(Field healthy and meaningful conversation in the native


(Field Methods 2017 Rajbonshi

By Manas Biswas,

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M.A. 3rd Semester


In this
topic, we will try to have an in-depth view at the human relations from
linguistics point of view that is by studying the very fabric of “calling terms” (which in specific talks about kinship and addressing terms)
in socio-familial and cultural context of Rajbonshi

trying to comprehend the usage of language through notions of politeness strategies, where a certain
verbal behavior is used strategically in order to
achieve the speaker’s goal which in specific, talks about the concern for others and minimize threats to
self-esteem in social contexts. So, a near exact needed behavior to conduct a
healthy and meaningful conversation in the native language can be held.

‘socially addressable titles’ will showcase the hierarchy, so that it will
define & unravel what meaning do they entail with that person’s subsequent
position in the family & social hierarchy in Rajbonshi language. Also, trying
to configure the concepts of established terms in the society, either are they rigid/flexible
or interchangeable, how they reflect the behavior of the language.

Kinship terminology

Kinship is one of the most highly evolved and
complex systems of humankind that deals with the relation of one individual to
the other. All human groups have a kinship terminology, a set of terms used to
refer to kin. Many parts of life are impacted by kinship, and in most
societies, kinship relations influence things like who one can and can’t marry,
who one must show respect to, who one can joke with, and who one can count on
in a crisis.

Kinship terminology here is the system that is used in languages to refer to the persons to whom an
individual is related through kinship. Different societies classify kinship relations differently
and therefore use different systems of kinship terminology.

example, in Rajbonshi:

/bo?n/ (sister)

designation is assigned to the person, who is “younger” in age, biologically female
and has blood relations to “you”. The designation here clearly defines one’s
role in the social hierarchy.

Kinship terminologies include the terms of address for different
relatives and the terms of reference used to identify the relationship of these
relatives to ego or to each other.

Anthropologist Lewis
Henry Morgan performed the first survey of kinship terminologies in use
around the world. Though much of his work is now considered dated, he argued
that the kinship terminologies reflect different sets of

For example, most kinship terminologies distinguish between:

Sexes (Biological identity)

 Age Demography (Between

Consanguine (Blood ties) & Affinal (Marital relations)

By taking the data from the Rajbonshi speakers, and integrating the
terms in the kinship hierarchy, we got the notion of the designation which is assigned
to them, meaning, on what basis they are addressed.

The basis of addressal here is based on “classification”,
basically focusing on their level of “ties” that they share on familial level
with respect to generation and age. 
Here, we divide the kinships terms on “tier” based system to simplify
their respective position in social hierarchy.

1st Tier

(Close-knit kinship terms on consanguineal level; inner circle
of family)

Me (ego)                                 /mu?/

Father                                     /baba/

Mother                                   /mao/

Elder Sister                            /d??d??/

Elder Brother                        /d?ad?a/

Younger Sister                       /bo?n/

Younger Brother                   /b?a?/

Son                                          /beta/

Daughter                                /beti/

Brothers’s children:

Niece                                       /b?at????/

Nephew                                  /b?at???a/

Sister’s Chldren:

Niece                                       /b?ag?n?/

Nephew                                  /b?ag?na/


(Kinship terms still on consanguineal level but on broader
spectrum, accounting for the paternal and maternal lineage)

Paternal Side

Grandfather                           /t?akur

Grandmother                         /t?akur

Father’s Elder Brother         /?et?a/

Father’s Younger Brother   /kaka/

Father’s Sister                       /p???/

Maternal Side

Grandfather                           /a?u/

Grandmother                         /abo/

Mother’s Brother                  /mama/

Mother’s Sister                      /ma??/


(Affinal level kinship terms, denoted to those who have ties
with family member from 1st or 2nd Tier on marital basis)

Elder Sister’s Husband         /bo?na/

Elder Brother’s Wife                        /boud?/

Younger Sister’s Husband   /b?au??n?/

Younger Brother’s Wife       /b?au??n?/

Son’s Wife                              /bouma/

Daughter’s Husband                         /?amo?/

Paternal Side

Father’s Elder Brother’s Wife / ?et??/

Father’s Younger Brother’s Wife /b?au??n?/

Father’s Sister’ Husband      /b?au??n?/                      

Maternal Side

Mother’s Brother’ Wife        /mami/

Mother’s Sister’ Husband    /ma?a/

Here, the presented “Tier”
model defines the people in the relationship hierarchy, we can obviously observe
that by the given point, from where “Me”
starts, stands for the “ego”. This is the point from where the family tree assigns
the enlisted people their “terms”; this basically defines who is assigned to
whom by which relation.


