Ismael Lieberherr

Since 2012 I am doing research on the Puroik languages spoken in western Arunachal. There are more than one hundred Puroik villages scattered over a huge area (see map), and it came as no surprise that there are considerable dialectal differences. Some varieties are so different from each other that they are not mutually intelligible. For my PhD dissertation I decided to focus on the description of the particularly interesting western most variety of Puroik, the dialect of the village Bulu. Since many generations this language community has been very small and geographically separated from other Puroik villages in the east. Kojo the next Puroik village in East Kameng is a 2-3 days hike from Bulu. As of March 2016, there are only between 6 and 20 speakers of Bulu Puroik. With my dissertation I am trying to capture as much as possible of the rich linguistic heritage of Bulu.


Figure 1: The Puroiks are famous for their skills of making sago flour. They are the only tribe in this part of the Himalayas who still widely produce and eat sago starch. The photo shows how the sago fibres are chopped from the trunk of the sago palm (Bulu Puroik ʧao təə).


Figure 2: Finished sago flour (Bulu Puroik bii).


Figure 3: There are many different ways of preparing sago flour. On the photo sago which was diluted in water and boiled on the fire (Bulu Puroik ʧarɛ̃).


Figure 4: Tentative linguistic map of western Arunachal Pradesh. The area with Puroik villages in light green. Note that compared to other tribes, the Puroiks are actually a minority everywhere in the light green area. The Puroiks are outnumbered by speakers of Nyishi (Tani), Miji and Bangru. The languages spoken in the dark green areas (Bugun, Sartang, Sherdukpen, Khispi, Duhumbi) are the closest relatives of Puroik, the so called "Kho-Bwa" languages.


Figure 5: Preparations for the Chindang sheep sacrifice. The six cousin brothers who are native speakers of Bulu Puroik all on one photo.


  • Lieberherr, Ismael (2015). "Progress report on the historical phonology and affiliation of Puroik." In Konnerth, Linda, Stephen Morey, Priyankoo Sarmah and Amos Teo. North East Indian Linguistics 7 (NEIL7). Canberra, Asia-Pacific Linguistics.

Conference presentations

  • Lieberherr, Ismael (2016). Basic motion verbs in Bulu Puroik. A language without COME and GO? Paper presented at the 9th International Conference of the North East Indian Linguistics Society, Tezpur University. Tezpur, Assam, India, February 5-7.
  • Lieberherr, Ismael and Tim Bodt (2015). Kho-Bwa: A lexico-stastistical analysis. Paper presented at the 21st Himalayan Languages Symposium, Tribhuvan University. Kirtipur, Nepal, November 26-28.
  • Lieberherr, Ismael (2014). Phonological innovations of Puroik. Paper presented at the 8th International Conference of the North East Indian Linguistic Society, Don Bosco Institute, Guwahati, India. January 31 – February 2.
  • Lieberherr, Ismael (2013). Final nasals and stops. Paper presented the Himalayan Languages Symposium, Australian National University. Canberra, Australia, September 6-8.


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