Husband and Wife Speaking in Different Languages

Many Jingpo families are composed of members from different subgroups. There are traditional habits as to which language they use: father and children use that of the father’s while mother uses her own language. Although husband and wife can fluently speak each other’s dialect, when they have conversations, they still stick to their own language, never giving up the right of using their own dialects. Conversations among children or between father and children are carried out in the father’s dialect, while the children should speak with their mother in her language. If the grandmother is from another different subgroup, conversations with her should all be carried out in her own dialect.

When young people form different subgroups are dating, the man usually adopts the dialect of the girl, to show his love and faith. But once they are married, they use their own dialects again. At school, the formal language is that of the majority subgroup, but students of the same subgroup still converse in their own language.

The Jingpo people used to send message with certain items. For instance, a piece of meat with hair declares such grand issues as war, victory or death of a person. When a young man has fallen in love with a girl, he sends her a leaf, with tree roots, matchsticks, pepper and garlic in it. The leaf means he has many innermost thoughts and feelings to tell her; tree roots implicate missing her endlessly; matchsticks his decided mind; pepper his fervent love; and garlic waiting for her consent. If the girl accepts him, she sends the things back; if not, she puts charcoal in it. Nowadays, this simple and primitive custom can be seen only on special occasions.