Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-x24gv Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-27T20:13:43.929Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Locating a cultural identity in the use of metaphorical proverbs among the Tai Ahoms of Assam: a study through oral literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2022

Khammoun Phukan
Affiliation:
English and Foreign Languages Department, Tezpur University, Napam, India *Email: k.phukan9@gmail.com **arupjnu@gmail.com
Arup K. Nath
Affiliation:
English and Foreign Languages Department, Tezpur University, Napam, India *Email: k.phukan9@gmail.com **arupjnu@gmail.com

Abstract

This article is an attempt to explore the role of Tai Ahom proverbs as a marker of cultural identity in the realm of postmodern society. Using or choosing culturally driven speech in communication is a linguistic behaviour which reflects the character of the people, their worldview, and thus their uniqueness or difference from the ‘other’. In another way, this might be a conscious way of projecting self. This qualitative study on proverbs of Tai Ahom language and culture adopts the methods of ethnography and textual analysis. A cultural hermeneutic model, along with the participant observation method, was used to collect the data. Finally, the Tai Ahom community of Sivasagar district of Assam, India was chosen as the locus for the research. The findings show that the proverbs are deeply woven by the Ahom community's cultural heritage, history, pride, advice, and satire. Hence, this article provides an insight into Tai Ahoms’ way of living and their worldview. In locating the Tai Ahom's cultural identity within the homogenised bigger community of ‘Assamese’ or akhomiya, this study could help in understanding the differences or uniqueness of the Tai Ahom and thereby the Assamese identity in the present context.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Royal Asiatic Society

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

1 Dohutia, C., Chetia, D. and Upadhyaya, S., ‘Ethno-medical survey on Tai Ahom community of Assam’, Studies on Ethno-Medicine 10:4 (2016), pp. 361471CrossRefGoogle Scholar. https://doi.10/1080/09735070.2016.11905519.

2 Gogoi, P., ‘A methodology of studying Ahom manuscripts: how collocations help us’, North East Indian Linguistics 7 (2015), p. 287Google Scholar.

3 Morey, S., ‘Tai languages of Assam, a progress report—Does anything remain of the Tai Ahom language’, in Language Endangerment and Language Maintenance, (eds) Bradley, D. and Bradley, M. (London, 2002), pp. 98113Google Scholar.

4 Ara, A., ‘Portraying the Tai-Ahoms in two Assamese films based on the legend of Joymoti’, in Mdedia, Indigeneity and Nation in South Asia, (eds) de Makker, E. and Schleiter, M. (London, 2019)Google Scholar. See also Phukan, K. and Nath, A. K., ‘Dictionary writing in Assam: a study through select classical text’, Language in India 19:7 (2019), pp. 189199Google Scholar; Kar, B., ‘“Thoughts has no bone”. Fixing the Assamese language, c. 1800–c. 1930’, Studies in History 24: 1 (2008), pp. 2776CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Crowley, D., ‘The Assam dragon: folklore and folkloristics in India's long-closed Northeast Frontier’, The Journal of American Folklore 110:435 (1997), pp. 6872CrossRefGoogle Scholar. https://doi:10.2307/541586.

6 Hussein, J., ‘A discursive representation of women in sample proverbs from Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya’, Research in African Literatures 40:3 (2009), pp. 96108CrossRefGoogle Scholar. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40468139. See also Eriksen, T. H., ‘The epistemological status of the concept of ethnicity’, Anthropological Notebooks 25:1 (2019), pp. 2736Google Scholar; Mieder, W., Wise Words: Essays on the Proverb (New York, 1994)Google Scholar.

7 Hussein, ‘A discursive representation of women’, pp. 96–108.

8 Saikia, M., ‘Oral tradition: a promising area of comparative literature reference to Assamese dakor Bachan’, Shanlax Journals 6:1 (2017), pp. 4857Google Scholar. See also Gurdon, P. R. T., Some Assamese Proverbs (Shillong, 1896)Google Scholar.

9 Sarma, D., ‘Comparative literary history in Assamese: some possibilities’, Space and Culture, India 4:3 (2017), pp. 2939CrossRefGoogle Scholar. https://doi.org/10.20896/saci.v4i3.245.

10 Fischer, J., Yoshida, and T., ‘The nature of speech according to Japanese proverbs’, The Journal of American Folklore 81:319 (1968), pp. 3443CrossRefGoogle Scholar. https://doi:10.2307/537436.

