5-day training workshop on documentation of Zanskari language held 

By Reach Ladakh Correspondent Zanskar, Aug 13, 2022
Zanskar :

Govt. Model Degree College (GMDC) Zanskar organised a 5-day training workshop on documentation of the Zanskari language from August 4 to 8  with infrastructural support from the college and financial support from Endangered Language Fund (ELF).

The workshop was aimed to train Zanskari community members, targeting particularly the under-graduate students of GMDC to document their under-researched and lesser-known language as part of local capacity building.

Maaz Ahmad Shaikh, a graduate research scholar in Linguistics at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada undertook the entire training in the workshop for all five days. 

The students were trained to use recording equipment, particularly audio and video recording with a professional recorder. They were taught how to introduce themselves to the speaker, obtain oral consent from them, take their details before the recording, and fill consent form once a recording is completed.

This was followed by hands-on experience recording the speaker Tsewang Gailsten, Assistant Professor of Political Science, GMDC, narrating short poetry in his Brokskat language along with taking his consent on the same.

Maaz Shaikh briefed the students about the methodology required for metadata preparation and archiving of the recordings and other collected materials. He also showed his previously deposited language collections of Azamgarhi and Bhojpuri languages at the Computational Resources of South Asian Languages (CoRSAL) archive of the University of North Texas (UNT) Digital Library.

A lecture on Phonetics and Phonology¬¬¬ was also held. Shaikh explained the consonants in the International Phonetic Alphabet chart in detail and also described the consonant inventory of Zanskari.  Vowels in the IPA chart were also studied. It was followed by a discussion on the oral and nasalized vowels found in the Zanskari language.

The speaker also taught students the concept of a syllable, its structure, and its importance in analyzing the sound system of Tibetic languages, including Zanskari.

A comparative analysis of the sound patterns of the Western Tibetic languages, particularly Zanskari, Balti, Purik, and Leh Ladakhi was also presented while simultaneously reflecting on the Classical Tibetan spellings.

A field trip to the nearby Sani village was also organised where students got a hands-on experience with whatever they learned in language documentation.

The project team, led by the researcher and a few faculty members of GMDC, along with Prof. Tadeusz Slupski from Warsaw, Poland, visited the house of Stanzin Choszin, a B.Sc. student at GMDC from Sani village, for data collection, where the speech of her parents was recorded following the best practices in documentary linguistics.

They were divided into three groups, out of which one of the groups led by the researcher went to document Kesar Saga from Tashi Zangmo. She is one of the very rare Zanskari people left who could narrate the complete saga of King Kesar of Ling. She told the group that the whole narration could take up to three days. 

On the last day, students were taught consonants and vowels of Zangskari, which was beneficial for good transcriptions of the recordings. Later on, basic morphology was taught to the students, along with a brief discussion on morpho-phonemic analysis. A small group of about seven students was trained to use SayMore for metadata management and transcription and translation.

The students were awarded certificates of participation.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Maaz Shaikh, Dr. Jamphel Sheyan, and Nasir Shabani on the custody of the equipment and devices. Shaikh also donated several books on linguistics and Tibetic languages to the College Library.