Foundation for Endangered Languages
2. Development of the Foundation
FEL versus matsya-nyaya, the ‘fish-logic’ of language survival in the raw: FEL X Conference Report
Nicholas Ostler, R. Elangaiyan
FEL X was jointly organized with the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore, India. The theme of the Conference was Vital Voices: Endangered Language and Multilingualism and it was held on the CIIL campus from 25th to 27th October 2006.
As with all FEL conferences, the location set the tone. Mysore, an old princely state in southern India is approached by a two-hour road journey from the main local airport at Bangalore, and the trip itself served as a vivid introduction to modern, as eternal, India.
Once arrived we were accommodated in highly atmospheric guest-houses, Royal and Roost, and proceeded to make ourselves at home with the other guests, including the bandar log.
The Conference, on Vital Voices: Endangered languages and Multilingualism, started with a Keynote address by L. M. Khubchandani: this attempted to capture the scene of oral communication in India before and after independence, suggesting that a new Communication Order has to emerge ensuring the rights of ‘lesser used’ languages but leaving the details of the new order to everyone’s imagination.
Haobam Basantarani’s Multilingualism Endangered was not presented as the author couldn’t participate in the conference but it is included in the Proceedings under the Section Outlining the Danger. This paper narrates the struggles for a collective identity by the in-digenous communities of Tripura who have become minorities in their own land due to the influx of non-native populatation and the possible danger of one of the smaller minority groups (Reangs speaking the language Kai Bru) losing its distinct identity as a compro-mise for securing the collective identity of the native tribes. The suggestion to adopt the Intercultural Bilingual Education model of the Latin American Countries for Tripura, in fact, may be worth considering for other multilin-gual contexts in India too.
Two papers were presented under the Section Extreme Endangerment.
Hugo C. Cardoso’s Challenges to Indo-Portuguese across India was an excellent narration of how some Indo-Portuguese (IP) Creoles have survived the test of time whereas some have not. It depicts the diachronic and synchronic perspectives of the creation (com-ing into being) and decline/maintenace of various IP Creoles. A few significant points from his paper are:
Cardoso, in a model for all similar cases of language endangerment, argues for promoting the cause of IP instead of Standard Portu-guese.
Paul Monaghan’s brief essay on the prospects of Wirangu and Gugada, the two neighbour-ing Australian languages reveals the threat from another indigenous language Pitjantjat-jara apart from English. This is comparable with the situation in India’s Tripura where Kai Bru faces a threat from Kok Borok,the language promoted as the collective identity for the native indigenous communities. The use of electronic devices for revitalization of these Australian languages may also be fol-lowed in countries like India.
Only two presentations were made in the Conference under the Section Effects of Con-tact. One was by Umberto Ansaldo and Lisa Lim on Globalization, Empowerment and the Periphery: The Malays of Sri Lanka. They trace the history of Sri Lankan Malay (SLM) as a Creole and its present condition of being endangered. The authors say, “That linguistic varieties which are classified as ‘Creoles’ are doubly endangered is a point that is worth reiterating”. But there are cases like Sadri (a Creole used by tribes in Central India), which is quite stable and is a threat to other indige-nous languages in the region. But of course, the role of Sadri is different from that of the SLM. Probably, in a multilingual setting, the role of a linguistic variety is more important than whether it is a Creole or not.
The other paper was delivered by Elena Bene-dicto on Language Loss to An Invisible En-emy: the Case of Tuahka. Here is the case of a language shift that has been found out to be sudden and also owing to a single major event in the eco-region, and hence of consid-erable theoretical importance.The major event that is suspected (or probably concluded now) to be responsible for the language shift had been the arrival and functioning of a British (mining) company in the beginning of 18th century which caused the influx and frequent-ing of the Miskitu speakers in the Tuahka area. This event is comparable with the hap-penings promoted by today’s globalization and hence should serve as an eye-opener to linguists working on language endangerment.
