Sora

Sora [srb] is South Munda language spoken mainly in Ganjam and Gajapati districts of Orissa, as well as a few other districts of this Indian State, and in adjacent hilly tracts of neighboring Andhra Pradesh State. Though having as many as 300,000 speakers, this is probably only one tenth of the people who (once) identified as Sora ethnically.

Together with the nearly extinct Gorum (Parengi) language, Sora (along with the closely-related Juray (so close linguistically in fact that possibly Juray should be considered an ethnically distinct dialect of Sora)) forms a unique sub-group within the Munda language family. Living Tongues initiated the Sora Talking Dictionary and Online Grammar project in 2005 and this continues today. The project has been led by Opino Gomango since 2008, who is a Sora language activist and also works as the Living Tongues Field Associate and Local Coordinator for Orissa.

Munda languages remain little known, and mis-information about them abounds. For example, the Ethnologue, which due to its many inaccuracies and inconsistencies is unfortunately considered to be the standard reference on the world’s languages, has some typical kinds of inaccurate information about Munda languages, specifically with respect to Sora. For example, in the current (2009) print and on-line versions, the Indo-Aryan language Lodhi is said to be related to Sora when Sora is a Munda language of the Austroasiatic phylum and thus in no sense related to this language.

Sora is a complex language and offers much challenging data to theoretical linguistics in such domains as the nature of ‘noun incorporation’ (fusing of nouns and verbs into verb stems, yielding complex word-sentences) and in the notion of what a ‘finite’ verb is (an inflected grammatical verbal element occurring in main clauses), to name just two salient areas where this is clear.

Living Tongues has been working on the development of a multi-media talking online resource for Sora for the past few years.  It is currently password-protected, but background information on the project can be viewed here, and other Talking Dictionaries of India can be viewed here.

Sora shamanic wall painting, Gumma Hills, Gajapati district, Orissa, india.
Photo by Greg Anderson

 

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