Boro (बर' ), or Mech, is the Sino-Tibetan language spoken primarily by the Bodo people of North East India, Nepal and Bengal. It is official language of the Bodoland Autonomous region and co-official language of the state of Assam and India It is also one of the 22 scheduled languages that is given a special constitutional status in India. Since 1963, the Boro language has been written using the Devanagari script. It was formerly written using Latin and Assamese script. Some scholars have suggested that the language used to have its now lost script known as Deodhai.
Boro is a Sino-Tibetan language of the Boro group. It is closely related to the Dimasa language, Chutia/Deuri language and Tiwa (Lalung) Language of Assam, the Garo language of Meghalaya and the Kokborok language of Tripura. The Boro speaking areas of Assam stretch from Dhubri in the west to Sadiya in the east. In Alipurduar, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri and other adjacent districts of Bengal, the Boros are known as "Mech". The population of Boro speakers according to 1991 census report was 2,644,390 (Boro 1,984,569), (Mech 659,821). The census reports of Boro tribe, however, comprises only the Boros, excluding Mech tribe. The word Boro denotes the language and the community and it is pronounced with a high tone on the second syllable.
The dialects spoken in this area could be broadly sub-divided into three main groups:
The Western Boro dialects are spoken in the districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Bongaigaon and the Eastern Boro dialects are found mainly in the districts of Barpeta, Nalbari and Kamrup and some parts of Darrang as well. It is worthwhile to mention that the Western Boro dialect has gained the status of Standard Dialect and has developed a written form as well. The variations between these two dialect groups are mainly phonological and lexical.
In the aftermath of socio-political awakening and movement launched by the Bodo organisations since 1913, the language was introduced as the medium of instruction (1963) in the primary schools in Bodo dominated areas. The Bodo language serves as a medium of instruction up to the secondary level and an associated official language in the state of Assam. The language has attained a position of pride with the opening of the post-graduate course in Bodo language and literature in the University of Guwahati in 1996. The Bodo language has to its credit large number of books of poetry, drama, short stories, novels, biography, travelogues, children's literature and literary criticism. Though the spoken language has been affected by other communities, especially the Assamese, in and around Kokrajhar, it is still to be heard in its pure form, in and around Udalguri district.
Bodo did not have written literature until the second decade of the twentieth century when Christian missionaries began publishing works in it. These missionaries also published some books on grammar and dictionary. Sidney Endle compiled An Outline of the Kachari Grammar in 1884. The grammar is based on the dialect of Darrang district. Endle also wrote an important monograph on the Bodos. The monograph is entitled The Kacharis. The book was published in 1911 and it contains chapters on social customs, agriculture practices, festivities, food habits, life cycle rituals, crafts and textiles of the Bodos. The book has also incorporated specimens of Bodo folktales, rhymes and grammars. J.D. Anderson's Collection of Bodo Folktales and Rhymes (1895) incorporated seventeen Bodo folktales translated into English, besides the original versions in Bodo language.