Chaithra Puttaswamy was not present in the Conference but yet her paper on Contact and Convergence: Observations based on Pho-nology and Morphology of Malto gives an account of changes, the Dravidian Malto has undergone due to influence from Munda and Indo-Aryan languages. This is probably a subtle suggestion to revitalize Malto.
Three papers were presented in the Section on Roles of Religion and Documentation. Be-gona Echeverria’s paper on Speaking in Tongues, Saving Souls: Religion in the “Res-urrection” and Death of Endangered Lan-guages throws light on the role of gender in the domain of religion in the Basque lan-guage. The purpose of this paper was to suggest the inclusion of gender related questions while investigating how religion impacts en-dangered languages. In fact, this can be ex-tended to other domains also. In most of the South Asian languages, women play an infe-rior role (with rare exceptions) in domains like religion, politics, social organization, trade and industry.
David A. Hough presented a historical ac-count of the sufferings by Kosraeans in his paper on Beyond Linguistic Documentation: Giving New Breath to Indigenous Voices. His angry pronouncement equating globalization with colonization is justified by the points that he puts forward explaining the ill effects of globalization on communities big and small. But interestingly and fortunately, David Hough lists the positive components of globalization such as the Kosrae Language and Culture Website, CDs and Computer Assisted Software that are employed in boost-ing the revitalization of the language.
Language Documentation in Andamans: Highs and Lows by Abhishek Avtans and Anvita Abbi explained how languages docu-mentation helps in bringing about a positive attitude in the minds of the indigenous peo-ple, here the Andamanese, towards maintenance.
The Section on Literacy and Revitalization has three papers, the first being Future of Torwali speaking migrants in the urban areas of Pakistan by Inam Ullah who could not attend the Conference. To him, Torwali (his mother tongue) is vulnerable to endangerment as it happens to be an unwritten language and due to large scale migration of Torwali speak-ers to the urban areas of Pakistan. He rightly suggests that a healthy type of multilingual-ism should be encouraged among the Torwali speakers in the urban areas using multimedia and newsletters. A website for the Torwali culture and language may also be suggested. To reverse the trend of migration, all agencies concerned will have to work together.
Small languages in a polylingual situation – the case of Turung by Stephen Morey narrates the multi-faceted threat facing the Turung language. Preservation of the culture and language of the Turungs now mostly depend upon their awareness as a community.
Maria Sipos could not attend the Conference but her paper On the Possibilities of Revitaliz-ing Synya Khanty provides an interesting reading on the extremely threatened Synya Khanty dialect spoken in the North-Western Siberia. Most of the documented riches of the dialect are in Hungary. The elite among the Synya population has already shifted to Rus-sian. The news of Sofya Onina’s descriptive grammar of Synya dialect is refreshing but its use in writing school textbooks is yet to be accomplished. Introducing the Synya tradi-tional folklore material that has been pre-served in Hungary to its own people will be of great motivating factor to a peolple who are found to be not very enthusiastic of their own traditional speech form. The suggestions that the Synya speakers shift to the Shuryshkary dialect of the Khanty language or to Russian do not seem to be convincing for two rea-sons:The work done hitherto in documenting the Synya dialect material would become meaningless and such a shift would result in undermining the Synya culture and identity. The Section on Majority – Minority Rela-tionship had two presentations. Elangaiyan’s Strategies Proposed for Arresting Language Endangerment in India emphasizes the right of all languages to survive, irrespective of the size of the population and the status they en-joy. It has been explained how some lan-guages become less fortunate and endangered. The setting in which different languages in India operate and the hierarchy they fall in are explained briefly. Strategies listed for arrest-ing language endangerment in India could have been more elaborate and context spe-cific.
The paper On Profiles of Use for Majority Languages in Southern Nigeria was by Ronald P. Schaefer and Francis O. Egbok-hare. This statistical study suggests that speakers of even major languages of Nigeria such as Yoruba and Igbo are contemplating a shift to English. Is this not a forerunner to foretell what is going to happen to major and minor languages of the world in the coming decades if language policies are not formu-lated and implemented to check this trend? The upper class elite (from all mother tongue groups) in India are already moving in this direction.
