2016 was a very busy year for the Munda Languages Initiative. Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson travelled to India to lead community trainings, and continued weekly digital collaboration sessions with Living Tongues project coordinator and Mundari speaker Dr. Bikram Jora, as well as Sora speaker and Munda researcher Mr. Opino Gomango. They both reside in India and have been leading field survey efforts there for several years in various different communities. The excellent results of their fieldwork are a strong testament of our vertical integration model of collaboration.
For the Gta’ language, work on a Boasian three (Texts, Lexicon, Grammar) will be finished in late winter 2017, as that project comes to a close. Through a series of community training programs, Dr. Anderson and our local researchers, in collaboration with Gta’ speakers, have collected hundreds of hours of new linguistic and ethnographic data. This data will help reshape our understanding of the pre-history of the tribal belt of highland Middle India.
The Gta’ Talking Dictionary is being expanded by year’s end to include more than 5,000 new entries and 250 ethnobotanical terms. We would like to give a huge shout-out to our collaborators Budura Raspeda and his kinsmen Angara Raspeda, Parboti Raspeda, Lojkong Raspeda and Lachmu Raspeda whose invaluable assistance and patience has made this possible.
For the documentation of the Gutob language, the project is ongoing through 2018, and Dr. Greg Anderson is collecting Gutob texts and lexicon in collaboration with Gutob speakers.
Two short field trips led by Mr. Opino Gomango to the Korku-speaking areas took place in 2016. Small Talking Dictionaries for Parengi-Gorum and Korku hare also underway.
Field surveys led by Dr. Bikram Jora in Munda tribal communities in Jharkhand yielded great results. We have made a nearly complete survey of the Birhor language and we are approaching a nearly complete survey of Bhumij as well. An ongoing survey of Ho is underway.
The Birhor, Bhumij and Ho communities are participating in the vertical integration model of collaboration we have developed in the region. We would like to acknowledge the excellent work accomplished by community participants such Kameshwar Birhor and Madhuri Birhor (Birhor), Gaytri Sardar and Sando Sardar (Bhumij) and Palo Purty and Rinky Purty (Ho).
Also, initial contacts have been made with Turi speakers in Jharkhand as that one moves into the first stage for 2017. Future surveys will cover the remaining ten or so Kherwarian varieties spoken across Jharkhand, northern Odisha, Chhatisgarh, West Bengal, Nepal and Bangladesh.
We have also begun surveying ‘dialects’ of Sora in Odisha. For one such dialect, Juray, in a published study by Anderson and Gomango we have re-confirmed a 35-year old hypothesis that Juray should be considered a distinct language. Two other non-standard ‘dialects’ we are investigating, Sarda-sor and Tenkala-sor, may also turn out to be separate languages, but the data are still being analyzed.
The Sora ‘dialect’ survey is led by Sora speaker Opino Gomango and local Sora activist Indam Mondal, in collaboration with local language activists Bodudev Bodomundi for Tenkala-sor, Dinobandu Gomango for Juray and Warnebik Gomango and Srinivas Gomango for Sarda-sor. (Note that Gomango is a very common title/surname among Sora people, and of the previously mentioned activists with this name, none are actually related to any of the others.)
Opino Gomango presented talks based on a joint study by him and Dr. Anderson on the status and structure of Juray at conferences in Shillong, Meghalaya, India and in Hyderabad and the XXth International Conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages.
Dr. Bikram Jora presented co-authored papers with Dr. Anderson at the large-scale all-India ICOLSI conference in Guwahati, as well as at the Austroasiatic conference in Shillong on Birhor, focusing in the first talk on directional and spatial constructions in Birhor and in the second on the decline of Birhor today due to the detrimental effects of internal neocolonialism and ethno-linguistic hierarchies at play in India.
Dr. Anderson and Dr. Jora were among the invited speakers, each delivering separate papers, at the Austroasiatic Syntax workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A new view of the history of the Munda languages that makes a more nuanced approach to the varied influences that helped shape these languages as they moved from Southeast Asia into South Asia was presented there to a very enthusiastic reception.
Dr. Anderson gave an invited talk on the typology of Munda languages at a workshop in Uppsala, Sweden. He also delivered an invited talk on the elaborate and varied system of reduplication seen in the Munda languages at a workshop in Bremen, Germany.
For detailed background information on the Munda project, read more here.