Mongsen Ao language

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Mongsen Ao
Native toIndia
EthnicityAo Naga
Native speakers
104,003 (2011 census)[1][2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
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A Mongsen Ao speaker speaking Mongsen and English.

Mongsen Ao is a member of the Ao languages, a branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages, predominantly spoken in central Mokokchung district of Nagaland, northeast India. Its speakers see the language as one of two varieties of a greater "Ao language," along with the prestige variety Chungli Ao.[2]

A chapter in the anthropological monograph of Mills (1926) provides a grammatical sketch of the variety of Mongsen Ao spoken in Longjang village. Coupe (2003) is one of the few acoustic studies published on a Kuki-Chin-Naga language (only three exist). Coupe (2007) is a reference grammar of the language, based on a revision of his PhD dissertation (Coupe 2004).


The Ao alphabet is based on the Latin script and was developed in the 1880s by the Christian missionary Edward W. Clark for Chungli Ao. The system is not based on phonemic principles and does not represent tone. A Christian Bible was published using the orthography in 1964. Coupe (2003) suggests a more consistent alphabet for Mongsen Ao.

A, B, Ch, E, I, J, K, L, M, N, Ng, O, P, R, S, T, U, Y, Z


This section describes the sound system of Mongsen Ao as spoken in Mangmetong village and is based on Coupe (2007).


Mongsen Ao has 6 vowels:

Front Central Back
modal creaky
Close i ʉ u
Mid ə
Open a


Mongsen Ao has 26 consonants:

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ̊ ŋ
Stop p t k
Affricate t͡sʰ t͡s t͡ʃʰ t͡ʃ
Fricative s z h
Approximant ɹ̥ ɹ j ʍ w
Lateral l
  • Dental consonants /t, tʰ, ts, tsʰ, s, z, n, l/ are laminal denti-alveolar.
  • The post-alveolar approximant /ɹ/ varies from an apical post-alveolar to subapical retroflex: [ɹ̠~ɻ].
  • The glottal stop /ʔ/ occurs only at the end of words. However, in this position it contrasts with words ending in vowels: /āmī/ 'spear' vs. /āmīʔ/ 'person'. When a suffix is added to such words, the /ʔ/ is deleted: /tʃàʔ/ 'to eat' + /-ʉ̄ʔ/ CAUS/tʃàʉʔ/ 'to cause to eat'. Thus, the glottal stop has a somewhat marginal phonemic status.


Ao is a tonal language with 3 contrasting lexical tones:

  • high
  • mid
  • low

All are register tones.

Syllable and phonotactics[edit]

The generalized syllable structure of Ao is abbreviated as the following:



  • Any of the 20 consonants may appear as an optional syllable onset (excluding the word-final /ʔ/).


  • All 6 vowels may occur as the syllable nucleus.


  • The optional glide elements following the head vowel are essentially non-syllabic offglide realizations of the 4 vowels /i, ʉ, u, a/. For example, /jàuŋ/[jàu̯ŋ] 'species of centipede'.
  • The following are the possible tautsyllabic combinations: [iu̯, ia̯, əʉ̯, əu̯, ai̯, aʉ̯, au̯].


  • The following consonants may occur in the optional syllable coda: unaspirated stops, nasals, and the rhotic /p, t, k, m, n, ŋ, ɹ/. The glottal stop with its restricted distribution also occurs but only word-finally.


All syllables occur with one of the three tones. In a VG sequence, tone only occurs the vowel head.


Ao is an SOV language with postpositions. Adjectives, numerals and demonstratives follow the nouns they modify, whilst relative clauses may be either externally or internally headed. Adverbial subordinators are suffixes attached to the verb and the end of the subordinate clause.

See also[edit]


  1. "Statement 1: Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues - 2011". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Coupe, A. R. (1 January 2007). A Grammar of Mongsen Ao. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110198522.


  • Clark, E. W. (1981). The Ao-Naga Grammar with Illustrations, Phrases, and Vocabulary. Delhi: Gian Publications, Mittal Publishers Distributors. (Original work published 1893).
  • Coupe, Alexander R. (2003). A Phonetic and Phonological Description of Ao: A Tibeto-Burman Language of Nagaland, North-east India. Pacific Linguistics (No. 543). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University. ISBN 0-85883-519-3.
  • Coupe, Alexander R. 2004. The Mongsen Dialect of Ao: a language of Nagaland. Unpublished PhD dissertation, La Trobe University.
  • Coupe, Alexander R. (2007). A grammar of Mongsen Ao [Mouton Grammar Library 39]. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-019088-5.
  • Escamilla, R. M. (2012). An Updated Typology of Causative Constructions: Form-Function Mappings in Hupa (California Athabaskan), Chungli Ao (Tibeto-Burman), and Beyond. Unpublished PhD dissertation, U.C. Berkeley.
  • Gowda, K. S. Gurubasave. (1972). Ao-Naga Phonetic Reader. CIIL Phonetic Reader Series (No. 7). Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages.
  • Gowda, K. S. Gurubasave. (1975). Ao Grammar. Grammar series (No. 1). Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages.
  • Mills, J. P (1926). The Ao Nagas. London: MacMillan & Co.

External links[edit]

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