Wancho

Wancho

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Wancho is spoken by some 50,000 people in Longding District of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India, plus others in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland, and across the border in Myanmar. The language has usually been written in the Latin alphabet, but as is becoming increasingly common among minority languages in India, a purpose-built script has arisen from the Wancho community.

The author is Banwang Losu, a teacher at a government middle school in his home village in Longding District, Arunachal Pradesh.

At first, he said, he was working on the socio-economics of Wancho. Then he tried to translate the Wancho language using the Roman alphabet, but a number of tonal sounds in particular simply had no equivalents. So starting in 2001 he began to try creating a phonetic form of Wancho. As he had no background in linguistics or phonetics, developing a completely independent working script took eleven years.

Eventually he settled on 44 letters, 15 vowels and 29 consonants, based the letterforms on visible local shapes, such as human postures, birds, trees, tattoos, rivers, fruits, and insects.

One crucial stage in the development of a new script is a mechanism for teaching it. As Banwang is a middle school teacher, he had a ready-made opportunity. At the end of 2018, the school was developing study materials, and he had just attended a workshop on mother-language education, conducted at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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