The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jul 22, 2011


We focused our attention on Aka (also called Hruso)—with a total number of speakers estimated under 2,000—as a perfect case study of a small language currently existing in a fragile equilibrium yet already showing signs of possible endangerment that could lead to eventual extinction.
Aka is already in decline among some segments of the community and is being abandoned by some in favor of Hindi. But we observed other members of the community—language activists—making strategic efforts to widen the use of the language and thus prevent its decline. We witnessed creative uses such as the performance of songs (including in the hip-hop genre, performed by Sange Nimasow, age 20+), and the telling of traditional stories and sayings by elder members of the community (Nyetom Nimasow, age 60+). Efforts such as theirs will help determine the future of Aka, which has little socio-economic value outside the half dozen remote villages where it is spoken.
Aka has much to teach science: For example, it has a phenomenally complex sound system that is not typical for languages of the region. We were also able to obtain a thorough photographic documentation of the culture—including traditional activities such as barley harvesting, house-building, hunting, musical performance, and traditional cultural celebrations.
(From National Geographic's "Synopsis of Enduring Voices Expedition to Arunachal Pradesh", India, November 2008)


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