Monday, 30th October 2017

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Vanishing dialect of a primitive tribe

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By SANTOSH K. KIRO
  • Published 28.03.12
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A study on tribal tongues, sponsored by Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL)-Mysore and carried out by scholars and students of Ranchi University, has found the Korwa dialect to be on the verge of extinction.

The Korwas, a primitive tribe mainly concentrated around Gumla district, today communicate either in the local Kurukh language or in Sadri, spoken by tribals and non-tribals alike. Not even the elders of the tribe have any idea of the dialect once spoken by their forefathers.

“With the aim of preparing a Korwa lexicon, we carried out a survey in the Gumla-Garhwa area where the Korwa tribals live. We found that the villagers did not know their language,” said Ganesh Murmu, a teacher at the tribal and regional language department of Ranchi University, who is also the state co-ordinator of CIIL for its tribal lexicon project in Jharkhand.

Korwas are one of the nine primitive tribes of Jharkhand, and they live in the forests of Bishunpur and Chainpur blocks of Gumla district apart from some areas of Garhwa, particularly near the border of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. The region is also home to other primitive tribes like Birhors, Asurs and Birjias, who have managed to keep their distinct dialects alive.

As part of their study, the CIIL team visited Korwa habitats in Gumla and Garhwa about five months ago to collect data words — the first step towards preparing a dictionary.

“After failing to find anyone speaking in Korwa in Jharkhand, our researchers headed for the villages of Surguja district in Chhattisgarh. There they found the Korwas speaking their dialect,” said Murmu.

Murmu, who holds two masters degrees — in zoology and in tribal and regional languages — apart from vast experience in attending international linguistic conferences, was one of the researchers who nearly two years ago had unearthed the existence of Koro — a minority tribal dialect spoken in Arunachal Pradesh.

The CIIL had begun work of preparing an electronic lexicon for tribal and regional dialects of the region way back in 2006. As part of the project, students of the tribal and regional language department of Ranchi University go to far-flung tribal villages to collect data.

The institute completed preparing dictionaries for Santhali, Ho Kharia, Nagpuri, Kurmali and Panchpargania dialects in October last year. In the second phase, the languages that have been taken up are Mundari, Khortha, Kurukh, Korwa, Asur, Birjia, Bhumij, Turi and Malto.

About 3,000 Korwas live in Jharkhand, and their social, economic and educational situation is very poor.