There are an estimated 7,000 languages spoken all over the world. It is possible that as many as half of those languages will be gone by the end of the century. University of North Texas College of Information associate professor Sadaf Munshi wants to learn everything about Mankiyali before it is gone.
“The National Science Foundation awarded us a $284,000 grant to document and preserve Mankiyali, a severely endangered language,” Munshi said. “The language exhibits a number of features that are of interest to scientists in the linguistics field. The results from this study can provide insight into the evolution of languages currently in use in the region.”
There are less than 500 native Mankiyali speakers left in the world — all located in a remote village of Pakistan. Munshi is the principal investigator in the study and will collaborate with linguists and scholars from the project’s local partner, Air University. Together, UNT and Air University will work with members of the Mankiyali community and also with personnel at the Forum for Language Initiative in Pakistan.
“Mankiyali is an undocumented language,” Munshi added. “But it has the potential to significantly advance our linguistic and scientific understanding of world languages.The language exhibits a number of features that are of interest to phonologists, typologists, sociolinguists and historical linguists. The project will generate a rich repository of video and audio recordings essential to providing a lasting record of a language that is feared to be soon gone forever.”
As part of the study, UNT researchers and students will travel to the region and work closely with personnel from the Air University. They will gain research experience while building relations with their international counterparts. The major aim of the project is to help build global capacity and infrastructure for language documentation and preservation.