Language Endangerment and Survival

A Case Study of Three Potentially Endangered Languages across the borders between Nepal and India

The BP Koirala Foundation has awarded the Language Technology Kendra a six month contract to study the potential danger that three languages spoken on both sides the border between Nepal and India could become extinct. Most of the worlds 6,900 languagesare in danger of extinction, including the languages of India and Nepal. UNESCO is concerned about this, and has out criteria for language vitality which we will expand and use on this project.

Nepal and India have a great many languages that could be in danger of extinction, and it is important to assess these languages’ vitality and endangerment, and what interventions could be made in order to help the languages survive. We will study language endangerment across the border between Nepal and India through collection of information on three potentially endangered languages (Byangsi, Lapcha, and RanaTharu) representing the two major language families that South Asia’s languages belong to, and from representative regions across the border regions.

We will collect information on the selected languages in terms of the matrix of factors.
  • adapt the UNESCO questionnaire to cover the local context with all factors and their components;
  • gather data through a survey of existing writings about the language;
  • make a one to two week field trip to each of the six language communities, one for each language on each side of the border, and interview members there;
  • interview members of the language community outside their original location, especially in Kathmandu;
Based on results of the above survey we will do a statistical analysis to determine trends, and isolate factors that help in language survival in the context of India and Nepal. This will lead us to
  • provide recommendations for preserving and revitalizing these and other languages
Detailed plans are now being developed , and results will be placed on this website as they emerge.
We expect the following outcomes from this study:
  1. Academically, this study will be the first systematic study of language endangerment in the border regions between Nepal and India, and will provide empirical evidence concerning the claims made about language endangerment at the global level.
  2. Most importantly, this study can help us understand the existing situation and trend of language endangerment in Nepal and northern India and can thus be used by language activists, politicians, educators, and development planners to help the endangered language communities preserve and revitalize their language.
  3. Nepal, a federal country, and India with 22 official languages, can benefit from the findings of this study in introducing languages into administration, basic education and mass media such as FM radio, newspapers, and the internet.
  4. The database and analysis can be exploited in teaching linguistics, especially about language endangerment in South Asia.
  5. This study may serve as a model for investigating several other endangered languages of the region and creating awareness about language loss and maintenance in potentially endangered language communities.