Aiton language

From Bharatpedia, an open encyclopedia
Native toIndia
EthnicityAiton people
Native speakers
1,500 (2006)[1]
Burmese script
(Aiton variation,
called Lik-Tai)[2]
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byLanguage Academy
Language codes
ISO 639-3aio

The Aiton language or Tai Aiton language is spoken in Assam, India (in the Dhonsiri Valley and the south bank of the Brahmaputra). It is currently classified as a threatened language, with less than two thousand speakers worldwide. Its other names include Antonia and Sham Doaniya.[3]


The Aiton language is a part of the Southwestern branch of the Tai family of languages. There are three other actively spoken languages in this branch: Khamti, Phake, and Khamyang.[4]


The Tai languages in Assam share many grammatical similarities, a writing system, and much of their vocabulary.[5] The most prominent differences between the languages are their tonal systems.[4]

According to the oral and written records of the Aiton people, they originated from a place named Khao-Khao Mao-Lung, a Burmese state near the Chinese border.[6] It is generally believed that they came to India about two or three hundred years ago, seeking refuge from oppression.[6] Despite how long they have been in Assam, many members of the older generations are not fluent in Assamese, the official language of the state.[7]

Geographic Distribution[edit]

Aiton is spoken predominantly in India, in the northeastern state of Assam.

According to Morey (2005), Aiton is spoken in the following villages:

Aiton Villages (Morey 2005)
Tai name Translation of Tai name Assamese/English name District
baan3 nam3 thum3 Flood village (บ้านน้ำท่วม) Duburoni Golaghat
baan3 sum3 Sour village (บ้านส้ม) Tengani Golaghat
baan3 hui1 luŋ1 Big fruit village Borhola Golaghat
baan3 hin1 Stone village (บ้านหิน) Ahomani Karbi Anglong
baan3 luŋ1 Big village (บ้านหลวง) Bargaon Karbi Anglong
baan3 nɔi2/dɔi2 Hill village (บ้านดอย) Sukhihola Karbi Anglong
baan3 saai2 Sand village (บ้านทราย) Kalyoni Karbi Anglong
baan3 saai2 Sand village (บ้านทราย) Balipathar Karbi Anglong
baan3 saai2 Sand village (บ้านทราย) Jonapathar Lohit

Buragohain (1998) reports a total of 260 Aiton households, comprising a total population of 2,155.

Aiton Villages (Buragohain 1998)
Village District Year founded No. of houses Population
Ahomani Karbi Anglong 1939 31 267
Baragaon Karbi Anglong 1835 39 359
Balipathar Karbi Anglong 1898 59 528
Chakihola Karbi Anglong unknown 18 180
Kaliyani Karbi Anglong Man era 1239 15 154
Borhola Golaghat 1836 26 235
Dubarani Golaghat unknown 43 334
Tengani Golaghat unknown 19 150
Jonapathar Lohit 1950s 15 148


Initial consonants[edit]

Morey reports the following initial consonants:[8]

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced
Plosive Tenuis p b t d c k ʔ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Fricative ɸ β ʃ ʒ x h
Lateral l
Trill r

Aiton, like some other Tai languages, have a "minimal three-way contrast in voicing".[7] It also only allows vowels to be voiced stops when they are in bilabial and dental/alveolar places of articulation. According to Morey, "[m] and [n] are variants for /b/ and /d/, respectively".[7] Aiton, has voiced /r, l, w, j/ and four voiced nasals in its sound inventory.[7] It does not have voiceless sonorants.[7]

Final consonants[edit]

Aiton has the following final consonants:

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced
Plosive Tenuis p t k ʔ
Nasal m n ŋ
Semi-vowel j w

-[w] occurs after front vowels and [a]-, -[j] occurs after back vowels and [a]-.[2]


Aiton today uses three tones, however it originally used five but two have merged with other tones. The first tone still used today is 'mid/high level', the second tone is 'high level then falling' and the third is 'mid falling'. Originally the fourth tone, 'mid rising', has merged with the first tone. The fifth tone, 'mid falling glottalised', has merged with the third tone.[8][7]


Aiton has a vowel system of only seven vowels, /i, ɯ, u, ɛ, ɔ, a, aa/, which is the smallest out of all the Tai languages spoken in Assam.[7] From these seven vowels, Aiton allows only nine possible sequences.[7]



