[Tibeto-burman-linguistics] Changes to Myanmar Naga group names in Ethnologue

Nathan & Carey Statezni nathan_statezni at sil.org
Mon Jan 23 01:51:27 UTC 2017

Hi Alec and all,

I appreciate very much your work on these languages, Alec, and your effort
to keep Ethnologue updated on the status of classification.

It would be fine with me to drop the label "Naga" from linguistic
classifications; it's quite confusing. I’m particularly concerned about the
language group perspective for changes made, but it's typically not a big
deal for language family and branch, etc. names to change, as long as the
new name doesn't seem to favor one group.

However, language names are another matter. Language names are not
linguistic - they're social. Ethnologue’s use of Chin and Naga in language
names is not a classification tool but a reflection of the group’s own
socio-ethnic grouping. It’s part of their language’s name and identity.

If it were decided to remove Naga from all the names, that would not thus
mean that the groups don't refer to themselves as Naga. We would at least
need a comment that this language group identifies itself as part of a
socio-ethnic group called the Naga. Should Chin then be removed from all
names as well? What about Karen? Where do we stop? What is our criterion
for including or not including it? Ethnologue doesn't typically include
branch names in the language names. However, it does include socio-ethnic
group names where those are salient, as is the case for these 3 groupings.

I think we would also need to hear more from these communities. In the
pre-internet days, very few community members had access to the Ethnologue.
Now, communities regularly access it and even use it in usually good ways
to get recognition and promote their people. On the Myanmar side at least,
Naga, Chin, and Karen identity is salient. People I've talked to want to
have Naga/Chin/Karen in their name, even for groups like Chin, Anu-Hkongso,
which isn't a Kuki-Chin language.

It would also be helpful to hear from Michael or others about how similar
issues have been handled in the Ethnologue for other parts of the world.

My wife is due to have a baby any day now, so if I'm not able to respond
for awhile, that's why! :)



> On Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 5:45 PM, Alexander Coupe <ARCoupe at ntu.edu.sg>
> wrote:
>> Dear Nathan and colleagues,
>> I believe it is time to drop the label “Naga" from any linguistic
>> classification, because is will continue to mislead non-specialists into
>> assuming that these "Naga" languages of Myanmar and the so-called "Naga"
>> languages of northern, central and southern Nagaland and adjacent regions
>> of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur somehow form a robustly attested
>> branch of Sino-Tibetan. The term “Naga” has become an important political
>> tool for helping to establish an ethno-nationalistic identity for disparate
>> and marginalized minorities in the northeastern border region, but it lacks
>> credibility as a linguistic label. This is because we currently know that
>> it includes at least 2 and possibly even 3 or 4 more separate branches –
>> subgrouping is still a work in progress, and we just don’t have enough
>> reliable descriptions at present to make any strong claims beyond Burling's
>> (1983) Sal branch.  I have been campaigning for a revision in naming
>> conventions for these languages in recent publications, and also consulting
>> with Ethnologue to address the currently misleading nature of “Naga”
>> nomenclature (e.g. see https://www.ethnologue.com/language/nsa/feedback).
>> Ethnologue is currently  considering adopting a number of these
>> recommendations, so following suit with similar naming conventions for the
>> languages of Myanmar would be consistent with the revisions.
>> Best,
>> Alec
>> From: Tibeto-burman-linguistics <tibeto-burman-linguistics-bou
>> nces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of Nathan & Carey Statezni <
>> nathan_statezni at sil.org>
>> Date: Thursday, 19 January 2017 at 6:09 PM
>> To: "tibeto-burman-linguistics at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG" <
>> tibeto-burman-linguistics at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG>
>> Subject: [Tibeto-burman-linguistics] Changes to Myanmar Naga group names
>> in Ethnologue
>> Hi all,
>> I'm proposing changes to the name in the Ethnologue for some Naga groups
>> in Myanmar, to match their own name for themselves and the spelling used in
>> their orthographies, based on discussions with these groups. Here are my
>> proposed changes (all the current names would become alternate names): Any
>> thoughts?
>> Makyan Naga [umn] becomes Paungnyuan Naga
>> Kyan-Karyaw Naga [nqq] becomes Chen-Kayu Naga
>> Leinong Naga [lzn] becomes Lainong Naga
>> Kokak [nxk] becomes Kokak Naga (for consistency with the other Naga group
>> names)
>> By the way, all Ethnologue updates need to be in by January each year.
>> The new edition comes out on February 21 each year, International Mother
>> Language Day.
>> Nathan
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