Eastern India and Malaysia
Geographic location: India
Number of Languages: to be determined
Number of Genetic Units: 16
Genetic Index: to be determined
Endangerment Index: to be determined
Research Index: to be determined
Threat Level: low
map of ECI hotspot


Eastern India and Malaysia is home to a very large number of both large and small languages. Our knowledge of the distribution of languages in this area is quite poor. There are census numbers for many areas, but those numbers vary in reliability and give no information about the structure of languages or their use in society. Many people in this Hotspot use different languages in the course of every day, with different languages used in the home, in markets, or in official transactions.

Many of the languages in this Hotspot are Munda languages, known for their complex verb forms.  These languages do not hold as much prestige as many other Indian languages; of the 22 official languages of India, only one is a Munda language.  Many of the Munda languages have no writing system and have not been thoroughly documented. Learn more about one Munda language, Ho, here. For more on our expeditions to India, go here.

Languages and genetic units in this hotspot:

  1. Dardic
  2. Dravidian
  3. Jingpho-Konyak-Bodo
  4. Khasi
  5. Kuki-Chin-Naga
  6. Lolo-Burmese
  7. Meithei
  8. Mikir
  9. Nihali
  10. Northern Tibeto-Burman
  11. North Assam
  12. North Munda
  13. South Munda
  14. Tai-Kadai
  15. Unclassified

Endangered languages include:

  • Bonda (9,000 speakers, South Munda)
  • Bugun (1,046 speakers, North Assam)
  • Chaura (2,018 speakers, Mon-Khmer:Nicobar)
  • Didey (3,055 speakers, South Munda)
  • Hruso (4,000 speakers, unclassified Tibeto-Burman)
  • Khamba (1,333 speakers, unclassified)
  • Khamyang (50 speakers, Tai-Kadai)
  • Nancowry (2,200 speakers, Mon-Khmer:Nicobar)
  • Potangi (8,000 speakers, Central Dravidian)
  • Sajalong (4,000, unclassified Tibeto-Burman)
  • Shom Peng (223 speakers, Mon-Khmer:Nicobar)
  • Singpho (3,000 speakers, Jingpho-Konyak-Bodo)
  • Tarasa (2,767 speakers, Mon-Khmer:Nicobar)
  • Zakhring (300 speakers, unclassified Tibeto-Burman)

Revitalization efforts include:

Some features of languages include:

  • retroflex consonants
  • numeral classifier systems
  • echo words


  • Kungkungdeduuboobmar means 'a man with a clean-shaven head' in Sora (288,000 speakers). It is made up of the words kung (shave; used twice to mean clean-shaven), deduu (remove hairs), boob (head), and mar (man).

  • Poopungkoontam means 'I will stab you in the belly with a knife' in Sora (288,000 speakers). It is made up of the words poo (stab), pung (belly), koon (knife), t (will), and am (you).



Click here for a recording of Gta, a language of India.


Mr. Sukhra Dangura Madji, Remo speaker, says "The man is slowly walking"

ECI Remo

Mr. Sukhra Dangura Madji, Remo speaker

ECI Remo

Mr. Sukhra Dangura Madji, Remo speaker

Mitula Sira

Ms. Mitula Sira, a young member of the Parengi tribe, like her entire generation, does not speak the language of her parents and grandparents, but instead speaks Oriya, the regionally dominant language. (Photo Mark Eglington, 2005)


Mr. K. C. Naik Biruli, Ho speaker


Emeneau, M. B. 1956. India as a Linguistic Area. Language. 32: 1, pp. 3-16.

Thomason, Sarah G. 2001. Language Contact: an Introduction. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.