Previously Unknown Language Identified

NEW YORK, Oct. 5 (UPI) — U.S. field linguists working in the Himalayas say they’ve discovered something increasingly rare — a language previously unknown to science.

Researchers came across the new language — dubbed Koro — along the western ridges of Arunachal Pradesh, India’s northeastern-most state, where more than 120 languages are spoken, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Isolated among craggy slopes and rushing rivers, the hunters and subsistence farmers who speak this rare tongue live in a dozen or so villages of bamboo houses built on stilts.

The language was identified in 2008 during an expedition conducted as part of National Geographic’s Enduring Voices project.

So many world languages have disappeared in recent decades that the naming of a new one commanded scientific attention.

“Their language is quite distinct on every level — the sound, the words, the sentence structure,” said Gregory Anderson, director of the non-profit Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, which directs the project’s research.

With globalization, languages have been vanishing by the hundreds, edged out by English, Chinese and Spanish or suppressed by government practices.

Of the 6,909 known languages, about half are expected to disappear in this century.

Koro, with only about 800 speakers, may be no exception.

“Even though this is new to science, this language is on the way out,” linguist K. David Harrison at Swarthmore College outside Philadelphia said.

Many younger villagers, often educated at boarding schools where only Hindi or English are spoken, are abandoning their parents’ language, he said.

“Young people are not speaking it in the villages,” Harrison said. “If the process continues, Koro will almost certainly become extinct.”

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