Photo: Abamu Degio watches a recording of herself

Abamu Degio (left) watches a recording of herself singing a traditional Koro song with Anthony Degio (center) and K. David Harrison (right). Yangse / Bana 3km, East Kameng District, Arunachal Pradesh.

Photograph by Jeremy Fahringer

The Enduring Voices team made its third expedition to Arunachal Pradesh, India in November 2010. The team consisted of Dr. K. David Harrison (National Geographic), Dr. Ganesh Murmu (Ranchi University) and Jeremy Fahringer (Enduring Voices project manager), accompanied by National Geographic Magazine photographer Lynn Johnson.

We continued our documentation of Koro, a Tibeto-Burman language that is also endangered, having an estimated 600-800 speakers. Until recently, Koro was a "hidden" language, not acknowledged in the scientific literature or by local and national political structures as being a distinct language. It has been identified in all prior sources as being a dialect of Hruso Aka, the language spoken by the more dominant local community. Our work establishes Koro as a distinct tongue.

The Koro language reflects a rich material culture and local biodiversity. Our team collected several thousand words, including names for parts of traditional bamboo houses, names for different types of beads, names for local fish, plants and other species that are used for nutrition or medicines. Koro elders related origin myths, stories about tiger hunting, and songs. We accompanied Koro experts to the rice fields, on walks in the jungle, and to other locations where they discussed and we videotaped culturally important topics. We also were able to witness for the first time the written use of Koro (which is primarily an oral language). Our team recorded more than 5 hours of video, 2.5 hours of audio and took about 2100 photographs and 200 pages of notes.

Going door to door in five villages, we also collected information on the locations, ages, and degrees of fluency of speakers. This allowed us to assess the current state of endangerment of the language.

One young Koro man, Anthony Degio, age 23, told us about his desire to see the Koro language revitalized:

As far as the Koro language is concerned… It is a saying that loss of culture is loss of identity. That means if we lose our culture, then certainly we are losing our identity. So, we must continue our Koro language, continue our traditional customs and languages and follow our forefathers' teachings.

The Enduring Voices team will return to India in 2011 to continue working with the Koro community on language documentation and revitalization.

* We thank the following language consultants: In Palizi village Anthony Degio (Koro), Sange Degio (Koro), Ramda Degio (Koro, Aka), Khandu Degio (Aka), Kumshi Parisow (Aka), Shigi Nimasow (Aka), Biga Nimasow (Aka), in Bana 3km / Yangse Lawa Degio (Koro), Mabo Yame (Koro), Abamu Degio, Moreng Degio, Sankole Degio; in Kadeya village Katia Yame (Koro), Nuklu Dore (Koro); in Kajõ village Loma Richo, Nerpo, Chagɨm Miji, Yaro Richo, Pema Degio; in Kichang village Para Yame.

Download a pdf version of the Arunachal Pradesh, India Expedition.

Share

Related Features

  • Photo: Mr. Dorji Khandu Thongdok, gambura of Thungri village

    Arunachal Pradesh, India Expedition 2011

    Read the full report from the Enduring Voices team's 2011 expedition to Arunachal Pradesh, India, where they visited five endangered language communities.

  • Photo: Ana Celia Guenteo Rain

    Chile Expedition

    The Enduring Voices team traveled to Chile to assess the current status of an endangered South American language, Huilliche. Read their findings about why Huilliche is much more endangered, at least in some communities, and the overall number of speakers lower than previously reported.

  • youtube-enduring-voices-promo.jpg

    Enduring Voices Launches YouTube Channel

    Using YouTube as a platform, researchers, academics, and communities can now collaborate more effectively on promoting language revitalization. Endangered languages that may have never been heard outside of a remote village can now reach a global audience.

  • Speakers of a ''hidden'' language speak with researchers.

    Hidden Language Recorded

    A language previously unknown to linguists, and spoken by about 800 people has been documented in the mountains of northeast India. Researchers with National Geographic’s Enduring Voices project recorded the Koro language for the first time.

  • Photo: Greg Anderson

    Gregory Anderson, Linguist

    Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson is a linguist who is director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the documentation, revitalization, and maintenance of endangered languages.

Meet the Team

  • Photo: Greg Anderson

    Gregory Anderson, Linguist

    Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson is a linguist who is director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the documentation, revitalization, and maintenance of endangered languages.

  • Photo: David Harrison

    David Harrison, Linguist

    K. David Harrison is a linguist and leading specialist in the study of endangered languages. He co-leads the Enduring Voices project at National Geographic and is an associate professor at Swarthmore College.

  • Photo: Chris Rainier, photographer

    Chris Rainier,
    Photographer

    Chris Rainier is considered one of the leading documentary photographers working today. His life's mission is to put on film both the remaining natural wilderness and indigenous cultures around the globe and to use images to create social change.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

Living Tongues

The Enduring Voices Project represents a partnership between National Geographic Mission Programs and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Talking Dictionaries

  • Image: Tuva flag

    Hear the world's rarest languages for yourself in the Talking Dictionaries that the Enduring Voices Project has created with various communities around the world.

Support Enduring Voices

Ethics Statement

The Last Speakers

  • Photo: Cover of "Last Speakers" book

    The Last Speakers

    The poignant chronicle of K. David Harrison’s expeditions around the world to meet with last speakers of vanishing languages.

     

    "The Last Speakers" is now published in Japanese. Read the interview with Dr. Harrison here and purchase the Japanese edition here.

Order the English Edition »