UK bridge to rare tongues

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 13.12.10
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London, Dec. 12 (PTI): Cambridge University has launched a project to provide public access to languages in India and elsewhere that are in danger of disappearing as spoken traditions.

University researchers have developed the open database for the World Oral Literature Project on the website www.oralliterature.org.

The projects include ethnographic documentation, through digital video photography, of the literature and culture of the Mudugar and Kurumbar communities in Palakkad district of Kerala.

Another India-based project is the recording of a 20-hour ballad about the life and adventures of Tejaji, the snake deity, sung by the Mali (gardener) community in Thikarda village of Rajasthan’s Bundi district, along with documentation of Tejaji customs and traditions in the state’s Hadoti region.

The recordings will be transcribed and translated from the Hadoti tongue into Hindi and English and distributed as a book and a DVD.

The entire project relates to 3,524 world languages, from those deemed “vulnerable” to those that, like Latin, remain well understood but are moribund or extinct, university sources said.

Other Asia-based projects include a yearlong scheme to collect, record, transcribe and translate Torwali oral literature with the full participation of the community in Pakistan.

“At present, the world has more than 6,500 living languages, of which up to half will cease to exist as spoken vernaculars by the end of the century,” said Mark Turin, director of the World Oral Literature Project.