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Bawm Language and Lore

Tibeto-Burman Area


Verena Reichle

Bawm is spoken by the Bawm-Zo, a tribal society of the Chin family living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and the adjoining areas of India and Burma. Their language is Tibeto-Burman of the Central Kuki group. It is spoken in two variants, a tonal and an atonal one. The noun phrases are distinguished on the principle of ergativity. The grammar is neither transformational nor otherwise designed for computers to read, but for humans to understand. Every textual example of Bawm is provided with a morpheme-for-morpheme translation into English, which makes it possible to use the grammar for comparative purposes in language typology. The two folklore texts about the lives of Bawm tribal chiefs provide interesting insight into the culture and society of the Bawm-Zo.