Puroik language

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Native toIndia, China
RegionArunachal Pradesh
EthnicityPuroik people
Native speakers
20,000 (2011)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3suv

The Puroik language (previously called Sulung, a derogatory term, by other tribes) is a possible language isolate spoken by the Puroik people of Arunachal Pradesh in India and of Lhünzê County, Tibet, in China.

Besides their own language, the Puroik also use Nishi, Hindi, and Assamese. Literacy is very low, at about 2%. Those who are literate use either the Bengali script, Devanagari or the Latin alphabet to write Puroik.

Geographical distribution[edit]

Remsangpuia (2008:17) listed a limited number of Puroik villages. Currently, Puroik are seen inhabiting the following districts and circles of Arunachal Pradesh. They also live in Nyishi, Aka, and Miji areas.

According to the Ethnologue, Puroik is spoken in 53 villages along the Par River in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Puroik are located from the Upper Subansiri River drainage basin (西巴霞区) to the Tawang River drainage basin (Li 2005).[2] Names include pɯh˧˩ ɣut˥ (autonym) and su˥ loŋ˧ (Bangni exonym). There are about 3,000 Puroik as of 2002, who are classified as ethnic Lhoba by the Chinese government.


Lieberherr (2015)[3] consider Puroik to be a dialect chain where geographically distant dialects are mutually unintelligible, whereas dialects located close to each other are mutually intelligible. The internal diversity of Puroik is about equal to that of the Western Kho-Bwa branch.[4] Lieberherr (2015) and Lieberherr & Bodt (2017)[4] list the following dialects of Puroik, provided here in geographical order from east to west.

  • Kurung-Kumey dialect: spoken in Kurung Kumey district, which is located to the east of Chayangtajo. May be most similar to the Puroik dialect described in Li Daqin (2004) and other Chinese sources.
  • Chayangtajo dialect: spoken in Sanchu and neighboring villages of Chayangtajo circle, East Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh, India by a few hundred speakers.
  • Lasumpatte dialect: spoken in Lasumpatte village in Seijosa near the Assam border. Most inhabitants have recently migrated from the Chayangtajo area.
  • Sario-Saria dialect: spoken in three villages by a few hundred speakers.
  • Rawa dialect: spoken in several villages in and around Rawa by a few hundred speakers (located between Chayangtajo and Kojo-Rojo). Also includes Poube village.
  • Kojo-Rojo dialect: spoken in the villages of Kojo and Rojo, and possibly also in Jarkam village (mutually intelligible with the Puroik dialect spoken in other villages in Lada circle).
  • Bulu dialect: spoken only in Bulu village by 7–20 speakers.


Lieberherr & Bodt (2017)[4] classify Puroik as Kho-Bwa, and has traditionally been considered to be a Sino-Tibetan language. There is some mutual intelligibility with Bugun, and Burling (2003) grouped it with Bugun and Sherdukpen, and possibly with Lish and Sartang.

James A. Matisoff (2009)[5] considers Puroik to be a Tibeto-Burman language that has undergone sound changes such as:

Lieberherr (2015)[3] also considers Puroik to be a Tibeto-Burman language, although he notes that it has likely borrowed from non-Tibetan-Burman languages. However, Roger Blench (2011) considers Puroik to be a language isolate.[6]



Consonant phonemes
Labial Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
plain lateral
Nasal m n ŋ
voiceless p k ʔ
voiced b ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ɬ h
voiced v z
Rhotic r
Approximant w ɹ l j


Monophthong phonemes
Front Central Back
Close i ɯ u
Mid e ə ɔ
Open a



The Puroik grammar notes here have been adapted primarily from Tayeng (1990).[8]


Number is not considered a grammatical feature in Puroik. Plurality is expressed, when required to be stated clearly by huangda, meaning all, many, etc.


There is no grammatical gender in Puroik. However the two sexes are distinguished when necessary. To indicate other relatives and persons the suffix -aphu is added for the male and -amua for the female. Demonstrative, and Interrogative.


