Endangered Indian languages face threat of extinction

According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) report published a decade back, 197 languages in India, including Tai Phake, are considered endangered. Image - Prathap Ravishankar

On the banks of Burhi Dihing river, a tributary of Brahmaputra in eastern Assam, resides a group of tribals called Phakials. Originally from south China, a small section of the tribe had in 1775 crossed the Pat Kai hills of Myanmar and settled in Assam. More than two hundred years later, there are just about 150 families left of the community in the village.

With that number, they also face another threat — that of the extinction of their mother tongue — Tai Phake, which belongs to the Thai sub-group of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages.

Despite efforts, preservation of the language has taken a beating, as most people in the community are bilingual, speaking Assamese too, to engage with the outside world. Tai Phake is used only within the house or the community.

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