Eleven indigenous dialects dead, more on way to grave

Kathmandu, November 5:

A recent report submitted jointly by the head of the Department of Linguistics Dr Yogendra Prasad Yadav and linguist Mark Turin has revealed that eleven languages of the indigenous communities are already extinct and more dialects are on their way to oblivion.

Languages already extinct are Baybansi, Chonkha, Longaba, Mugali, Sambya, Pongyong, Bungla, Chukwa, Hedangpa, Waling and Khandung.

The report has classified seven languages as moribund ones, which include Lingkhim, Kusunda, Koche, Sam, Kagate, Chhintang and Lhomi. These languages have less than 100 speakers and most of them are elderly citizens and halfway to extinction.

Of 90 languages recorded in the census of 2001, 70 were listed as languages of indigenous communities of the nation. Among these, only 13 languages including Chamling, Santhali, Chepang, Danuwar, Dhangar/Jhangar, Thangmi, Kulung, Dhimal, Yakkha, Thulung, Sanpang, Darai and Dolpo are alive and kicking.

Around 12 seriously endangered languages are Mewahang, Kaike, Raute, Kisan, Churuti, Baram, Tihang, Jerung, Dungmali, Baragaule, Bar-Phu and Managwa.

Since these languages are now spoken by fewer than 500 speakers each and could face extinction if strong steps are not taken for their revitalisation, the National Foundation for the Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN) has begun documentation and publication of dictionaries of these languages.

“By barring the native languages from use in existing as well as new domains of administration,the government and current technology has effected giving native languages low utility and prestige. As a result, indigenous peoples tend to turn to Nepali language at the expense of their own native tongues,” the report stated.

Specialists have warned more indigenous tongues will disappear if the government does not act in time. “There is an urgent need for investigating the use of language in basic education and for the revitalisation of endangered dialects for their preservation and promotion,” said Dr Yadav.

In Vanishing Voices, Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine have stated: “The extinction of languages is part of the larger picture of near-total collapse of the worldwide ecosystem.”

The report has suggested that the government increase the number of programmes and news bulletins in indigenous tongues through the state-owned media.

General secretary of the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), Dr Om Gurung, urged the state to investigate the dead languages. He also demanded that the government include mother tongues in school curricula besides laying special emphasis on saving endangered dialects.