One major project we are undertaking in West Bengal is documentation of a language spoken by Oraon people. (Their name is also spelt Orang, and their language is sometimes called Kurukh.) This language is considered threatened and is in danger of being lost. We have located 17 Oraon villages in our vicinity but not all of them have Kurukh speakers. The majority of language documentation done on this language is over a century old, so part of our aim is to document the changes which have occurred as well as the diversity in various groups. This language is not historically written – they don’t record things in a script – although one script “Tolong Siki” was created for it by an academic. There are Kurukh studies at nearby Ranchi University which include anthropological studies, so another aspect of our research will be to compare the Kurukh that we find in villages to the academic version. It is believed that these people originally migrated from either what is today Pakistan, or Mesopotamia, and because they have traveled far and interacted with many types of people, their culture and language is very rich and potentially diverse depending on their region.
In addition to linguistic research I am also teaching an English class to the hostel boys, assisting wherever able, and generally learning about and enjoying life in our small village. I am keeping a personal blog which I will use for general ramblings, mass updates back home, and to share my experiences visiting Oraon villages. Check out more here.