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 A team of linguists announced on Tuesday that they have discovered a new and unique language, called Koro, in northeastern India, but immediately warned that it was highly endangered.
Only around 800 people are believed to speak the Tibeto-Burman language, and few of them are under the age of 20, according to the researchers who discovered Koro during an expedition as part of National Geographic's Enduring Voices project.
The language, they said, has never been written down.
"We found something that was making its exit, was on the way out," said National Geographic fellow Gregory Anderson, one of the leaders of the expedition that discovered Koro.
"If we had waited 10 years to make the trip, we might not have come across close to the number of speakers we found," he said.
Koro is so distinct from other Tibeto-Burman languages - around 150 of which are spoken in India alone - that the expedition team was unable to find any other language from the same family that was closely related to it.
It was discovered in the Arunachal Pradesh region of India, a rugged and hilly part of the subcontinent for which visitors require a special entry permit. Few linguists have worked in Arunachal Pradesh and no one has ever drawn up a reliable list of languages spoken there.
 The National Geographic expedition, which also included Indian linguist Ganesh Murmu of Ranchi University, was, in fact, in search of two other languages, Aka and Miji, known to be spoken in a small district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Going door to door among the bamboo houses that sit on stilts in the hillside villages of the region, the team spoke to villagers and recorded their vocabularies.
 And while they were doing so, they began to detect a third language, which was not listed in standard international registries or even in Indian language surveys. That third language was Koro.
With Koro, linguists now count 6,909 languages worldwide, said National Geographic fellow David Harrison, who with Anderson led the expedition that discovered the language.
"Koro brings an entirely different perspective, history, mythology, technology and grammar to what was known before," said Harrison.
A scientific paper on the newly identified language will be published in the journal Indian Linguistics.


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