KOHIMA, OCTOBER 2
In a bid to foster better communication among Nagas, the Kohima Educational Trust (KET) of UK and its Nagaland counterpart Kohima Educational Society (KES) have launched the first Naga glossary (dictionary) of the 16 recognized tribe languages of Nagaland on Friday in the state capital. The book, titled ‘Key Words: A Glossary of Sixteen Nagaland Languages’ was formally released by the Governor of Nagaland, PB Acharya at a function held in Hotel Japfü, Kohima.
“The multi-lingual glossary, published by the KET, is a contribution to inter-tribal understanding by correlating the equivalents of key words in English and in each of the sixteen languages…… The KET, of which I am Patron, is eager to foster and enable greater understanding between the Naga people, and this book goes a very long way to create the conditions for this to happen in a remote and wonderful part of the world with, and amongst, a nation of people to whom we owe a great debt,” wrote Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, in the foreword to the glossary.
Speaking on the occasion, the Governor PB Acharya asserted that the identity of any society is the language as culture is not only the way of life, but it is deeply rooted in language. Pointing out that Nagaland has 16 important tribes, each with its distinctive identity including dress code, food habits and dialect, he said the KET has done a wonderful job to strengthen the identity of the Naga society by bringing out the glossary.
The Governor talked about preserving and promoting identity and remarked that language carries profound knowledge and the mother-tongue is very important for human development, and as such every child must be given the opportunity to learn and express themselves in their mother-tongue.
He said India has nearly 7 crore tribals and 200 beautiful tribal dialects, and the universities all over the country including Nagaland have a department for foreign languages but till now none of the universities have come up with an idea to start, not even a department for the Indian tribal dialects or teach them. He stated that the mainland people do not know many “beautiful things” about the northeast people, but there is an awakening now and some six universities are going to start teaching tribal dialects particularly from the NE with the Angami dialect as one of 5 selected dialects (6 months course) soon. From this angle, he said, the glossary will go a long way in helping those who aspire to learn Naga dialects.
In his address, KES president Charles Chasie highlighted about how the idea of bringing out a Naga glossary was inspired and the subsequent five years journey it took to see to its fruition.
He said it all started with Dr. Gordon Graham, a veteran of the Battle of Kohima (1944) and founder of the KET, who upon learning that the different Naga tribes communicate in English and Nagamese, suggested that the Nagas should be learning and communicating in Naga languages. It was then that the initiative to select the most common words and phrases that people use in everyday communication and compile them begun, to contribute to better communication among the Naga people.
Chasie said the content was researched and produced with the help of international and local linguistic experts and government official language translators.
The book, he informed, contains about 2900 most common words and phrases and the work remains a glossary as it is not a dictionary in the strict sense of the term. He also mentioned that only the 16 recognized Naga tribe languages were used and expressed apprehension that even within these, some may feel that their languages have been left out, particularly the tribes which are made up of two or more sub-tribes. Towards this, he said, “We are sorry but we did not want to create a possible controversy and so we left it to the wisdom of the government departments that deal with the language issue.”
Chasie stated that the main objectives of the glossary are for Nagas to learn one another’s language and to start communicating in them so as to foster a feeling of oneness and belongingness; help bring better understanding among the people; and that such work would assist researchers and others, but most of all that it may help to protect the Naga tribes’ languages which are all in the vulnerable/endangered list of languages.
He underscored that the work done in the book is not exhaustive and more work will need to be done as well as more people will have to become involved if the objectives are to be achieved.
The KES president also paid a solemn tribute to late Dr. Gordon Graham, saying, “It is very sad that the originator of the idea passed away before we could get the book published. But we are most grateful to the late Gordon Graham, this great friend of the Nagas.” The war veteran is said to have passed away on August 9, 2015 in his home in England.
Chasie also acknowledged all those who were instrumental in making the work possible including New York based lexicographer Charles Levin, British designer Douglas Williamson from Macmillan Books, and Essie Cousins and Sylvia May from Harper Collins, who all gave their services voluntarily, Prof. D Kuolie of Nagaland University (linguistics department), government officials MK Mero and Imkonglemba Ao, Departments of Information & Public Relations and School Education, Kejaroko Pierü and Talie Kuotsu.
He also expressed gratitude to HRH Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, and patron of KET, for the foreword to the book, and the former minister for School Education Nagaland, CM Chang for giving the introductory message of the book, Salisbury & South Wiltshire Branch of the English Speaking Union of Britain and Irmgard & John Churchill of Beaconsfield Press for their specified donations for the glossary.
The KET is a charity founded by British veterans of the Battle of Kohima, to assist education in Nagaland in acknowledgement of “a debt of honour” to the Nagas for their help given to the British troops during the 2nd World War, while the KES is the sister organization and assists the KET by carrying out educational projects in Nagaland.
The book will be available for sale at Rs.600 and anyone willing to buy has been asked to contact the KES on 8575013986/9436001854/9436016574. It was also informed that the entire net sales proceeds of the book will be used to help the education of children in Nagaland.