Context: Recently, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister released a book titled - Tangams: An Ethnolinguistic Study Of The Critically Endangered Group of Arunachal Pradesh.
- The Tangams are a little-known community within the larger Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh and reside in the hamlet of Kugging in Upper Siang district’s Paindem circle.
- Earlier, Tangams (1975) community’s population was pegged at 2,000 spread across 25 villages.
- According to a survey (Centre for Endangered Languages (CFEL) of Rajiv Gandhi University (RGU)), Tangams were now concentrated in only one village (Kugging), with 253 reported speakers.
Reasons for only 253 speakers:
- As per the UNESCO World Atlas of Endangered Languages (2009), Tangam - an oral language that belongs to the Tani group, under the greater Tibeto-Burman language family - is marked ‘critically endangered’.
- Became multilingual:
- Kugging is surrounded by a number of villages inhabited by Adi subgroups such as Shimong, Minyongs, as well as the Buddhist tribal community of Khambas, among others.
- To communicate with their neighbours over the years, the Tangams have become multilingual.
- They rarely speak their own language now since their population is restricted to a single village.
- Relatively unknown: Even within Arunachal Pradesh and the village lacks proper infrastructure in all basic sectors. Roads have reached Kugging only in 2018 and not a single person from the community has gone to university.
How will the new book help?
- Language loss is the reason for cultural erosion and the book will help the future generations of the Tangam community.
- Multidisciplinary approach: The significance of the present study is the multidisciplinary approach as it takes into account not only language, but also rituals, folklore, food habits, belief systems etc.
- Cover every aspect of Tangam life and culture: That will help the future children retain their unique identity as an ethnolinguistic group.
Other languages in Arunachal Pradesh:
- Classification: The languages of Arunachal Pradesh have been classified under the Sino-Tibetan language family, and more specifically under the Tibeto-Burman and Tai group of languages, such as Lolo-Burmish, Bodhic, Sal, Tani, Mishmi, Hruissh and Tai.
- Developed locally: While the education system has introduced Devanagari, Assamese and Roman scripts for most tribal languages, new scripts such as Tani Lipi and Wancho Script have been developed by native scholars.
- No systematic, scientific or official survey: On the number of languages in Arunachal Pradesh till recently. An official linguistic survey by the state government began in 2018 is currently underway. Before that, People’s Linguistic Survey of India was published in 2017.
- Still, experts peg the number of languages after listing the various linguistic varieties or dialects embedded within these languages upto to 90.
- Most are endangered: According to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (2009) more than 26 languages of Arunachal Pradesh have been identified as endangered.
- The degrees range from ‘unsafe’, ‘definitely endangered’ to ‘critically endangered’.
Why are these languages at risk?
- The diversity of languages has led various communities to depend on English, Assamese and colloquial variety of Hindi called Arunachalee Hindi as the link languages.
- Even the numerically larger tribes like Nyishi, Galo, Mishmi, Tangsa etc. whose population exceed the ten thousand mark are also not safe from endangerment, hence marked unsafe.
- Younger generation discarded use of mother tongue: The classification implies that the younger generation of these tribes especially in the urban areas have mostly discarded the use of their mother tongue.
Endangered Language: An endangered language is a language that is at risk of falling out of use, generally because it has few surviving speakers. If it loses all of its native speakers, it becomes an extinct language.
UNESCO defines four levels of language endangerment between "safe" (not endangered) and "extinct".
UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the world’s Language in Danger 2009:
- It intends to raise awareness about language endangerment and the need to safeguard the world’s linguistic diversity among policy-makers, speaker communities and the general public.
- UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger is a tool to monitor the status of endangered languages and the trends in linguistic diversity at the global level.
- For each language, the print Atlas provides its name, degree of endangerment and the country or countries where it is spoken.
Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India:
- Under this Scheme, the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore works on protection, preservation and documentation of all the mother tongues/languages.
- These are languages of India spoken by less than 10,000 speakers keeping in mind the degree of endangerment and reduction in the domains of usage.