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 24.3 million people (See... g 15.1) in the eastern and northern regions of Bihar in India and the southeastern plains, known as tαra:i, of Nepal (See maps on page 20). It is linguistically bounded by Bangla in the east, Magahi in the south, Bhojpuri in the west and Sub-Himalayan languages 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 Carya? songs of the Siddhas of Sahajiya cult and elsewhere.

Its stages of development are (i) Proto-Maithili (8th -11th cen.), (ii) Early Maithili (12th -16th cen), Middle Maithili (17th – 18th cen) and Modern Maithili (18th cen onwards).

1.2. Scripts used:

Maithili is written in four scripts: (i) Tirhuta or Mithilaksara, (ii) Neware, (iii) Kaithi and (iv) Nagari. The first is its own, but now, only the last is prevalent.

1.3. Earliest reference:

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

		Desila bay bəənā səbəjənə miţţhā 
		Te taisənə jəmpəño əbəhəţţhā 

		'Native tongue is sweet for all.
		I therefore write it in əbəhəţţha'

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 Rāgə - tərəṅginī of Lochan (1625-85), who calls it Mithilāpəbhrəmśa.

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

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

Then came Thomes Erskine Perry (1856), Campbell (1874), S.W.Fellon (1879), G.A.Grierson and so many.

1.4. Significant points of planning:

For long, Maithili developed of its own accord, serving as a soul 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.

In 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 has 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 facility.

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

During the process of states re-organization, 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 syntatic. In four-fold classification, it is partly isolatical and partly agglutinative. In respect of verb-conjugation it is clearly agglutinative. For instance:

देखलाकइक /dekhəlakəik/ (Third person non-honorific) saw (third person non-honorific). Here four grammatical elements are agglutinated - देख (root) + ल (past tense) + क(subject non-honorific) + इ(< he, third person) +क(non-honorific). .


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