1.1. Short history:

Maithili, as the name itself indicates, is the language of Mithila, the land of the mythical king Janaka. It is spoken by 34.7 million people (See... g 15.1) in the eastern and northern regions of Bihar in India and the south eastern plains, known as tarai, of Nepal. Its linguistic boundaries of Maithili are as follows: Bangla in the east, Magahi in the south, Bhojpuri in the west and Sub-Himalayan languages (including Nepali) in the north.

Maithili, the language of Mithila, originated from Magadhi apabhramsa. It originated along with Bangla, Asamiya, Oriya and Magahi. The separation of Maithili took place during 8th and 9th century A.D. The earliest appearance of Proto-Maithili is evident during the said period in the Charyapada songs of the Siddhas of Sahaja cult and elsewhere.


Maithili is usually said to be developed in the four stages as follows:

(i)                 Proto-Maithili (8th -11th c. AD)

(ii)               Early Maithili (12th -16th c. AD)

(iii)             Middle Maithili (17th – 18th c. AD)

(iv)             Modern Maithili (18th c. AD onwards)

1.2. Scripts used:

Maithili is written in four scripts:

(i)                 Tirhuta or Mithilakshari

(ii)               Neware

(iii)             Kaithi

(iv)             Nagari

The Tirhuta/Tirhutia or Mithilakshari is the indigenous script of Maithili. However, Devanagari is now used as the common standard script for the language and has also been recognized as the script associated in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution.

1.3. Earliest reference:

The earliest reference of Maithili is found in Kirtilata of Vidyapati (1350-1450 AD).

देसिल बयना सबजन मिट्ठा, तें तैसन जम्पञ अबहट्ठा

desɪl bɘjna: sɘɘn mɪʈʈʰ, tɛ̃ tɛsɘn jɘmpɘɲ ɘbɘhɘʈʈʰɘ

Native language is sweet for all, therefore I write it in Abahatt.


Here Maithili or Proto-Maithili is referred to as Abahattha, a variety of Apabhramśa, prevalent in the native land of Vidyapati.

The next reference occurs in Rajatarangini of Kalhan (12th c. AD), who calls it Mithilapabhramsa.

In his Introduction to Alphabetum Brahmanicum of Cassiano Beligetti, published in Rome in 1771 A.D, Johannes Christophorus Amadutias counted Taurutiana (i.e. Tirhutia or Maithili) among the eight major languages of India.

Reverend William Carey in his Linguistic Survey, 1876, refers to this language as Mythil.

Further references to this language have been made by Thomas Erskine Perry (1856), George Campbell (1874), SW Fallon (1879), George Grierson and others.


1.4. Significant points of planning:

For long, Maithili developed of its own accord, serving as a sole means of communication as well as emotional aesthetic expression. During the planning period of modern vernacular education in the country, Maithili was totally ignored.

It is at the beginning of the twentieth century that some Pandits came forward for the development of Maithili. Consequently, Calcutta University was the first to recognize Maithili as a literary language in 1917. Banarus Hindu University followed the suit in 1933. Now several universities in Bihar and Jharkhand have their Maithili departments.

At the literary level, establishment of Maithili Academy by Government of Bihar in 1975, and the recognition of Maithili by Sahitya Akademi as a literary language in 1965 boosted its development.

In primary and secondary education, Maithili is yet to achieve its due share. Maithili is taught only as an optional subject.

The Bihar Public Service Commission had adopted Maithili as a subject in its competitive examination in 1971. Hence, the prestige and prospect of Maithili had brightened. But now state government has withdrawn this status to Maithili.

The inclusion of Maithili in the 8th schedule of Indian Constitution is the most significant point of planning for its development.

During the process of the reorganization of states within India, a band of Maithili speaking politicians raised their voice for a separate state for the Maithili speaking people, but could not succeed.

1.5. Linguistic classification:

Maithili is a member of Indic sub-branch of Indo-European (or Indo-Hittite) family of languages. Of the three periods of Indic, it stands in the third, i.e. New Indo-Aryan. Hence, it is a direct descendant of eastern Middle Indo-Aryan called Magadhi.

Typologically, Maithili is said to be of inflexional type, because it belongs to old Indo-Aryan (Sanskrit), which is highly inflexional. But, in course of its development, it has enriched itself with a number of particles like postpositions, markers, conjunctions etc. In view of this, in two-fold classification, it is partly analytic and partly syntactic. In four-fold classification, it is partly isolating and partly agglutinative. With respect to verb-conjugation, it is clearly agglutinative. For instance in the word देखलकइक, there are four grammatical elements agglutinated to the root.








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