Centre for endangered languages in limbo

A proposal to set up a Centre for Endangered Languages of Kerala (CELK), initiated by the Department of Linguistics University of Kerala and cleared by the University Grants Commission in 2014, still remains on paper, thanks to bureaucratic inertia in the varsity.

The centre was to have generated an ethno-linguistic profile of all 36 tribal languages in Kerala.


Documentation of these languages, including at least 200 pages of script for each language, was also to have been done.

Over and above this, a complete database of all tribal languages in the State was also to have been an outcome of a survey by the proposed centre.

A recent study by the department — based on the UNESCO’s method of Language Vitality and Endangerment — found that while four tribal languages were “relatively safe,” 14 were “definitely endangered,” two “severely endangered,” and 10 “critically endangered.”

The languages “Aranadan,” Mahamalasar, Koraga, Paliya, and Eravallam are among those that have been deemed critically endangered.

The proposed survey, among other things, was to have measured the absolute number of speakers of a language, the proportion of speakers within the local population, availability of material for language education and literacy, the attitude of community members towards their own language and the type and quality of documentation.

Based on this survey, the proposed centre would have prepared a linguistic map of Kerala.

Trilingual dictionaries

In addition to this, the selected five languages were to have been documented with ethnographic, grammatical, lexical, and folklore contents. Also in the pipeline is the development of five trilingual dictionaries (English-Malayalam-tribal language). The dictionaries, along with the linguistic map of Kerala, were to have been uploaded on to the Internet.


“Two other departments who applied for such a centre after us have already got the necessary clearance from their respective universities and have already started the centres. “Our university is yet to give the necessary clearance for setting up the Rs.3-crore centre,” a department official said.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 2:49:59 PM |

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