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Meet Tulsi

Tulsi is launching a language nest for Raji elders to teach their mother-tongue to their grandchildren.

Raji is spoken in Uttarakhand, India by the Van-Raji (or Raji), meaning 'royal people of the forest'. Fitting, as until the 1980s, the Raji were primarily nomadic, making homes in the caves across the mountains up to the lower Kumaon belt. From this close relationship to nature, the Raji are known for their deep knowledge of medicinal plants—a knowledge which is unfortunately under pressure: in the late 1900s the Indian government forced the relocation of Indigenous peoples within the country, leading to language loss and cultural displacement. As of 2019, there were 889 speakers of the Raji language, the majority over the age of 50.

This project, led by Tulsi Rajbaar, with support from Kavita Rastogi, is focused on energizing the future generations of Raji speakers. In the first phase, they will establish a weekend play workshop for children for learning introductory word lists (such as colors, numbers, body parts, and so on). The next phase will emphasize conversation, specifically with grandparents who speak the language, ensuring familial bonds for the next generation of Raji speakers.

Tulsi's Background

Tulsi Rajbaar is a 30 year old language activist from Chakapur, India. She takes care of her four children, and often helps her husband in his shop. She wants to pass down her language to not only her children, but all Raji children within her community. She has worked with the linguist Kavita Rastogi over the pass decade to raise awareness of the Raji language within India and to create an orthography for the language.

Tulsi's Collaborators

Dr. Kavita Rastogi is a linguistics professor at the University of Lucknow. In 2011 she founded the Society for Endangered and Lesser-Known Languages, formally registered in 2015. The Society works for the protection and preservation of marginalized and under supported languages in India. Kavita has published extensively in the areas of Structural Linguistics, General Linguistics, Contrastive Linguistics, Language Documentation, and Revitalization. She also compiled a dictionary of technical terms in linguistics in Hindi. For the past 21 years she is working with Raji speakers and the community developing an orthography system and an alphabet reader for their language.

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