The Section on Development and Changes includes three papers, the first being Carving Both Sides: Globalization in Education Re-form and Language Politics in the Coroico Municipality of the Nor Yungas of Bolivia by Victoria Stockton. She describes all the ne-glect and discouragement received by indige-nous languages in Bolivia in favour of the colonial language, Spanish. But Victoria finds now that globalization and Bolivia’s democ-ratic reforms go hand in hand in enhancing the prestige and use of indigenous languages like Aymara. The Aymara-Spanish bilingual education is found to be ideal and rewarding in the context of emerging reversal of lan-guage shift. A word of caution is added that the ultimate success would be possible only if the present liberal policy at the macro level is transformed into practice at the grassroots level.
Maya Khemlani David spoke on The Linguis-tic Scenario in the Temuan Community. How-ever, it is a great relief that the Temuans still fairly maintain their own language in the home domain.
Linguistic minorities and marginalization of Botswana: Prospects for Survival by Kem-monye C. Monaka and Gregory H. Kam-wendo, who were not present in the Confer-ence, throws light on the lamentable margin-alization that the linguistic minorities in Bot-swana have been subjected to and the neglect shown to all indigenous languages with the lone exception of Setswana. NGOs and other institutions like some Universities are of some help and solace to these indigenous languages but ultimately the State will have to accord real recognition and extend support.
The Section on Cooperation with Neighbour Languages had two papers. Khadim Hussain Bahria could not attend the Conference. His paper on Language Shift in a Minority Kohis-tani Community – The Case of Ushojo high-lights the absence of a pluralistic approach in Pakistan’s language policy and educational planning.l This paper elaborately discusses the threat faced by the Ushojo language spo-ken by ethnic Ushojis. In about a period of two and a half decades (from 1992 to 2006) the number of speakers for Ushojo language has declined from 2,000 to a mere 500, mainly because of tmigration. There are n monolingual Ushojis. Khadim Hussain con-cludes that the language shift is mostly to Pashto. A writing system for Ushojo may help stem the tide of migration.
The other paper in this Section was presented by Hakim Elnazarov on Multilingualism in Pamir: Challenges of Preservation and Revitalization.
The indigenous Pamiri languages face the threat from the national language Tajik and the languages of globalization, namely, Rus-sian and English. These indigenous languages are expected to surrender their ethnic identi-ties in favour of the relatively new but strong national identity. The density of these minor-ity groups and the lack of interaction with non-native groups including Tajik speakers are considered advantageous for maintenance right now.
There were four papers in the Section Emerg-ing Complexity & Community Language Support. The paper The complexity and emergence of Hindi as Lingua Franca in Arunachal Pradesh was presented by Yankee Modi. After attaining Statehood, the Arun-achal tribes gradually replaced the Nefamese Pidgin by Hindi for intertribal communica-tion. The worry is about the restricted use of Arunachal languages, reserving domains of vital importance to non-Arunachal languages. The paper concludes with an open-ended question as what could be the answer for in-tertribal communication for a linguistically heterogeneous State like Arunachal Pradesh.
Nina Dobrushina for her paper Multilingual-ism in Archi: Communication, Self-Identification and Social Prestige has elicited responses from Archi speakers on their bilin-gual and multilingual capabilities (involving Avar and Russian). Though Archi is very stable and not declining, the Archi speakers use Avar with almost complete proficiency in it and have reverence for Avar as a symbol of their greater identity. In spite of their good command over Avar and Russian, the Archis do not have any problem for the maintenance of their own language. This paper again proves that multilingualism does not necessar-ily endanger languages.
The third paper in this Section was by Kavita Rastogi who was not present in the Confer-ence. Kavita in her paper Challenges and Responses to the Survival of a Tribal Lan-guage – Raji narrates how Raji (a spoken language of the Tibeto-Burman family) has been highly influenced by the surrounding Indo-Aryan languages, namely, Kumauni and Hindi in India’s Uttaranchal State. Use reduc-tion and code reduction have been identified as the major challenges. Kavita has involved the community members in adopting Dev Nagari script for Raji. She, by her innovative methods, has been trying to instill a sense of pride, self-confidence and awareness in the minds of the Raji speakers so that the lan-guage can effectively be revitalized.
