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Language use among the Bantawa: Homogeneity, education, access, and relative prestige


The focus of this article is patterns of language use within the Bantawa community, with attention to how these patterns are influenced by the relative homogeneity of each dialect area, access to education, access to the area, and its perceived prestige.

Bantawa is the largest language spoken among the Kirat Rai peoples of eastern Nepal. Gerd Hansson’s work with the Linguistic Survey of Nepal (1991) gave a broad overview of Bantawa within the context of describing the “bewildering variety” of languages spoken by the Kirat Rai. This included a hypothesis of four major dialects of Bantawa spoken in and near Bhojpur district. My research builds on Hansson’s work, interviewing mother-tongue speakers of Bantawa within Bhojpur district and adjacent areas.

Informal interviews with Bantawa people in each dialect area showed that intergenerational transfer patterns are not the same throughout the language area. Several key factors interrelate in different ways in each dialect area, allowing greater opportunity for vitality in some areas than in others. This study adds to the literature concerning Bantawa by contributing descriptions of the primary dialect areas and nomenclature from an emic perspective, as well as investigating patterns of language use within each dialect area.

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