With reference to T. Sono’s letter “Instead of blah-blah, teach children to speak in mother tongue” (Arunachal Times, Dec 30, 2010). I don’t want to argue much with T. Sono regarding Nefamese.
Nefamese is a naturally evolved dialect because of natural interaction among different tribes. It is not an imposed language. It developed as the north-eastern civilization grew, just as Hindi grew in many parts of North India. Every place has its own style of speaking Assamese. Can the dialect or variant of Assamese in Nalbari be called a duplicate of the Assamese spoken in Sivasagar? In Sivasagar boy means ‘lora’, in Nalbari, it is ‘api’. Even words are different! So there is nothing called duplicate, it is only variety or variation from place to place.
If I begin to write how tribal languages have influenced the language, I have to write an entire thesis. The phonetics of Assamese, Nefamese and Nagamese is due to the influence of Mongoloid languages, or languages of Mongoloid origin and Tibeto-Burman and Tai-Ahom lineage, apart from the Alpine Caucasoids.
All the tribal languages should use the Roman script as it is understood in many parts of the world and we can read each other. Nefamese should also be written in the Roman script so that all tribes can read it and even people from other parts of north-east can access our newspapers, be it small or medium.
As for culture, we can retain it to a large extent if we revive our tribal languages, bring out more song albums and films in our languages and bring down the number of Hindi programmes in TV and radio.
We can also use sub-titles of tribal languages in the respective areas in the TV programmes. If not cinema halls, our tribal language films can be brought out in CD form and can be circulated in homes. Language and culture is inter-related to a large extent. Preservation of language is preservation of culture.
We should use more and more of our indigenous musical instruments when singing and performing on stage. We can ask our students to wear traditional coats and jackets to schools. The boys and girls can dress in jackets of their respective tribes. They will instill a sense of attachment to the roots among children. Parents and teachers should talk to them in their native tribal languages. We should teach our children the hyms sung by our ancestors when praying to God. We may be Christian, Donyi-Polo followers or Buddhists, but we can say our prayers in our tribal languages. There should be singing competition of tribal languages and dances rather than Hindi songs and dance contests.
Papum Pare district, Arunachal Pradesh.