This project provides for one year of field documentation of two Munda languages spoken in Orissa State, India, by a combined population of fewer than 3,000 people. The new field recordings will complement a collection of legacy materials already held by the PI. They will also be entered into an existing comparative lexical database of Munda. These data will support a variety of research goals such as the reconstruction of proto-Munda, typological studies in various domains, (e.g., theoretical models of incorporation and complex predicates). The goals are both micro-level (careful transcription and data-driven analysis of recorded speech data) and macro-level (large typological generalizations which may shed light on the evolution of the Austroasiatic language family and theories of morphosyntax).

The project will raise awareness of these languages and the communities that speak them. The project will be hosted by the Department of Tribal and Regional Languages, Ranchi University, India It will bring foreign linguists and Indian scholars together to build capacity through training, enhancing the prestige of these endangered languages, and having a positive effect on language revitalization efforts, should the community choose to pursue these. The project contributes to both local institutions and the native communities in the form of resources, archiving, and knowledge transfer.

Project Report

The purpose of grant #0853877 was to begin an online documentation of the Remo (Bonda) language of Orissa, India in the form of a talking online dictionary and an online sketch grammar. The original focus of the project as reflected in its title (never which was changed in official National Science Foundation databases) was on two languages Remo and Turi. Turi was dropped at the request of the program officer of the Documenting Endangered Languages program as outlined in our award letter of January 2010. Originally intended to be a three-year project, the award was ultimately for one year and one fifth of the needed amount. Field trips to Orissa to collect data took place in September-October 2010, December 2010 and February-March 2011. The last two months of the award period focused on data-processing, and on developing programs for the talking dictionary and the online sketch grammar. Remo has had no previous presence on the internet and to date remains an unwritten language. Thus, we have presented the material using the International Phonetic Alphabet, and will supplement this with forms in a future Remo orthography, once and if such an orthography is agreed upon by the community. Given the reduced time and funding, we decided to focus on the talking dictionary resource primarily during the grant period, as more of this resource could be achieved in the alloted time with the alloted funding. The Remo talking dictionary has been created and is now operational with 4,010 total entries, of which 1,157 are currently linked to annotated sound files; more will be linked as the data is processed. This talking dictionary can be accessed at The beginnings of the online sketch grammar are also live and functional, and include a range of phrases and sentences; this can be accessed at This online grammar too will be expanded as we process more of the field data and when additional funds become available to do so. Prior to this project, Remo had no presence on the internet, and no analyzed digital recordings were available to the public. The Remo community has expressed great pride in this new resource on their language and hope that it will mean an increased awareness and understanding of their ancient culture and unique language. This talking online dictionary of Remo represents a major advancement in our knowledge of this language, and it is to serve as the primary data source on the vocabulary and pronunciation of this language for an English-speaking audience worldwide, and as the foundation for future scholarly research into the comparative and descriptive study of this language which belongs to the important and still poorly known Munda language family. Because Munda languages are the oldest known population layer in eastern and central India, a deeper understanding of the Remo language and its history also informs a wide array of related disciplines, not just comparative and descriptive linguistics, but also, for example, the ancient history of South Asia. Further, the large amount of cultural content in the talking online dictionary of Remo will serve as an invaluable reference source for anthropologists of this region of the world as well.

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Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages
United States
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