“Gi Mihaq” (IPA: gi miɦjɑːk) is the Mihaq (IPA: miɦjɑːk) or Kusunda-language word to describe the Kusunda people of Nepal. They are an indigenous tribe who used to be nomadic once and were known as “ban raja” in Nepali (“बन राजा” /bən̪ ɾɑːd͡ʒɑː/ in Nepali translates to “king of the forest“). Gi Mihaqs now live in villages across in Kulmor and other terai (plains) in the Dang district of western Nepal. The Mihaq or Kusunda language is a language isolate or moribund with no known links to any language family and it is a spoken standard with no writing system. Gi Mihaqs, after settling in villages and getting married to other tribespeople eventually lost speaking in Mihaq. After the death of a community elder Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda on January 25, 2020 who was fluent in the language, there is only one native speaker — Kamala Sen Khatri (younger sister of late Sen-Kusunda) — who can speak Mihaq fluently.
In May 2018, we started working on a documentary called “Gyani Maiya” to capture a small portion of the wisdom of Sen-Kusunda. The interviews and interactions with her at her residence in Kulmor were arguably the most detailed oral history in Mihaq that is available under Open Access. ►WATCH…
We asked Gyani Maiya how her language should be brought back to life. Below is an excerpt from the documentary.
I [am the only speaker of Kusunda] language. None will speak [it] after my death. I’m the only [Kusunda] speaker. None to speak after [I’m gone]. It should be taught to others. Otherwise none will speak in it. None will be around to speak and to teach. Mihaq’s language will not be there for the next generation. It’s over…It’ll be over… Teach the language. It’s important to be taught. But, there is none to learn. Teach [the language]. More [people] are educated now. Teach the language…King’s language should be taught. If we don’t, we would only regret. [Kusunda] has to be learned. I’m speaking my language. None will speak after me. There’s none to speak [in Kusunda]. [Speaking Nepali] None to speak after my death. It’d be good if they can save it. Otherwise it will be lost.
Uday Raj Aaley, a researcher who was instrumental in compiling a dictionary titled “Kusunda Jaati ra Sabdakosh” (Aaley) while interacting with Sen-Kusunda over the years alerted the Nepal Language Commission about the near-extinct status of Mihaq. With the Commission’s support, Aaley organized an education program at the Aadarsha Secondary School in Lamahi, Dang for teaching Mihaq to children.
The below data is acquired from Wikidata, a massive and comprehensive database with Public-Domain (CC0 1.0) crowdsourced data collated by volunteers.
|Language name (native)||Mihaq, Myhaq||The Gi Mihaq (Kusunda people) call their language “Mihaq“.|
|Language name (popularly known)||Kusunda||Nepali and other-language speakers use “Kusunda” both for the tribe and the language.|
|Country where spoken||Nepal|
|located in the administrative territorial entity||Gandaki Zone||Kusunda speakers live mostly in the Kulmor and neighboring villages in the Dang district of western Nepal|
|ISO 639-3 code||kgg|
|Ethnologue.com language code||kgg|
|Number of speakers||+7||As of May 2021, Kamala Sen Khatri is the sole fluent native speaker. There is an education program that is led by Uday Raj Aaley to teach Kusunda to young children and revive the language.|
|UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger ID||1259|
|WALS lect code||kus|
|IETF language tag||kgg|
|Ethnologue language status||8b Nearly Extinct|
|UNESCO language status||5 critically endangered|
|Language type||language isolate||Mihaq (Kusunda) is a moribund language or a language isolate with no known connection from other languages|
A video interview with Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda (in Nepali): “८० वर्षीय आमाको आफ्नो भाषा हराउदै छ, कुसुण्डा भाषा लोप हुदै, ज्ञानीमैया कुसुण्डा ,Kusunda bhasa“. (2018).
Dialogue between Gyani Maiya Sen and another Mihaq speaker in Mihaq: “हामी मरिगए हाम्रो भाषा को बोल्ला ?,संसारमै कुसुन्डा भाषा बोल्ने २ बहिनी मात्र, Kusunda Language“. (2018)
|Name in native language||Mihaq Mihaq (IPA: miɦjɑːk)|
|Name in English||Kusunda
- KC, Durgalal. “Resuscitating Dying Kusunda Language.” The Kathmandu Post, 4 Jan. 2019, kathmandupost.com/national/2019/01/04/resuscitating-dying-kusunda-language. Accessed 12 May 2021.
Gyanimaya Kusunda and her sister Kamala Kusunda, who are among the handful of people who can still speak their native language in its original form, were delighted to see a group of people from their community learning their language in a classroom of Aadarsha Secondary School in Lamahi, Dang, on Thursday.
- Aaley, Uday Raj. Kusunda jati ra shabdakosh (trans. “Kusunda Tribe and Dictionary”). 1st ed.
- Gyani Maiya. Directed by Subhashish Panigrahi, performances by Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda, Uday Raj Aaley. 2019. O Foundation, 2020.
- Gaedtke, Felix. “Kusunda.” Vimeo, 1 Feb. 2013, vimeo.com/58705459. Accessed 12 May 2021. Gyani Maiyi Sen is 75 years old and the only Kusunda speaker in Nepal. Kusunda is a tribal language from west Nepal and only 100 Kusunda tribespeople remain. Linguists are rushing to record Sen’s voice to create the first Kusunda dictionary of this unique language.
This post was made possible with inputs from Uday Raj Aaley and Puja Khanal who are not native speakers themselves but work for or have knowledge about this language. Edited by Subhashish P., O Foundation.