World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Santali language

ol chiki script (writing of santali language )
Native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan
Ethnicity Santal
Native speakers
6.2 million  (2001–2011)[1]
Mahali (Mahli)
Ol Chiki
Language codes
ISO 639-2 sat
ISO 639-3 Either:
sat – Santali
mjx – Mahali

Santali is a language in the Munda subfamily of Austroasiatic languages, related to Ho and Mundari.

It is spoken by around 6.2 million people in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, although most of its speakers live in India, in the states of Jharkhand, Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Tripura, and West Bengal.[2]


  • Grammatical sketch 1
  • Phonology 2
    • Consonants 2.1
    • Vowels 2.2
  • Morphology 3
    • Nouns 3.1
      • Number 3.1.1
      • Case 3.1.2
      • Possession 3.1.3
    • Pronouns 3.2
    • Numerals 3.3
    • Verbs 3.4
      • Subject markers 3.4.1
      • Object markers 3.4.2
  • Syntax 4
  • Rising significance of Santali 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
    • Dictionaries 8.1
    • Grammars and primers 8.2
    • Literature 8.3
  • External links 9

Grammatical sketch

The following brief grammatical sketch is based on Ghosh 2008. It does not purport to give a full account of the language's grammar but rather give an impression of the structure of the language.



Santali has 21 consonants, not counting the 10 aspirated stops which occur almost only in Indo-Aryan loanwords and are given in parentheses in the table below.

  Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Stops voiceless p (pʰ) t (tʰ) ʈ (ʈʰ) c (cʰ) k  
voiced b (bʱ) d (dʱ) ɖ (ɖʱ) ɟ (ɟʱ)
j jh
ɡ (ɡʱ)  
Fricatives   s       h
Nasals m n   ɲ ŋ  
Trill   r        
Flap     ɽ      
Lateral   l        
Glides w     j y    

In native words, the opposition between voiceless and voiced stops is neutralized in word-final position. A typical Munda feature is that word-final stops are "checked", i. e. glottalized and unreleased.


Santali has eight non-nasal and six nasal vowels.

  Front Central Back
High i ĩ   u ũ
Mid-high e ə ə̃ o
Mid-low ɛ ɛ̃   ɔ ɔ̃
Low   a ã  

There are numerous diphthongs.


Santali, like all Munda languages, is a suffixing agglutinating language.



Three numbers are distinguished, singular, dual and plural.

Singular seta. 'dog'
Dual seta-kin 'two dogs'
Plural seta-ko 'dogs'


The case suffix follows the number suffix. The following cases are distinguished:

Case Marker Function
Nominative Subject and object
Genitive -rɛn (animate)
-ak', -rɛak' (inanimate)
Comitative -ʈhɛn/-ʈhɛc' goal, place
Instrumental-Locative -tɛ Instrument, cause, motion
Sociative -são Association
Allative -sɛn/-sɛc' Direction
Ablative -khɔn/-khɔc' Source, origin
Locative -rɛ Spatio-temporal location


Santali has possessive suffixes which are only used with kinship terms: 1st person , 2nd person -m, 3rd person -t. The suffixes do not distinguish possessor number.


The personal pronouns in Santali distinguish inclusive and exclusive first person and anaphoric and demonstrative third person.

  Singular Dual Plural
First person Exclusive ɘliɲ alɛ
Inclusive   alaṅ abo
Second person am aben apɛ
Third person Anaphoric ac' ɘkin ako
Demonstrative uni unkin oṅko

The interrogative pronouns have different form for animate ('who?') and inanimate ('what?'), and referential ('which?') vs. non-referential.

  Animate Inanimate
Referential ɔkɔe oka
Non-referential cele cet'

The indefinite pronouns are:

  Animate Inanimate
'any' jãheã jãhã
'some' adɔm adɔmak
'another' ɛʈak'ic' ɛʈak'ak'

The demonstratives distinguish three degrees of deixis (proximate, distal, remote) and simple ('this', 'that', etc.) and particulate ('just this', 'just that') forms.

Simple Animate Inanimate
Proximate nui noa
Distal uni ona
Remote həni hana
Particularized Animate Inanimate
Proximate nii niə
Distal ini inə
Remote enko inəko


The basic cardinal numbers are:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 20 100
mit' bar pon mɔ̃ɽɛ̃ turui eae irəl arɛ gɛl isi sae

The numerals are used with numeral classifiers. Distributive numerals are formed by reduplicating the first consonant and vowel, e.g. babar 'two each'.


Verbs in Santali inflect for tense, aspect and mood, voice and the person and number of the subject.

Subject markers

  Singular Dual Plural
First person Exclusive -ɲ(iɲ) -liɲ -lɛ
Inclusive   -laŋ -bon
Second person -m -ben -pɛ
Third person -e -kin -ko

Object markers

Transitive verbs with pronominal objects take infixed object markers.

