Saturday, October 9, 2010

A new addition to the long list of INDIAN LANGUAGES - KORO

Do you know what connects Pika, black-browed Albatross, riverine   rabbit and Wood cycad (Encephalartos woodii)

Riverine Rabbit 
Black browed albatross
   
wood cycad 
  
Do you still remember COBOL – one of the oldest programming languages, it was an acronym for ‘common business oriented language’ – those with knowledge of the language ruled the World for a while. Though the debate could rage on, not sure of what language and whether any language at all was spoken by the early man. To express functionalities and to make computers are essential, so also for the man to communicate clearly. The word LANGUAGE is conceptually human capability of mastering the complex methodology of communication – that is to make others understand what one understand and make others respond to one’s needs. The scientific study of language in any of its senses is called linguistics. There are thousands of spoken languages. Language can be stated to be a mental faculty, a formal symbolic system or merely a tool for communication.
Though animals also do communicate, scientifically we have a theory that language is unique to humans alone. Humans have great attachment for their language and the native language is often referred as mother tongue. Tamilians ae great fanatics when it comes to their language. Quite often it is said that “Kal thonri manthonra kalathe – mootha mozhi tamizh” i.e., the existence of tamil can be traced to a period when even sand was not formed but only stone was existent.

Without getting into the intricacies, the World Classical Tamil Conference held at Coimbatore in 2010 and other Tamil conferences were attempts to spread the tamil literature and that way were laudable. Younger generation of the present era might never understand the turmoils that took place a few decades earlier. These were series of agitation that happened in the Madras Presidency (as Tamilnadu was known in those days) – there were mass protests, riots, arrests and loss of life. The first one was in 1937 in opposition to compulsory teaching of Hindi in schools. After independence, there were attempts to make Hindi the sole official language as it was the language spoken most in every State. 1965 was a watershed year as the agitation gained momentum with increased support of students and teachers. It had political overtures also and in the subsequent 1967 assembly elections, Congress lost and till date have not able to capture power. This major linguistic conflict against the implementation of Hindi as the sole official language of India saw some youth sacrificing their lives. Whilst sense of belonging and cultural pride in associating with one’s mother tongue is understandable, there was a time when learning other languages, especially hindi was taboo. More than a generation suffered at that and there were thousands who lost out to the people from other States due to their ignorance of Hindi. Some of the vociferous advocates traversed to Delhi in material pursuit and now claim mastery in Hindi, is another story. The school where I studied, Hindu High School was in the forefront and I have heard that it was the battle field launching the agitation.

The Indian constitution draws a distinction between the language to be used in Parliamentary proceedings, and the language in which laws are to be made. Parliamentary business, according to the Constitution, may be conducted in either Hindi or English. The use of English in parliamentary proceedings was to be phased out at the end of fifteen years unless Parliament chose to extend its use, which Parliament did through the Official Languages Act, 1963.

The constitution provides that all proceedings in the Supreme Court of India, the country's highest court, shall be in English. Parliament has the power to alter this by law, but has not done so.  The Indian languages belong to several linguistic families. The official language of the Union is Hindi in Devanagari script; languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution are referred to as the national languages of India. The languages of India number several hundred. 1961 census put it at 1652; Going by the Census of 2001, 29 languages are
spoken by more than a million native speakers, 122 by more than 10,000. The Indian Census uses two specific classifications in its own unique way: 'language' and 'mother tongue'. The individual states can legislate
their own official languages, depending on their linguistic demographics; the state of Jammu and Kashmir has Kashmiri, Urdu, and Dogri as its official languages.

In 2004, the Government of India declared that languages that met certain requirements could be accorded the status of a "Classical Language in India. Languages thus far declared to be Classical are Tamil , Sanskrit , Kannada and Telugu. Due to the usage and sometimes arising out of political compulsions there have been Constitutional amendments. In 2003, 4 new languages – Bodo, Maithili, Dogri and Santali were added to the 8th schedule of Indisn Constitution.
The list probably would remain open forever. There is news that undocumented language has so far remained hidden in India. Yes, it is a language spoken by only about 1000 people in the remote Northeast corner of India. The researchers were documenting a dialect of the Aka culture, a tribal community in the foothills of Himalayas.

Researchers have found that an entirely different vocabulary and linguistic structure exists for the language called “Koro”. Culturally, the Koro speakers are part of the Aka community in the State of Arunachal Pradesh state; somehow even the speakers had thought Koto as a dialect of the Aka language. Going by the newsreport in National Geographic, the researchers have found that there are different words for body parts, numbers and other concepts, establishing Koro as a separate language. People of the Aka culture live in small villages near the borders of China, Tibet and Myanmar. They practice subsistence hunting, farming and gathering firewood in the forest and tend to wear ornate clothing of hand-woven cloth, favoring red garments. The region where they live in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains requires a special permit to enter. There, the researchers crossed a mountain river on a bamboo raft and climbed steep hillsides to reach the remote villages, going door-to-door among the bamboo houses that sit on stilts.

The northeast corner of India is known as a hotspot of language. Researchers also say that some languages have died along with the loss of its speakers. Just like species of animals, birds and plants, some languages are also considered endangered which could include Koro, for youngsters tend to shift to the more dominant language of the region. It is further stated that Koro is a member of the Tibeto-Burman language family, a group of some 400 languages that includes Tibetan and Burmese. While Koro differs from Aka, it does share some things with another language, Tani, which is spoken farther to the east.
some native koro speakers
It is stated that Koro's inventory of sounds was completely different, and so was the way sounds combine to form words. Words also are built differently in Koro, as are sentences. The Aka word for "mountain" is "phu," while the Koro word is "nggo." Aka speakers call a pig a "vo" while to Koro speakers, a pig is a "lele."
Thanks to Gregory Anderson, director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and people of his ilk, Koro could survive for more time to come as it would be well documented in a scientific paper to be published in the journal of Indian Linguistics. Pika and the list mentioned at the start are some of the endangered species – population of organisms which are at risk of becoming extinct.

Regards – S Sampathkumar.

No comments:

Post a Comment