UNT Team Preserving Endangered Lamkang Language in India

A North Texas linguistics professor and students are creating the Lamkang Lexical Database and language resource website to help keep this Indian culture alive.

Lamkang

A University of North Texas graduate student is working with fellow students and her linguistics professor to preserve her native language that is danger of disappearing in India.

Sumshot Khular is working alongside UNT linguistics professor Dr. Shobhana Chelliah to help save her native language — Lamkang — from going extinct, according to a UNT news release.

LAMKANG HAS FEWER THAN 10,000 SPEAKERS LEFT

Lamkang is a language from the Manipur State in northeastern India that is considered “critically endangered” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with fewer than 10,000 speakers remaining, said the release.

“In the beginning, people were suspicious and wondering what was the need for our work,” Khular, a native of Thamlakhuren village, said in the release. “Now they realize that it would be nice to teach your children your own language.”

Lamkang

[Photo Courtesy UNT]

 

Chelliah — a documentary linguist focused on Tibeto-Burman languages in northeast India — has been working with Khular and other UNT students on the Lamkang Language Resource website as well as the Lamkang Lexical Database and Online Dictionary.

“…Language is the source of our culture and traditions and how we communicate everything from health care to agriculture. Unless you keep the language alive, all of this will die out.”
Sumshot Khular

Both projects seek to protect the language and culture from being forgotten by standardizing written Lamkang as well as documenting traditional songs and oral histories, according to the Lamkang Language Resource website.

The website includes a collection of texts in Lamkang with English translations, graphics explaining vowels, consonants and even characteristics of humor within the language, and various videos and still photos of cultural traditions.

“Language is everything for us. Language is our identity. Language is the source of our culture and traditions and how we communicate everything from health care to agriculture. Unless you keep the language alive, all of this will die out,” Khular said.

The university said that one of the problems facing Lamkang is that no Indian schools teach it. Instead, the language is passed down through stories, songs, and lessons about crafts important to the culture, UNT said.

Lamkang

Sumshot Khular (far left) and fellow UNT students work to document, archive and revitalize Lamkang, a critically endangered language in India. [Photo Courtesy UNT]

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