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Nagaland

Dialect-losing Nagaland needs language policy, says university

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By Our Correspondent Updated: Feb 22, 2019 12:03 am
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Students sing a folk song during the International Mother Language Day programme at Nagaland University, on Tuesday in Kohima.

Our Correspondent
Kohima, Feb. 21 (EMN): Nagaland, a state rich in native dialects yet slowly losing its cultural stakes to coarse lingua franca such as “Nagamese,” is in need of a language policy. The state’s official language is English. But curious aspects of communication among the communities such as ‘Nagamese’ becoming the first language for some native Nagas means that these natives no longer speak any language, academicians and students at a Nagaland University programme were told.
In conclusion, Ezung said that the ‘language scenario’ in the state “calls for good language planning, for a language policy can either worsen or improve the growth or existence of a language.”
The Kohima campus of Nagaland University, observed International Mother Language Day (Year of Indigenous Language) in the college’s library, on February 21.

International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The UN’s page about the event states that at least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered.

Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world, it stated. Every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage, UN states.

The university’s programme was organised by the Forum on the Naga Languages, Centre for Naga Tribal Language Studies, department of Tenyidie, and the department of Linguistics of the university.

Dr. Mimi Kevichusa Ezung, the head of the department of Tenyidie delivered the keynote address. She presented a paper, “Status of the Languages in Nagaland:An introspection.”

Ezung pointed out that “there are around 90 indigenous languoids spoken in Nagaland” in which 18 languages are recognised. Out of the 18 languages, four—Tenyidie, Ao, Lotha, and Sümi—are taught till class 12.
The university offers a Tenyidie course at Ph.D level.

“The state accommodates English as the official language, and Nagamese as the lingua franca (a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different),” Ezung said.

“Nagamese is a first language for some native Nagas means that these natives no longer speak any of the languages,” she said.
In conclusion, Ezung said that the ‘language scenario’ in the state “calls for good language planning, for a language policy can either worsen or improve the growth or existence of a language.”

The pro vice-chancellor for Nagaland University’s Kohima campus, Professor RC Nayak, was the guest of honour for the event.
Emphasising on the vitality of Mother Tongue, he said “everything comes from the mother” including a child behaviour, language, actions etc. He lamented that languages were vanishing fast. Almost 30 languages are dying every year, Nayak said.

If such a trend continues the world will be left with just a few languages, he said.
It is “very difficult” to preserve one’s language in the phase of universal language—English. Yet “we are trying our best to protect the languages.” He encouraged the participants to “value strongly” one’s Mother Tongue and to endeavour to preserve it.

The dean of School of Social Sciences of the university, Prof. N Venuh also addressed the programme. In his address to the gathering, he spoke about the importance of Mother tongue: “You are nobody” once a person forgets their Mother Tongue. In addition, a person’s identity and culture is gone, he said.

Expressing dismay at the rate of communication in Mother Tongue in schools and colleges, particularly in towns, he said that hardly major tribal languages are spoken.

“We feel superior learning other languages than Mother Tongue,” Venuh said. One must encourage Mother Tongue whether it is in written form or verbal, the gathering was told. That way, the professor said, one can preserve language and give it recognition.

Saying that people will respect only when one has a cultural identity and culture, he urged the people to preserve and promote their respective dialects.

The event saw the promotion of native dialects in the form of poetry reading, stories and folk tales by students. Further, they sang also folk songs in different tribal dialects of the Naga people.

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By Our Correspondent Updated: Feb 22, 2019 12:03:26 am