Hey guys! It’s day three of the A to Z Challenge (we get Sundays off) and the language we’re looking at that begins with C is Chantyal.
Chantyal is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by approximately 4,000-5,000 (Moseley, 2010; Lewis, 2016) of the almost 10,000-strong (Lewis, 2016) Chantyal ethnic population. The Chantyals live mainly in two districts within the Dhaulagiri Zone of central Nepal, Myagdi District and Baglung District (Noonan, 1995). The Chantyal who live in the Baglung District ceased to speak Chantyal in the nineteenth century; they now only speak Nepali. The Chantyal who live in the Myagdi District still speak Chantyal, but the encroachment of Nepali is leading to a steady decline of the language.
There are many factors at play in the decline of the Chantyal language; on the part of the Chantyals, their language does not seem to factor too far into their ethnic identity because of the caste system in Nepal, so although there are community organisations dedicated to encouraging this identity, most of their work is done in Nepali. Nepal itself also promotes Nepali as the national language, with little encouragement for minority or ethnic languages. This also means that Nepali is used as the language of instruction in schools – particularly from high school on – so as Chantyal children increasingly reach this level of education, so their exposure to Nepali rises.
It does seem that Chantyal is a language that will die within the next few decades; aside from the reasons listed above, there is also a large amount of borrowing from Nepali to Chantyal (around 40% of words in an average text – Noonan, 1995), which will also hasten its decline. However, it is interesting to note that Noonan’s (1995, 2008) figure of 2,000 speakers is only half that of the most recent (2011) census – indicating that, despite his predictions, the language may actually be being revived. However, these original figures could also have been in error – so it could be a case of simply observing the language to see how it fares in the future.
Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2016. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Nineteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.
Moseley, C., ed., 2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Paris: UNESCO Publishing. Online version: http://www.unesco.org/culture/en/endangeredlanguages/atlas.
Noonan, M., 1995. The Fall and Rise and Fall of the Chantyal Language. Southwest Journal of Linguistics, 15 (1-2), 121-136. Available from: http://languageserver.uni-graz.at/ls/mat?id=1161&type=m. [Accessed 04 April 2016].
Noonan, M., 2008. The Chantyal Language. Available from: http://crossasia-repository.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/211/. [Accessed 04 April 2016].
Michael Noonan seemed to be the leading expert on Chantyal – most of his articles appear to be accessible at the CrossAsia-Repository from the Universitäts-Bibliothek Heidelberg.