Friday, March 10, 2017

Compiling typical and original Tharu words before they disappear

Tharu Welfare Society of Deukhuri, Dang is in the final stages of publishing a dictionary of western Tharu language.

Sanjib Chaudhary from the Voice of Tharus spoke with the team about the dictionary, its importance and how the team is working to complete the tedious task of collecting the peculiar Tharu words which are on the verge of vanishing.

Here are the excerpts of interviews with Uday Raj Aaley, the editor and resource person; Goma Kalathoki, the phonetic editor and Bal Govind Chaudhary, the coordinator of this task of compiling the dictionary.

Uday Raj Aaley

Voice of Tharus (VOT): Tell our readers about the Tharu dictionary and how you are collecting and compiling the Tharu words.

Uday Raj Aaley (URA): Language is the key symbol of identity and to preserve and develop a language, a dictionary is a must.

First of all, I would like to thank Tharu Welfare Society of Deukhuri, Dang and its board members for giving me the responsibility of an editor and resource person to compile this dictionary.

I am working in a team – Tharu scholars Sher Bahadur Chaudhari, Rajendra Prasad Chaudhari and Lilagambhir Tharu have been employed to collect Tharu words. Some words have been compiled from secondary sources such as books, epics, folk tales, magazines, newspapers, etc.

We have decided to include Tharu words of different genres in the dictionary. It comprises Deukhuriya and Dangoriya Tharu words which are spoken in different districts of western Nepal. The Tharus are rich in culture and they have many typical words for cultural and ritual activities.

It’s a great challenge because many typical and original Tharu words are disappearing day by day. The dictionary has archaic as well as new words which are popular and used in day to day life.

VOT: What is the scope of the dictionary? How many people do you want to reach with the publication of the dictionary?

URA: The trilingual dictionary – Tharu- English-Nepali – will help Tharu, Nepali and English speaking readers. There are dialects and some variations in the Tharu language spoken in different parts of Terai region in Nepal.

I think the dictionary will be helpful and valuable for Tharu people, scholars, researchers, teachers, students, trainers, textbook writers, journalists, language activists, social workers and those who want to study about Tharus and Tharu language.

At the same time, the dictionary will contribute to preserve Tharu language. The Tharu Welfare Society has networks with Tharu people and concerned departments. It will manage the distribution of the dictionary.

VOT: How do you think it will help the target audience that you have in mind?

URA: I have been doing research on Tharus of western Nepal. The loss of language harms the linguistic and cultural diversity of the country and the world as well.

Many of the languages spoken in Nepal are confined to their oral traditions. There is need to develop a policy to impart basic education in mother tongue. It is through his/her mother tongue that every human being first learns to formulate and express his/her ideas about himself/herself and the world.

The ‘one nation- one language’ policy was adopted during Rana and Panchayat periods in Nepal. After the reestablishment of democracy, ethnic organisations have been playing an active role in creating awareness about promoting and preserving their mother tongues including their cultural identities. There should be special provisions to indigenous peoples to retain their languages and cultures.

Different languages enhance different ways of expressing experiences, thoughts, feelings, and aesthetics. To impart knowledge through the medium of his/her own language first, where the dictionary is available, his/her own mother tongue can then be used creatively.

I think the state and the ethnic groups have obligation and are equally responsible to enable and retain their languages and cultures.

Goma Kalathoki

VOT: What are the difficulties did you face while transcribing the Tharu words into International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)?

Goma Kalathoki (GK): The Tharu dictionary which is going to be published is a great work for the Tharu community as well as other readers. I was employed as a phonetic editor by Uday Raj Aaley, the editor and resource person for the dictionary and Tharu Welfare Society to transcribe the compiled Tharu words. I am very much happy because I have tried to complete the task sincerely.

There are many difficulties and challenges in any work you do and I have faced difficulties doing this. I am a student of English and this opportunity has taught me the importance of language and its micro elements.

Tharu language does not have its own script. Devnagari script has been used throughout as written script for Tharu words. It should also be noted that Tharu language does not have all the sounds of the Nepali language. Therefore, some vowels and consonants of the Nepali language are omitted. This is followed by the phonetic transcription, transcribed Tharu word as it is pronounced. However, writing through the Devnagari script, we found that Devnagari lacks graphemes.

VOT: Did you find any peculiarity in the Tharu words? Can the Tharu words be compared with words from other languages?

GK: Tharu language is spoken by the Tharu people of Terai region in Nepal. The Tharus have their native words to speak. There are some variations in the Tharu language, but the root words are similar.

In Dang district, Deukhuriya and Dangoriya dialects are spoken. Tharu language of mid-western region, especially Deukhuri where I was born, has a different dialect which is influenced by Awadhi and Nepali because a few words are borrowed from them. A couple of years ago Tharu people used to speak their mother tongue naturally. Of course every language has some peculiarities and exceptions from the normal patterns. For instance, Deukhuriya Tharu say ‘neimaza’ and Dangoriya Tharu say ‘nimaza’ for ‘not good’.

New generations are using Nepali and English words in their conversation. Typical Tharu words are disappearing gradually. I think their native words should be preserved for future. The dictionary will preserve these words, but at the same we have to encourage new generation to speak their language in their daily life.

Bal Govind Chaudhary
VOT: Why and how did the idea of preparing a Tharu language dictionary come up?

Bal Govind Chaudhary (BGC):  Thank you for your question and giving an opportunity to share our work. First of all, I'm a responsible member of Tharu society and now secretary of Tharu Kalayankarini Sabha (Tharu Welfare Society) Deukhuri, Dang. As a secretary I would like to talk about some activities of Tharu Welfare Society. The Tharu Welfare Society has been working to promote language and culture. It has been publishing a quarterly journal named ‘Hamar Sanghariya’ (Our friend). To preserve and promote Tharu culture, it has been organising cultural programmes such as seminars and interaction programmes related to Tharu culture. It has also been organising cultural handicraft training to preserve age-old tradition.

From east to west, Tharus are divided into many groups according to their spoken language. eastern Tharu language is influenced by Maithaili, western Tharu language is influenced by Bhojpuri and Awadhi, and mid-western and far-western Tharu language is believed to be the original Tharu language but there are variations.

Nowadays, most of the Tharu words are disappearing. Because they use other language for communication to be civilised in the community (this is what they think!) so they are forgetting their own language. Terai is like a ‘melting pot’ and heterogeneous owing to the settlement of people migrating from hills and southern parts. Different kinds of people belonging to different caste and ethnic groups live in the Teari. Due to the diversity in settlement, Tharu language is at risk. Thus, it is necessary to preserve and promote it. And we ourselves are responsible for this.

At the same time, people want to know Tharu language for trade, politics, social works, communication and so on. They want to study about Tharu culture, their rites and rituals. Without a Tharu dictionary it seems to be difficult. There are not sufficient linguistic documents and supporting materials to study about Tharu culture. Because of lack of study materials, many languages are disappearing from the world. Tharu language is also at risk. So the idea of publishing a Tharu language dictionary came up.

VOT: Who are your target audience?

BGC: In my opinion, our target audiences are researchers, politicians, businessmen, teachers, social workers, personnel and students.

VOT: What is your next step after publishing the dictionary?

Team: After publishing the dictionary we have planned programmes to publish Tharu grammar, cultural documentary, newspaper, and research publications.

VOT: How do you plan to disseminate and share the learning of preparing the dictionary?

Team: We have planned to disseminate this dictionary through our networks, book sellers, and team members. And we have planned a ‘door to door dictionary campaign’.