UNT Research, Volume 18, 2009 Page: 44
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Willem de Reuse, adjunct research
professor, received a $40,000 Documenting
Endangered Languages fellowship in
2006 to create an electronic archive of
texts written in Western Apache, which is
mostly spoken on two reservations in central
Arizona. The archive will be completed in
2009. His work also was designated a "We
the People" project by the NEH. De Reuse
previously received six years of NSF fund-
ing to write a reference grammar book and
compile a dictionary of the language.
Sadaf Munshi, assistant professor,
received $12,000 from the NSF as a doc-
toral student at the University of Texas at
Austin to conduct field work for her disser-
tation on a dialect of Burushaski, spoken by
roughly 300 people in Srinagar, her home-
town in Kashmir, India. She has applied for
a Documenting Endangered Languages fel-
lowship to focus on all Burushaski dialects.
According to the Endangered
Language Fund at Yale University, more
than half of the more than 6,000 languages
currently spoken in the world are unlikely
to be learned by future generations.
Languages like Lamkang, which are spoken
in regions with many other languages, are
disappearing because native speakers increas-
ingly speak the region's majority language.
Chelliah says Lamkang is being
increasingly mixed with Meithei.
"In the past, native Lamkang speak-
ers lived in isolated, agricultural villages
and rarely mixed with outsiders," she says.
"Now, a lot of young people leave for
jobs in cities in Manipur, and the language
spoken in the schools is Meithei. Native
speakers of Lamkang use some Meithei
words in their conversations. "
Chelliah began studying Lamkang only
after being introduced to Meithei in graduate
school by a native speaker. She later received
a fellowship from the American Institute of
Indian Studies to live in Manipur and study
Meithei for her doctoral dissertation.
Years later, she collaborated with
Harimohon Thounaojam, a native Meithei
speaker who worked with the Language Cell
of the Manipur government's Directorate of
Education, to publish a grammar guide to
Meithei and a collection of Meithei texts.
In 2005, Thounaojam chose Lamkang as
the subject for his doctoral dissertation, and
Chelliah agreed to work with him again.
"I thought that our research could be
an illustration of possible international col-
laboration between UNT and students in
Manipur who are interested in linguistics
but need technical and methodological
guidance," Chelliah says.
In April 2007, she and Thounaojam
published a grammatical sketch on
Lamkang. The data came from field work
Thounaojam conducted in Lamkang-
speaking villages in Manipur.
('lI I t n \" 1 l 1 K \I i; , -
In the summer of 2007, Thounaojam
came to UNT after Chelliah received a
grant from UNT's Charn Uswachoke
International Development Fund to bring
him to campus. He attended Chelliah's lin-
guistics field methods class, teaching Meithei
grammar and Manipur culture and tradition
to the students.
Now, he and Chelliah are gathering
information about Lamkang culture and
tradition for the computer archive. When
completed in 2010, the archive will include
25 hours of written and audio files of
conversations, monologues, folktales and
other naturally occurring speech patterns
to represent a wide variety of interactions
between native speakers of Lamkang.
"I recorded several conversations be-
tween a father and his adult son, talking to
each other about a festival in their village.
We transcribed and translated the conver-
sations with their help," Chelliah says. "It
is in these natural interactions that the true
structure of the language is revealed."
Lamkang texts that currently exist,
including local laws and translations of
Psalm 23 and biblical parables, also will
be placed in the archive. Chelliah and
Thounaojam will create a corresponding
web site. Visitors to the site will click on
certain links for spoken Lamkang and the
transcription and translation. Through the
site, linguists around the world will study
Lamkang, and schools could use the mate-
rials in textbooks, Chelliah says.
She hopes her research will contrib-
ute to efforts to preserve Manipur's other
minority languages. The region has more
than 30 languages, many of which are spo-
ken by only a few thousand people.
"The Lamkang speakers are grateful
that someone has taken an interest in pre-
serving their language," she says. "Indian
scholars also are realizing that to really get
a picture of the linguistic history of the
region, they need to understand all of its
languages, big and small." U
More than half of the more than 6,000 languages currently spoken in the world
are unlikely to be learned by future generations.
44 SPRING 2009 UNT RESEARCH
S i n t t u du I l r ( h
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