The Telegraph
Saturday , February 15 , 2014
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A dictionary in Birhor?
- Mysore mission to preserve primitive tongue, protect tribe identity

Thanks to the Centre, there is now hope that the language of Birhors, a primitive tribe of, will survive the test of time.

At the behest of Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore, a three-member team is in the state to conduct research on Birhors and come out with pictograms, dictionaries, an encyclopaedia and documentation based on their culture.

The team, comprising S. Imtiaz Hasnain of Aligarh Muslim University, Sangeeta Sarkar of Calcutta University and Farooq Ahmed Mir of Kashmir University, have taken up the project for CIIL under the aegis of the HRD ministry’s Scheme for the Preservation and Protection of Endangered Languages (SPPEL).

“SPPEL was launched last year as a part of the 12th Five Year Plan and we started working on the project from November. The main objective is to preserve the dying language,” said Hasnain, a faculty member of linguistics at Aligarh Muslim University.

“The problem is that communities exist. But speakers are dwindling and the language is on the verge of extinction. Our team is trying to gather as much data as possible on the language,” he added.

Hasnain and his team, who are being supported by Tribal Cultural Society, Tata Steel and Karim City College, have also taken up research in two tribal languages of Himachal.

The Centre has identified 500 endangered languages. These are spoken by 10,000 or less people as per the 2001 Census.

Hasnaian said Birhor and other Chotanagpuri languages fall under the category of Austroasiatic Languages in India. Other broad categories include Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman and Andamanese and Nicobarese.

Birhors prefer to speak the language at home. But even they had forgotten the proverbs, riddles and myths associated with their culture.