Researchers develop world’s first traditional knowledge and language index

Researchers develop world’s first traditional knowledge and language index

(L-R) Syafitri, Bibi Aminah, Dr. Balisoamanandray, Professor Goh and Dr. Franco posing for a group photo.

Miri – 30 October 2013 – Researchers from Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) have developed the world’s first index to assess traditional knowledge and language vitality simultaneously.

Various researchers have suggested that both language and biological diversity are intricately linked to each other, especially in a human influenced landscape. In a much celebrated paper published in the reputed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA (PNAS), Gorenflo and his co-workers have proven the fact that 70% of the world’s linguistic diversity exists in biodiversity hotspots and wilderness rich areas.

Alarmed by the pace at which both languages and biodiversity are being lost, both linguists and ecologists have been trying to salvage the world’s existing languages and biodiversity.

Languages are repositories of Traditional Knowledge which in turn influences the biodiversity existing in the tropical regions of the world. This index aims to provide a rapid assessment of the status of traditional knowledge and languages of indigenous communities.

Research on real world linkage between biodiversity, culture and language is one stream of research being developed at the Curtin Sarawak Research Institute (CSRI) at the university by its ethnobiologist Dr. Merlin Franco.

He first came across the interdependent nature of culture, language and traditional knowledge during his research with indigenous communities of India in 2003.

Also on board the research project are team members Bibi Aminah Abdul Ghani, Curtin Sarawak’s Dean of School of Continuing Studies; Dr. Balisoamanandray Ranaivo Malancon, Associate Professor from the Department of Information Systems, UNIMAS; and Syafitri Hidayati, a PhD student at CSRI.

In the next two years, the team will be collaborating with indigenous communities throughout Southeast Asia to pilot test the index, and the results would be used to refine it.

The TraLavi index has been designed to be applicable at the ecosystem level and would naturally complement the existing linguistic vitality indices such as the Language Vitality Index of UNESCO and other Traditional Knowledge indices.

The development of the index is supported by a grant from the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research based in the United States. The research team acknowledges the Director of Firebird Foundation Dr. George N. Appell and Director of CSRI Professor Aaron Goh for their special interest in the project.

For more information on the project, contact Dr. Merlin Franco at 085-443 939 ext. 5039 or by e-mail to [email protected]

For more information on Curtin Sarawak, visit its website at www.curtin.edu.my, its Facebook page at facebook.com/CurtinUniversitySarawakMalaysia, Twitter profile at twitter.com/curtinsarawak, YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/CurtinUniSarawak, or Instagram at instagram.com/curtinsarawak.

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