Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Preserving Local Languages


An article in the New York Times describes the work of the Adivasi Academy in Tejgadh, Gujarat. The Academy was founded by Ganesh Devy.
TEJGADH, India — In an academy deep in the agrarian countryside of western India, five students were writing briskly in ruled notebooks. They were in their early 20s and newly enrolled, but there was no discounting the gravity of their assignment: When they are finished, the world will have five more documented languages.

One word at a time, they are producing dictionaries of languages with which they grew up, but which scarcely exist in the rest of the world. These are oral languages, whose sounds have perhaps never before been reproduced in ink.

“If we make this, those who come after us will profit from it,” said Kantilal Mahala, 21, taking a brief respite from his work on the Kunkna language. “In my village, people who move ahead speak only Gujarati. They feel ashamed of our language.”...

“If a community has a strong sense of identity and a sense of pride in that identity, it wants to survive and thrive,” Mr. Devy said. “The new economy is important. The old culture is equally important.”

(Click here for the full article)
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