” DOLAKHA LANGUAGE IS UNIQUE……………”-DR.CAROL GENETTI
By admin On 12 Sep, 2013 At 05:38 AM | Categorized As Interview | With 0 Comments

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“Dolkha language is a beautiful gift, inherited from  many generations of you’re ancestors…………….”

genetti-Dr. Carol Genetti

Her research interests are Himalayan languages, language documentation, phonology, syntax, language change, and historical linguistics. Most of her research has focused on Newar, a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in Nepal. Most recently she has published a comprehensive reference grammar of the Dolakha dialect. She has been studying about the structure of the Dolakha Newar language for so many years.

She is the editor of Himalayan Linguistics, a free web-based journal specializing in languages of the Himalayan area.

Dr. Genetti, Co-Director and current Co-Convener of the Consortium on Training in Language Documentation and Conservation,  member of the LSA Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation,and serve as Chair for 2011, on the Advisory Board for the 2010 institute at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and continue to serve on the Steering Committee for the2012 Institute on Collaborative Language Research at the University of Kansas (same institute, different name).

Dr. Adarsha Pradhan has interviewed  Dr. Genetti through Online, some time before.

* How are you?

 I am doing very well. I am happy that the rainy season is almost over here in California and now it is the spring, with the sun shining, the air warm, and the sweet scent of flowers. I am working very hard writing my book about the Dolakha Newar language. I hope it will finish soon.

* Please tells something about your family (your parent, husband & children) and your current assignments as a linguistic expert?

 My grandparents immigrated to the United States from the north of Italy   in the 1920’s. They settled in the state of Wyoming, which is the middle of the U.S.A. My father moved to California in order to attend college. There he met my mother, teacher and my mother raised their children. Then .after my siblings and I were in the high school, my mother studied for a BA degree in psychology and an M.A degree in counseling.  Watching her, I learned that education is a life – long enterprise and there is always more to learn.

  Now I am married. I need my husband in Nepal, but he is American not Nepalese. He was working at the US in Embassy when I was conducting my dissertation research on the dolakha language. We married in 1991and have to children. Our daughter, olivia, is ten years old and our son, Marcus, is seven. They look forward to coming to Nepal with me sometime. I am a professor in the department of linguistics at the university a California in Santa Barbara. In this position I am required both to do research on linguistics and to teach Linguistics to B.A, M.A and P.H.D. Students. I enjoy both types of work. I have been able to take what I have learned about the Dolakha Language and apply it to Linguistic theory. I ask: “What can we learn about the nature of language in general by studying the Dolakha language in particular? What can other linguists take from this that will help them reach a fuller understanding of linguistics”. I also use a lot of Dolakha Newar examples in my classes. But I don’t only study Dolakha Newar I have also conducted studies on Nepali, Sunwar, and some Tibetan dialects. Right now I am teaching a class where we are studying sinhala , the national language of sri Lanka . I am also the chair of the chair of the Department of linguistics, so I am distracted from all by administrative matters.

*How was your childhood?

My childhood was very happy as I had a strong and loving family. I spent a lot of time outdoors, hiking (day trekking) and camping .I also always loved to read .Reading is still one of the great joys of my life.

  *What did inspire you to study linguistic?

I grew up in a community that was very monolingual. Every one spoke English and we heard know other languages. In high School I began to study French and found it a wonderful experience. In college I thought to major in French but that would have meant a lot of study of French literature. It was the language itself I loved, not the literature! Then I heard about linguistics and I knew that was the field for me. Linguistics is the science of language, basically we Study how languages work. So I have learned so much by studying how the Dolakha language works – What all the pieces are and how they are put together.

*How did you know about Dolakha newari dialect?

I first heard about the Newars about the time I finished my B.A. at the University of Oregon. There were some Newars from Kathmandu who were studying there, and my professor, Dr. Scott Delany, about me to be his research assistant and to study their Language. I wrote my B.A. Thesis about the dialect. But I knew that the Kathmandu dialect had been the subject of most linguistic studies. I was interested in learning about other Newar dialects. There was a German Professor who had conducted a survey of languages in Eastern Nepal. I wrote to ask his advice. He told me that he had spent one afternoon in Dolkha and had asked about the language and found that it was very different from Kathmandu Newar. He encouraged me to study it.

*How did you begin to study Dolakha dialect?

I came to Nepal in 1987 and that was when I first met people from dolkha and began my study of the language.  My first consultant was Ms. kalpana shrestha. I  used standard  techniques  of  linguistic investigation  which I had  been  taught  in my graduate studies .I began  my asking  Kalpana to pronounce  simple  nouns , and carefully rote them down , nothing every detail  of  how they were pronounced  .I   eventually   expanded  my list to include  adjectives and verbs. Then I studied the details of the pronunciation and figured out which sounds are important (differentiate meanings of words ) and which sounds were not. From there I move on to simple sentence, nothing the details of the grammar. After that, I asked Kalpana to tell me a story, which I tape recorded than carefully wrote down. This gave me the ability to see the language as it is actually use in connected speech, which meant that I had to learn grateful to much much more about the language to understand everything that was there. I have been grateful to many members of the Dolakha community. Who told Stories for my tape recorder or agreed to be recorded having conversations. Those materials, which I carefully transcribed with help from Kalpana Shrestha, Rama Shrestha and Nawa Raj Shrestha, formed the basis of all my studies of the language. I could have done nothing without the careful, thoughtful, and patient help of those three Dolkhae people.

