Manipuri Language is originally known as Meitei. It is the official language of the south eastern Himalayan state of Manipur in India. There are about 1,500,000 people in the world which speak Manipuri. The major chunk of this population resides in North East India mostly in Manipur. The rest of the Manipuri speaking population can be found in some parts of Bangladesh and Myanmar. This is also the language used by the offices and government institutions in the state of Manipur. It has been recognized as a scheduled language by the Indian Union and is taught up to Ph.D. level in the Indian Universities. It is also the medium of education in Manipuri Schools. This language has been a major adhesive in the integration of all ethnic groups of Manipur.
The Manipuri Language belongs to Kuki-Chin group of Sino- Tibetan family of languages. As per the earliest written evidence on the history of Manipuri, the language dates back to the 11th century. It had an independent script that was in use until 18th century. This script was derived from the Tibetan group of scripts. With the arrival of the British rule, the script was modified and came to be known and used as the Bengali script. This script is being used till date. Efforts are being made to restore the original script and renew it. This will give it further recognition and importance among the current generation. In Manipur, more than 60 percent of the people converse in Manipuri and there is an urgent need to revive its original script before it completely fades away from the memories of the people.
The Manipuri Literature can be divided into three phases-the old phase, the medieval phase and the modern phase. The period from the eighth century to 1074 AD is the old phase of the Manipuri Literature. It is the period when the dialect of the Ningthoujas gradually attained the status of the standard norm. Early Manipuri Literature consists of only folk and poetries. The early medieval phase ranges from 1074 to 1709 AD. It was the time when Shans (Pong) migrated to Manipur from Burma. In the later years, from about 1074 A.D. to 1469 AD, Shans who called themselves the Tais outnumbered Mnaiiouris and exerted considerable influence on the culture and literature of the state. During the late medieval period i.e. after the 1709 A.D, the Manipuri literature went through a new phase with the arrival of Burmese in the area. Later after the British invasion, a new phase i.e. the beginning of the modern period in Manipuri literature began with British influence. Quite later the short stories and novels also became popular in the Manipuri Literature. H. Guno Singh and Pacha Meiti are the popular names in Manipuri Literature in contemporary times. .
Writing Style and Grammar
Meitei had its original script named Meitei-mayek which was in use up to the 18th century. However, later the Eastern Nagari or Bengali script adopted for scripting Manipuri. It is also the script used till now. However, efforts to revive the Meitei-mayek are still on. The Grammar of the Manipuri Language is interesting yet simple; the phonological system of the Manipuri language can be basically divided into three levels- Vowels, Consonants and Tones. In Manipuri Grammar, there are two types of roots-the free roots and bound roots. All nouns, in Manipuri, are free roots. There is also no grammatical gender in Manipuri, the human and animate nouns are addressed according to the masculine or feminine on the basis of the natural sex.