Seven cases may be distinguished: Subject (Nominative), Object (Accusative), Instrumental, Dative (Purposive), Ablative, Possessive (Genitive), and Locative.


The Personal Pronoun distinguished three persons (the first person, second person, and third person) and two numbers (singular and plural). The same form is used for both genders.


There are four types of adjectives: adjective of quality, adjective of quantity, demonstrative adjective, interrogative adjective.


Puroik verbs do not indicate number and person. The three principal tenses (present, past, and future), including the indefinite and the continuous are indicated by means of particles used as suffixes. There are four moods: Imperative, potential, conditional, and subjunctive. Imperative uses the suffix -bo, -da, and -ge for commands. Potential uses the suffix -pa to express the ability to perform. Conditional uses -re/-hangra to express obligation.


Adverbs may be distinguished into four classes: Time, place, manner, and interrogative.


The following list of 181 words in three Puroik dialects, in addition to Proto-Puroik (the reconstructed proto-language of the Puroik lects), is from Lieberherr (2015: 280–286). Lieberherr (2015)[3] reconstructs Proto-Puroik, drawing data from the Chayangtajo dialect and the newly described Kojo-Rojo and Bulu dialects. Forms from the Rawa and Saria dialects have also been included.[3]

Gloss Puroik
1Template:Sc2 (I) guu goo goo *goo
2Template:Sc2 (you, sg.) naa (naŋ) naa *naŋ (?)
3Template:Sc2 (he, she) vɛɛ wai wɛɛ *vai
1Template:Sc2 (we) (g-rii) gə-nii g-rei *gə-ńei (?)
2Template:Sc2 (you, pl.) (na-rii) na-nii na-rei *na-ńei (?)
1Template:Sc2 (we two) gə-se-niʔ/(gə-he-niʔ) gə-se-nii gə-sɛ-nii *gə-se-niʔ (?)
imperfective suffix -na -na -na *-na
pretemporal -ryila -ruila -ruila *-ruila
one [tyi] [kjuu] [hui] *?
two niʔ (nii) nii *niʔ
three ɨm ɻɨm ɯk *ɨm̄ (?)
four vii wɻei wɻei *vɻei
five wuu woo wuu *woo (?)
six rəʔ rəʔ rək *rək
seven mə-ljɛɛ jei ljɛɛ *mə-ljai
eight mə-ljao jau (laa) *mə-ljaa
nine duNgii duŋgɻee doŋgɻɛɛ *doŋ-gjee (?)
ten suɛN ʃuan suaik *suan̄ (?)
above a-tʃaN a-tʃjaŋ a-tʃuaŋ *a-tʃuaŋ (?)
alive a-seN a-sən a-sik *a-sen̄
ant (dʒamdʒuʔ) gamgɻuʔ gɻɛŋgɻo *gjamgjoʔ
awaken (intr.) ʒao ʒau jaa *jaa
bamboo (edible) ma-bjao mə-bɻau mə-bɻaa *ma-bjaa
before bui bui bue *bui
belly (exterior) a-ɬyi-buN hui-buŋ a-ɬue-buk *a-ɬui-buŋ̄
belly (interior) a-ɬyi a-hui a-ɬue *a-ɬui
bird pə-duu pə-doo pə-dou *pə-dou (?)
bite tɔɔ tua tua *tua
bitter a-tʃaʔ a-tʃuaʔ a-tʃjaa *a-tʃuaʔ (?)