  Singular Dual Plural
First person Exclusive -iɲ- -liɲ- -lɛ-
Inclusive   -laŋ- -bon-
Second person -me- -ben- -pɛ-
Third person -e- -kin- -ko-


Santali is an SOV language, though topics can be fronted.

Rising significance of Santali

A great recognition of Santali was reached in December 2013 when the University Grants Commission of India decided to introduce the language in the National Eligibility Test to prepare future lecturers for the language in colleges and universities.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Santali at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Mahali at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ "Santali: A Language of India". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. SIL International. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Syllabus for UGC NET Santali, Dec 2013

Further reading

  • Byomkes Chakrabarti (1992). A comparative study of Santhali and Bengali. Calcutta: K.P. Bagchi & Co. ISBN 81-7074-128-9
  • Ghosh, A. (1994). Santhali: a look into Santal morphology. New Delhi: Gyan Pub. House. ISBN 81-212-0451-8
  • Ghosh, A. (2008). Santali. In: Anderson, G. The Munda Languages. London: Routledge.
  • Hembram, P. C. (2002). Santhali, a natural language. New Delhi: U. Hembram.
  • Newberry, J. (2000). North Munda dialects: Mundari, Santhali, Bhumia. Victoria, B.C.: J. Newberry. ISBN 0-921599-68-4
  • Mitra, P. C. (1988). Santhali, the base of world languages. Calcutta: Firma KLM.
  • Зограф Г. А. (1960/1990). Языки Южной Азии. М.: Наука (1-е изд., 1960).
  • Лекомцев, Ю. K. (1968). Некоторые характерные черты сантальского предложения // Языки Индии, Пакистана, Непала и Цейлона: материалы научной конференции. М: Наука, 311—321.
  • Grierson, Sir George A. (ed.) (1906, reprinted 1967). The Linguistic Survey of India. Vol. IV. Delhi-Varanasi-Patna.
  • Maspero, Henri. (1952). Les langues mounda. Meillet A., Cohen M. (dir.), Les langues du monde, P.: CNRS.
  • Neukom, Lukas. (2001). Santhali. München: LINCOM Europa.
  • Pinnow, Heinz-Jürgen. (1966). A comparative study of the verb in the Munda languages. Zide, Norman H. (ed.) Studies in comparative Austroasiatic linguistics. London—The Hague—Paris: Mouton, 96-193.
  • Sakuntala De. (2011). Santali : a linguistic study. Memoir (Anthropological Survey of India). Kolkata: Anthropological Survey of India, Govt. of India,. 
  • Vermeer, Hans J. (1969). Untersuchungen zum Bau zentral-süd-asiatischer Sprachen (ein Beitrag zur Sprachbundfrage). Heidelberg: J. Groos.


  • Bodding, Paul O. (1929). A Santal dictionary. Oslo: J. Dybwad.
  • A. R. Campbell (1899). A Santali-English dictionary. Santal Mission Press. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  • English-Santhali/Santhali-English dictionaries
  • Macphail, R. M. (1964). An Introduction to Santhali, Parts I & II. Benagaria: The Santhali Literature Board, Santhali Christian Council.
  • Minegishi, M., & Murmu, G. (2001). Santhali basic lexicon with grammatical notes. Tōkyō: Institute for the Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. ISBN 4-87297-791-2

Grammars and primers

  • Bodding, Paul O. 1929/1952. A Santal Grammar for the Beginners, Benagaria: Santal Mission of the Northern Churches (1st edition, 1929).
  • Col, F T (1896). Santạli primer. Manbhum. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  • Macphail, R. M. (1953) An Introduction to Santali. Firma KLM Private Ltd.
  • Muscat, George. (1989) Santali: A New Approach. Sahibganj, Bihar : Santali Book Depot.
  • Skrefsrud, Lars Olsen (1873) A Grammar of the Santhal Language. Benares: Medical Hall Press.
  • Saren, Jagneswar "Ranakap Santali Ronor" (Progressive Santali Grammar), 1st edition, 2012.


  • Pandit Raghunath Murmu (1925) ronor : Mayurbhanj, Odisha Publisher ASECA, Mayurbhanj
  • Bodding, Paul O., (ed.) (1923—1929) Santhali Folk Tales. Oslo: Institutet for sammenlingenden kulturforskning, Publikationen. Vol. I—III.
  • Campbell, A. (1891). Santal folk tales. Pokhuria, India: Santal Mission Press. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  • Murmu, G., & Das, A. K. (1998). Bibliography, Santhali literature. Calcutta: Biswajnan. ISBN 81-7525-080-1
  • Santali Genesis Translation. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  • The Dishom Beura, India's First Santali Daily News Paper. Publisher, Managobinda Beshra.

External links

  • "We Santhals" web site
  • National Translation Mission's (NTM) Santhali Pages
  • OLAC resources in and about the Santali language
  • OLAC resources in and about the Mahali language
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.