Last in this Section was Christine Schreyer on Re-Orientations in Language Planning: A “Language-as-Cultural-Resource” Model from a Canadian First Nation.
Christine Schreyer presents the discussion on orientations in language planning as defined by Ruiz in his ‘language-as-resource’ model and the views of the critiques of this model. She offers a new position as “language-as-cultural-resource” model. She gives an ac-count of Taku River Tlingit First Nation and “Language-as-Cultural-Resource”. This is the only paper in the Conference to highlight the importance of the link between the people and their land. People’s awareness of their rights to their land and what it offers as a whole should naturally ensure their rights to use and maintain their own indigenous languages.
Lisa Lim, Anvita Abbi, Chandramani The last Section Epilogue is by Udaya Nara-yana Singh. He has put forward his view-points under the title The Sense of Danger: Some Reflections on Language Endanger-ment. In his ‘Preliminary Remarks’, he has presented the mindset of the planners that many often echoes the bias of the majority communities towards the minority cultures and languages. In ‘Some Assumptions’, he quotes the views of Chomsky and the like to stress the point that even in the so-called civil societies, ‘free speech’ is in fact not all that free. He lists the ‘Three Kinds of Tensions’ and in ‘Choices as Political Moves’ he de-scribes the brilliant dissent of Tulasidas, Kabir and others to be with the standard. Af-ter presenting the ‘Steps and Caution’ for surviving the endangerment he puts forward what is planned to be done in the Indian con-text, namely, Language Endangerment Studies. This is a major programme CIIL is planning to launch in association with Census of India and Commission for Linguistic Mi-norities.
The conference was notable for much besides the proceedings, however. There were view-ings of ethnographic fims of CIIL about the Toda and other peoples of India, a South In-dian banquet thrown by FEL for the scholars of CIIL, and animated panel sessions on the first and last days. Moreover, the event made the Indian newspapers on two successive days. First, our press conference, raising the the profile of language endangerment, was reported by the Times of India, the Star of Mysore and other journals. But then came the event that showed that FEL is really a part of this era. The next day, two Pakistani gunmen were apprehended after a car chase in the Mysore suburbs, providing headline news for the day. They had been, according to Police Commissioner Praveen Sood., "on their way to the Central Institute of Indian Languages on Hunsur Road, where a three-day interna-tional conference on endangered language is being held" (Star of Mysore 27x06). Blood ran cold among most of us, belying the dic-tum of Winston Churchill that "Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."
FEL X revealed a tension between the good-will of all to language communities and the concern of many for possible long-term em-bitterment due to colonialism. The passionate interest of the attendees, however, can only be inspiring for the future.
Meet the FEL Committee members
Most of the readers of this journal rarely, if ever, get to meet the members of the commit-tee who serve them. So we've asked the mem-bers serving on the newly elected FEL Com-mittee to introduce themselves in a brief para-graph. Here are their self-portraits: Blair A. Rudes currently serves as Vice President and U.S. Registered Agent for FEL Inc., the U.S. 501(c)(3) charitable sister-organization of FEL. He is an Associate Pro-fessor in the Department of English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he serves as the director of the graduate Applied Linguistics Program. His research focuses on the documentation, historical lin-guistics, and philology of the indigenous lan-guages of eastern North America, in particular the Algonquian, Catawban, and Iroquoian languages. He has developed lexical and grammatical reference works for the Tus-carora Indian Nation, the Mashantucket Pe-quot Tribal Nation, and the Golden Hill Tribe of the Paugussett Nation, and currently in under contract to the University of South Carolina Press to publish a grammar, a text collection, and a dictionary of the Catawba language. He was employed by New Line Cinema to revive the Virginia Algonquian (a.k.a. Powhatan) language for dialog in the Terrence Mallick film The New World (2005) and is currently assisting with the Algonquian tribes in Virginia to use the materials he de-veloped for the film in tribal efforts to revive their ancestral language.
