Koyi Rai: An Initial Grammatical Sketch
- Author(s): Lahoussois, Aimée
- et al.
Koyi Rai is a previously undescribed language of the Kiranti group of the Himalayan branch of Tibeto-Burman. Koyi, also referred to by speakers as Koyu or Kohi, is spoken in the Khotang district in Eastern Nepal, near the headwaters of the Rawa Khola, in the villages of Sungdel and, to a lesser extent, Dipsung. There are also some speakers in the villages of Lethang and Bharauli in the Tarai. My work was carried out in the Kathmandu Valley, political conditions at the time (2004) not being well-suited to fieldwork in the villages. There are said to be 2~3000 speakers.
According to van Driem (2001: 711), the homeland of the Koyi is the Upper Dudh Kosi area, along with Khaling and Dumi, and the languages share a subgrouping: “Kohi [sic], Dumi and Khaling show shared phonological innovations ...”. Koyi appears to be quite distinct from Dumi, despite rumors of mutual intelligibility (van Driem 2001: 711). There are a number of lexical similarities between the two languages (despite rather different phonological inventories), but many morphological markers are different. Michailovsky’s (MS c) initial reconstruction work on the Kiranti languages suggests that the same sound change which distinguishes Thulung from other Western and Central Kiranti languages is also found in Koyi. This sound change is *p > b, and is found in only these two languages among those which are geographically close, the reflex in Hayu, Bahing, Sunwar, Dumi and Khaling being p. The following set exemplifies the initial b in Thulung and Koyi: ‘flower’ Hayu puŋmi, Bahing p h uŋ, Sunwar p h u:, Dumi puma, Khaling pungme, but Thulung buŋma and Koyi buwa.
Clearly, Kiranti subgrouping and the position of Koyi remain to be clarified.