Some Aspects of Lexical and Grammatical Convergence in Gondi
K.P.Acharya & G.V.Natarajan

The purpose of this paper is to examine and illustrate some aspects of lexical and grammatical convergence in Gondi.

            Gondi is an important member of the Central sub-group of the Dravidian language family.  It is spoken by the Gond tribe, the largest tribal group of Madhya Pradesh.  They mainly stay in Vidhya and Satpura mountains on either side of the river Narmada .  Gondi is spoken primarily in Bastar, Betul, Balaghat, Chindwara, Seoni and Mandla Districts of Madhya Pradesh.  Gonds are also found in the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.  According to the 1991 census the population of Gonds in Madhya Pradesh ws 1,954,693.

            Gond a Dravidian tribe speaking a Dravidian language, Gondi, have been living for generations in the midst of the Aryan people speaking Aryan languages like Hindi, Halbi and Marathi.  Gonds being a tribe socially and economically backward have been leading a suppressed life, their daily contacts are with the Hindi speakers.  This is mainly because the local officials, money lenders businessmen and the like are Hindi speakers.  Because of the social and economic exploitation of the tribals by the officials and money lenders, tribals have almost become dependants of these persons.  These tribal people have accepted the dominant language of the region i.e. Hindi or a variety of Hindi as the language of their masters and try to learn them.  Tribal children are taught through Hindi medium right from the primary level.  In this way, tribal children have become bilinguals.  Hence, the minority language speakers came into contact with the majority language of the region.  This type of bilingualism has created a sort of linguistic convergence in Gondi.

            Guperz and Wilson (1971) while giving reasons for convergence state "Historical linguists frequently point to bilingualism as a major determinent of language convergence.  It is assumed that the greater the number of individuals who control two or more of the varieties spoken in a linguistically heterogeneous region and who use them alternatively in the course of their daily routine, the greater the likelihood that features from one system will diffuse into another.  Studies of such diffusion processes during the last few decades have revealed some striking cases of grammatical borrowing among otherwise unrelated languages, both in India and otherwise around the world.  Although lexical items are by far the most frequently borrowed, it seems clear that borrowing extends to all aspects of the grammatical systems".  Weinreich (1953) states that "language contact can result in such far reaching changes that the affected language assumes a different structural type".

            The present paper discusses about the changes taking place when a minority language like Gondi, a Dravidian language comes into contact with Hindi an Indo-Aryan language.

            Because of the language contact, convergence has taken place at different linguistic levels in Gondi which could be broadly classified into lexical and grammatical convergence.

I.  Convergence at lexical level

            If we glace through the Gondi vocabulary, we come across good number of words which are borrowed from Hindi.  The influence of Hindi on Gondi is such that the younger generation of the gonds have lost their mother tongue Gondi and adopted Hindi instead.  It is observed that at present the younger generation of Gonds of North Bastar and Chhindwara districts given up speaking Gondi and adopted Hindi in all their daily activities.  Many others have accepted a great number of Hindi vocabulary as core of the Gondi vocabulary.  This type of convergence in vocabulary is of two types: 1) adoption of the borrowed words into native system in full; 2) the core of the lexical item is of Hindi origin and the endings are of Gondi origin.  The later type of convergence is more common, hence it is discussed first.

a)  Hindi words ending in a: are borrowed into Gondi by changing the final vowel into o:

Examples :


            Hindi                           Gondi                          Gloss  

            u:nca:                            u:nco:                            tall

            a:dha:                            a:dho:                            half

            pu:ra:                            pu:ro:                            complete

            pahala:                          pahalo:                          first

b)  Hindi words adopted in Gondi by internal change with the additional of final o:


            adharak                         a:do:                             ginger

            u:par                             paro:                             up, above

            pu:nam                          pu:no:                            full-moon-day

            duguna:                         du:no:                            double

            maya:                           navo:                            new


c) Hindi words adopted into Gondi by changing the internal structure of the words without any addition of markers.

Examples :

            tyo:ha:r                         tiva:r                             festival

            u:t                                 u:tum                            camel

            andhe:ra:                       andha:r                          darkness

            prahara:                        pahar                            fortnight

            bara:                             phara/para:                    big

            bi:j                                vi:ja:/                             seed

            bhindi                            bhendi                           ladies finger

            ta:la:b                            tala:v                            lake

            dopahar                         dopa:ri:                          afternoon


d)  Hindi words, adopted in Gondi by the addition of Gondi suffixes l/ -a: l/ -o:l which denote masculine gender.