11 Hani'ah, S. T. W., Sarwiji, S., Kundhara, S. and Bahtiar, M., ‘Investigating the traditional proverbs and their impact on cultural identity and communication: lesson from the Madurese community’, Journal of Advanced Research in Dynamical and Control Systems 11:s1–5 (2019), pp. 846857Google Scholar. https://www.jardcs.org/abstractphp?id=1212.

12 Aliakbari, M. and Khsravian, F., ‘A corpus analysis of color-term conceptual metaphors in Persian proverbs’, Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 70 (2013), pp. 1117CrossRefGoogle Scholar. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.0333.

13 J. E. Joseph, ‘Cultural identity’, in The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, (ed.) C. A. Chapelle (Hoboken, 2013), pp. 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0298.

14 Giddens, A., Sociology: Introductory Readings (Oxford, 1993)Google Scholar.

15 Usman, J., Mustafa, L. J. and Agu, M. N., ‘Proverb as determinant of cultural identity: the imperative of the tree regional languages in Nigeria’, IMPACT: International Journal of Research in Humanities, Arts and Literature 1 (2013), pp. 4758Google Scholar. See also Khan, G., Sultana, N. and Naz, A., ‘The linguistic representation of gender identities in Pakhtu proverbs’, NUML Journal of Critical Inquiry 13:2 (2015), pp. 7387Google Scholar.

16 Aliakabri and Khosravian, ‘A corpus analysis’, pp. 11–17.

17 Hakacham, U. R., ‘The treatment of ramayanic lexicons in the languages of NE India’, The Journal of Open Learning and Research Communication 1 (2015), pp. 1325Google Scholar.

18 Phinney, J. S., ‘Ethnic identity and self-esteem: a review and integration’, Hispanic Journal of Behavioural Sciences 13:2 (1991), pp. 193208CrossRefGoogle Scholar. https://doi.org/10.1177/07399863910132005. See also A. Bennett, Music, Space and Place: Popular Music and Cultural Identity (London, 2017).

19 S. Hall, ‘The question of cultural identity’, in Modernity and Its Futures, (eds) S. Hall, D. Held and T. Mcgrew (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 274–316.

20 Foley, W. A., Anthropological Linguistics (Massachusetts, 1997)Google Scholar.

21 Baruah, M., ‘Constructing female identity in consanguineal and affinal relationships: a study through select Assamese proverbs’, Labyrinth: An International Referred Journal of Postmodern Studies 3:4 (2012), pp. 2832Google Scholar.

22Bei’ means a wooden frame placed over the bride and the groom at the time of taking a bath. Here, it is related to the Hindu marriage ritual.

23 Barua, G. C., Ahom Buranji (Calcutta, 1930)Google Scholar.

24 Gogoi, L., The History of the System of Ahom Administration (Calcutta, 1991)Google Scholar.

25 At the time of Ahom's migration, this land (now Assam) was divided into four geographical territories, namely Ratna peet, Kam Peeth, Xubarna Peeth and Saumer Peeth. Saumer Peeth is now the upper Assam.

26 Gait, E., A History of Assam (Guwahati, 1905; 2010)Google Scholar.

27 Gogoi, The History of the System.

28 Guha, A., ‘The Ahom political system: an inquiry into the state formation process in medieval Assam (1228–1714)’, Social Scientist 11:12 (1983), pp. 334CrossRefGoogle Scholar. https://doi:10.2307/3516963.

29 Shastri, B., ‘Nationalism and patriotism in Assamese literature’, Indian Literature 20:3 (1977), pp. 4253Google Scholar. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24157486.

30 Deka, K. Sen, ‘Buranji: historical literature of Assam’, Journal of Open Learning and Research Communication 2:1 (2016), pp. 1535Google Scholar.

31 M. Mac Coinnigh, ‘Structural aspects of proverbs’, in Introductions of Paremiology: A Comprehensive Guide to Proverb Studies, (eds) A. Borowska, D. Matovac and A. Raji-Oyelade (Berlin, 2015), pp. 112–130. https://doi.org/10.2478/9783110410167.5.

32 Campbell, Anne, ‘Cultural identity as a social construct’, Intercultural Education 11:1 (2000), pp. 3139CrossRefGoogle Scholar. https://doi.org/10.1080/14675980050005370.

33 Agar, M. H., Culture: How to Make it Work in a World of Hybrids (New York, 2019)Google Scholar.

34 Eriksen, T. H., ‘The epistemological status of the concept of ethnicity’, Anthropological Notebooks 25:1 (2019), pp. 2736Google Scholar.