Runglwo: An endangered oral language undergoing a much awaited Paradigm Shift – “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi

Abstract 28: Runglwo: Undergoing a much awaited Paradigm Shift

Paper presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi


Linguistic Empowerment Cell, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


In their quest to learn about their new colonies, Imperialists sent their envoys that included missionaries, anthropologists and sociologists to investigate the languages and cultures of the colonies. It was thus through the need of such colonizers that Runglwo was first recorded. Runglwo has three variants (Byangbalwo, Bhyankolwo and Darmalwo) and UNESCO recognizes it as a severely endangered language.  Its speakers are the Rungmung or Shaukas from the remote Himalayan town of Dharchula. The community practices vertical transhumance and moves from its base to other regions that include areas in India, Nepal, Tibet and China. Their demography is less than 8,000 and consists of a generation that has moved on or is moving to other Indian cities in its quest for better education and job opportunities. The Rung still follow their elaborate rituals related to birth, marriage and death but they are finding it difficult to pass their ancestral oral language to their children. Runglwo’s survival is therefore at peril. Realizing this, the present generation is applying technology especially from the cellular/mobile world in assimilating and recording the language from among its elders. They have recently been able to get their state government of Uttarakhand to recognize the need of teaching Runglwo in the schools located in their region. The endangered oral language is now going through a major paradigm shift. Though Runglwo is classified under the Tibeto-Burman language family, the elders of the community are choosing the Devanagri script as education was initially introduced to them through the medium of Hindi. This is understandable as most inhabitants residing in Dharchula prefer Hindi. On the other hand, there are many from the next generation preferring the Roman script. Majority are going with the flow as they understand the need of the hour and would rather have work done in any script if it leads to the preservation and possible language regeneration among the next generation of speakers of Runglwo.    

BIONOTE: Sandesha Rayapa-Garbiyal, Assistant Professor at JNU’s Linguistic Empowerment Cell (LEC), specializes in the area of English Language Teaching (ELT). With a Masters in Linguistics and on-going research focusing on Syllabus Design for Communication Skills, she aims to use her experience for running positive, focused and energised classes. For over a decade, she has gained experience in planning and developing curriculum in both ‘English as a Second Language’ (ESL) as well as ‘English as a Foreign Language’ (EFL) scenarios. She has also conducted a Communication Skills workshop at IIT, Delhi and prepared candidates for various examinations such as IELTS, GMAT and CAT. She may be contacted at the email ID:

Source: Book of Abstracts for the ICSSR-sponsored Two-Day National Conference Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative organised by The Department of English & Outreach Programme Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi, 27-28 February 2017)

Courtesy Dr. Ivy Hansdak, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia University New Delhi (email 4 October 2017)

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Table of the number of endangered languages with the states that they are spoken in according to India Today | Learn more >>

Indian states No. of languages Endangered Languages
Andaman and Nicobar Islands 11 Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Lamongse, Luro, Muot, Onge, Pu, Sanenyo, Sentilese, Shompen and Takahanyilang
Manipur 7 Aimol, Aka, Koiren, Lamgang, Langrong, Purum and Tarao
Himachal Pradesh 4 Baghati, Handuri, Pangvali and Sirmaudi
Odisha 3 Manda, Parji and Pengo
Karnataka 2 Koraga and Kuruba
Andhra Pradesh 2 Gadaba and Naiki
Tamil Nadu 2 Kota and Toda
Arunachal Pradesh 2 Mra and Na
Assam 2 Tai Nora and Tai Rong
Uttarakhand 1 Bangani
Jharkhand 1 Birhor
Maharashtra 1 Nihali
Meghalaya 1 Ruga
West Bengal 1 Toto

The Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, has been working for the protection and preservation of endangered languages in India under a central scheme […]

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Source: International Mother Language Day: 42 Indian languages heading towards extinction, India Today, 21 February 2018
Date visited: 21 July 2020

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