Southeast Asia presents a number of endangered languages and one of such is what is found in the villages of Kundur and Karez-i-Mulla, Herat Province in Afghanistan. The Mongolian language is the language that Moseley (2010) considers ‘critically endangered.’ As one of the three subfamilies of the Altaic language family, Mongol is considered critically endangered as it is currently spoken by almost 200 old men in the village.
From brief history, during the middle Mongolian period, history witnessed different dialects developing into separate languages. The currently surviving language as Mongol in Afghanistan includes Santa (Dongxiang) and Bao’an (Bonan) in the south and Daur in the east. One key property of the language, specifically the aforementioned dialects is that they retained /h/ and /f/ from Proto-Altaic */p/ (this is an asterisk identifies that acts as a sound that is hypothetical or one which has been reconstructed). Furthermore, the language has unassimilated sequences of vowels. What Moseley (2010) gives as an example is the Middle Mongolian e’ü which can be regarded as classical Mongolian having a medial velar, egü. From the classical Mongolian, where other dialects of Mongolian have merged these vowels into a single, lengthy vowel referred to as ṻ.
In terms of the language demographics, this language is currently spoken by only the elderly totaling about 200 people. Secondly, the 200 elderly speaking the language are among the handful of ethnic Moghols found in Herāt in Afghanistan. Owing to the fact that the total numbers of families belonging to Moghols are just a few thousand justifies the language’s status of ‘critically endangered.’ One notable feature of the language that in fact separates it from other Afghanis languages is the fact that it is unique in the preservation of the high back unrounded vowel /ɯ/. The process of the language extinction has been termed as ‘rapid’ in the sense that it has lost its Proto-Altaic */p/ in as much as it can be said to be preserving its unassimilated vowel sequences.
Additionally, the syntax and the phonology of the endangered language have been affected by Persian. Some of the effects Persian has had on Mongol are that it has borrowed a large number of words from Persian, including some function words. For instance, there is the word ‘Daur’ which is not directly linked or related to those other extant Mongolian languages.
Endangered Species in Kundur and Karez-i-Mulla, Southeast Asia
One of the species that has been marked endangered around Kundur and Karez-i-Mulla is the Tibetan Black Bear. This animal goes by several other names in the region including Moon Bear, Baluchistan Bear, or Baluchistan Bear. One of the challenges facing the animal is habitat destruction as well as hunting for its paws, skin, and gall bladder which has been found to be essential in Oriental medicine. Furthermore, Kundur and Karez-i-Mulla consider black bears to be nuisance and destructive because they feed on domestic livestock and crops. Unfortunately, there have been reports of the animal attacking people, especially children and women in the regions bordering Kundur and Karez-i-Mulla.
On physical appearance, the animal is black with a distinctive white crescent marking on the chest. The species is smaller in size and appearance when compared with its better-known American black bear. One feature that makes that animal adaptive to its environment is its large and rounded ears, pointed snout, sharp claws, and excellent swimmers and climbers making them feed on their prayers with a lot of ease.
At the moment, there are three distinct activities that have threatened the continuity of the animal. First, Kundur and Karez-i-Mulla where the Mongolian language is common are characterized by settlements in mountainous areas. This development has led to the increase in human-caused or Mongolian caused mortality. That is, there have been increased human-caused rates of mortality for the species as a result of settlements in the forest. Secondly, Baluchistan Bear has been endangered by commercial trapping, livestock depredation control, unregulated hunting, and habitat deterioration. The third concern for the continuously decreasing number of Baluchistan Bear has been the perception that Baluchistan Bear have been a threat to human life around Kundur and Karez-i-Mulla. As a matter of fact, this is the reason why the association between people and Baluchistan Bear has been minimal leading to its endangering.
How Species and the Language are Endangered
On the other hand, Baluchistan Bear and the Mongolian language have been endangered as a result of changes in human activities and migration. To conceptualize this point, recreational development, energy, mineral, and road building are some of the issues that have been behind the decrease in the number of Baluchistan Bear in Kundur and Karez-i-Mulla. Comparing the situation with the endangered Mongolian language the situation has been the opposite. The spread of the Mongolian language is going down as a result of the dying members of the family with little or no trace of documented or written language. This situation has brought the loss of essential ancestral knowledge that was once embedded in people’s culture.
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