In "Unknown Language #7", I described the case of a woman in a refugee center in Kathmandu, Nepal who spoke in an unidentifiable tongue and who wrote in an odd mixture of languages and scripts. The post generated a large number of comments (173 at last count), with a tremendous amount of helpful information and analysis being shared by Language Log readers.
Now I have just heard from Son Ha Dinh, who first brought this case to my attention, that — with the help of Language Log readers and the diligent efforts of his colleagues — the identity of the woman has been determined.
Here is the summary report that Son Ha sent to me:
I am sorry I haven't posted something here even though I often thought of this forum, all the commentators, and the vexing mystery of the lady's origin. While my colleagues in Kathmandu continued to work on the puzzle, I went on a 2-week vacation. The only good news I got prior to leaving for vacation was that she responded well to her new environment. With that development I was hoping that eventually she would also regain her memory. Upon returning to Nepal, I received news of a potential breakthrough in the case: the woman mentioned the name of her adviser while she was at the university. Using Google, my colleagues found a match and decided to email this professor. This prof was able to identify the lady via archived photos and provided an Indian address in Delhi. Another colleague checked out the physical address and found a vacant house. We thought it was a dead-end, but fortunately the neighbors provided more clues which eventually enabled us to contact a family member and receive a second confirmation that her nationality is Indian. We are now formulating the best ways to move forward for our lady.
I wanted to thank you all of you and professor Mair for all the insightful comments and suggestions (many of which we've tested and tried via sending voice and written samples to colleagues and missions around the world).
Outside of this case, I have marked this site for frequent visit and reading, so you will probably see me commenting on other posts in the future.
I am very grateful to Son Ha for sharing this report with us and for his own hard work in solving the identity of the lady. We have learned that the last known address of the lady was in New Delhi, but questions remain. I still wonder whether she might originally have come from somewhere in the area between Sikkim-Bhutan and Myanmar / Burma. The route she took from Delhi to Nepal also remains a puzzle. Perhaps we shall never know the full story behind the woman who spoke an unknown language and wrote in an indecipherable combination of scripts, but at least we know where she came from before entering the refugee center in Nepal, which is a lot more than we knew when we began this quest on February 27, 2013. I wish to express my personal gratitude to all who participated in this worthy endeavor.