Alarmed at the extinction of numerous languages in developed countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, the Union Government had decided to embark on this massive programme to prevent repetition of the same in India.
CIIL Director Prof Udya Narayana Singh told UNI that the programme would help to protect, promote and develop endangered languages in the country. The CIIL, through the HRD Ministry, had submitted a 400-page report to the Planning Commission on the project, costing Rs 50 crore.
The objectives of the project include visual documentation of life pattern, rituals, dress and other cultural and social habits and audio documentation of performances, folklore and folktales.
Besides, regular study of grammar, preparation of dictionary and textbooks for basic languages training and a bridge text course to enable easy migration to other languages would also be taken up.
Prof Singh said the massive exercise would involve nearly 50 institutions of national repute across the country, including the Directorate of Census, Anthropological Survey of India, tribal academies, language academies and departments of Linguistics and Language Studies of various universities.
He said Toto, Onge, Great Andamanese, Jarwa and Jenu Kuruba were among the large number of small languages in the country that stand to benefit from the project. Great Andamanese was being spoken only by nine people in Andaman and Nicobar islands and 1,200 people speak Toto, a language used in the northern parts of West Bengal. Among the other languages that would come under focus were Tinnai, Karashi, Chinali, Gehri of Himchal Pradesh and Kurmali spoken in parts of Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand, he added.
The 1991 census revealed the existence of 1,576 'mother tongues' with separate grammatical structures and 1,796 languages classified as 'other mother tongues'.
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