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Language retention and change among the immigrant tea garden labourers of Assam, India

Debendra Kumar Nayak, North-Eastern Hill University

Problem of language retention and shift is particularly significant among numerically small communities, tribes and other such groups who have left their traditional place of residence and hence unable to retain their cultural identity. The present research aims at getting an insight into the process of language shift among the immigrant tea-garden labourers in Assam, India. The main objective is to understand the pace and propensity of language shift among the immigrant labourers. Based on data collected from two selected tea gardens of Assam, the study revealed that multi-ethnic social composition of the tea gardens provided ideal background for language shift among the immigrant labourers. The process of the shift is more pronounced among numerically insignificant communities. Numerically large communities displayed stronger tendency in language retention. The study reveals two discernible processes as far as the language change is concerned; a process which is intra-garden and another which is inter-regional.

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Presented in Session 170: Minorities and languages