The Memon Language

The Memon Language

The Memon language, as a defining factor for the Memon community, is disappearing. There are simple studies that show the path we are going down – here.

WMO has got weekly Memon Classes running in:

  • Durban (9-11am Saturdays at Natal Memon Jamaat Hall, Hendry Lane, Overport)
    • Contact Jameela Joosub –  0834712786 / +2731 3071057 )
  • Laudium (7-8pm Wednesdays at World Memon Foundation Centre, cnr Quagga/Maxwell Rd, Laudium entrance)
    • Contact Khashiefa Martin – 084 701 3208 / Muhammad Chhaya – 076 025 1150 [see flyer & form]
  • Fordsburg (7.30-8.30pm Tuesdays at Image Lifestyle Centre, cnr Mint Rd/Carr St, Fordsburg)

The speech of Memons, Memani also known as Kacchi is basically an Indo-Aryan language belonging to the Western Indo-Aryan Group. In origin, it could perhaps be best regarded as a dialect f Sindhi, though enriched considerably by Urdu and Gujarati. The language has no script and consequently no literary tradition.

Here are some useful learning resources: 

A dialect of Sindhi

Memani resembles Sindhi more than any other Modern Indo-Aryan Vernacular (MIAV), as for instance in preserving the short vowel of Old Indo Aryan(OIA) and Middle Indo Aryan(MIA) which we shall here represent by Sanskrit and pali. The other MIAVs such as Hindi, Gujarati and Oriya have elongated such Vowels.
Sat ‘seven’ (Skt. Sapta, P.satta ,Si. Sata, but Guj.H.sat, Or.sata)
Kan ‘ear’ (Skt. karna, P.kanna ,Si. kanu, but Guj.H.kan, Or.kana)

It also resembles Sindhi in turning the OIA and MIA I to r
Var ‘hair’ (Skt.P. vala, Guj. Val ,but Si. vara)
mur ‘root’ (Skt.P. mula, Guj. mul H. mul but Si. muru)

Other similarities with Sindhi include dispensing with the MIA labial b when it follows a nasal: amu ‘mango’ which closely resembles the sindhi amo and differs from Guj. ambo and Bg. Amb (P. amba) and lammu ‘tall’ which likewise resembles the Sindhi lama and differs from Guj. lambum, H. lamba (P. lamba). Beside these one may find other similarities such a Memani panj ‘five’ which resembles Sindhi panja and differs from such forms as Gujarati and Hindi pach.

Nevertheless we do come across a few vocables which seem to have their origins in or have been influenced by Gujarati as for instance Memani sinter ‘seventy’ (Si. Satari, Guj.siter) and esi ‘eighty’ (Si. Asi, Guj. esi). The tendancy to do away with the terminal vowels common to Sindhi as for instance in such Memani terms as sat ‘seven’, kan ‘ear’ and dan ‘tooth’ where Sindhi has sata, kanu and dandu respectively may also indicate the influence of Gajarati which like Hindi has dispensed with the terminal vowels of the Sanskritic sapta, karna and danta so that we have the equivalent terms sat,kan and dat.

(Skt –Sankrit P-pali Si-Sindhi H-Hindi Guj –Gujaeati Or –Oriya)

Memani –An Indo-European Language
Comparative linguistic which is an achievement of 19th century German scholarship brought to light the affinity Sanskrit had with the Classical languages of Europe, Latin and Greek, as well as other European languages belonging to the Germanic, Celtic, Baltic and Slavonic language groups and Central Asian languages belonging to the Iranian group. The parent speech from which these languages arose is believed to have flourished someplace in Europe, very probably Southern Russia, about 6,000 years ago. We will here attempt to trace the origins of Memani to this hypothetical Proto-Indo-European (PIE) speech which has been reconstructed by linguists such as Julius Pokorny in his Indogermanische Etymologisches wöterbuch (1948-1969). We will do so with a few select basic vocables pertaining to kinship and numeral terms giving cognate terms in other languages for comparison:

Kinship Terms
PIE * pater ‘father’ > Skt. Pitr> Mem. pe
(Latin pater, Persian pedar, Gothic fadar, Dutch vader
German vater, Italian padre, French Père and Punjabi pio)

PIE* mater ‘mother’ > Skt. Matr > Mem. Ma
(Latin mater, German mutter, Dutch moeder, Russian mate,
Spanish madre, Persian madar, French mere and Hindi ma)

PIE* bhrater ‘bother’ > Skt. Bhratr > Mem.bha
(Gothic brother, German bruder, Dutch broeder, Chech bratr,
Russian brat, Persian baradar, Kashmiri bôy and Hindi bhai

PIE* swekuros ‘father-in –law’ > Skt svasura > Mem.soro
(Latin soccer, Old High German swehur, Old Russian svekru,
Old English sweor, Gothic swaihra, German schwäher and Hindi sasur)

Numeral Terms
PIE* Kʷetwor ‘four’ > Skt. Cavatvr > Mem. Char
(Latin quattour, Lithuanian ketturi, Albanian katër, French quatre,
Polish cztery, Russian chetyre, Persian chahar and Hindi char)

PIE* penkʷe ‘five’ > Skt. Pañca > Mem. Panj
(Lithuanian penki, Tocharian pic, Polish piec,
Albanian pesë, Wendish pes and Hindi pach)

PIE* septm ‘seven’ > Skt. Saptan > Mem. sat
(Latin septem, Greek hepta, Avestan hapta, Persian haft,
Lithuanian septyni, French sept and Hindi sat

PIE* okto ‘eight’ > Skt. Ashtau > Mem. ath
(Latin octo, Gothic ahtau, Avestan asta, Lithuanian astuoni,
Irish ocht, german acht, Italian otto and Hindi ath)

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