The Atongs belong to the Garo Tribe despite the fact that many Atongs do not use Standard Garo for communication. They use Atong which could be considered as a speech variety closely related Garo but different to a great extent.
Linguistically, Atong is one of the Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in Meghalaya State in Northeast India and adjacent areas in Bangladesh. It is mainly mainly spoken in South-Garo Hills and West-Khasi Hills districts of Meghalaya state in North-East India.
Atong is closely related to Koch, Rabha, Garo and Bodo. It is found to be spoken in lower Someswari valley (along the Simsangriver) in the South-East of the Garo Hills, and bordering areas in the West Khasi Hills districts of Meghalaya state in Northeast India, the southern Kamrup district in Assam.
Majority of Atong speakers are concentrated in different villages like Siju, Rongsu, Badri, Rongru Asim and Chitmang.
Sociolinguistic Status of Atong
Since Atongs have not been considered a subdivision the Garo so far, they don’t have a separate ethnic or linguistic community by the Government of India. Because of the widespread bilingualism amongst the speakers of Atong, there is a unique mutual intelligibility between Atongs and Garos. Just like any other form of natural language speech, this implies that Atong remains as a valuable means of communication for the people who speak it.
Most Atong speakers are Christians and Garo is seen as the more prestigious language. Since there is a Bible translation in Garo, but not in Atong, it is the Garo language used in all churches.