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Karbi language

Socio-linguistic study[edit]

This section contains some of the most important aspects of the Karbi languages—like narration of a folklore, a folk song, a local festival, traditional games, etc.—that aims to capture both linguistic and social aspects of the native speakers.

1. Pronunciation of interviewee’s name (Download as .wav)
English: In this interview, Teron shares how his name is pronounced in his native language Karbi. In this interview, Teron pronounces his name in his native language, and shares some details about how the family name is given based on local traditions.

2. Meaning of Karbi and the Karbi people (Download as .wav)
English: In this interview, Teron shares about the meaning of the word “Karbi” and explains about the Karbi people citing local legends. One of the legends say that the Karbi people have to offer a portion of their food to the thier ancestors (see 0:34–) In this interview, Teron details about meaning of the word "Karbi" and how local legends have been guiding the Karbi people's daily life, their belief and social activities.

3. Interviewee D.S. Teron’s birthplace Jor Teron (Download as .wav)
English: In this interview, Teron shares about Jor Teron, the place he took birth and the place was named after his grandfather. In this interview, Teron gives an account of his birthplace, how it got named after his grandfather who was a local leader of the community and founded the village.

4. Traditional games of the Karbi people (Download as .wav)
English: Karbi-language speaker D.S. Teron from Assam, India shares how his language has been influenced by other languages, influenced other languages and is related to other Asian languages. In this interview, D.S. Teron shares some of the linguistics details of the Karbi language. Karbi is part of the Kukish languages (also known as ""Kuki chin""; IPA:: /kuki t͡ʃin/). Teron cites findings of several linguists that have helped showing relation of the language (Karbi) with Naga, Meithei, Garo and Khasi, and Assamese (the recentmost interaction of all all others as the Karbi people got involved with the Assamese people during and after India's formation in 1947).

5. Karbi language - its language family and related languages (Download as .wav)
English: In this interview, Teron shares about the games he and his friends played as kids in the sixties. In this interview, D.S. Teron goes into details about his childhood and the society was back them. This portion of the full interview gives an account how the Karbi people lived in the 1960s. He then shares about two traditional games—one involving walking with stilts to avoid thorns to pierce one's feet while walking on the swampy soil in naked feet, and a game called "Hambi" (meaning nickernut or nicker bean; IPA: /haːmbi/) which involved the locally-grown nickernut. The nickernut was played between two opponent teams (each team will have equal number of players with a minimum of two players). The opponent teams will keep about five meters of distance from each other. There are different stages and each stage has a name. Part of the game is also to tease the opponents.

6. Storytelling of the Karbi people (Download as .wav)
English: In this interview, Teron narrates stories of the Karbi people of the Jor Teron region in Assam.
  • Up to 04:36: In this interview, D.S. Teron narrates a story in Karbi (with an introduction and conclusion in English). The story's introduction in English starts at 01:55
  • 04:33 – 11:19: Narration of story in Karbi. The story, titled "Votia temo" (IPA: /ot̪iaː t̪emɔ/), is about a hen (known as vo, vo means a bird in Karbi) who lived with a few friends—a cat, a pig, a dog and a duck in a house. When the hen was always responsible for seaching and cooking food, the other friends never contributed neither in collecting or cooking. The storyline is around how the hen deals with the irresponsible friends.
  • 11:19 – end: Conclusion of the story in English

7. Folk songs of the Karbi people (Download as .wav)
English: In this interview, Teron narrates about the folk songs of the Karbi people by singing a portion of a song.
  • Upto 02:15: Conversation between D.S. Teron and Subhashish about the folk songs of Karbi people
  • 02:15 – 02:34: Introduction of the song in English. The song is an old folk love ballad.
  • 02:35 – 03:13: Singing the song
  • 03:13 – end: Conclusion/discussion

