Authority, Status, and Caste Markers in Everyday Village Conversations: the Example of Eastern Nepal


This study sets out to detect the various markers that express forms of caste and community belonging, and more generally, hierarchies in the language used in ordinary social interactions in villages in the hills of eastern Nepal. In this remote mountainous area, bilingualism is resilient among the Himalayan communities. The accents and syntactic variations of the Nepali, the language of inter-community relations, and more generally, of social relations, are gradually being replaced by a standard Nepali, taught in school, where differences become imperceptible. The study addresses the complex use of terms of address and honorific pronouns in common Nepali and focuses on the language spoken by the local headmen, notables, and politicians. It reflects the evolution of the standard of authority that, within several generations, has shifted from virile dominance to a more formal one based on moderation and restraint.

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