彭蒙惠英语：20110212 MP3在线课程 Distinct Language Discovered
Researching the language
Anderson and Harrison, together with their Indian colleague Ganesh Murmu, came across Koro by chance in 2008. After obtaining a permit to visit the area, they rode for two days into the Himalayan foothills and then crossed a river on a bamboo raft to get to the remotest of the villages.
The researchers had been told of the so-called dialect of Aka. But when they sat down to record the words of a villager they assumed to be speaking it, they were surprised by the unfamiliarity of the words and could tell this was no mere dialect.
"We noticed it instantly," Anderson said. "We started with a body-part word list, and there wasn't a single word in common." After further study, they realized that Koro was not only a language in its own right, but also one as different from Aka as English is from Russian.
The linguists say there are still many mysteries they hope to unravel─such as why the speakers don't seem to notice how vastly different their languages are, and how the Koro speakers, who seem to blend in with Aka speakers in every other way, have managed to preserve their language as a distinct entity for so long.
The answers, said the linguists, are probably related to the community's relative isolation from the rest of the world.
Threatened by change
Now globalization is ending that isolation─and it may end Koro's existence, too. In many families, the parents will speak Koro while the children speak Hindi, the politically dominant language in India. Few Koro speakers are under age 20.
The endangerment of languages like Koro threatens more than a loss to history, anthropology and human cognitive studies, Harrison said: Speakers in remote regions of the Earth that contain rich ecological diversity hold knowledge as yet untapped by science.
"They've learned to live sustainably in harsh environments. The knowledge they have about the medicinal use of plants is uniquely encoded in a way that cannot be translated."