The Garo language may be spoken by as many as 700,000 people in Northeastern India and neighboring parts of Bangladesh, making it the third largest Tibeto-Burman language of the eastern border, surpassed only by Meithei and, perhaps, by Kokborok. The largest number of Garo speakers live in the Garo Hills of western Meghalaya where Garo is the dominant language. It is spoken not only by the Garos themselves, but by other long term residents of the district. Garo is used as the medium of primary education and an increasing number of publications appear in the language.
This book is by far the most complete description of the Garo language ever published. Its focus is on the dialect of Garo that is spoken in Bangladesh and that is called "Mandi" by its speakers. All dialects of Garo are mutually intelligible, however, and most of what is described here is true of the dialects spoken in the Garo Hills as well. Where the dialects differ, Burling explains what these differences are The book describes all aspects of the pronunciation and grammar of the language.
This book has been written so as to be useful to three different groups: first, scholars of linguistics; second, those who want to learn to speak Garo as a second language; and third, the Garos themselves, who may be curious to see how an outsider describes their language.
Robbins Burling is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Michigan, USA. He first lived in the Garo Hills in the 1950's while making an anthropological study the Garo Kinship system. This work is reported in his book Rengsanggri, Family and Kinship in a Garo Village. Since the 1980's, Burling has also worked among the Garos living in Bangladesh. He first learned to speak Garo so as to conduct his anthropological fieldwork, but he then became interested in the language itself, and has now written this descriptive grammar of the language.