The following set of pronouns are the pronouns found in the Aiton language:[9]

Word Meaning
/kaw1/ I (1sg)
/maɯ1/ You (2sg)
/mɯn1/ He/She/It (3sg)
/haw1/ We (1pl)
/su3/ You (2pl)
/kʰaw3/ They (3pl)


Note: the form /-an2/ is a post-clitic form that approaches a definite article in function and may be attached to pronouns and even verbs.[9]

Deictics Meaning
/nay2/ This, here
/nan2/, /han2/ That, there
/-an2/ That, there


The most common classifiers are kɔ1 for persons, tu1/to1 for animals and ʔan for inanimate objects.[9]

Writing system[edit]

The Tai Aiton have their own writing system called 'Lik-Tai', which they share with the Khamti people and Tai Phake people.[2] It closely resembles the Northern Shan script of Myanmar, which is a variant of the Burmese script, with some of the letters taking divergent shapes.[10]


  • က - ka - k - [k]
  • ၵ - kha - kh - [kʰ]
  • င - nga - ng - [ŋ]
  • ꩡ - ca - c - [t͡ʃ]
  • ꩬ - sa - s - [s]
  • ၺ - nya - ny - [ɲ][11]
  • တ - ta - t - [t]
  • ထ - tha - th - [tʰ]
  • ꩫ - na - n - [n]
  • ပ - pa - p - [p]
  • ၸ - pha/fa - ph/f - [pʰ/ɸ]
  • မ - ma - m - [m]
  • ယ - ya/ja - y/j - [j/ɟ]
    • ျ - in medial form
  • ꩺ - ra - r - [r]
    • ြ - in medial form
  • လ - la - l - [l]
  • ဝ - wa - w - [w]
  • ꩭ - ha - h - [h]
  • ဢ - a - a - [ʔ]
  • ဒ - da - d - [d]
  • ဗ - ba/wa - b/w - [b/w][12]


  • ႜ - a - [a]
  • ႃ - aa - [aː]
  • ိ - i - [i]
  • ီ - ī - [iː]
  • ု - u - [u]
  • ူ - ū - [uː]
  • ေ - e/ae - [eː/ɛ]
  • ႝ - ai - [ai]
  • ေႃ - o/aw - [oː/ɔː]
  • ံ - ṁ - [ŋ̊]
  • ိ်ုွ - ue - [ɯ]
  • ်ၞ - aeu - [ɛu]
  • ်ွ - aau - [aːu]
  • ွဝ် - au - [au]
  • ွ - aw - [ɒ]
  • ွႝ - oi - [oi]
  • ွံ - om - [ɔm]
  • ိ်ွ - iu - [ɛu/iu]
  • ုံ - um - [um]
  • ်ံ - em - [em]
  • ် - final consonant, silences inherent vowel[12]

Other symbols[edit]

  • ꩷ - exclamation mark
  • ꩸ - 1
  • ꩹ - 2


  1. Aiton at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Diller, Anthony (1992). "Tai languages in Assam: Daughters or Ghosts": 16. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. "Did you know Aiton is threatened?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Morey, Stephen. "Tonal change in the Tai languages of Northeast India." Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 28.2 (2005): 139-202.
  5. Diller, A. (1992). Tai languages in Assam: daughters or ghosts? In C.J. Compton and J.F. Hartmann (Ed.), Papers on Tai languages, Linguistics, and Literatures, 5-43. Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Burgohain, Joya. "The Aitons: Some aspects of their life and culture." (2013).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Morey, S. (2008). North East Indian Linguistics. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press India.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Morey, Stephen (2008). "The Thai languages of Assam". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Diller, Anthony (1992). Thai languages in Assam: Daughters or Ghosts?. p. 23.
  10. Inglis, Douglas (2017). "Myanmar-based Khamti Shan Orthography". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. Template:Bare URL PDF
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Aiton language, alphabet, and pronunciation". Omniglot. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  • Buragohain, Yehom. 1998. "Some notes on the Tai Phakes of Assam, in Shalardchai Ramitanondh Virada Somswasdi and Ranoo Wichasin." In Tai, pp. 126–143. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Chiang Mai University.
  • Morey, Stephen. 2005. The Tai languages of Assam: a grammar and texts. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

External links[edit]

Template:Tai-Kadai languages

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