ELA has collaborated with communities when possible on publishing storybooks for children, the speakers of the future. Few projects are more impactful for language maintenance and revitalization, with entertaining, relevant, and professional reading materials and other resources for children often scarce in Indigenous, minority, and primarily oral languages. ELA’s earliest effort was a series of short storybooks about animals in Tsou.
Our current focus is on Pamiri Stories, a series of five storybooks, with two stories each in five Pamiri languages spoken today in Tajikistan: Bartangi, Ishkashimi, Rushani, Shughni, and Wakhi. All stories have been carefully selected by native speakers for their linguistic and cultural importance and appropriateness for children. Husniya Khujamyorova is the lead editor, with illustrations by Sangmamad Oshurov and design by Emily Gref.
Pamiri Stories is being launched this fall, with support from the Worldwide Education and Research Institute, the Endangered Language Alliance, and members of the Pamiri community.
The Pamiri languages, like most languages around the world, were traditionally oral languages. Though dating back almost a century, efforts to create writing systems in Pamiri languages have increased in recent decades, usually using modified Latin or Cyrillic alphabets. Writing can be a useful tool for teaching, transmitting, and developing any language, and we hope that these books add to the growing literature for children and adults in Pamiri languages.
Given the similarities between all Pamiri languages, there are similarities between the orthographies used to write them, but also small, important differences. Aiming for an international audience including scholars and members of the Pamiri diaspora, including in the United States, ELA in its work has used a Latin-based orthography, based partly on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). In Tajikistan and elsewhere, a Cyrillic orthography, based partly on the orthography of Tajik, may be more common. As much as possible, we have consulted experts in the relevant languages, making only small modifications for overall consistency.