Language Revitalization

The Tai Ahom Language of Northeast India 1

Authored by: Stephen Morey

The Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138674493
eBook ISBN: 9781315561271
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter outlines aspects of the revitalization of the Tai Ahom language, which was spoken in Northeast India from the 13th century but ceased to be used as a mother tongue by the beginning of the 19th century. Tai Ahom survived in the form of large numbers of manuscripts, mostly owned by members of the Tai Ahom priestly families and kept in their traditional houses, and it survived in certain ritual contexts. Since at least the last years of the 19th century, there has been an active reclamation/revitalization of the language, two important features of which has been the production of dictionaries and the teaching of the traditional Tai Ahom script. This chapter will outline some of the more important milestones in this revitalization and discuss in detail one of the thorniest issues facing the revival: whether to revive the use of lexical tones (not written in the script), and if so how. The chapter also details some of the efforts to teach Tai Ahom via various university courses and local academies.

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