Meitei language

Sino-Tibetan language

Meitei language (Meitei lon), also known as Manipuri language (Manipuri lon), is a Sino-Tibetan language of Tibeto-Burman linguistic sub-branch. It is the official language as well as the lingua franca of Manipur state of Northeast India, besides being the native tongue of the Meitei people. It is also one of the official languages of Assam as well as one of the 22 "scheduled languages", officially recognised by the Constitution of India as well as the Union Government of India. It is the most widely spoken Indian language of its linguistic family. It is the primary liturgical language of the holy scriptural texts as well as of the sacred ritualistic chantings of Sanamahism, the traditional Meitei religion. It is one of the few Indian languages valued worthy to be learned in order to study the primary material texts dedicated to the classical dance and musical traditions of the Indian subcontinent (or South Asia).

A page of the classical Meitei epic narrative text, Numit Kappa

Besides being the court language of the historic Manipur Kingdom, it is also the only Indian language of its linguistic family, whose ancient and medieval literatures're nurtured and developed under the patronage of the royalties. During antiquity, Meitei language was the classical language of high culture of its Meitei civilization.


  • The greatness of Manipuri is thus a reflection of the height of civilisation of its speakers. ... As a speech of a well advanced people, Manipuri has already made notable contributions to the Indian culture and literature.
    • Glimpses of Manipuri Language, Literature, and Culture. (1970). India: Manipuri Sahitya Parishad.
  • Manipuri is not a new language like Kokborok and has a rich literary tradition and a change of script will not be easy to adjust to.
    • Bhaumik, S. (2009). Troubled Periphery: The Crisis of India′s North East. India: SAGE Publications. page no. 57
  • The Meitei language or Meiteilon is much more developed and is widely believed to have had its indigenous script which is now sought to be rediscovered.
    • Chaube, S. K. (1985). Electoral Politics in Northeast India. India: Universities Press. page no. 102
  • The Meitei Lon or Manipuri language is by far the most developed language of the state. For different hill tribes, as the language of one is not easily intelligible to the other, Manipuri serves as the medium of inter-tribal communication.
    • Ansari, S. A. (1985). Some Aspects of the Geography of Manipur. India: B.R. Publishing Corporation. page no. 95
  • Even the Nagas residing in the Meitei dominated Manipur converse in such a kaleidoscopic variety of languages and dialects that they resort to the Manipuri language as the standard medium of communication.
    • N. Chakravartty. (2003). Mainstream - Volume 41, Issues 30-52. page no. 25
  • The suppression of Meitei language is also a cause for the rise of Meitei nationalism, which PLA represents. It is opposed to the use of the Bengali script.
    • Moonis Ahmar, Violence and Terrorism in South Asia: Chronology and Profiles, 1971-2004. (2005). India: Bureau of Composition, Compilation & Translation, University of Karachi. page no. 764
  • The present Manipuri language evolved out of the traditional Meitei language, the speech of the politically dominant group. Legends, songs and manuscripts found in this language evidently prove a long and sustained existence of it. The Aryans considered their language as a manifestation of the divine voice, so did the Meiteis. The early people of this land were enterprising and at the same time gifted with a fertile mind and sensitive temperament. Equally were they endowed with the keen propensity for expressing their experiences, feelings and noble thoughts. All this helped the growth of a rich language.
    • Manihar Singh, C. (1996). A History of Manipuri Literature. India: Sahitya Akademi. page no. 6
  • Meitei, the state language of Manipur, shows significant points of contact with Kachin as well as with Kuki-Naga, though the affinities are prominently with the latter.
    • Paul K. Benedict, Sino-Tibetan, A Conspectus, 1922, p. 10.
  • In this family, Manipuri was perhaps the only language which grew under a highly cultured royal patronage and also which had a long written literature.
    • Manihar Singh, C. (1996). A History of Manipuri Literature. India: Sahitya Akademi. page no. 8
  • Pettigrew's fascination with Meetei culture went beyond even this. As early as 1896 he had cooperated with Grierson in the section on Manipuri in the latter's multi-volume Linguistic Survey of India. In the early 1920s Grierson, having examined Hodson's version of Numit Kappa in 'old Manipuri' as well as some of Damant's papers, suggested to Pettigrew that he investigate, in cooperation with some Meetei scholars, the archaic Manipuri language and script, since no other Tibeto-Burman language was known to have a literary corpus.
    • Parratt, J. (2005). Wounded Land: Politics and Identity in Modern Manipur. India: Mittal Publications. page no. 63, 64
  • With no sister-flower
    No companion
    Why are you blooming
    Looking for whom?. ... .
    O flower of the olden days
    Your sweetness still lingers.
    Pity is your fate, for
    Your beauty can't reach the royal hearts.
  • Chaoba too, in his poem Meetei Kavi gave expression to his profound regret for the lost glory of Manipur which may be compared to 'a gem of purest ray serene', which shone unseen and a flower born to blush unseen'. His love for Manipuri language and literature is articulated in the three lines of great import :
    Poor is our language
    This is said only by the ignorant
    Meetei poet shall emerge.
    (Meetei Kavi)
  • They are the only Northeast Indian Tibeto-Burman speaking people with a literate tradition that predates the colonial period. Their language, known as Meitei, Meithei or Meitheilon (or, often, as 'Manipuri') shows some lexical resemblances to Kuki-Chin languages and some to Tangkhulic.
  • Meithei represents the language of the original settlers in Manipur, and Chin that of the southern migration. In these southern seats the language rapidly developed, partly by its own natural growth and partly owing to contact with the Burmese. The development of Meithei, the language of the Manipuris, has, on the other hand, been slow and independent. The Manipuris are mentioned in the Shan chronicles so early as A.D. 777, and probably owing to the fact that it has in later times developed into a literary language, their form of speech gives the impression of possessing a peculiarly archaic character. Although they have become thoroughly Hinduised, they have not adopted any Aryan tongue; Meithei is the official language of the State, which all other tribes have to use in dealing with their rulers.
  • Thadou, Kom, Chiru, Gangte, Lamgang, Anal and Paite are spoken by dwindling numbers of speakers in Manipur, where these communities are being linguistically assimilated to the Meithei speaking majority.
    • Matthias Brenzinger, Language Diversity Endangered. (2008). Germany: De Gruyter. page no. 322, 323
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