14th Sep 2021 11:09:PM Editorials
Eastern Sentinel Arunachal News

Reading about Mrs. Gommang Tamut, who is the only competent ‘Ashing’ speaker and her plea to the Rajiv Gandhi University’s Centre for Endangered Learning (CFEL) to help preserve her language and culture is poignant and one that resonates with many other communities of Arunachal Pradesh.

Ashing (Adi) is one of the least known and undocumented languages under the larger ambit of the Adi ethnic identity of Arunachal Pradesh. This speech variety is spoken only by around 10 speakers who live in Ngereng village, Kuging village, and a few families in the Tuting township under the Tuting administrative Circle of the Upper Siang District, Arunachal Pradesh. Based on the UNESCOs Language Vitality and Endangerment Framework (2003), Ashing can be classified as a moribund language. It is on the verge of extinction since the intergenerational transmission of the language has discontinued and the present speakers are all elderly.

Places with the greatest linguistic diversity are usually also the ones with the most endangered languages and Arunachal is the most susceptible given this parameter. A state with 26 major tribes and over hundred sub-tribes, each with its own language and dialect, Arunachal boasts of a great linguistic diversity representing over a 100 languages — almost all are at some stage of endangerment. The lack of a lingua franca has put Arunachal at an even greater dilemma as the majority of its languages have fallen into disuse and are on the brink of extinction. The UNESCO in its 2017 survey has enlisted 33 languages of Arunachal Pradesh as endangered out of which four are critically endangered and on the verge of extinction. In response, the state government said that 17 languages are definitely endangered and 12 are vulnerable.

Every time a language dies, the loss cannot be articulated in words.  A language defines a community, a culture.  We lose knowledge and history and lose connection to a land when a language is lost. Songs, stories, words and expressions — developed over generations — are lost.

As the world turns increasingly globalised, it is impossible to thwart the penetration of world languages. The advent of English and Hindi has become a prerequisite for a better life and inclusion into mainstream society. Communities are continuously switching to politically and economically more powerful languages.

However, the silver lining is— a language's survival becomes threatened primarily if it is abandoned by its speakers. Language thrives due to its speakers. The community's interest in safeguarding its linguistic heritage - which implies the language and other cultural symbols is cited as the most vital factor by most scholars. It is imperative that languages are documented and presented in book form so that it can be learnt both in and out of schools by future generations. A third language introduction in schools will be instrumental in preserving indigenous languages. The Arunachal Pradesh government must show political will to save its diverse languages from extinction.

Kenter Joya Riba

(Managing Editor)
      She is a graduate in Science with post graduation in Sociology from University of Pune. She has been in the media industry for nearly a decade. Before turning to print business, she has been associated with radio and television.
Email: kenterjoyaz@easternsentinel.in / editoreasternsentinel@gmail.com
Phone: 0360-2212313

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