Kosli language: A fresh look on its distinction and evolution

October 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm 2 comments

Following write-up is taken from koslisahitya blog:

Compiled and Edited by Saket Sreebhushan Sahu


Kosli is an ancient language and it is one of the five Prakrit languages existing since Vedic era along with Sanskrit. However, some recent research done at Sambalpur University claims Kosli as a distinct language as a result of which the University has introduced a One year Diploma course.

Area where Kosli is used

A large area encompassing the western part of Odisha popularly known as Kosal region; Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Deogarh, Balangir, Sonepur, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Boud, Phulbani and Northern Koraput regions; parts of Chattisgarh; Bhatri region of Bastar district, and from eastern part of Debhog, Phuljhar, Raigarh, Sarangarh to Jashpur uses Kosli as its mother tongue. Out of the total population of Odisha (36706920) about two crore population uses Kosli according to 2001 census.

Kosli is an Independent Language:

A group of scholars claims Kosli language as a mere dialect of Odia language. Odia scholars have analysed the language of Kosal region less scientifically and more politically. Though the constitution of India guarantees to safeguard a distinct language, script or culture of minorities vide its provision in article 29(1) & 30(1), Kosli is seen not enjoying its due rights.

Kosli is a direct derivative of Sanskrit. Each and every word is enriched with deep meaning and full of life. The soulful representation of its culture and environment is its insignia and represents its independency. For example, let discuss the origin of few Kosli words:

a) khaman means jungle. Khaman originates from Sanskrit word Khaban.
Khaban means sky touching jungle (AakaShaspaRShi baNa)
Kh = AakaSh [sky]
According to the rule of Prakrit: Ba > Ma
Hence, Khaban = Khaman.

b) khglA is a traditional ornament put on around neck by ladies.
Kh = AakAsh (sky) = sunyA (blanks) = round shaped
So, khglA is ‘kh’ (round shaped) around ‘galA’ (neck)

c) khpsA ( a kind of air breathing fish)
This fish is found moving up towards the sky through date tree so its name is derived or given from this unique feature. Please mark the formation of the word as below:
Kh = AakAsh (sky)
kasati gachhati iti > khakshh > khaksA (kas-kash gatou soutra dhatu)
The name of this fish in Odia is ‘gaDishA’ which means the fish which rolls. There is no such vast imagination as like as there it is found in Kosli language.

d) kulihA (Jackal)
This animal is fond of crab and it search crab from holes in crop fields so ‘kulihA’ word forms as below from this activity:
kulirNg hanti iti kulirahA > kulihA

e) karlA (Bitter Melon)
The formation of the word ‘karlA’ is a very strong example to prove that the claim of Odia scholars is vague that Kosli is not a dialect of Odia and words of Kosli are not formed simply by deforming Odia words rather it supports in favour of formations of Odia from Kosli.
Sanskrit > Prakrit > Hindi > Kosli > Odia
kArbell (Sanskrit) > kArell (Prakrit) > karelA (Hindi) > karlA (Kosli) > kaLarA (Odia)

Few more examples:
Sanskrit > Prakrit> Kosli
AtasI > AlasI > Alasi
AamRam >AmbNGa >Aam
AadRam > Aallam/AdhNGa > Ol, Uda

Genealogical analysis shows two different sources of origin of the two languages; Odiya and Kosli. One is from the Magadhi Prakrit and another from Ardha-Magadhi Prakrit. So there are remarkable differences between the two in the sphere of phonology, morphology, semantics and syntax.

Noteworthy to mention here that like other Indo-Aryan languages, formation of words in Kosli consist of two types of morphemes – Free Morpheme and Bound Morpheme. One can notice the less use of free morphemes both in Odiya and Kosli but the words formed with both free and bound morphemes are more in use as lexical items (parts of speech) in sentences. According to the system of formation of words in almost all the languages in India, the bound morphemes are of three types:

A. Case Endings (used with nouns / pronouns)
B. Derivatives (known as Taddhita or Krdanta in Indian grammar).
C. Tense Endings (used in verbal roots to signify number, person and tense).