black a-hjɛN a-hjeĩ a-hjɛ̃ *a-hjaĩ
blow fuu fuu (fuk) *fuu
blue a-pii a-pii a-pii *a-pii
blood a-hui a-fui a-hue *a-hui (?)
bone a-zɛN a-zan a-zaik *a-zan̄
bow lɨɨ lei lei *lei (?)
branch a-kjɛɛ hɻɨn-kɻei hɻeŋ-kɻɛɛ *kjai
breast (female) a-njɛɛ a-njei a-njɛɛ *a-njai
breathe ʒuu ʒuu joo *joo
bridge (not hanging) ka-tyiN ka-tun ka-tuik *ka-tun̄
brother (younger) a-nɔɔ a-nua anua *a-nua
burn (transitive) rii rii rii *rii
can muɛN muan muaiŋ *muan
cane rii rei rei *rei
cave wuʔ oo *woʔ
chicken [tʃaʔ] [takjuu] [səkuu]
child a-dəə a-doo a-dou *a-dou (?)
cloth ɛʔ aiʔ aik (Rawa at) *at
crazy a-bjao a-bɻaa bɻaa-bo *abjaa
cry (tʃɛʔ) tʃap tʃjap *tʃjap (?)
cut (hit with dao) pɛN pan paik *pan̄
cut (without
leaving the blade)
ii *iʔ
day a-nii a-nii a-rii *a-ńii
die ii ii ii *ii
dig tʃuʔ tʃuʔ tʃoo *tʃoʔ
do/make [tsaʔ] [ʒou] [kaik]
door haN-wuiN ha-wun tʃuk-wuik *HOUSE-wun̄
down buu buu buu *buu
dream baN baŋ bak *baŋ̄
drink in in [riŋ] *in
dry a-wuɛN a-wuan a-wuaik *awuan̄
ear a-kuiN a-kun a-kuik *a-kun̄
eat tʃii tʃii tʃii *tʃii
extinguish (intr.) [gɛʔ] biʔ bik (Rawa bit) *bit
existential copula [wɛɛ] [wai] wɛɛ
eye a-kəm a-kəm a-kək *a-kəm̄
fall (from a height) ɬuʔ huʔ (ɬuʔ) ɬjok-lo *ɬuk (?)
fart waiʔ wai wɛɛ *waiʔ
far a-tʃoi a-tʃai a-tʃjɛɛ *a-tʃuai (?)
fat/grease a-ʒɔɔ a-zjaa a-zua *azua (?)
female/mother a-mɔɔ a-mua a-mua *a-mua
fingernail (ageʔ gə-sɨn) gei-sin geisik *ge-sin̄
fire bɛɛ bai bɛɛ *bai
firewood ʃiN hɻɨn hɻeŋ *sjen (?)
fish [tʃɨi] [tʃui] [kahuaŋ]
flow nyɛ nuai ruɛ *ńuai
flower a-buɛN hɻɨn-buan mə-buaik *buan̄
food mə-luɛN mə-luan mə-luaik *mə-luan̄
frog rəʔ rəʔ rəə *rəʔ
fruit ʃiN-wɛɛ hɻɨn-wai roŋ-wɛɛ *wai
full ljɛɛ jei ljɛɛ *ljai
full/satiated mɨŋ moŋ moŋ *moŋ
garlic (Allium hookeri) daN daŋ dak *daŋ̄
ghost mə-ɬao mə-hau (mə-ɬau) mə-ɬaa *mə-ɬaa
give taN taŋ taŋ *taŋ
green a-rjɛɛ a-rjei a-rjɛɛ *a-rjai
guts a-ɬyi-rin a-hui-rin a-ɬue-riŋ *a-ɬui-rin
hair (on body) a-mɨn a-mən a-muiŋ *a-mun
hair (on head) kə-zaN (kə-zjaŋ) kə-zak *kə-zaŋ̄
hand/arm a-geʔ a-geiʔ a-geik (Rawa gət) *a-gət
head a-kuN a-kuŋ-bəə a-kok-bəə *akoŋ̄
heart a-luN-bəə a-luŋ-bəə a-lok-bəə *a-loŋ̄-bəə
hold in mouth mom ? mom *mom
husband a-wui a-wui a-wue *a-wui
ill/sick naN naŋ raŋ *ńaŋ
itch ɔɔ a-wua a-wua *a-wua
kill [wɛʔ] aiʔ aik (Rawa at) *at
knife (machete) tʃii tʃee tʃee *tʃee (?)
know dɛN dan daik *dan̄
leaf a-ləp (hɻɨn-jəp) a-lək *ljəp
leech [pa-]wɛʔ [pə-]waiʔ ka-waik (Rawa pəwat) *ka-wat
left side pa-fii pua-fii pua-fee *puafee (?)
leg a-lɛɛ a-lai a-lɛɛ *lai
lick ljaʔ jaa vjaa *?
light a-tɔɔ a-tua a-tua *a-tua
listen nɨŋ nuŋ roŋ *ńoŋ
