More on Koro language.
Undocumented language found hidden in India
 AP – This undated handout photo provided by National Geographic shows Kachim, 
speaker of the hidden language … 

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer Randolph E. Schmid, Ap Science Writer 
Wed Oct 6, 7:31 am ET
WASHINGTON – A "hidden" language spoken by only about 1,000 people has been 
discovered in the remote northeast corner of India by researchers who at first 
thought they were documenting a dialect of the Aka culture, a tribal community 
in the foothills of the Himalayas.
They found an entirely different vocabulary and linguistic structure.
Even the speakers of the tongue, called Koro, did not realize they had a 
distinct language, linguist K. David Harrison said Tuesday.
Culturally, the Koro speakers are part of the Aka community in India's 
Pradesh state, and Harrison, associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore 
College, said both groups merely considered Koro a dialect of the Aka language.
But researchers studying the groups found they used different words for body 
parts, numbers and other concepts, establishing Koro as a separate language, 
Harrison said.
"Koro is quite distinct from the Aka language," said Gregory Anderson, director 
of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. "When we went there 
were told it was a dialect of Aka, but it is a distant sister language."
People of the Aka culture live in small villages near the borders of China, 
Tibet and Burma (also known as Myanmar). They practice subsistence hunting, 
farming and gathering firewood in the forest and tend to wear ornate clothing 
hand-woven cloth, favoring red garments. Their languages are not well known, 
though they were first noted in the 19th century.
The region where they live in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains requires 
special permit to enter. There, the researchers crossed a mountain river on a 
bamboo raft and climbed steep hillsides to to reach the remote villages, going 
door-to-door among the bamboo houses that sit on stilts.
Harrison and Anderson spoke at a news conference organized by the National 
Geographic Society, which supported their work.
The northeast corner of India is known as a hotspot of language diversity and 
researchers were documenting some of the unwritten tongues when they came 
Koro in research started in 2008.
[Related: Hidden language unearthed in Peruvian letter]
The timing of their discovery was important.
"We were finding something that was making its exit, was on its way out. And if 
we had waited 10 years to make the trip, we might not have come across close to 
the number of speakers we found," said Anderson.
Previously undocumented languages are "noticed from time to time" Harrison 
so such a discovery is not rare. But at the same time linguists estimate that a 
language "dies" about every two weeks with the loss of its last speakers.
Counting Koro there are 6,910 documented languages in the world, Harrison said. 
But he added that is really just a best estimate that can change regularly.
Many languages around the world are considered endangered, including Koro, he 
explained, because younger people tend to shift to the more dominant language 
a region.
Unusually, Koro has been maintained within the Aka community, the researchers 
said, even though there is intermarriage and the groups share villages, 
traditions, festivals and food. In addition to the estimated 800 to 1,200 Koro 
speakers, the West Kameng and East Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh 
4,000 to 6,000 Aka speakers.
The Koro speakers "consider themselves to be Aka tribally, though 
they are Koro. It's an unusual condition, such arrangement doesn't usually 
for maintenance of the minor language," Anderson said. 

The threat, however, is from the spread of Hindi, a dominant language in India, 
and many youngsters go to boarding schools where they learn Hindi or English. 

The researchers said they hope to figure out how the Koro language managed to 
survive within the Aka community. 

They said Koro is a member of the Tibeto-Burman language family, a group of 
400 languages that includes Tibetan and Burmese. While Koro differs from Aka, 
does share some things with another language, Tani, which is spoken farther to 
the east. 

The research was started in 2008 to document two little known languages, Aka 
Miji, and the third language, Koro, was discovered in that process. 

"We didn't have to get far on our word list to realize it was extremely 
different in every possible way," Harrison said. 

They said Koro's inventory of sounds was completely different, and so was the 
way sounds combine to form words. Words also are built differently in Koro, as 
are sentences. 

The Aka word for "mountain" is "phu," while the Koro word is "nggo." Aka 
speakers call a pig a "vo" while to Koro speakers, a pig is a "lele." 

"Koro could hardly sound more different from Aka," reported Harrison, author of 
a new book "The Last Speakers," about vanishing languages. Joining the two was 
linguist Ganesh Murmu of Ranchi University in India. 

The researchers detail Koro in a scientific paper to be published in the 
Indian Linguistics. 
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