Followings are few examples from all three categories which clarify the distinction of Kosli.

Case Endings

Case endings are the suffix used both in nominal and pronominal declensions. They are generally used as suffixes in all the languages of Aryan family including Odiya and Kosli.

Let us examine the nominative case endings (otherwise known as Prathamã Vibhakti) of both Odiya and Kosli language. These case endings always are some suffixes. Both in Odiya and Kosli ‘mãne’ suffix are widely used as a bound morpheme to indicate plural number. In Odiya, this suffix was used rarely and in ancient literature like ‘Sãralã Mãhãbhãrat’, where two bound morphemes were in use to indicate plural number i.e. rajãganamãne (kings). So the use of plural suffixes in nominal case was arbitrary and loose. This ‘Mãne’ suffix which is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘mãnya’ (honour) and though it is used in Odiya, not in its sister languages such as Bengali and Assamease. But it is used as such in Kosli and in Chhattisgarhi as ‘-man’, just adjacent to the Kosli speaking region. So this plural maker suffix seems to have come from Kosal region to Odiya. This suffix is used in Odiya as well as in Kosli. But there is another peculiar type of use in Kosli which is not found in Odiya. The ‘-mãne’ suffix is not used with the proper nouns in Odiya but it is used even in proper nouns in Kosli such as ‘Rãmamãne’ (Rãma and others), Sabitãmãne (Sabita and others) etc. In sentence it is used as following:

1. Rãmamãne jãuchan (Rãma and others are going)
2. Sabitã mane gãuchan (Sabitã and others are singing)

Let us come to the suffix (accusative case maker) ‘-ke’ or ‘-mánke’ for singular and plural in Kosli. In standard Odiya ‘-ku’ ‘-nku’ and ‘mãnaãku’ suffix is used in this case. So responsibility of linguists does end with the comments that the Kosli singular accusative ‘-ke’ is used in lieu of ‘-ku’/ ‘-ñku’ in Odiya and it is a corrupted form of the latter. But there is a noticeable peculiarity in Kosli regarding the use of the suffix ‘-ke’ that it is used with the first person and second person singular number where as it is not so in Odiya.

make (to me) pãn nãi bhallãge – I do not like paan.

take (to you) mui kichi nãi di – I have not given anything to you.

The underlined words – make (ma+ke) and take (ta+ke) in the above sentences shows the use of accusative morpheme ‘-ke’ with first person singular ma (oblique form of mu) and second person singular ta (oblique from of tui) respectively. In Odiya two oblique form ‘mate’ and ‘tate’ in this case are used instead of mku and tuku as ‘-ku’ suffix is not added to ‘m’ and ‘tu’, the stem of first and second person singular number. But it is evident that in old Odiya literature of Sãralã Das this type of use of the accusative suffix ‘–ku’ directly to the stem such as tuku (tu+ku) and muku(mu+ku) has been attested akin to Kosli language. Now, in modern Odiya this type of use ‘muku’ and ‘tuku’ for first person singular and second person singular is not correct. Instead, mate and tate/tote two oblique forms are used for them. But in Kalahandi region of Kosli speaking tract, the use of ‘make’ ‘toke’/‘take’ is still alive as fossil which throws light to the development of Odiya as well as Kosli morphology. An important feature is to be observed that the accusative morpheme ‘-ke’ as discussed above is exactly used in Bengali such as –ãmãke (to me) and tomãke (to you). In Hindi it is found as –ko/kai.

In standard Odiya, the instrumental case maker suffixes or morphemes (known as tritiya vibhakti) are –re, -dwárá, -dei, -kartruka in singular and another morpheme ‘-mánañka’ is used before then to make it plural. The peculiarity of Kosli language is the suffixes used in Odiya are not at all used. Other types of suffixes such as –na (from skt-ena) and -bute (derived from Sanskrit (britte) are in use as instrumental case maker.

For Example:

1. bãdina mãra (beat with the stick)
2. karrina kãta (cut with the knife)
3. hetãrbute kãm phaskã (he is of no use). Besides one ‘-thi’ suffix is also used for making instrumental case such as ‘-dã’thi’ (with the sickle), karri’thi (with the knife) etc. This ‘-thi’ seem to have come from the Sanskrit word ‘stita’.

