Poula language

Native toManipur, Nagaland
EthnicityPoumai Naga
Native speakers
187,180 (2011 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3pmx

Poula is an Angami-Pochuri language that is predominantly spoken by the Poumai Naga people in Senapati district in Manipur and Phek district in Nagaland. The language of Chingjaroi is also closely related to poula.

About the language

A descriptive grammar of Poula is available now.[2] However, there is a dearth of written literature in Poula language. Some written Poula appeared in form of the Bible and Christian hymns, translated by the Bible Society of India in 2009. Prior to that a Poumai Literary Society was formed in 2007 with the intention of producing reading materials in the language. In order to standardize the language, the Poumai Literary Society has attempted koineization, which was not successful as it was not possible to account for all the varieties of the language. This was partly due to the fact that the Poula language and its varieties had not yet been identified, described or analyzed. Standardisation of the orthography only took place after the enough was understood about the phonology of the language.

Phonetics and phonology

Phonology of Poula lacks syllable coda and also disallow consonant clusters in onset position. There are 25 consonant phonemes in Poula.


Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Palatal Velar Gottal
Stops p pʰ b t tʰ d c cʰ k kʰ g
Nasal m n ŋ ŋ̊ʰ
Tap or flap ɹ
Fricative s ɕ ʑ h
Affricate tɕ dʑ
Approx ʋ j
Lateral l


There are six vowel phonemes in Poula.

Front Central Back
High i y
Mid e ə o
Low a

In Poula, the phoneme /ə/ is written with the grapheme 'ü' (now, many use it as 'ii') in Bible and Hymns which was devised by Bible Society of India. In addition Poula lacks high back round vowel [u] as a monophthong,[3] but [u] is present in nexus of diphthong; for example pou [pəu] `father'.


Poula is a tonal language, however tone is not currently marked in the orthography. There are four tonemes in Poula.[4]

Word Tone Gloss
/na˥/ High-falling 'baby'
/na˦/ Mid-Rising 'later'
/na˧/ Mid 'things'
/na˩/ Low 'paint'


Poula is an extremely innovative language–unlike Kuki-Chin languages–for having simple morphology.[5]


Nouns and verbs are the two content word classes. There are no ‘adjective’ and ‘adverbs’ words classes, however nominalized verbs may modify nouns and non-finite converbial verbs may modify verbs. There several functional words found.[6] Expressives are a part of the grammar and lexicon of Poula. As parts of speech, expressives are verb modifiers which occur post-verbally. Unlike verbs and nouns, an expressive word in Poula cannot head a predicate or a noun phrase. Poula expressives are arranged into three groups (Acoustic symbolic words, Articulatory symbolic words and Systematic patterned words). As it occurs, the speaker raises the pitch only when expressing extremely quick action; if not, the pitch of the expressive words is produced using falling or low intonation.


Considering the overtly expressed noun phrases, the three components that can occur before the head phrase are possessive pronouns, genitive nouns and derived modifiers, and four components that may post head are derived modifiers, quantifiers, relative clauses and demonstratives. In sentences, noun phrases may occur in coordinations, in appositions, in asyndetic coordinations or in embedded within a noun phrase. The marking of subjects and objects in Poula is not purely syntactic. The arguments are grouped into two (core argument markers and pragmatic argument markers). The motivation for the marking and not marking a subject or an agent is pragmatic, determined by information and discourse structure, rather than syntactic. There are three pragmatic argument markers (the particular -ni, the contrastive maker -jò and the sympathetic -zw` ) that are noted to mark or replace the core argument markers, based on certain specific pragmatic conditions.


Poula has several suffix nominalisers, but has no prefix nominaliser. Most nominalisers indicate an early stage of grammaticalisation. This is because, most nom- inalisers still retain their lexical meaning, and may occur before nominals too. Except the converb -ni, nominalisers are developed due to elision of the nominaliser -zy. Poula demon- strates finite relative clauses, as any tense, aspect or modality marker may be suffixed to the main verb of the relative clause, before the relative clause marker. However, a systematic tone alternation is observed in relative constructions and derivational nominalisation–due to the ellipsis of the nominaliser -zy. That is, verbs attached with any relative markers are conditioned to be either in high tone or in rising tone.

Poula is a verb final language. However, the word order of subject, verb and object are not rigid in Poula. There can be two slots (components) in front of the head and three slots (components) following the head of a predicate. The causative morpheme "pai" and verb modifiers are the only two components that occur before the head predicate. Like in most other Trans-Himalayan languages, a verbal predicate needs at least one inflectional morpheme in a clause. Poula tense, aspect and modality markers cannot be strictly differentiated. After the head of a predicate, the components that can occur are verbal particles, negation markers, tense, aspect and modality markers and sentence final markers.

Considering the valency of Poula verbs, verbs are grouped into three sub-types (univalent, bivalent and trivalent). However, categorising verbs based on transitivity or valency is challenging because of the prevalence of zero anaphora in Poula. Single verb as the head of predicates is infrequent in the corpus, as most heads of predicates (of both matrix and dependent clauses) are serial verb constructions. In addition, there is no clear distinction between copular clauses and nonverbal clauses

The clauses inside Poula complex sentences have one matrix clause and one or more dependent clauses. In such constructions, typically, Poula verbs in dependent clauses are marked differently than the verbs in matrix clauses. Poula nonfinite dependent clauses mostly occur to the left of matrix clause. There are two types of dependent clauses in Poula (non-finite dependent clauses and finite dependent clauses). The morpheme -ni ‘CVB’ in poula is the converbal marker, which is one of the dependent clause markers. However, the converbal marker behaves like an adverbialiser in independent clauses, and behaves as converbal clause linker in a dependent clause. In Poula, serial verb constructions can occur both in matrix clauses and dependent clauses.


  1. ^ Poula at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ Veikho, Sahiinii Lemaina (2019). "A Grammar of Poumai Naga". University of Bern, Switzerland: PHD Dissertation.
  3. ^ Veikho, Sahiinii Lemaina; Sarmah, Priyankoo (2018). "Vowels and tones in Poula". Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area. 41 (1): 22–45. doi:10.1075/ltba.16022.lem.
  4. ^ Veikho, Sahiinii Lemaina; Khyriem, Barika (2015). "Poula phonetics and phonology: An initial overview". North East Indian Linguistics 7,47-62, Canberra, Australian National University: Asia-Pacific Linguistics Open Access.
  5. ^ Veikho, Sahiinii Lemaina (2019). "A Grammar of Poumai Naga". University of Bern, Switzerland: PHD Dissertation.
  6. ^ Veikho, Sahiinii Lemaina (2019). "A Grammar of Poumai Naga". University of Bern, Switzerland: PHD Dissertation.

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