Kurtöp is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by approximately 10,000 people in the Kurtö region of northeastern Bhutan. Younger speakers exhibit a preference for speaking Dzongkha, the national language, and English, leading to fears for the long-term survival of the language. Community members estimate the current generation of young adults will be the last generation to speak the language fluently, making the present time crucial for the documentation of Kurtöp. In this doctoral dissertation project, co-PI Gwendolyn M. Lowes of the University of Oregon will undertake a significant onsite work with the language. Natural language data in the form of conversations, folklore, songs and other forms of discourse will be recorded. These oral texts, in conjunction with word-by-word elicitation, will contribute vocabulary to a Kurtöp/English/Dzongkha dictionary.

By including Dzongkha glosses (in traditional 'Ucen and modern Roman orthographies) the proposed dictionary will also be of interest to Bhutanese scholars and Tibetologists interested in the development of Dzongkha from Classical Tibetan and the relationship of these languages to Kurtöp. The proposed dictionary will be of use to the community of Kurtöp speakers who lament the impending loss of their language and wish to have a record of their lexicon for posterity and/or language revitalization programs. By working in collaboration with the community of Kurtöp speakers and the Dzongkha Development Commission in Bhutan, the proposed project aims to effectively produce a dictionary that will meet the needs of these two groups as well as those of the academic community.

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University of Oregon Eugene
United States
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