Examples :

            hindi                             Gondi                            Gloss

            ke:kra:                          ke:kr a: l                      crab

            mrig                              mirg-a: l                        antelope

            ra:nd                             rand a: l                      widower

            billi:                               bi: l a: l                        cat

            pa: gal                           pagla: - l                        mad man

            Sangi:                           sangn o:l                    friend

In the following examples the suffix i: denotes feminine gender.

            ba:nj                             banja: l i:                     issueless woman

            ka:na:                            ka:n i:                          one eyed woman

            tu:ra                              tu:r i:                           girl

            dulhan                           dul i:                           bride


e)  Hindi words adopted in Gondi by way of loan translation.

            a:tava:la                        a:teva:de:                      cook

                                                a:ta:n va:le:

            a:dhira:t                         a:dho narka:                  midnight

            phalli te:l                        phalli ni:                         groundnut oil


f)  Large scale lexical borrowings have also taken place, e.g. Hindi words adopted into Gondi into:

            i:ta:                               i:ta:                               brick

            puliya                            puliya                            small bridge

            ka:mi:                            ka:mi:                            useful


II.  Convergence at the grammatical level :

            Hindi words which have been adopted in Gondi either in full or through the addition of Gondi markers behave grammatically according to the structure of Gondi.

i)  Use of Gondi plural markers:

            In Gondi, non-masculine stems take the plural marker k or ng and masculine stems o:r or lo:r.  Borrowed words from Hindi also take these markers.

Examples : for non-masculine :

            puliya:                           puliya: -ng                     `bridges'

            nasa:                             naSa: -ng                      `veins'

            tu:ri:                              tu:ri: h-k                        `girls'

            ka:va:l                           ka:va:l k                      `crows'

Examples for masculine:

            tu:ra:l                            tu:ra:l o:r                     `boys'

            kuma:l                           kuma: l o:r                   `potters'

            bahara:                         bahara: -lo:r                   `deaf men'  

2.  Adjective concord :

            In Hindi, for instance, when an adjective with a final a: qualifies a noun a) a: is replaced by e: if the noun qualified is masculine singular and takes a case marker.

E.g. bara:          larka:                (singular without case marker)

       bare:          larke:  ko:          (singular with case marker)

or if, the qualified noun is masculine plural with or without case marker.

       bare :         larke:                (plural without case marker)

       bare:          larko : ko           (plural with case marker)

b)  -a: is replaced by I:, if the noun qualified is feminine (singular or plural with or without case marker).

       bari :           larki:                 (singular without case marker)

       bari :           larki ko             (singular with case marker)

       bari :           larkiy:             (plural without case marker)

       bari :           larkiyo: ko         (plural with case marker)

Similarly, adjectives in Gondi are inflected according to gender and number of the nouns qualified.  If an adjective is followed by a masculine noun, then the adjective takes the masculine suffix and if followed by a non-masculine noun then the adjective takes the non-masculine gender suffix.  Adjectives also agree with the number of the following noun.

Gender concord

            ka:riya:l             pe: ka:l                          `black boy'

            ka:riya               a:nca:r                          `black woman'

            pandra:l             ma:nka:l                        `white man'

            pandri:               a:nca:r                          `white woman'


In the above examples, the adjectives take the masculine and feminine suffixes a:l and a: or I: respectively to show gender concord with the following nouns:

Number concord :  

            puna:  lo: n                    `new house'

            puna:ng  lo:hk                `new houses'

            bariya: a:ki                    `big leaf'

            bariya:ng a:king             `big leaves'

Here, the adjectives take the plural suffix ng to show number concord with the following plural nouns.  See also the following examples.

            pandri:hk                       punga:hk                       `white flowers'

            ka:riya: sk                     moyo:sk                        `black clouds'

Gender-number concord

            Pandra:l                        ma:nka:l                        `white man'

            Pandra:lo:r                  ma:nka: lo:r                `white men'

            Pandri:a:r                                                          `white woman'

            Pandri:sk a:sk                                                   `white women'


In the above examples, the adjectives occur with gender number suffixes a:l and o:r for masculine; -I: and sk for non-masculine to show gender-number concord with the qualifying nouns.  Some more examples are given below:

            denga:l                          pe:ka:l                           `tall boy'

            denga:lo:r                      pe:ko:r                          `tall boys'

            denga: pe:ki                                                       `tall girl'

            denga:sk pe:ki:ng                                               `tall girls'

3.Like the above mentioned adjective concord, the genitive base of the third personal pronouns also shows a concord in number with the following plural nouns.  Compare the following examples with the examples in Hindi like me:ra: larka: `my boy' and

            me:re:                           larke:                            `my boys'

            vo:na:                            Ro:n                             `his house'

            vo:na: ng                       Ro:hk                            `his houses'

            vo:ra:                            Ro:n                             `their house'

            vo:ra:ng                        Ro:hk                            `their houses'

            ta:na:                            ka:l                               `her leg'

            ta:na: ng                       ka:lk                             `her legs' etc.   


  1. Numerals in Gondi are formed by the addition of tho: a non-Gondi suffix.  (This is noted in Mandla dialect of Gondi)

Examples :  

            utho                                          `one'

            rantho:                                       `two'

            mu:ntho:                                    `three'

            na:lungtho:                                 `four etc.'


