A group of American linguists just announced the discovery of a new language in a remote region of India. The language, called Koro, was discovered during a 2008 expedition to Arunachal Pradesh, according to the Independent.
The interesting thing about the discovery of Koro is that it was “hiding in plain sight.” Koro speakers are part of the Aka culture, and live in villages where most of their neighbors speak Aka. While the two languages are in fact very different, Koro and Aka speakers consider themselves one people, and treat Koro as if it were a dialect of Aka, instead of a “distant sister,” as the linguists described it.
K. David Harrison, one of the linguists on the expedition, told the Telegraph that when it comes to the Koro speakers:
“There’s a sort of a cultural invisibility; they’re culturally identical in what they wear, what they eat, the houses they live in…. They just happen to have a different word for everything.”
It should be noted that there is some controversy over whether or not Koro is in fact a new discovery. According to the Telegraph, linguists from the Assam chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage are claiming that Koro was known to Indian linguists before the American linguists documented it.
Whether it’s really a “new” language or not, Koro only has between 800 and 1,200 speakers, so now the race is on to try and preserve it, if possible. A language dies out about every two weeks, and language preservation expert Tabu Ram Taid told the Telegraph that:
“Koro might have met the same fate. But the point is now to preserve Koro. Apart from speaking, one must develop writing the language to prevent it from vanishing.”