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KUCHING: Universiti Sarawak Malaysia (UNIMAS) and Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) will jointly conduct research to document endangered languages and literature from the smaller ethnic groups in Sarawak.
The agreement was inked with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Unimas and DBP at the International Conference of Language Studies, witnessed by Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Abang Openg, yesterday.
Unimas vice chancellor Professor Dr Mohamad Kadim Suadi said there is an urgent need to preserve the languages and literature of these endangered and smaller communities which would soon be gone forever.
“This MoU recognises the potential value of such synergistic collaboration in utilisation and data collected by both parties to support language documentation and preservation in this region,” he said.
He said the two parties agree to cooperate in research, publication, training, academic programme and executive development programme in the preserving and documenting the languages and literature of the endangered and smaller ethnic communities.
Abang Johari, in his speech, said various works have been undertaken by the state government and a number of agencies to preserve and conserve the people’s languages and cultures, but the question remains whether these initiatives be sufficient when some of these languages and cultures are potentially or critically facing extinction.
“For example, Tatau, Lugat, Narum, Sihan, Lahanan, Baketan, and Seru that have been categorised as endangered languages and are facing extinction if no measures and concerted efforts are taken to preserve them.
“Indigenous languages are not only slowly dying out due to the influence of dominant culture and languages such as Bahasa Malaysia and English, but also due to the rise of other languages and cultures,” he said.
The chief minister said it is time that community of researchers and practitioners, as well as members and leaders of indigenous communities to collaborate with local and foreign institutions of higher learning, as well as stakeholders in preserving, conserving, and revitalizing indigenous languages and cultural heritage for the future generation.
He believed that UNIMAS and the newly established Faculty of Language and Communication can take the lead in this critical initiative.
He hoped that greater focus on issues and concerns not only specific to the people Sarawak, but also those living in Borneo and beyond who are culturally and linguistically diverse.
He expressed confident that the conference seeks to examine impact of globalization on indigenous languages and cultures and empower the community of researchers and practitioners to work together towards a common goal of sustaining languages and cultures in the region.
Signing the MoU on behalf of UNIMAS were Professor Kadim and Dean of Faculty of Language and Communication Professor Dr Ambigapathy Pandian while DBP were represented its director general Datuk Abdul Adzis Abas and his deputy Datuk Abang Sallehuddin Abang Shokeran. – dayakdaily.com