In ablative case otherwise known as (Panchmi Vibhakti) the bound morphemes used in standard Odiya are –ru, -thiru, -thãru (in singular) etc. where as in Kosli they are –u, -nu and –thu in singular. The plural maker morpheme ‘-mãnkar’ is used before them and added to the stem, which is common in all cases to denote plural. The uses in Kosli are as following:

1. -u : gachu phall padlã (the fruit fell down from the tree)
2. –nu : gachnu phall padlã (the fruit fell down from the tree)
3. –thu : gachthu phall padlã – (the fruit fell down from the tree)

Noteworthy to see here that the above ‘–nu’ suffix is not in use Odiya now, but in old Odiya inscription, the suffix is used once as hastãnanu (from hand). Another peculiarity of ablative case maker suffix is ‘-s’. It is rarely used to limited words and derived from the Prakrit suffix – ‘-s’ directly. The use of Kosli is as such – belsu tarkithá (be alert from the right time).

In locative case both in Odiya and Kosli, the case maker suffixes are almost same as used in their instrumental case. For example ‘-re’ in Odiya and ‘-na’ in Kosli. In both the language one suffix -tha (from Sanskrit stãna – place) is prefixed to them and they become a compound morpheme such as thã+ne – thãne in Kosli and thãre in Odiya. The use of –na (or na+e = -ne) is not there in Odiya. The use is very wide such as – Jangal na badã bãg achan (there are many tigers in the jungle). The Kosli suffix –na/ne in locative is equivalent to the English preposition in/on/over etc.


Besides the case maker morphemes as discussed above, there are some derivative suffixes, which show separate identity of Kosli language. One –ti suffix is used in Kosli to denote a smaller size of a thing or size in miniature. For example –bandh+li = bandhli (small pond), hãt+li = hatli (a small market), tupã + li = tupli (a small basket). In Odiya the use of –uli suffix is there but they are limited in use in words like kha+tli = khatli (small cut).

Tense Ending

In verbal declension also there are some remarkable peculiarities in Kosli language which differ from Odiya language. The use of ‘-mi’ morpheme in future tense for first person and ‘-si’ morpheme in present indefinite tense for third person are two apparent speciality of the language. Both the morpheme ‘-mi’ ‘-si’ came from Sanskrit directly as such (i.e. Sanskrit: karomi, pathámi and karosi, pathasi etc.) The use of both the morphemes is as following.

-mi: -mui khãemi (I shall eat)
mui jimi ( I shall go)
-si :- Rãma khãesi (Rama eats)
Rãma jãesi (Rama goes) etc.

The use of –mi suffix (morpheme) is current in Oirya in Baleswar districts. But largely, Odiya language uses ‘-bi’ (such as kháibi) in this case. Though the above two morphemes in conjugation is not there in standard Odiya, the use is attested in archaic Odiya literature such as Charyãpada and Sãralã Mãhãbhãrat. In the Charyápada the words like mãrami (I shall kill), lemi (I shall take) are found and in Sarala Mãhãbharata the use of –si such as karási, jãesi are easily noticeable. It tends to believe the scholars that the ‘Kosli’ language of Kosal region or Sambalpur tract has trickled down to coastal Orissa or ancient Odradesa and contributed substantially in the development of Odiya language. That is why the relics are still alive in Kosli as discussed.


Peculiarities of Sambalpuri Language in Its Morphology; Dr. Ashok Kumar Dash, Surta, pg 35-38, Ed. Saket Sreebhushan Sahu, 2009.
Kosli Bhasa Ra Sankhipta Parichay, Kosal Ratna Prayagdutta Joshi, pg 6, 7, 16, 17, Ed. Dr. Dolagobinda Bishi, 1991.



Entry filed under: Athmallik, Balangir, Bargarh, Books, Boudh, Deogarh, Grammer, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Kosli language and literature, Language, Nuapada, Region watch, Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Sundergarh.

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