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

Judy Pine Judy.Pine at wwu.edu
Wed Jan 25 12:55:49 UTC 2017

It is also useful to note that Karen is an ethnonym given the groups who find themselves under it by Tai speaking dominant groups. Although many have since adopted it for the purpose of political organization, it is not their name for themselves traditionally, nor is it the name they give to the various languages/dialects that fall under that umbrella (I speak here having just left a Pa keun yaw (pardon my on-the-fly Romanization) village that the Thai would call Karieng and we would call Karen.)

-          Judy Pine

From: Tibeto-burman-linguistics [mailto:tibeto-burman-linguistics-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] On Behalf Of Randy J. LaPolla
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 7:24 AM
To: Nathan & Carey Statezni <nathan_statezni at sil.org>
Cc: The Tibeto-Burman Discussion List Discussion List <tibeto-burman-linguistics at listserv.linguistlist.org>; Michael Ahland <michael_ahland at sil.org>; Chuck Fennig <editor_ethnologue at sil.org>
Subject: Re: [Tibeto-burman-linguistics] Changes to Myanmar Naga group names in Ethnologue

Hi Nathan,
It might differ with different groups. For example, using the ethnic term Kachin to refer to the language Jinghpaw, as was done in the past, is problematic because there are people who are classified as Kachin but whose native language is not Jinghpaw. In China speakers of many different languages were lumped together under a single name (e.g. “Zang”, usually translated as “Tibetan”, but not what the Tibetans call themselves, and includes people who don’t speak Tibetan, such as the majority of Qiang speakers; see Poa, Dory & LaPolla, Randy J. 2007. Minority languages of China. In Osahito Miyaoka and Michael E. Krauss (eds.), The Vanishing Languages of the Pacific, 337-354. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  http://randylapolla.net/papers/Poa_and_LaPolla_2007_Minority_Languages_of_China.pdf), so it is important to distinguish the ethnic name from the language name in some cases.

All the best,
PS: interestingly, some of the Qiang speaking Zang are now trying to have their own name for their language and people recognised as the name of the language in Chinese, because they aren’t comfortable calling it Qiang (as they are not classified as Qiang any more), yet can’t call it Tibetan.

On 23 Jan 2017, at 9:51 AM, Nathan & Carey Statezni <nathan_statezni at sil.org<mailto:nathan_statezni at sil.org>> wrote:

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<mailto: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.


From: Tibeto-burman-linguistics <tibeto-burman-linguistics-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:tibeto-burman-linguistics-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org>> on behalf of Nathan & Carey Statezni <nathan_statezni at sil.org<mailto:nathan_statezni at sil.org>>
Date: Thursday, 19 January 2017 at 6:09 PM
To: "tibeto-burman-linguistics at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG<mailto:tibeto-burman-linguistics at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG>" <tibeto-burman-linguistics at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG<mailto: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.


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