liver a-pjiN a-pjin a-pjik *a-pjin̄
long a-pjaN a-pɻaŋ a-pɻaŋ *a-pjaŋ
louse (head) [ʃiʔ] [hɻɛ̃] [pɻɛɛ] *?
male/father a-pɔɔ a-pua a-pua *apua
man a-fuu a-foo a-fuu *a-fuu (?)
marrow (a-ɬyiN) a-hin a-ɬiŋ *a-ɬin
meat [ʃii] [mai] [mərjek] *?
monkey (macaque) [məraŋ] [səduŋ] [məzii]
mortar sətsəm tʃuŋtʃəm tʃjuŋtʃək *tʃuŋ-tʃəm̄
mouth a-səm a-səm a-sək *a-səm̄
mushroom mɨŋ məŋ məŋ *məŋ
mute/stupid bloʔ bloʔ blok *blok
name a-bjɛN a-bɻɛn a-bɻɛŋ *a-bjɛn
near a-nyi a-nui a-nui *a-nui (?)
neck kə-tuN-rin tuŋ-rin kə-tuŋ *kə-tuŋ
negation ba- ba- ba- *ba-
new (of things) a-fɛN a-fan a-faik *a-fan̄
night/dark a-tʃeN a-tʃen a-tʃik *a-tʃen̄ (?)
nose a-puŋ a-puŋ a-pok *a-poŋ̄
old (of things) a-tsɛN a-tʃjen a-tʃaik *a-tʃjan̄
path lim lim lik (Saria dialect) *lim̄
penis a-lɔʔ a-luaʔ a-lua *a-luaʔ
person [prin] bii bii *bii
pig [waʔ] [dui] [mədou] *?
pillow ka-kəm koŋ-kəm ko-kəm *koŋ̄ -kəm (?)
Puroik (prin-dəə) purun puruik *purun̄
pull ryi rui rue *rui
quiver zəp zəp zək *zəp
ripe a-min a-min a-miŋ *a-min
rot ʃam hɻam hjap *sjam̄ (?)
run rin ren rik *rin̄
sago flour bii bee-mo bee *bee (?)
sago club (tool) waN waŋ wak *waŋ̄
sago pick (front part) kjuʔ kɻuʔ kɻok *kjok
scratch bjuʔ bɻuʔ bɻoo *bjoʔ
sew pin pin piŋ *pin
shade a-ɬim a-him a-ɬəp *a-ɬim̄ (?)
shelf (over fireplace) rap rap rak *rap
shoulder pa-tɨŋ pua-tuŋ pua-tok *pua-toŋ̄
shy bii-wɛN bii-wan bii-waik *biiwan̄
sit [rɨɨ] [dʒao] [tuŋ]
skin a-kuʔ a-kɨʔ a-kəə *a-kuʔ (?)
sky ha-mɨŋ məŋ kə-məŋ *ha/kə-məŋ
sleep rəm rəm rəm *rəm
sleepy rəm-bin rəm-bin rəm-biŋ *rəm-bin
smell nam nam naŋ *nam
smoke bɛ-kɨɨ bai-kəə bɛɛ-kɨɨ *baikɨɨ (?)
son-in-law a-bɔʔ buaʔ a-bua *buaʔ
stand tʃin tʃin tʃiŋ *tʃin
star [haNwaiʔ] [hadaŋ] [hagaik]
stone ka-lɨŋ ka-huŋ (ka-ɬuŋ) [kəbɻaa] *ka-ɬuŋ (?)
sun hamii hamii krii *PFX-ńii
sweet a-pin a-pin a-piŋ *a-pin
swell pən pən pəik *pən̄
taro tʃjaʔ tʃjaʔ tʃua *tʃuaʔ
tasty/savory (a-jim) a-rjem a-rjep *a-rjem̄
that tɛɛ tai tɛɛ *tai
thick (book) a-pən a-pən a-pik *apən̄ (?)
thin (book) a-tsap (a-tʃjam) a-tʃap *a-tʃjam̄
this hɨŋ həŋ həŋ *həŋ
tongue a-lyi jui (a-rue) *a-lui (?)
tooth kə-tɔN tuaŋ kə-tuaŋ *kə-tuaŋ
thorn mə-zuN mə-ʒuŋ kə-zjoŋ *mə/kə-zoŋ
up kuN kuŋ kuŋ *kuŋ
Urtica fibres ʃaN hɻaŋ hɻak *sjaŋ̄
vomit muɛʔ muai muɛ *muaiʔ
war mɔʔ muaʔ mua *muaʔ
warm a-ləm a-ləm a-ləp *a-ləm̄
water kɔɔ kua kua *kua
weave (on loom) ɛʔ-rɔʔ ai-ruaʔ aikrua *at-ruaʔ
wet a-ʃam a-hɻam a-hjap *a-hjam̄ (?)
what hɛɛ hai [hii]
white a-rjuN a-rjuŋ a-rjuŋ *a-rjuŋ
wife a-ʒuu a-zjoo a-zou *a-zjoo (?)
wing a-ʒuiN a-ʒun a-juik *a-jun̄
woman [məruu] a-mui a-mui *a-mui


