[Tibeto-burman-linguistics] Language and ignorance (and/or politics?)

Nathan & Carey Statezni nathan_statezni at sil.org
Thu Feb 11 00:07:05 UTC 2016

Thanks for sharing this concern. The Ethnologue depends on input from people on the ground to improve it. Please write to the address in the CC line with your input.


Some background info from the Ethnologue that might be helpful:


When Ethnologue says "Also spoken in..." we don't necessarily mean that there is a longstanding community of speakers in the country or that the language's homeland extends into those countries (just think how much territory Vietnamese or Korean could claim globally!). Generally, we are reporting that there are speakers,  usually immigrants, refugees, or diaspora recently arrived communities, somewhere in the country (frequently in major cities).  


One recent development is that we have restructured the Ethnologue database so we can more clearly (and easily) identify which languages are indigenous and which are "established" (e.g. longstanding multigenerational communities of non-indigenous language users). That also gives us a better way to identify languages which are in neither category, the immigrant languages. In the 19th edition, we'll be clearly identifying languages that are Non-Indigenous.  Indigenous languages will be those with a full(ish) language entry and not marked as Non-Indigenous. Immigrant languages will continue to be listed in the country header with only their population reported when we have that data.  ALL three of these, however, will continue to be listed as "Also spoken in..." when we have data indicating their presence in any of those categories in more than one country.





From: Tibeto-burman-linguistics [mailto:tibeto-burman-linguistics-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] On Behalf Of FKLinguista .
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 4:03 PM
Cc: Tibeto-Burman Linguistics <tibeto-burman-linguistics at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Subject: Re: [Tibeto-burman-linguistics] Language and ignorance (and/or politics?)


It's important also to remember that just because the auto-filler in the FLEX program may be incorrect, it doesn't mean you should give up FLEX completely. There are other useful parts of the tool. I personally dont use the auto-filler for language names.


On Feb 10, 2016 4:31 PM, "Chelliah, Shobhana" <Shobhana.Chelliah at unt.edu <mailto:Shobhana.Chelliah at unt.edu> > wrote:

You might write to Ethnologue directly to see what their stated motivation is.  I know I’ve been asked in the past by the South Asia editor to submit corrections and suggestions.  Perhaps your expertise in all this Ladakhi would be well received.  



From: Tibeto-burman-linguistics [mailto: <mailto:tibeto-burman-linguistics-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> tibeto-burman-linguistics-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] On Behalf Of B. Zeisler
Sent: Tuesday, February 09, 2016 10:15 AM
To: Tibeto-Burman Linguistics < <mailto:tibeto-burman-linguistics at listserv.linguistlist.org> tibeto-burman-linguistics at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Subject: [Tibeto-burman-linguistics] Language and ignorance (and/or politics?)


Dear all,

I would like to know what you all think about this:

When choosing a language/ script in Fieldworks (SIL) you get the following options for Ladakhi:
Changtang Ladakhi India cna
Ladakhi China lbj
Ladakhi India lbj
Central Ladakhi China lbj
Central Ladakhi India lbj
Lower Ladakhi China lbj
Lower Ladakhi India lbj
Nubra Ladakhi China lbj
Nubra Ladakhi India lbj
Upper Ladkhi India lbj

The entry in the ethnologue is different, though the section "also spoken in" is highly misleading. Most probably it means that Ladakhi, of which one not further specified dialect is spoken in China (in the eastern Changthang), has several dialects, namely those listed, but it could equally well be understood that all these dialects were spoken in China:

Also spoken in: 

Hide Details China <https://www.ethnologue.com/language/lbj>  

Language nameLadakhi


12,000 in China (1995). 


Western Xizang Tibet Autonomous Region. 

Alternate Names 

Ladak, Ladaphi, Ladhakhi, Ladwags


Leh (Central Ladakhi), Nubra Ladakhi, Shamma (Lower Ladakhi, Sham, Shamskat). 


6b (Threatened). Language of recognized nationality: Tibetan.


Tibetan script [Tibt] <http://www.scriptsource.org/scr/Tibt> .

Other Comments 

Buddhist (Lamaist). 

View other languages of China <https://www.ethnologue.com/country/cn/languages> 

While one can ask the question whether the language spoken in the eastern part of the Changthang (in the VR China) should be called Ladakhi at all (what are actually the defining properties?),
it is in no way acceptable to claim that the dialects of Nubra, Central and Lower Ladakh are spoken in China.
No part of Lower Ladakh is in China (or if so this can only be bits of non-inhabited mountain ranges).
As for Nubra, the Aksai Chin with the upper course of the Shayok has come into the hands of China, but the area is not inhabited.
What is spoken at the Shayok river that reaches into Ladakh, e.g. in Shayok or Laga, is not a Nubra dialect but a Changthang dialect.
I also wonder which parts of Central Ladakh could possibly reach into China, so that its dialects could be spoken there.
(Interestingly enough the Upper Ladakhi/ Changthang dialects are assigned solely to India.)

I would like to hear your oppinion whether such classifications are made out of sheer ignorance and/or what would be worse:
this kind of ignorance and neglect or the apparent political servitude towards China (which in the last years gave rise to the impression that it wants to claim more and more parts of what is actually Indian territory)?

I also wonder what kind of consequences we linguists should draw.
Should we just laugh and shrug our shoulders?
I, for my part, just wanted to test Fieldworks, but I am not sure whether I really want to go on with it.

Kind regards
Bettina Zeisler 

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