Endangered Language Alliance



Koda

a Munda language of Bangladesh and India

Background

Koda is an endangered language of the Munda family, spoken in western Bangladesh and India. In Bangladesh, Kodas live in Puthia, Mohonpur, and Mundumala areas of Rajshahi. In India, Kodas live in Nagpure Chutia, an area located in West Bengal. Estimates of the number of speakers vary widely, from 1,600, including 300 in India (Ethnologue 2005) to 44,300 in the most recent edition (with the use of Indian census data — only 1,300 speakers in Bangladesh). A third estimate, presumably looking at Koda self-identification rather than number of speakers, is 25,000 (van Driem 2007).

Endangerment

While the Koda population is growing in Bangladesh, their language is being transmitted at increasingly lower rates. Most observers, including UNESCO, see the language as highly endangered, with children in the Rajshahi area learning the local Bangla variety at home and learning standard Bangla in school. Though negative attitudes towards the language were reported by Kim et al (2010), presumably connected to low socio-economic status, there are also members of the community, working with ELA researcher Ahmed Shamim, who are enthusiastic about maintaining the language.

Academic Work

Ahmed Shamim’s preliminary work seems to be the first documentation of Koda undertaken to date, though there has been important work on other Munda languages. Subject marking, such as -iŋ 1SG, is distributed over negation, TAM makers, as well as the verb. The use of compound verbs has been of particular interest in Munda languages, as they appear to have developed differently in the northern and southern groups (Hook, 1991). Generally, Munda languages such as Mundari show increasingly weak distinctions between noun and verb, which have led to drastically differing analyses of its underlying system of lexical categories (see Evans and Osada 2005, and other papers in the same issue). Given the above usage of compound verbs, it appears that the earlier flexibility is moving in the direction of the stricter Indo-Aryan division between verb and noun.

See the Glottolog entry on Koda

ELA’s Work

ELA’s work on Koda has focused on the Koda communities of Rajshani in Bangladesh, who are highly marginalized in their own area, even in comparison to other Munda groups. Ahmed Shamim has been compiling and creating a growing corpus of transcribed and subtitled audio-visual material, as part of a National Science Foundation grant. Shamim’s work uses ELA’s Kratylos system to create a linked online concordance and dictionary, complete with media, that will be of interest to scholars and young, increasingly technologically savvy members of the community alike. The two primary consultants on the project, Shohag Koda and Arun Koda, have a keen interest in finding ways to raise the status of the language through linguistic analysis, literacy, and education.