  1. Puroik at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Li Daqin [李大勤]. 2005. "A sketch of Sulung" [苏龙语概况]. Minzu Yuwen 2005:1.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Lieberherr, Ismael. 2015. A progress report on the historical phonology and affiliation of Puroik. North East Indian Linguistics (NEIL), 7. Canberra, Australian National University: Asia-Pacific Linguistics Open Access.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Lieberherr, Ismael; Bodt, Timotheus Adrianus. 2017. Sub-grouping Kho-Bwa based on shared core vocabulary. In Himalayan Linguistics, 16(2).
  5. Matisoff, James A. (2009). "Stable Roots in Sino-Tibetan/Tibeto-Burman" (PDF). Senri Ethnological Studies. 75 (291–318).
  6. Blench, Roger. 2011. (De)classifying Arunachal languages: Reconsidering the evidence Archived 2013-05-26 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Remsangpuia (2008). Puroik phonology. Shillong: Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures.
  8. Tayeng, Aduk. 1990. Sulung language guide. Shillong: The Director of Information and Public Relations, Arunachal Pradesh
  • Deuri, R.K. 1982. The Sulungs. Shillong: Government of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Remsangphuia. 2008. Puroik phonology. Shillong: Don Bosco Technical School.
  • Li Daqin [李大勤]. 2004. A study of Sulung [苏龙语研究]. Beijing: Ethnic Publishing House.
  • Lieberherr, Ismael. 2015. A progress report on the historical phonology and affiliation of Puroik. In Linda Konnerth and Stephen Morey and Priyankoo Sarmah and Amos Teo (eds.), North East Indian Linguistics (NEIL) 7, 235–286. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics Open Access.

Further reading[edit]

  • Pertin, David. 2005. "The Puroiks (Sulungs) of Arunachal Pradesh." In Primitive Tribes in Contemporary India: Concept, Ethnography and Demography 1, edited by Sarit Kumar Chaudhuri and Sucheta Sen Chaudhuri, 367–378. New Delhi: Mittal.
  • Dutta, Sristidhar, and Tana Showren. 2008. "A Case Study of the Sulungs (Puroiks)." In: Blisters on their feet: tales of internally displaced persons in India's North East, edited by Samir Kumar Das, 59–68. Los Angeles and New Delhi: Sage.
  • Lieberherr, Ismael. 2017. Grammar of Bulu Puroik. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Bern.
  • Stonor, C. R. (1952). The Sulung Tribe of the Assam Himalayas. Anthropos, (5/6), 947. doi:10.2307/41104369
  • Tayeng, Aduk. 1990. Sulung language guide. Shillong: The Director of Information and Public Relations, Arunachal Pradesh.

External links[edit]

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