R. Elangaiyan took his master's degree in Linguistics from the University of Kerala (India) in 1973. He took up a research project on Dhangar Kurux/Kurukh language (spoken in Nepal Tarai) in Deccan College, Pune in India with an aim of submitting a Doctoral thesis but did not complete the work for purely personal reasons. Later, in the year 1981, he joined the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore as a Research Assistant in the Tribal & Border Languages Unit which was renamed in the year 2001 as Research Group for Tribal & Endangered Languages. He did a survey of Kurux dialects spoken in Central India and its diaspora in the non-contiguous areas. The findings of this survey were used in preparing Kurux primers to be used for school literacy. He guided the Car Nicobarese mother tongue teachers and coauthored with them to produce school primers in the Car Nicobarese language and they are used in the schools. He had con-ducted several linguistics training pro-grammes for CIIL teaching linguistics to Lan-guage Officers and University teachers in various states in India. Also he conducted several programmes for preparing literacy material and biliteracy material for the benefit of several indigenous communities in differ-ent parts of India . He has been working on the grammars of Car Nicobarese language (to be completed in the year 2007) and Idu Mishmi, an endangered language spoken near the Indo-Chinese border (to be completed in the year 2008). He studied the phonology of Idu Mishmi and adopted the Roman script for that language with a difference that the script can be typed using any English key board of a computer. He is interested in studies on lan-guage endangerment, ethnolinguistics, trans-lations (though he knows only six Indian languages - Tamil, Malayalam, Kurux, Car Nicobarese, Kannada & Hindi - he cannot include Idu Mishmi very confidently right now - and a bit of English) and language planning with special accent on term (termi-nology) planning. In the beginning of 2006 he conducted a workshop in Ranchi (central India ) on Term Planning in Kurux for facili-tating writing Kurux grammar in Kurux by the Kurux native scholars. He coordinated and conducted a Post Conference Seminar in the ICOSAL -3 Conference on 'Language Endangerment and South Asia' at Hyderabad in January 2001 and later in January 2005 he conducted a Symposium on 'Globalization and Language Endangerment' in the XXXIII Indian Social Science Conference in Gandhi-gram. He is an ardent supporter of pluralism of all sorts - religion, language, culture, poli-tics etc. As an activist for pluralism he has been working for building awareness among different communities (within his reach) for this purpose.
Hakim Elnazarov got a university degree in Islamic studies in Tajikistan (1994) and Mas-ter in Educational Development from the Institute for Educational Development of the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan (1999); worked with the Aga Khan Develop-ment Network in East Africa (2000 - 2002). In 2003 joined the Institute of Ismaili Studies (www.iis.ac.uk) in London where he is cur-rently based. First, he was a Research Fellow and currently is a Coordinator of the Central Asian Studies Unit at the IIS. His main re-search interests are religious education in Central Asia, philosophy of religion and mi-nority languages of Central Asia. He pub-lished several articles and book reviews on the subjects in various journals and confer-ence proceedings. Hakim is in the FEL com-mittee since 2004 and major responsibility includes communication/liaison officer to follow on grants, distributing FEL pamphlets, etc.
Maya Khemlani David is a Professor (Socio-linguistics) in the Faculty of Languages and Lingusitics, University of Malaya. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, United Kingdom, an adjunct pro-fesor in Universiti Putra, Serdang, Malaysia and a Research Fellow with UPSI, Malaysia. She has presented over 60 papers in 19 coun-tries and has written The Sindhis Of Malay-sia: a Sociolinguistic Account (2001, London, ASEAN) and co-written Writing a Research Paper (2006, Serdang: UPM). Her co-edited and edited publications are Language and the Power of the Media (2006, Frankfurt, Peter Lang), Language Choices and Discourse of Malaysian Families: Case Studies of Families in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2006, Petaling Jaya, Strategic International and Research Development Centre), Teaching of English in Second and Foreign Language Settings: Fo-cus on Malaysia (2004, Frankfurt, Peter Lang) and Methodological and Analytical Issues in Language Maintenance and Shift Studies (2002, Frankfurt, Peter Lang).