8. Local festival celebrations by the Karbi people (Download as .wav)
English: In this interview, Teron shares about the celebration of local festivals by the Karbi people.
  • 0:35 – 04:45: Introduction in English. The festival explained by Teron in this audio is about a funeral festival known as "Cho Mang Kan" (IPA: /t͡ʃo maːŋg kaːn/). The festival is generally observed after a few years of one's death. The festival is for about 3 – 5 days and is expensive to organize, so family members of the deceased take their time to decide about it.
The entire community, especially the young boys and girls participate. The songs contain very erotic and explicit content (can be considered obscene). However the Karbi community is open and no one complains about these songs.
  • 04:45 – 06:48: Narration of the festival in Karbi. The narration explains about the procession which is a part of the festival where people of all age groups walk with holding a traditional and national Karbi emblem called "Jambili Athon" (IPA: /d͡ʒaːmbili aːt̪ʰɔn/) (an wooden pole made from Bengwoi ke-er (Wrightia coccinea Sims. (Apocynaceae)[1] with a wood-crafted bird called "Voraju" (IPA: /boraːd͡ʒu/, Greater racket-tailed drongo) fixed on one end). Each village would have their own Jambili Athon. During the procession, drummers beat drums and young boys and girls sing and dance during the procession. The gatherings used to have a gathering of 400 – 1000 people. Poeple tease each other for fun. People drink local alcohol, feast, sing and dance during this festival.
  • 06:48 onwards: Conclusion in English to summarize the narration

9. Daily activities of the interviewee (Download as .wav)
English: In this interview, Teron shares his daily activities in Karbi.
  • 0:41 – 03:48: Teron narrates his daily activities in Karbi.
  • 03:48 – end: Explains the activities in English

Pronunciation of words[edit]

This section contains pronunciations of some of the most spoken words. Along with recorded pronunciation, each word has a meaning in English (sometimes with a Wikipedia link to the article) and International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) notation.

Audio Romanization Meaning in English IPA Notes
Karbi A Sino-Tibbetan language from North-East India, and the people who speak the language /kaːr‌bi/
Thekar-tibi A Karbi language word that means a portion of food offered to ancestors by the Karbi people. /t̪ʰekaːr kibi/
Teron A clan of Karbi people /t̪eɾɔn/
Hambi A Karbi-language word meaning nickernut /haːmbi/
Cho Mang Kan A local festival of the Karbi people /t͡ʃo maːŋg kaːn/ See this for more details
Jambili Athon A traditional and national Karbi emblem /d͡ʒaːmbili aːt̪ʰɔn/ See here for more details

Language list[edit]

  • Karbi
  • Achhami (in the pipeline, You can watch the video interview in the mean time)


  • All the work available here, unless specifically mentioned, are available under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. (Generally the software produced as part of this project is licensed under GNU General Public License v3.0, and all documentations including audio/video are under CC-BY-SA 4.0 license)
  • D.S. Teron, Karbi language speaker and researcher
  • Subhashish Panigrahi, project design, recording, editing and publication
  • Special thanks to Dibyajyoti Bora of Folk Culture Research Centre, Assam for connecting with D.S. Teron
  • Citation (you're more than welcome to use the citation below while using this work outside Wikimedia projects):
 Teron, D.S. Panigrahi, Subhashish. "OpenSpeaks: Karbi Language." OpenSpeaks: Karbi Language.. Subhashish Panigrahi, 24 May 2017. Web. <>. 
  • Thanks to those generous folks of the Free/Libre and Open Source Software community that have built Audacity and Pattypan which were used for this work


  1. Teron, Robindra. "Traditional woodcraft, Jambili Athon of the Karbis. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. Vol. .7(1). January 2008. pp. 103-107

Learning from the Interview process[edit]

Pictogram voting info.svg A detailed toolkit for creating a similar language documentation is available here.

  • This interview was conducted remotely (see how to conduct an interview remotely). While doing one such interview, please keep in mind that there might be connectivity issues. So at any point when you hear anything noise, politely ask the interviewee to repeat. You might not get a chance to record again.
  • A personal recommendation to those who are recording is to talk to the interviewee for a one–two minutes to warm up. Ask neutral questions like "what was for breakfast/lunch/dinner today" or "How's the weather there now?" and so on. The interview questions are set in an order of priority to ensure that you manage to capture the language with the participation's emotional involvement. That is very important. There is nothing like nodding and smiling during the call. Remember you can only capture the real essence of a language when you connect with them as a friend and a good listener.