5.  Formation of compound verbs:

            Among the compound verbs in Gondi, one of the component roots is of borrowed one from Hindi.  These could be called borrowed verbs.  These are formed by the addition of past participal forms of the verb to the following simple verb.


            padhe:               ma:ya:na:                      `to read'

            cho:de:              kiya:na:                         `to leave'

            badhe:               ma:ya:na:                      `to grow'

                                                                        `to move forward'

            ha:re:                ma:ya:na:                      `to be defeated'

            likhe:                 kiya:na:                         `to write'

            kho:de:              kiya:na:                         `to dig'

The compound verbs like the regular verbs in Gondi take the tense marker and pronominal endings. Example:

            vo:l likhe:           ki: -t  -ul                        `he wrote'  

6.  Derivation of nouns from the verbs by the addition of noun forming suffix.

Example :

            kiya: `to do'                               kiye: va:de:        `doer'

            on the anology of Hindi `karne: va:la'.  

7.  Passive Voice

            In Betul, Balaghat varieties of Gondi, the passive voice construction is formed by adding the instrumental suffix se: to the subject of the sentence.  See the following examples.

Active .

            bhadu:               undi:                 cithi:                  likhi:tul

            `Bhaddu has written a letter'


            undi:                 cithi:                  bhadu:   se:        likhe: ma:t

            A letter was written by Bhaddu.  

8.  Superlative degree

            In the varieties of Gondi as spoken in Beul, Balaghat and Mandla districts the superlative degree is expressed by the addition of Sabse: which is borrowed from Hindi.


            id ja:ri: Sabse: coko: a:nd/manda:

            `This grass is the best grass'

9.  Obligatory mood

            In the variety of Gondi as spoken in Seoni and some parts of Betul district of Madhya Pradesh the obligatory mood is being expressed by the addition of the borrowed word ca:hiye: or hai to the native infinitive form of the verb.

1.       ma:kun  sunja:na:  ca:hiye:  /hai

`we must sleep'

2.       avkun ka:mkiya:na: ca: hiye:/hai

`they have to work'

3.       O:n handa:na: ca:hiye: / hai

`he has to go'

            This usage is the result of the convergence of the Gondi language with the major language Hindi. Because the usage of ca:hiye: obligatory mood is not noticed in Muria and Maria Gondi wherewe find the native system only.  See the corresponding examples.

            1a)  ma:kun     hunja:na:    a:nd

            2a)  avkun      ka:mkiya:na:  a:nd

            3a)  on:n handa:na:  a:nd

In Betul, Balaghat and Mandla Gondi, this obligatory mood is formed by the addition of the form ho:no: which is connected to the form ho:na:  ca:hiye: as found in Hindi:

inga:     ka:mkiya:na:  ho:no:

`Now work should be done'

inga:  na:kun  saco:  vanka:na:  ho:no:

`Now I have to tell the truth'

10.  Probability mood

            Similarly, the probability mood is also expressed by the borrowed word ho:ga: of Hindi which is added to the finite form of the verb.  This usage is noticed in the Betul variety of Gondi.

1.       vo:r  hatur  ho:ga:l  `they might have gone'

2.       av  utta:ng  ho:ga:1 `they might have drunk'

In Mandla Gondi the form ho:hi: is used in the place of ho:ga:l

            1a)  vo:r daysi si:tur  ho:hi:

2a) av Sunji: mata:ng ho:hi:

11.  Copula constructions :

            The occurrence of copula in equational sentences is noticed in Gondi which may be attributed to the influence of Hindi or Gondi.  See the following examples.

            1.  id                 ka:ge:d              a:nd                  `this is a book'

                   1                     2                     3                     1      2     3

            2.  vo:r              tu:ra:lo:r            a:dur                 `those are boys'

                   1                     2                     3                     1      3     2

            3.  iv   na:va:ng    pe:ki:ng     a:ndung       `these are my daughters'

                   1        2               3                   4             1      4    2        3  

The above given sentences may be compared with the following corresponding Hindi sentences.

1a)  yah                        kita:b                h

2a)  we:                        larke:                h

3a)  ye:             me:ri                 beetiya: h

12.  convergence of Gondi-Hindi may be noticed in the following examples where the finite verb agrees with the adjective plural.

            ad         tu:ri       cako:    hayund

               1          2           3           4

            that       girl        is          good    

av        tu:ri:hk         cako:ng      hayung              `those girls are good'

  1              2                 3               4                      1       2     4     3

ad        bariya:         ro:n            hayund              `those houses are big'

  1              2              3                  4                      1        3    4      2

av        bariya:ng      ro:hk          haiung               `those houses are big'



1.  Acharya, K.P. 1971.

Phonology and Morphology of Gondi, with particular reference to the Parsi Gondi of Mandla and the Gondi of Balaghat and Betul, Ravishakar Univesity (Raipur) Ph.D. diss. Unpublished.

2.  Census of India 1971, Social and Cultural tables

3. Hymes, Dell (ed) 1971, Pidginization and Creolization of languages Cambridge .

4.  Natarajan, G.V.  1977.  Adjectival Concord in Gondi, Indian

Linguistics,Vol.38, No.3, pp. 156-160.

5.  ___________ 1985, Abhujh Maria Grammar, C.I.I.L.

6. Weinreich, Uriel 1964.  Languages in contact: findings and problems. The Hague, Mouton. 1953.