Nishi language

Not to be confused with Nisi language (China) or West Dafla language.
Nyishi, Nisi, Nishing
Region Arunachal Pradesh, Assam
Ethnicity Nishi people
Native speakers
220,000[1] (2001 census)[2]
  • Tani

    • Western Tani
      • Nishi
Language codes
ISO 639-3 njz
Glottolog nyis1236[3]

Nishi (also known as Nyishi, Nisi, Nishing, Nissi, Nyising, Bangni, Dafla, Daphla, Lel) is a Sino-Tibetan language of the Tani branch spoken in lower Subansiri and East Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh and Darrang District of Assam in India. According to 1991 census of India the population of the Nishi speakers is 173,791. The total population of Nishi speakers as per 1997 database is 261,000 including 37,300 Tagins. Though there are plenty of variations across regions, the dialects of Nishi, such as Tagin, are easily mutually intelligible. 'Nisi' is sometimes used as a cover term for western Tani languages.

Nishi is a subject–object–verb language.[4]:80


The main origin of this language has been pointed out by George Abraham Grierson as ‘Dafla’. [5] He included different varieties under a common name which is known as North Assam group. The varieties are Abor, Miri and Dafla according to him. Daflas used to denote them as ‘Nyi-Sing’. these tribes inhabited between the Assam Valley and Tibet. Then they started to spread in Lakhimpur, Sibsagar and Darrang Districts of Assam. Mr. William Robinson in his notes mentioned that Daflas were spread over a region from 92°50’ to 94° north latitude.

The word nyishi itself means "upland man", and is a compound of nyi ("man") and shi ("highland").[6]:4


Nishi is a tonal language that utilizes three tones: rising, neutral, and falling.[4]:16 These can be applied to all of its vowels, and often can change the word's meaning:

bénam – "to hold"
benam – "to deliver"
bènam – "to vomit"
Front Central Back
High i ɨ u
Mid e ə o
Low a
Letter k kh g ng c j ny t d n p b m y r l s h
IPA k x g ŋ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ ɲ n p b m j r l s h


Nyishi distinguishes between number, person, and case. It does not have a gender system, but special affixes can be added to nouns to denote gender.


Personal Pronouns
Person Singular Dual Plural
1st ŋo ŋuiɲ ŋul
2nd no nuiɲ nul
3rd buiɲ bul



English Romanization Nyishi Galo
One akin, aking akin aken
Two anyi, enyi aɲiə aɲi
Three om oum aum
Four api
Five ang, ango aŋ(o)

Counting system differs in case of human vs. non-human objects.


  1. 230,000 (2001 census), less 23,000 Bangni (2007), plus 10,000 Hill Miri (undated)
  2. Nishi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Nyishi". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Abraham, P. T. "A Grammar of Nyishi Language" (PDF). Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  5. Linguistic Survey Of India, Vol. III part I (Tibeto Burman Family) first published almost a century ago
  6. Lahiri, Bornini (2013). "Noun Cases in Nyishi" (PDF). New Delhi. Retrieved 14 December 2015.

Further Reading

Post, Mark W. (2013). Paper presented at the 13th Himalayan Languages Symposium. Canberra, Australian National University, Aug 9.

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