People in their best judgment have their own behavior toward
language. In different social contexts, an individual will speak in different
ways. Moreover, speakers who differ from each other in terms of age, gender,
social class, ethnic group, for example, will also differ from each other in
their utterance the address term, even in the same context, this tendency of social
variation entails the notion of “addressable

The speaker uses addressing term to call the person who is involved
in the conversation. The use of addressing term depends on the addresser and
addressee’s relationship, the social status or individual involve in the
conversation, the situation and purpose of the conversation.

We can say that by creating multiple character term and profiling
them as per their levels and distinctions on societal level, the addressing
terms are given on the basis of social class, age, sex, profession, marital
status, politeness and other related aspect.

Here, by drawing out the previously mentioned example of bo?n, we can discern that apart from this term
being an exclusive case to denote a family member, in other social environment
it can also refer to a “stranger female” with whom the individual may not share
any relationship.

In Rajbonshi though, the internalization
of these terms are engaged on certain social rules, which requires contextual
frame, so that a particular unit of morphophonemic assimilation can come into
play and give identity to that individual.

For instance;

Children, in generic sense)  /c?ava/

(Girl/Boy, generic addressal
term referring to young girl/boy) /ce?gra/, /ce?gr?/

 (You, Elder generation) /bahe/

(Uncle, unknown elder male)

(Brother, loose term to
denote a guy of similar age) /bha?/

(Uncle, friend of mother’s
brother) /mama/

Now, we can agree over the
fact that few of these terms have been practiced in kinship terms to identify people
an individual may know, but even if they don’t’ carry the same sense of
affinity like the kinship terms, the address terms still carry some purpose to
define structure of society through this abstract sense of nomenclature.



language is based on a face-to-face encounter. One person directly addresses
another or others. Within the face-to-face encounter of speech, communication is not
limited to words. Speakers use a wide variety of extra-verbal devices, from
emphasis and dramatic pauses to changes in tone or tempo. Speakers also use a
broad range of non-verbal clues. They “talk” with their eyes and their bodies.
They use hand gestures and facial expressions to convey ideas.

As we learn a language, we also learn the non-verbal conventions
of that language, this often includes not only a face-to-face meeting, but also
a meeting of the minds. On this, Steven
Pinker notes, “Conversation, requires cooperation”.

The study of politeness strategy in this sense is basically the study
of knowing the way the people use the language while they are having
interaction or communication. It preaches how to use the language and conduct
the conversation run well and go smoothly.

In case of communication, however, everyone wants to be understood
and not to be disturbed by others; moreover, he or she does not want to lose
his/her face while communicating. Loosing face means the notions of being
embarrassed, humiliated or disappointed. That is why face is something that is emotionally invested, maintained,
enhanced and constantly attended in an interaction.

Concept of face

Face means respect, self-esteem, self-image in the community, Brown and Levinson says that society is governed by two desires: to be free
from imposition, and to be appreciated and approved of.

First desire considered a negative politeness, and the latter is
considered a positive politeness.

Face is the central idea of ??this theory:

Negative face includes the
following aspects: the basic demands of the private property and personal
space, rights not to be disturbed, freedom of action and freedom from

Positive face refers to
personality as well as desires that his own self-image is accepted and
respected, the value of face is different in different cultures: the definite
boundary is a private space and the local culture.

These speech acts follow certain
utterance and behavioral aspect which suggest that to communicate with the
speaker, these aspects should be kept under check to follow a meaningful
conversation, so the individual’s self-esteem is not hurt.


Here in this Rajbonshi, the
subject should be tending with;


I really appreciate you helped

/b?al pa?g t?ui help korc?is/


Nice work from your part.

/tomra b?al ka:m korse/


Where did you buy these shoes

/t?um? kota t?ike ei ?ut?a gula k?nc??s/


Sorry to bother you.

/bja na pa?/

Counterfactual modal

Can you pass me the glass of

/t?ui mok gilas ta d?iber pabu ne

Now, these sentence frames only
gives us the template that how we should approach the speaker, with what
conscience we should engage them, so their social and cultural sentiments are
not hurt.

The entirety of politeness strategy deals with the
manner of social conduct, in which the speaker’s attitude can be interpreted
and its linguistic relevancy can be derived on pragmatics level.

Hence, with the study of politeness
strategy we can opt for some suggestive measure through which we may know the
way the people use language while they have interactions.


Holmes, Janet (1992), An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

Wardhaugh, Ronald (2006), An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

Brown, Penelope and Stephen C.
Levinson (1987). Politeness: Some
universals in language usage

Chaika, Elaine (1982), Language: The Social Mirror. Social Edition


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