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Tulu, Kodava vanishing: Unesco

Last updated: 09 July, 2009
New Delhi: 1:30 IST

Five languages in Karnataka, including Tulu and Kodava, may vanish due to fast dwindling of number of its users, a Unesco study has warned.

According to Unesco’s Atlas of World’s Languages in Danger, the other Karnataka tongues that are at risk of extinction are Koraga, Kuruba and Irula. The world body has listed a total of 196 Indian languages as endangered, including eight in South India, of which five are from Karnataka. Unesco treats all these languages as “vulnerable”.

Unesco, which recently conducted a worldwide survey on endangered languages, has cautioned that unless the concerned authorities take immediate steps, “these languages may vanish by the end of this century”. Unesco also emphasised that efforts should be made by communities, which speak these languages, to preserve them to maintain cultural diversity.

Kodava, which is also called Coorgi, is spoken mainly in Kodagu district. According to the 2001 census, the total number of Kodava speakers are 166,187, compared to 1,22,000 in the 1997 census.

Tulu, which is spoken in Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Kasargod and the Western Ghats had 17,22,768 speakers as per the 2001 census, compared to 19,49,000 in the 1997 census, the Unesco report said. Irula is spoken in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala and is spoken by 2,00,000 people. Koraga, which is spoken in Karnataka’s southern parts, Kerala and Tamil Nadu is considered a critically endangered language with just 16,665 speakers as per the 1981 census. Identified as another vanishing language, Kuruba is spoken in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Tamil Nadu. There are only 14,613 Kuruba speakers, according to the 2001 census.

The report says that half of the 6,700 languages spoken in the world today are in danger of disappearing before the century ends. The Unesco’s Endangered Languages Programme mobilises international cooperation to focus attention on this “grave situation” and helps promote innovative solutions from communities, experts and authorities.

As languages are also primary vehicles of cultural expressions and intangible cultural heritage, essential to the identity of individuals and groups, safeguarding endangered tongues was crucial in maintaining cultural diversity worldwide, the report said.
The issue figured in Parliament too as Union Minister of State for the Human Resources Development D Purandeshwari said in her written reply in Rajya Saba that the Centre has been taking steps to preserve and develop minor Indian languages in association with state governments.

DH News Service

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