Steven Krauwer, membership secretary, is based in Utrecht (NL). He has a degree in mathematics and has worked as a senior lec-turer and researcher in computational linguis-tics and language technology at the Utrecht institute of Linguistics (UiL OTS) of Utrecht University. He has been the coordinator of a number of EU-funded projects in the field of language and speech technology. He has re-cently retired but is still working for UiL OTS as an affiliate researcher and project manager.
Tjeerd de Graaf, until 2003 associate profes-sor of phonetics at Groningen University (the Netherlands) , has specialized in the phonetic aspects of Ethnolinguistics for the last 15 years. In 1990, he joined a Japanese expedi-tion and conducted his first fieldwork with the minority peoples of Sakhalin. Since then he has contributed to various research projects on the endangered languages and endangered archives of Russia. In co-operation with col-leagues in the Russian Federation and Japan, he focused on the use of sound archives for research on minority languages and cultures. Most of these research projects were funded by special grants from the European Union and the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Re-search NWO. Tjeerd de Graaf received a Doc-torate Honoris Causa for his work from the University of St.Petersburg in 1998. Since 2002, he has been a board member of the Foundation for Endangered Languages (Great Britain). He is a research fellow at the Frisian Academy, which co-ordinates research on European minorities, in particular the lan-guage, history and culture of Frisian, one of the lesser used languages of Europe. In 2003, he spent a semester as visiting professor at the University of St.Petersburg and in 2004 and 2005, he was guest researcher at the Slavic Research Center of Hokkaido University, Japan.
Chris Moseley, Treasurer and Editor of Og-mios, has been with the Foundation since the beginning and Treasurer since 1998. Until 2005 he was a translator from Finnish and Swedish firstly, Latvian latterly, at the BBC Monitoring Service in Caversham, England. Since then he has worked as a freelance trans-lator and is currently working on a Ph.D. thesis in linguistics at the University of Lon-don. He is also the co-editor of the Routledge Atlas of the World's Languages (1994, 2nd ed. 2007) and editor of the forthcoming Encyclo-pedia of the World's Endangered Languages (2007).
Nicholas Ostler is based in Bath, UK. He has held the Chair for ten years, since the origin of FEL. He gained a Ph.D. in Theoretical Linguistics from MIT. In the 27 years since then, he was first for 30 months a lecturer at Japanese Universities, then for 18 years a consultant in information technology in the UK (especially on research in speech and natural language processing and corpus lin-guistics), active in European projects. Most recently he has written 'Empires of the Word'- a language history of the world' (Harper-Collins 2005) and 'Ad Infinitum - a biography of Latin' (forthcoming 2007). He also works on the grammar of the Chibcha family of South America. Louanna Furbee is Professor Emerita of Anthropology and Linguistics at the Univer-sity of Missouri, Columbia. Although retired, she still trains graduate students and teaches the occasional class; this semester she is teaching Endangered \Languages. She is pri-marily a Mayanist, having spent a career working on Tojolabal Maya, a language in early endangerment spoken in southern Mex-ico near the Guatemalan border. She has pub-lished a grammar, dictionary and text concor-dance of Tojolabal. At present she is engaged in training five Tojolabal speakers as a lan-guage documentation team for the language. In the last decade she documented Chiwere Siouan, the language of the Otoe-Missouria and Iowa Tribes of Oklahoma, USA, in its last years. She is the Archivist of the Linguistic Society of America and in that capacity she has organised a number of efforts in the past few years to help the LSA assume appropriate roles in endangered language documentation, especially in the electronic archiving of these languages. Among those was a conference on language documentation in 2005, a book from which she is co-editing with Lenore A.Grenoble. She is responsible for the FEL Giving web-site (www. felgivingcatalog. org) and is engaged in preparing radio commer-cials in support of the FEL mission for her local National Public Radio station.
