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Two endangered languages find their voice

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on April 06, 2018

A person who speaks Malhar language

Hyderabad University linguist discovers Walmiki and Malhar, spoken by small communities in Odisha.

 

A linguist from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) has stumbled on two languages called Walmiki and Malhar both predominantly in the remote region’s of Odisha.

The languages are categorised `endangered’ as the number of people speaking is small. For instance Malhar is spoken by just 75 including children from a particular community. These people live in a remote and isolated hamlet about 165 kms from Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha.

Endangered languages

The discovery has been made and announced by Panchanan Mohanty of the Centre for Endangered Languages and Mother Tongue Studies at the UoH. He has collected data, did preliminary analysis and published a paper in the proceedings of the XX Annual Conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages, UK.

Walmiki is spoken in the district of Koraput and in the bordering districts of Andhra Pradesh. The etymology of the name is also interesting. It indicates that the community speaking the language have descent from the Indian saint-poet Valmiki, who is credited to have written one version of the epic Ramayana.

The Union Government has been making efforts to document the endangered tribal and minor languages. There are several languages unknown to the world and waiting to be discovered and documented. India is also considered a linguists Paradise and termed a sociolinguistic giant, the University said in a press release.

 

Panchanan Mohanty

 

 

Though less than 100 speak the language Malhar, they are very fluent as they live completely detached from the Odia speaking neighbours. They survive on daily labour and collections from the nearby forest, sayd Mohanty. Analyis indicated that the tongue belongs to the North Dravidian subgroup of the Dravidian family of languages.

North Dravidian languages

Malhar has close affinities with other North Dravidian languages like Malto and Kurux spoken in Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Mohanty, the President of Linguistic Society of India and team are trying to explore if there are other speakers of the language in the neighbourhood or states.

Published on April 06, 2018

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