This is with reference to recent debate on the archaism of a few selected words in Bangani, specifically those first discussed by Claus Peter Zoller 1988) and then later rejected by Beekes, Van Driem and Sharma 1996). The debate and the data discussed by Zoller was challenging enough for me to personally undertake a field trip to Bangan. I first went with two of my students in September 1995 and lived in Jagta and Chinwaa, two villages which are approximately 1500-2000 meters above the sea level. To my utter surprise we attested almost all (50 out of 59) words listed by Zoller. Not only that these words were collected from old informants but also from young men and women. The two students accompanying me also confirmed my findings. These words exist not in isolation but in sentences. I have tape recordings of all these with me. As we collected sentences, we realized that even the syntax of this language was very interesting and unlike any other Indo-Aryan language spoken in the country.
This motivated me to adopt this language as a sample language for the 'Field Methods' course that I teach every Monsoon season at JNU. During the 1995 Monsoon, i.e August to December 1995) I taught the course with Bangani as a model. It was a class of thirteen students. After working on the preliminary grammar with the help of two native speakers visting us regularly for 6 hours a week all of us undertook a trip to Bangan and lived among Banganis for fifteen days. There are many interesting aspects about Bangani syntax, among them the most fascinating is a) the pre verbal auxiliaries but not like V2 of Kashmiri); b) occurrence of double negatives and double durative aspectuals in the same sentence.
I do not know whether the link of this language with any Kentum language group can be established as I am not a Historical linguist but one thing is certain, the syntax and the word list of Bangani show layers of structures some of which may be relic of the past as it neither fits in a typical Indo Aryan group nor as a part of the areal phenomenon. I think more linguists should work on this language, especially descriptivists and historico-sociolinguists.
I have been working on Indian languages for the last 22 years and have been teaching the course in "Field Methods" since 1976. As an Areal Linguist, I have been working on languages of all four families of India. Even with this background I can say that Bangani is surely very challenging.
Professor of Linguistics
Centre of Linguistics and English
School of Languages
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi 110067, INDIA
Phone: (Residence) 91-11-6963315
Fax: (office) 91-11-6165886