Christopher Hadfield has a degree in lin-guistics and a Master's in Social Anthropol-ogy from Manchester. He has worked at the University of West Bohemia in the Czech Republic and the University of Bordeaux in France. He currently lives and works in the Basque Country, Spain.
FEL Grant Recipients report on their work
The Foundation has just announced its call for grant applications for 2007. Details are available on the Foundation's web-site, www.ogmios.org. Meanwhile, recipients of our awards in previous years have been re-porting back to us on their research. The Foundation aims to encourage research work that will benefit endangered speech communi-ties around the world. Here is one example. Bidisha Som, who was awarded an FEL grant in 2005, has written a report on the documen-tation of the severely endangered Great An-damanese language (Andaman Islands, In-dia). Here are the conclusions of that report:
Bidisha Som, Great Andamanese lan-guage (Andaman Islands, India)
5.1. Summary: Research in endangered languages all over the world takes documentation as their primary focus. When the number of fluent speakers of a language stands at eight to ten at the very best, documenting the lan-guage not only as a structure but also as a mirror image of the society becomes imperative.
The present work set out to write a trilingual dictionary of the Great Andamanese language in the three chosen semantic fields of hunting, gathering, flora-fauna and possession. With that a detailed analysis of this specialized lexicon was also proposed. This analysis sought to elaborate the ethnographic data encoded in the language through the vocabu-lary. Since the Great Andamanese is a se-verely endangered language, it is only normal that a large repertoire of this cultural informa-tion would also be lost. Once the language is lost people will no longer have the tools with which to express ideas and cultural symbol-ism specific only to them. This work is an attempt to document the fast disappearing underlying semantic, pragmatic and ontologi-cal constructs, i.e., cultural primitives of the language. The main chapters present the lexicon of the three above-mentioned semantic fields. They are documented in computerized dictionary format of presenting headword followed by both English and Hindi gloss and part of speech as well as semantic fields/ MOCF/taxonomic strata etc. Where necessary, cultural information is also added.
These chapters also cover the lexico-semantic interpretations of the words in Great Anda-manese representing the three different se-mantic fields of hunting gathering, flora-fauna and possession. The analysis brings out the ethnographic information encoded in the lexi-con of these areas. The Great Andamanese are no longer a hunting gathering community; hence there is a considerable loss of informa-tion in the areas of their cultural heritage that was an integral part of their life style not very long ago. Nothing is more crucial to such a community than the knowledge related to hunting, gathering, and the local flora fauna. And these are the worst affected areas of tra-ditional knowledge system in a changed lin-guistic and cultural scenario, and hence in need of preservation. The semantics of pos-session, specially that of inalienable posses-sion, which includes the body parts and kin-ship terms in any language, is crucial not only as a reflection of the categorization of the human body and human relations in terms of concept formation but also as a tool to under-stand the world as a whole. .
5.2. Major findings:
5.2. 1. Ethnography of the Great Andamanese:
Culture can be regarded as an understanding and cognizance of the entire extra linguistic universe of a people and the expression of it through language. Diversity shown by lan-guages in such expressions, thus, reflects the richness of human thought. The traditional knowledge-system regarding hunting and gathering has lost much of its ontological primitives in the process of lan-guage erosion in case of Great Andamanese. By way of cultural information there was not much to elicit from the Great Andamanese at this point of time. The significance of some specific items is not remembered. The lexicon does not throw any light on the hunting life style except that it was a community with simple material and technological cultures. The names of the hunting implements are collected and presented. Lack of special in-formation structure in this lexicon, perhaps, follows from the fact that there was never a complicated system with too much of ‘tradi-tional knowledge’ involved. This said, how-ever, one cannot account for the absence of a triggering of ‘associated’ knowledge in this field.
