I have been researching and writing about endangered languages since 2006.
At the current unprecedented rate of language extinction, a significant portion of the world's cultural and linguistic diversity, perhaps as much as half, will disappear over the next century. Below is a brief introduction to some of my endangered language fieldwork in China.
I currently serve as Assistant Director of the Endangered Language Alliance, a non-profit based in New York.
Trung (Dulong, 独龙)
a Tibeto-Burman language of southwest China
Trung (Dulong, 独龙) (IPA: təruŋ, ISO: duu) is a Tibeto-Burman language of the Nungish group, spoken by fewer than 7000 people, primarily in the Gongshan Nu and Dulong Autonomous County, in the far northwest of Yunnan Province.
The Tvrung kvt cv'tyeng (Concise Trung-English-Chinese Dictionary, 简明独龙语英语汉语词典), which I edited together with the Trung Dictionary Committee, is HERE.
My Trung deposit at the Endangered Language Archive — which includes audio and video recordings (some transcribed) and photographs — is HERE. (You need to create a free, easy login.) I will be making more materials and data available as I can.
LaPolla (2000) lists seven major Nungish languages/dialects: Mvtwang, Wvdamkong, Longmi, Dvru (Ganung), Tangsarr, Dulong (Trung), and Kwinpang (Anong)--the first five of which are spoken primarily or perhaps exclusively in Burma's Kachin State by members of the official Rawang ethnic group. Spoken in one of the remotests parts of southwest China and in northern Burma, the Nungish languages are little-documented and little-known outside the region. Their wider connections remain unclear: proposals include a grouping with Jinghpo and Luish, and membership in a regional super-group called Rung.
Between 2007 and 2011, during several extended periods of fieldwork, I researched Trung on the Chinese side of the border, making extensive audio and video recordings, particularly of the Third Township dialect of Dulong, an SOV language which preserves substantial parts of the ancient Tibeto-Burman lexicon and syllable canon. The language is a rich repository of folklore, song, and tradition in a region where hunter-gatherer and slash-and-burn subsistence predominated until very recently. The language is still spoken to some degree by most Trung and is a strong identity marker, but it is beginning to encounter some of the pressures which have led to language loss among minority groups across China.
Support for my work comes from the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Documentation Programme and the Himalayan Languages Project at the University of Bern.
This work is under a Creative Commons license.
Last updated: 15 April 2016