said...

Good article.

Blog temp te lo thlak vel a...

Bei nasa ve o