The flora and the fauna in Great Andamanese have an extended system of classification and categorization. The chapter on the Great An-damanese flora-fauna shows, through the ethno biological classificatory systems, that the Great Andamanese had developed an elaborate and interesting system of classifying their biological universe. The local flora is divided along the lines of morphological fea-tures and classified into the trees and non-trees. Among the plants in the latter category, any further classification is not very clear, though there are chances of further divisions on the basis of size and shape of the plants under consideration, which is implied in the use of certain classifiers. In the category of fauna, the classificatory system is more easily discernible from the data at this point of time. The major classification of the fauna, it ap-pears from an in-depth analysis of the lexicon, depended on the use and functions of the fauna and not so much on their physical prop-erties. Hence, it is seen that birds and fish form a single super-ordinate category among the fauna, and this category can be roughly translated as the food-animals. Other animals are outside this category. The animals outside this class of food-animals form separate classes depending, mainly, on their physiol-ogy. Thus, snakes form one class whereas worms and other small creatures fall roughly into another category. Reptiles also form a separate class.
The traditional knowledge about the various plants and animals that form the biological surrounding for the Great Andamanese is vast. Knowledge about the usage of these things in the day-to-day life as well as for special purposes very often is fundamental to their classification. Though the medicinal plants are hardly used any more, the lexicon still preserves those pieces of information. There are approximately 10 to 12 varieties of ants and equal number of varieties of crabs that are found in Great Andamanese, each specified by a distinct name. This categoriza-tion is determined by a detailed knowledge of the structure, habitat, practice and their func-tions. Intermixing of lexical entries from various sub-groups of the Great Andamanese notwithstanding, the fine distinctions in any category of animals resulting in a rich vocabulary of the local fauna suggests a rich and subtle knowledge system underlying it.
Possession in Great Andamanese follows the broad divisions of alienable and non-alienable entities. Genitive marker that is added to the pronominal clitic marks the Great Anda-manese nominal possession. The use of the genitive marker depends on the nature of the possessed noun. In case of the alienable nouns, there is only one genitive marker used uniformly for all. But in case of non-alienable possessions, there is a fine distinction of the genitive markers used, determined by the head noun. This category of nouns presents an intriguing picture about their conceptualization. The nouns falling in this category are the body parts and the kinship terms. There is an inventory of four genitive markers for this class of nouns. This same inventory is used for both the various body parts and the differ-ent primary kin terms. Whereas, four different genitive markers are used for four categories of body parts, the kinship terms make use of only three of these different genitives, de-pending on the nature of the relation under consideration. The analysis of the choice of genitives proves that there is a parallel between various body parts and kinship rela-tionships. For example, the major body parts and spouse are considered equivalent and warrants the use of the same genitive marker for both these classes of nouns. Similarly, the body parts pertaining to the mouth and the parental relations are equivalent in their choice of genitives.
5.2.2. Loss of Conceptual Primitives:
Language change and language death are associated with loss of primary conceptual structures that is proven by the chapter on Hunting and gathering. The data collected could hardly suggest any ethnographic infor-mation apart from listing the names of various weapons etc.
5.3. Limitations of the Study:
No research is without its shortcomings. These need to be honestly shared by the re-searcher so that future research can save valu-able time avoiding them as well as strengthen-ing them. It is perhaps, not justified to pronounce a verdict on the language on the basis of a study spanning a short period of time. Linguistic structures may be elicitable within a time frame but it is another matter to map the cultural and ethnographic conceptual structures with linguistic features. Also the thesis chose to analyze three different seman-tic fields, each of which is sufficient challenge to any researcher and hence needs a very de-tailed study in order to be conclusive. As a result, some questions remain. But keeping in mind the serious biological threat to the lan-guage [one of the oldest and most fluent speakers of the language, King Jirake’s recent demise is a constant reminder], along with other factors, one could not help but gather as much information as possible before it is too late.
5.4. A Final Word: Linguistic research has had a very old tradi-tion in India. However, endangered language research is a relatively new field of study here. Work on the Great Andamanese, again, is rather different from working on any other minority language in this country, and that not only because of the sheer notoriety of the linguistic situation as mentioned already, but also because of the time constraint. This work is but a basic step on which future researchers can definitely build up.