Facts about the Biate tribe of Meghalaya, Assam and their endangered language

## Biate is one of the oldest tribe mainly inhabiting East Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya and Dima Hasao, Assam and parts of Mizoram. A few speakers are also found in the state of Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura. According to the 2001 census of India there were 20,000 speakers of the language in the Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya.

## They have old history with rich culture, literature and language. However, as per the UNESCO deification, the Biate language is put as ‘Definitely Endangered Language.’ Their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family.

## The term Biate comes from the word Bia-te. The word ‘Bia’ or ‘Biak’ means ‘speak’ or ‘worship’. ‘Te’ is a suffix denoting plurality. Hence, the two words combine to form the word Biate, which means worshipper.

## Other tribes are called by different names. The Thados call them ‘Beite’ the Bengalis and other plain tribes call them ‘Baite’, the Dimasa Kacharis call them ‘Bedesa’ and the Khasis call them Hadem.

## They are believed to have originated from a place called Khurpui or great cave. The ancient home of the Biates is also known as Sinlung (Sinlung means the core of Sin or cave close with stone) supposedly believed to be the Qin dynasty ruled by Qin Shi Huang.

According to Rev Remsiama Ngamlai, the Biates are victims of cultural, political and economic marginalization and of globalization and neocolonialism which put them as an ‘Endangered Language. Their language is at risk of failing out of use as its speakers die out or shift to speaking another language. Definitely Endangered: Children not speaking the language.

(Source: wikipedia)

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