Grandfather of Uipo Language - Moseyl Syelsaangthyel Khaling

Bidyarani Thingujam *

 Grandfather of Uipo Language - Moseyl Syelsaangthyel Khaling
Grandfather of Uipo Language - Moseyl Syelsaangthyel Khaling

Lesser known to the people of the state, Moseyl Syelsaangthyel Khaling has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Community Linguistics Award of the Linguistics Society of America, 2020 in recognition of his continuous efforts to develop, promote and maintain the Uipo language.

He is the first person in India to bagged this award. Moseyl Syelsaangtheyl Khaling is a community linguist of the Uipo tribe and has been passionate about the development and preservation of his native language since his early youth. So far he has worked with many professional linguists in and outside the state.

Already in 1976, aged 17, he organized a youth forum with the purpose of establishing Uipo language written culture and literature Maring Naga Youth's forum – Uipo Local, which eventually developed into the modern Uipo Students Union. As mentioned above, Uipo tribe and language were still classified as a variety of Maring in those days and any work on Uipo was very difficult.

The first outcome of this enterprise was the publication of religious texts in Uipo language, in particular composition, translation and printing of hymns published in 1979. He became the Secretary General of the Uipo Literature Society in 1986 and set the goal to create a uniform writing system for the language.

Linguistic Society of America - Excellence in Community Linguistics Award
Linguistic Society of America - Excellence in Community Linguistics Award - Moseyl Syelsaangthyel Khaling

Moseyl Khaling has participated in numerous workshops and even international conferences, first as a consultant but then also as a presenter and as a teaching assistant.

He collaborated with many Indian and international linguists as language expert, as follows:

1. For many years (2010-2014) Mr. Mosyel Syelsaangthyel was the primary consultant for Dr. L. Bijenkumar Singh's PhD thesis on the grammar of Uipo and consulted him also in 2017-2018 for an additional project of language documentation.

2. In 2016 and 2017 Mr. Mosyel Syelsaangthyel consulted separately Prof. Scott DeLancey and Dr. Linda Konnerth (University of Oregon) regarding Uipo grammar and vocabulary.

3. In 2019 he was the consultant of Dr. Konnerth's student Lilja Saeboe (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel) working on tonology and the lexicon.

4. Also in 2019, Mr. Mosyel Syelsaangthyel started an ongoing collaboration with Kellen Parker (La Trobe University, Australia) and Susie Kansouwa (Jawaharlal Nehru University, India).

5. Mr. Mosyel Syelsaangthyel participated as Assistant Instructor in the 2nd workshop Training Resources for Indigenous Community Linguists in Northeast India, organized in 2019 by Dr. Mark Post and Dr. Yankee Modi (both from Sydney University). In conversation with Mr Moseyl Khaling at his residence at Khangshim Village, Tengnoupal district (near Kakching Lamkhai), we talked about his youth, early days, family, achievements and ups and downs of his life's journey.

Excerpts: First of all Congratulations Mr Moseyl Khaling and we appreciate your joining with us today. To begin with tell us about the Excellence in Community Linguistics Award.
Moseyl Khaling : Thank you so much for having me. The Excellence in Community Linguistics Award was established in 2013 by Linguistics Society of America. It should be given to a particular native language consultant who is preserving and developing his/her native language which is endangered. The award consists of a certificate and a memento. Is the award been recommended by others or did you apply for it?
Moseyl Khaling : I didn't applied it myself. I had a hint that it have been recommended by Prof. Scott De Lancey of Oregon University, Dr Mark Post of Sydney University and Prof. Dr. Pavel Ozerov, Institute for Linguistics, University of Münster. Tell us about your journey.
Moseyl Khaling : (He laughs) It is a long long story. In 1976, aged 17, a religious gathering of Maring community was being held and in the gathering I noticed that hymns were handwritten. After that moment, we decided that preservation and development of Uipo language must be done at once. To be precise, in those early days, Uipo tribe and language were still classified as a variety of Maring. Then I organised a youth forum and began to prepare a song book based on Uipo dialect. Finally we published a song book in 1978- La Kher. Achievements and experiences so far?
Moseyl Khaling : In particular, I have participated as a Native Language Expert of Uipo language in the Tonal Workshop on Tibeto-Burman Languages Spoken in India organized by the Department of Linguistics, North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong in 2010 and also attended the 44th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages & Linguistics held in the same year in CIIL, Mysore.

I have also presented my work on Uipo language in two international conferences: the 52nd International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics (ICSTLL) (University of Sydney, 2019) and the 25th Himalayan Languages Symposium (HLS) (University of Sydney, 2019), presented paper at the International conference of CNTLS, Nagaland University, and at Central Institute of Technology, Kokrajhar, Assam which was organised by the North Eastern India Linguistic Society.

Currently, I am working full time for the documentation of the language with the help of the scholarship received from Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research, USA.

 Grandfather of Uipo Language - Moseyl Syelsaangthyel Khaling
Grandfather of Uipo Language - Moseyl Syelsaangthyel Khaling Exactly how many people are there in your community and in which part of the state they are located?
Moseyl Khaling : I cannot tell the exact numbers but some of them are residing at the ancestral land, Khoibu Khullen. And around 2000 of the villagers in approximately 150 households are residing at this village, i.e Khangshim Village. Please share us about your education and profession.
Moseyl Khaling : I am a graduate. In 1978 I worked as an Asst teacher at Ayapurel ME School for five months as my first job. Then I leave the job and joined Sericulture Department as a farm overseer. In 1985, I got another job at Secretariat as a clerk. Then I got selected as an Inspector for Customs and Central Excise in 1989 and retired from the job. Current projects at hand?
Moseyl Khaling : With the help of a friend, I have been trying to revive the traditional rhymes and folk tales and our effort is still on. In addition to it, we are trying to translate the Holy Bible in our native language, a part of it has been translated but it has many errors and faults. Also, we have been trying to write Uipo to English and English to Uipo dictionary. So, the effort is endless. Family?
MK: My father's name is Thyelnaidawn(Konai Khoibu) and mother's name is Downkhamsaang. I was born at Heirok. I have a wife and four loving children. Her name is AS Vayola Khaling. Lastly, how you would like to share your unlimited knowledge to the upcoming generation on preserving the identity, culture, language and anything that is associated with it?
Moseyl Khaling : There has been a vast difference in the system of education between out state and other places. So, in my field, according to my expertise, there is need to introduce the basics of linguistics right from the lower level so that the youths of the present generation will get the right amount of knowledge and awareness to pursue, promote, revive, preserve and maintain their own native language before it get lost in the hands of time. Thank you so much for your valuable time.

Additional Inputs:
Prof. Dr. Pavel Ozero, Institute for Linguistics
University of Münster

NB: This is an original work of the writer herself.

See acheivements of Moseyl Khaling here

* Bidyarani Thingujam is a frequent contributor to
This article was webcasted on January 21, 2021.

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