The Ho Language :: Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages

The Ho Language and Its Speakers

Fact Sheet

Classification:  Austro-Asiatic, Munda, North Munda, Kherwari, Mundari
Number of speakers:  1,0770,000 (as of 1997)
Script: Warang Chiti, Devanagari, Oriya, Latin
Native language literacy rate: 1% to 5%
Location of speakers: Map of Munda language distribution

In 1997, Ho was measured to have 1,077,000 speakers, mostly in the Indian states of Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal. There is also a population of Ho speakers in Bangladesh. The language is closely related to Mundari and Santali; the three languages are grouped as Kherwarian languages. According to Ethnologue, use of Ho within the community is "vigorous," and Ho speakers have a "positive" attitude toward their native language. Very few (1% to 5%) Ho speakers are literate in their native language, with 25% to 50% being literate in a second language.

The name "Ho" comes from the Ho language word for "human," ho:. Ho speakers call their language ho kaji, ho: basa, or ho haram. As a Scheduled Tribe, the Ho enjoy special privileges in India due to their historical impoverishment and lack of governmental representation. Still, the adivasi, or the people in the Scheduled Tribes, are among the poorest groups in India. The Ho generally make a living through agriculture.

Sources: Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.
Map from Gregory D. S. Anderson "The Munda Verb: Typological Perspectives" Mouton de Gruyter. p. 7.