FEL 2020 grant: The collaborative documentation, development, and publication of a Chone Tibetan story book

This is the second in a series of posts on the grants awarded by FEL for 2020.

Overview. The Chone Tibetan language is a local variety of Tibetan spoken in Chone County, Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gansu Province, China. It has become marginalized, stigmatized, and subjugated due to two main factors: the promotion of the national language, Mandarin Chinese, since the 1950s, and the spread of the regional standard language, Amdo Tibetan, since the 1980s. As a result, the number of the Chone Tibetan speakers has now fallen to around 3,000, and is continuing to shrink dramatically. The aim of this project is to audio-record and document local spoken Chone Tibetan oral literature, develop a story book, and distribute it among community members. The story book will be presented in three languages: Chone Tibetan (the heritage language), Mandarin Chinese (the national language), and English (the second language in schools). In doing so, it will help Chone Tibetans to be exposed to their heritage language, and raise their awareness towards the value of it for expressing local linguistic and cultural identity.

Grantee. This project is led by Bendi Tso.

Bendi is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include linguistic identities, documentation of oral tradition, and language revitalization. Her current research examines language shift of Chone Tibetans in relation to their Tibetan identity formation and social imagination. With Mark Turin she has co-authored a paper Speaking Chone, Speaking ‘Shallow’: Dual Linguistic Hegemonies in China’s Tibetan Frontier.

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