Endangered languages in Karnataka rising – TOI,Interview By ND Shiva Kumar | TNN | Aug 10, 2013, 10.45 PM IST

Endangered languages in Karnataka rising – TOI,Interview By ND Shiva Kumar | TNN | Aug 10, 2013, 10.45 PM IST

BANGALORE: The number of endangered tribal languages in Karnataka is growing. A survey has identified at least 10 languages as endangered and goes on to say that many more unrecorded languages could be facing a similar fate.

According to the Census, Karnataka has 50 tribal languages, besides the speakers of 22 Scheduled languages. It means, at least 72 languages are spoken in the state.

A survey conducted by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI), which has conducted a nation-wide survey of Indian languages, 10 languages spoken by – Koraga, Irula, Soliga, Badaga, Yerava, Gouli, Bettakuruba, Jenukuruba, Siddi and Hakki Pikki – in the state are endangered.

The survey has examined and recorded 42 languages. Karnataka is one of the few states, which has a great variety when it comes to languages. For instance, Varli language speakers, who are settled in Bijapur and Belgaum, are just 165, while Chenchu speakers, settled in Gulbarga and Yadgir districts account for just 470. Dakkhani Urdu took birth in Karnataka, after the Mughals shifted their capital from Delhi to Devagiri. Experts vouch for the influence of Dakkhani Urdu on Sufism.

Linguists express concern that loss of a language is the loss of a knowledge system, life system and ecology.

All tribal languages are endangered. Due to the constraints, we couldn’t conduct field studies and record the status of all languages in the state. For instance, we have only recorded the grammatical structure of seven minority languages – Tulu, Kodava, Konkani, Dakkhani, Banjara, Sanketi and Beary. There are other minority languages like the Tibetan,” said Prof H M Maheshwaraiah of Karnatak University, who is the editor of the volume on the languages of Karnataka.

Of the 10 endangered languages, Siddi and Hakki-Pikki are classified as ‘critically endangered’ (if a language is not spoken by the younger generation of a community, it is termed so). They spoke a mix of Konkani, Kannada and Hindi. But, they are now losing their originality and turning to either Kannada or Hindi,” said Maheshwaraiah,

Professor Kikkeri Narayan, former professor at the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, expresses concern over the rate at which the tribal languages are disappearing and attributes it to neo-imperialism. He explains the predicament of the Jenu Kuruba language, which is termed as ‘potentially endangered’ (those languages which are used by less than 10,000 people are termed so). The tribe has around 35,000 people in Hunsur, HD Kote and Kodagu. Since 1974, five dams have been built in the region. The deforestation and displacement for these projects has affected their lives a great deal. I know of a people in a haadi (settlement), who were displaced eight times in two years. Due to these hardships and with increased awareness, they are migrating in search of better opportunities,” said Kikkeri Narayan, who has observed and studied the Jenu Kuruba tribe for the last 35 years.

Litterateur and lexicographer Prof G Venkatasubbaiah says those minor languages, which do not have a script of their own and which are facing neglect are in the danger of extinction. Those languages, which has less than one lakh speakers, face the threat of endangerment. But, they could be rescued through support and development,” he said.

The PLSI is publishing the 290-page volume on the languages of Karnataka, which records the history and culture of the language and the state, besides the classical nature, structure and domain use of the language among other details. The Kannada version is being published by Akshara Prakashana of Heggodu and the English version by Orient BlackSwan.

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