Neotan (Arunachal): Wanglung Mossang, a farmer from a small village in Changlang District of Arunachal Pradesh, is conducting evening classes for college students and graduates to give a writing system to his tribal dialect.

“There are so many dialects spoken in Arunachal Pradesh. The Tangsa tribe alone has more than 40 sub-tribes with each having its own dialect, and without a written form. All of them use Roman script,” says the 55-year-old from Neotan village under Miao subdivision. 

“My aim is to preserve our Tangsa language, which, according to a recent study, is marked as an endangered language.”

Though developed only recently, the Tangsa Script has also been converted into a mobile application to attract young people. EM photo

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The Tangsa tribe, a scheduled group under the Indian Constitution, is the largest group in Changlang district, with an approximate population of one lakh.

The evening classes began on 28 June with 15 college graduates at the Newman School in Neotan village.

“I am happy that many of our college graduates attended this 15-day language course. Once they learn the script, they can teach their younger ones in their neighbourhood,” says Wanglung.

The work on a common script for the Tangsa tribe began in 1990 by Lakhum Mossang. However, his untimely death in 2020 brought an abrupt halt to his years of hard work, sacrifice and research efforts. Thanks to Wanglung Mossang, the pioneering work of Lakhum Mossang has picked up momentum once again.

Wanglung Mossang’s class in progress

“Initially, the script was meant only for the Mossang sub-tribe. However, in a historical meeting attended by all the sub-tribes of Tangsa in November 2019, the script was unanimously accepted and declared as the common Tanga Script,” recalls Wanglung.

The Tangsa script has 48 vowels and 31 consonants. There are four different tones and words have different meanings according to tones.

Stephen Morey, a well known linguistic research scholar and professor from Australia, is largely responsible for converting the handwritten script of Lakhum Mossang to Lakhum Tangsa Script font style in Microsoft Word.

“It is a great step forward. It is so exciting to be learning about a script and a whole system of writing created by an inspired person and being taught by community members like Wanglung Mossang, who are so committed to preserving their unique culture,” Morey told EastMojo.

Tangsa tribe becomes only the third tribe to have its unique written script among more than 50 dialects spoken in Arunachal Pradesh. EM photo

The script has been approved for inclusion in the next version of Unicode, an international encoding standard for use with language and scripts, by which each letter, digit, or symbol is assigned a unique numeric value that applies across different platforms and programmes.

“The script is not only beautiful to behold but entirely suitable for the language,” Morey added.

The positive enthusiasm of the students has also been overwhelming.

The Tangsa Script has 48 vowels and 31 consonants. There are four different tones and words have different meanings according to tones. EM photo

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“We have been speaking in our dialect but writing it in English. Finally we can speak and write in our own dialect and it is a proud feeling,” said Blessy Mossang, a teacher at a private school in the district.

Though developed only recently, the Tangsa script has also been converted into a mobile application to attract young people and students to learn the script.

The evening classes began on 28 June with 15 college graduates at the Newman School in Neotan village. EM photo

“The Tangsa Script is a great unifying factor. The gap resulting from the language variations among all our Tangsa sub-tribes has been bridged by this script. Though we may speak differently, with this common script we can now read and write in one voice,” said Nemsi Mossang, a teacher from the Government School in the village. 

With this script development, the Tangsa tribe becomes only the third tribe to have its unique written script among more than 50 dialects spoken in Arunachal Pradesh – Khampti and Wancho being the other two. While Khampti script is a traditional one and in use for 100s of years, the Wancho script was invented by Banwang Losu, an inspired youth from Longding district, in the early 2000s.

The Tangsa tribe, a scheduled group under the Indian Constitution, is the largest group in Changlang district, with an approximate population of one lakh. EM photo

“Many young people of various tribes in Arunachal do not speak their own dialect. In the absence of a proper script, there is a danger of these beautiful dialects getting completely forgotten. May our humble efforts to preserve our dialect inspire others across the state,” hopes Wanglung.

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