Mother Language Day marked with events

  • 123 languages are spoken as mother tongues in Nepal

Kathmandu, February 21

Linguists, cultural experts and indigenous people have stressed the need to promote and preserve mother tongues.

Speaking at a poem recitation programme held to mark International Mother Language Day, Shrawan Mukarung, chief of language department at National Academy, said the government should create an environment to promote mother tongues. “Each individual and community should have attachment towards their native languages,” he added. As many as 36 poets recited poems in their mother tongue at the programme.

Chancellor of Nepal Academy Ganga Prasad Uprety said mother tongue gave people their identity and preserving it was the duty of all individuals, society and the government.

Language Commission Chairperson Lava Deo Awasthi said, “We are committed to protecting every single language spoken in the country.”

Article 287 of constitution of Nepal has a provision of a language commission with a major duty to determine the criteria to be fulfilled for the recognition of the official language and make recommendations on languages to the Government of Nepal. The commission also performs other duties to preserve and promote such languages. The commission was formed in 2016.

Language scholars Nobal Kishor Rai and Chunamani Bandhu, along with the 10 native speakers representing ‘endangered language group’, speaking at another programme underscored the need to protect and promote all the languages spoken in the country.  The 2011 census lists 123 languages that are spoken as mother tongues in Nepal. Of these, 53 languages are categorised as ‘safe’, 51 as ‘endangered’ and 19 as ‘severely endangered’.

Spokesperson for the Language Commission Ganesh Bhattarai said severely endangered languages like Dura and Kusunda had only two to three speakers. “None of the 19 languages are spoken in a community and they do not have any written texts. With the death of a single recorded speaker, a language called Waling is considered dead,” added Bhattarai.  The Nepali language can be categorised in four language family; Indo-Aryan, Sino-Tibetian, Agneya and Dravidian. Majority of Nepali languages comes under the Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetian group. A single language called Santhal spoken in Jhapa area comes under Agneya group and another single language called Urau comes under Dravidian group.

Around 44.6 per cent of Nepali people speak Nepali as their mother tongue and 11.56 per cent of Nepali speak Maithali, which is the second largest population speaking native language in the country.

International Mother Language day is celebrated annually after it was formally recognised by UN General Assembly in a resolution establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages since 2008. It is also marked as a day to commemorate the people of Bangladesh who lost their life fighting for the right to use their mother language in February 21, 1952.