Linguists raise concerns on 'language erosion'

Language extinction results in knowledge loss, says expert

 When a language goes extinct, the knowledge associated with the language also disappears. The pace at which languages are disappearing is a concern for a country with mega-diversity, like India, said Lawrence Surendra, senior fellow of Indian Council of Social Science Research, in Mysore, on Monday. He said that language diversity was an indicator of knowledge diversity, which had largely remained untapped.

He was speaking at a two-day workshop on ‘Endangered Tribal Languages in South India’, jointly organised by Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) and Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL).

Language erosion

He raised concerns on ‘language erosion’, which he said was caused due to factors such as modernisation, lingusitic adaptation to terms from foreign languages and others.

 Some languages have been lost as a community which speaks a particular language has ceased to exist, he said.

Ecology, culture and knowledge share an intricate relationship. The cultural diversity of a community comes from the surrounding eco-system. When a particular language is lost, all the knowledge of the bio-diversity imbibed in that particular language also ceases to exist, he said.

Speaking on the number of endangered languages in the country, he said that there was dichotomy between various agencies of the government. “But the list is long,” he said.

Identification 

C R Sathyanarayanan, Deputy Director, ASI said that steps to ascertain the endangered tribal languages and cultures in Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu will be taken up.

However, issues in identification and listing of endangered tribal language have to sorted out first, he said. 

Anthropologists and linguists are in a collaborative venture to compile a list of such languages, he added.Efforts are also being made to document few terms and its usage, which is being lost from generation to generation in several tribal languages. Such a change is common, as speakers of tribal languages come into contact with speakers of other languages. 

Moreover, the process of constant change in societies and usage of alternate terms was also a factor that has already rendered terms in tribal languages obsolete, he said.

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