   My greatest regret about  my study of the Dolkha language is that I have never learned to speak it .I  never had the  opportunity to live in Dolkha or to spend enough time in a Dolkha or to spend enough time in a Dolakha speaking community to learn how to converse. I am sure that there are many insights into the language that I would gain if I had the on opportunity to become a speaker. Instead, I have based my studies on recordings of Dolakhae people speaking, and I have learned as much as possible from that.

  *Did you face any difficulties during your stay in Dolakha / Nepal?

My first trip to Kathmandu was the most difficult. I became very sick with typhoid fever and had to shorten my stay in Nepal. It also meant that I had to cancel my trip to Dolkha , which  I had been planning to make with Kalpana Shrestha. It was a great disappointment and I was so sad when I left, I  cried on the airplane  as it flew out of Nepal.

*What should be done to develop this dialect?

This is a crucial question for the Dolkhae people and it is one that only the people themselves can decide. If you want to preserve your language for coming generations, then you must speak it to your children. If the children do not speak it, then the language will not survive.  Some people worry that if they do not teach Nepali to their children from birth, the children will not do well in modern Nepal. One thing you should know is that many children the world over are raised bilingual from birth – you can teach them both Dwalkha language and Nepali (have one parent speak to the child in one language and other parent speak in another). They may confuse a few words for a time but they will get be bilingual.

The trick will be to find a place for the Dolkha language in complex changing word of the 21st century. Using the language in as many ways as possible is an excellent start. I was so happy to see the publication of Bapi Jhyala and other materials written in the Dwalkha language. Translations of stories will preserve both the stories and the language together. I was also thrilled to hear of the dwalkha dictionary that is being put together, and of the MA studies on the Dolakha language. This type of work is crucial in showing the young people the importance of this. Find ways to prize use of the language among Dolakha youth. Get them involved in activities where the language is at center but that are fun, interesting, and modern.

*Any Dolakhali word which you use frequently whenever you try to speak Dolakha Language?  Further which Dolkhali word you find very difficult to pronounce?

 It will probably seem funny to you, but I have a hard time pronounce words that begin with wa/o, such as ona’went’ and oho ‘silver’. Similar I have a hard time with words starting with ya/ye/e, such as elpanung ‘always’ and years ‘came’. I am never sure when to put in a /w/ or /y/ sound and when not to. It never seems to come out right. As my dolakhae consultants can confirm, I have a very hard time hearing the difference between /t/ and /d/ sounds which are dental (pronounced with the tongue against the teeth) or retroflex (pronounced with the tongue father back).An example of a pair of words that have these is taargi’ I heard something’ and taargi’ I fixed something’, where the capital indicates the retroflex sound. Luckily, the Devanagari alphabet distinguishes these beautifully, so I have always checked these sounds by asking which Devanagari letter is correct.

*What are the characteristics of Dolakha language?

This is a very big topic, one that would take me many pages to answer properly. There are many ways in which in the Dolakha language is unique. In my opinion, the   most fascinating aspect of the language is the way in which speaker construct long and intricate sentence. From the viewpoint an English speaker, it is very complex, exotic and beautiful.

 *Which place do you   like in Dolakha?

I like the whole   village, with the views of the Himalayas on one side and the beautiful hills and valleys on other. I love the old houses with the beautiful wood carvings and how the new buildings are still harmonious. But I think the most special part is the Bhimsen Temple   , which is beautiful and revered by so many over hundreds of years.

*Do you feel we can get any international help\ support for the development of Dolakha linguistic? if yes, how?

When I was last in Nepal, I spoke to the head of the UNESCO- Nepal, and told her of your language. She was quite intrigued, but my impression was that while she would like to provide support for indigenous language, she has other priorities as well, such as the establishment of schools in rural areas. My guess is that if the government can make it a priority, then international agencies will provides support. Given the current political situation in Nepal, large agencies like UNESCO will probably not provide support. There may be support available from other, smaller, groups. I would be very happy to provide whatever help I can in contacting them.

*Do you have any plan to visit Nepal in near future?

I hope to return to Nepal sometime within the next year, but I am not sure exactly when. If I bring my family, I will not be able to come until summer of 2006.

*Your message for Dolakhali people?

When last I was among you, I was so happy to see that Dolakhali people have taken a strong interest in preserving and studying their language. My message is that if you keep your community strong for your children,   your language will survive. you are a small ,special, and unique group ,a jewel in the complex mosaic of the modern  world , and I hope that you are  able to preserve that  uniqueness in  the  face of the sweeping societal changes that this new century is bringing .Your language is a beautiful gift, inherited from many generations of your ancestors. It is yours to cherish and to choose to pass down to generations to come.

Thank You, Very much.

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