The Nelikolu Charitable Trust, which has been spearheading a campaign to document the language of the Badagas — the single largest ethnolinguistic group residing in the Nilgiris, has initiated steps to protect the language of the group from extinction.
“According to the UNESCO survey on endangered languages, the language of the Badagas is in the third of the five stages towards extinction – the definitely endangered stage,” said R. Sivakumar, secretary of the Nelikolu Mother Tongue Protection Co-ordination Committee.
Recently, a discussion was held in Udhagamandalam involving N. Sunderadevan, Additional Chief Secretary (Retired), and R.K. Haldorai, from the Directorate of Tamil Etymological Dictionary Project, who detailed the issues.
Following the session, a four-pronged approach was advocated for the protection of the Badaga language.
The strategy includes measures “to create awareness among the community about the importance of one’s mother tongue. This propaganda should be conducted in such a way so that it reaches almost all the Badaga households. Its primary focus should be on eradicating the ignorance that the Badaga language does not have the status of another tongue due to its lack of a script of its own. The idea should be driven home that Badagas speak the Badaga language at home and in their hamlets,” the press release said.
The initiative also aims to prepare primary school lessons for children in the Badaga language so that they can learn their lessons in school using their own mother tongue.
“To address the issue of lack of a script for the Badaga language, the Trust has developed a writing system for the Badaga language through the Tamil script by slightly modifying four letters in the Tamil alphabet to suit the phonetic requirements of Badaga language. Using this script, the Trust has already published quite a few ballads and stories…above all, a state-of-the-art Badaga-Tamil-English trilingual dictionary running to more than 900 pages has been compiled and is named ‘maatterisi’. In this dictionary, Badaga words have been written both in Tamil (including the four modified letters) and Roman letters,” the press release added.
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