Sunday, 14 October 2012

Bishnupriya Manipuri focussed at world meet

GUWAHATI, Oct 13 – The Endangered Language Alliance, the Ethnic Services Round Table of the New York Library Association and the New York Public Library joined forces to raise awareness about minority languages in danger and organised the Endangered Languages Fair in the New York Public Library premises in downtown New York on September 29. The event got excellent response from masses and experts alike. Participants learnt about the significance of minority languages and the efforts being made worldwide to preserve them, besides hearing about several languages throughout the world from speakers involved in preserving and celebrating them. This was stated in a press release.

Daniel Kaufman, Linguist and Founder of the Endangered Language Alliance, discussed some of New York's endangered linguistic communities and their languages as well as showing recent video pieces from a collaboration with Google’s Endangered Language Programme on the languages of Timor.

K David Harrison, linguist, author of The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Most Endangered Languages and a leader of the National Geographic's Enduring Voicesproject who has spent the past decade working with speakers of some of the world’s smallest and most endangered languages in locations in Siberia, India, Chile, the US and elsewhere, also addressed the audience in an hour long session.

Many languages were discussed, from smaller languages of the Americas such as Ojibwe and Garifuna, lesser-known European language Circassian, Jewish languages like Yiddish, Ladino and others, and the Celtic languages like Irish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton. The Indo-Aryan language Bishnupriya Manipuri, which has been listed as a ‘vulnerable’ language by UNESCO, was discussed at length in an exclusive session and was addressed by Uttam Singha, founding member of POURI International. Singha is a widely renowned expert on Bishnupriya Manupuri language, culture and history. He presented some salient features of Bishnupriya Manipuri language, its roots, influences of both Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burman language characteristics, etc. Daniel Kaufman also shed some light upon a few key aspects of the language like ‘classifiers’ and ‘tripartite case system’. He feels that there are some aspects of the language which might have not been explored in detail yet and that there is definitely some scope for research.

Uttam Singha later gave a brief about the Bishnupriya Manipuri people and their culture, like different dance forms, ornaments that they wear, etc. Next, he spoke about the struggle for recognition of the Bishnupriya Manipuris and how Late Sudeshna Sinha laid down her life in this struggle. Today Bishnupriya Manipuri is recognised by the governments of Assam and Tripura, and the language has been introduced in primary education in these two States, he told the audience.

He also spoke about some of the early pioneers of Bishnupriya Manipuri community like Sri Sri Bhubaneshwar Sadhu Thakur and Gokulananda Gitiswami, and modern greats like Justice SK Sinha of Bangladesh and renowned litterateur Brojendra Kumar Sinha. He paid a glowing tribute to Late Dr Kali Prasad Sinha, one of the most recognised linguists who studied the Bishnupriya Manipuri language in great depth and detail. He also mentioned about Dr Ranjit Singha of Bangladesh, another language researcher, author and professor.

Singha mentioned how Bishnupriya Manipuri language faces threat from various factors like emigration of people and adoption of major languages like Bengali, Assamese, Hindi and English by more and more people, particularly the younger generation, as their first language. Due to these factors, the user-base of Bishnupriya Manipuri language might start shrinking in near future if it hasn’t already.

In addition, he discussed about various measures of language revitalisation and the role of Governments, technology, media like radio, television and theatre, and different organisations like SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics). Recently various local and national television channels in Bangladesh and India have been broadcasting Bishnupriya Manipuri programmes. Above all, Singha stressed on the role of new media in the revitalisation process. To cite a few examples, he mentioned how Bishnupriya Manipuri language has one of the highest content in Wikipedia (bpy. among Indian language, with more than 15,000 articles in Bishnupriya Manipuri languages so far. Also Bishnupriya Manipuris are very active on social media platforms on the internet like Facebook, where there are active community groups like Bishnupriya Manipuri Discussion Forum discussing about community related issues and creating awarenessabout the language, culture and literature of the community. There are many community-related websites and blogs today like,,,, etc.

The session ended with a quick question and answer session where Singha addressed the queries of the audience. He thanked the Endangered Language Alliance and the rest of the organisers for providing a platform like this for minority languages and congratulated everyone including the other speakers and the audience for such a wonderful event. He also thanked the team of Bishnupriya Manipuri Discussion Forum for taking such a brilliant initiatives for getting the participation in the Endangered Language Fair successfully, the release added.

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