Koro is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by about 1,000 people in Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India. Until recently it was unknown outside this region and was discovered by a team of linguists who are part of the National Geographic’s Enduring Voices Project, which aims to document endangered languages [source].

The linguists started documenting two other little-known languages, Aka and Miji, in 2008, and initially thought that Koro was a dialect of Aka. However they soon realized that Koro was very different from Aka and was in fact a separate language. Koro speakers consider themselves part of the Aka community, and apparently didn’t think they spoke a distinct language [source].

Obrigado to Renato Figueiredo for letting me know about this story.

This entry was posted in Language.

5 Responses to Koro

  1. Brian Barker says:

    Your readers may be interested in the campaign to save endangered and dying languages by the World Esperanto Association. This association enjoys consultative relations with UNESCO.

    The commitment to this aim was made, by the World Esperanto Association at the United Nations’ Geneva HQ in September.

    If you have time please see http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

    The argument for Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

  2. fiosachd says:

    This picture is unclear to me.
    Miju-Mishmi (mxj) [a.k.a. Miji, Kaman] is a Tani, North Assam, Tibeto-Burman language.
    Miji (sjl) [a.k.a. Sajalong] is an unclassified Tibeto-Burman language.
    Hruso (hru) [a.k.a. Aka] is an unclassified Tibeto-Burman language.
    Koro Aka is apparently distinct from Hruso Aka, but at least as closely related to it as Miju-Mishmi is to Idu-Mishmi (clk) and Digaro-Mishmi (mhu).
    Also, Sajalong [a.k.a. Miji (sjl)], Kaman [a.k.a. Miju-Mishmi (mxj)], and Miji (as a distinct language) can also be found listed (along with Digaru and Idu) as Mishmi (i.e. Tani, North Assam, Tibeto-Burman) languages.
    So, there appears to be a base level of similarities between the three ‘unclassified’ languages – Miji, (Hruso) Aka, and Koro (Aka) – and the Tani group, most obvious in Levai, which is either a Hruso Aka dialect, or a separate language more closely related to Miju-Mishmi, which itself may be related to Kuki-Chin, Lepcha, and/or Jingpho.
    Do I have that right?

  3. The fact that the Koro speakers didn’t realize they spoke a different language is fascinating to me. Were they hearing Aka words and just subconsciously translating them into their own vocabulary, or did they mentally accept that their language had more than one lexicon? Or did they just never think about it? My bet’s on the latter. Regardless, this is really cool. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. bronz says:

    I think it’s just the idea and definition of a “separate language.” I’m sure Koro speakers know they speak differently, but what they never thought of is Koro being anything but a dialect of Aka (and the likely reason why it has been categorized that way by outsiders since they get their information from the locals), especially since Koro speakers consider themselves fully Aka as the articles point out, and they’re at least already bilingual anyways. So perhaps it doesn’t seem so strange after all. What the average person’s idea or socio-political idea of a “(separate) language” vs. a “dialect” can be vastly different from a linguist’s point of view, as we know all too well from examples like Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian, the major Chinese “dialects,” and so on. Fieldwork takes tremendous time and resources, so the most endangered languages out there are far from fully analyzed and are always and have definitely been many times subject to recategorization and reanalysis. It really is awesome that they made this discovery. There are just not enough linguists out there to counter the rate of language extinction. Even if Koro weren’t a separate language but still a dialect, every loss of language diversity is still a potential loss of new insight into understanding human language.

  5. Declan says:

    Most natively bilingual people don’t think about the two languages they speak. I know some Irish speakers who learned the difference between Irish and English as they grew older, but were unaware of it earlier. If everyone in the community is like that, nobody ever learns how different what they speak is.

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