Gyani Maiya Sen – last native speaker of Kusunda?

Perhaps seven thousand years ago, millennia before the Kirant (Kirat) came and formed a kingdom, the Kusunda were already in Nepal. Hunter-gatherers of the forest, they call themselves the Mihaq.

Today, there are only two known fluent speakers of Kusunda (kgg): Kamala Khatri, who has left Nepal for work, and Gyani Maiya Sen, a 75-year-old woman who is excited about the research. The Kusunda have married exogamously and adopted the languages of their spouses, so that the language is not being transmitted to the next generation.

Madhav Prasad Pokharel, a professor at Tribhuvan University, has studied Kusunda for a decade and concludes that Kusunda is a language isolate, meaning it is unrelated to any other language.

One of Pokharel’s students, Bhojraj Gautam, learned to speak the language through working with Sen, and it appears he will be the last speaker of the language; the Nepal government has no program for Kusunda.

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