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Language Planning
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LANGUAGE PLANNING

 

“The source of the river of language lies in the Himalayas of the people. Ultimately, when our hearts have become one, we shall reach a common language with a common script, whilst we shall retain provincial languages for provincial use.” 

Mahatma Gandhi 

          The present valorisation of official policy in India favours colonial language. A liberal policy of fostering multilingualism with non-interference in the organic evolution of link language would lead to better national integration. Emphasis should be given to reaching a consensus on adopting a common script for Indian languages.   

Common Script:

Enlightened freedom fighters tried to reach a compromise on a common script for all Indian languages.  Devanagri used in Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, Nepali, Sindhi and Konkani was initially supported by Tilak and later advocated by Mahatma Gandhi.  As late as 1961, the conference of Chief Ministers passed a resolution for accepting Nagari script for all Indian Languages primarily because it has the phonetics of all Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages.

With the advent of Internet, Latin alphabet @ Roman Script for Indian languages require revival.  Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was the most prominent advocate who adopted Hindustani in Roman script as official language of Azad Hind Fauj   (INA). Yoindia-com is one of the biggest Hindustani poetry forum.  It could at least dissolve Hindi-Urdu differences in Roman script. Information and communication technologies have forced to adopt   Roman script as an alternate script for all Indian languages.

Cosmopolitan Linguistic Planning:

        English boasts itself of having largest lexicon for any language. Global language Monitor declared “Jaiho” as one but one-millionth English word in 2009.  Most words are borrowed from other languages. A computerised survey of about 80,000 words in the old Shorter Oxford Dictionary published in Ordered Profusion by Thomas Finkenstaedt and Dieter Wolff (1973) estimated that sixty percent of words are borrowed from French and Latin. Linguistic purism stifles the growth of language. Pluralism and cosmopolitan linguistic evolution strengthens the language in every way to make it more aesthetic, scientific and universally acceptable. 

Universal Scientific Terminology:

The terminology of science is becoming universal.  It is based on the words derived from Latin and Greek. It would be better if all the languages in the world have a common terminology for science. Kabul Medical University teaches every course in Dari, a variant of eastern Farsi. But it has borrowed the medical terms universally used in European languages. It is insane to isolate Indian languages from rest of the world. It would be a self defeating exercise to insist on exclusive native language vocabulary than absorbing foreign words. It enriches the language and empowers the people. 

ANGLICISM IS ANTI-NATIONALISM 

         A multilingual and multicultural country as vast as India is founded on the principle of fundamental rights and equality of opportunities. It requires mutual respect for the languages of each linguistic group constituting the nation.   Hitherto no real effort has been undertaken to promote cultural exchange between Indian languages and provide space for recognising and learning other Indian languages.  The importance given to English has been simply overwhelming   as a continuation of colonial mindset. 

South Asian and African Problem: -

        The situation is not peculiar to India alone.  All countries of south Asia face linguistic insecurity fostered by neglect of native languages.  It was more violent and worse in Pakistan and Srilanka. Pakistan was dismembered in 1971 on language question.   Bihar migrants are still living in refugee camps of Bangladesh and religious nationalism has not integrated them into Bangladeshi society. More than sixty thousand people lost their lives in Srilanka during the civil strife between Tamils and Sinhalese.

          The linguistic question is more problematic in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa that have relegated native languages in favour of imperial languages. Sub-Saharan African countries face extinction of native languages at an alarming rate. UNESCO estimated in 2009 that 2,500 languages of the total 6,900 languages of the world are endangered. The situation in northeast India is no different.  No longer are literate Nagas fluent in Naga languages and English has not dissolved the sub-tribal identities. Naga languages are fortunately kept alive by the Church and Music. Recently Khasi language has been declared threatened.

 Linguistic Insecurity in South Asia:-

           The recruitment policy of union public sector organisations does not require competency in any Indian language including Hindi. But almost all Union Public Service exams in India seek competency in English. The language of citizens is Indian language and language of customers is Punjabi in Punjab and Marathi is Maharashtra. Hence competency in Marathi has to be tested in all union public sector organisations in Maharashtra. Interview has to be conducted in Malayalam for union government employment opportunities in public sector organisations such as banks. Nevertheless union bureaucracy seeks the poor Indian language candidates to speak in English for colonial reasons.

         European civil service requires the aspirant to be fluent in any European language other than their mother tongue. If mandatory English is replaced with mandatory competency in Indian languages national integration would be fostered. A Hindi language student would start learning Marathi for livelihood and a Punjabi would learn Telugu for entertainment.  Similarly a Tamil would start learning Malayalam.  As of now no one has any incentive to learn other Indian languages.


Anglicism promotes animosity between Indian languages: - Indian cities and border regions of states are facing the problem of linguistic insecurity that leads to animosity primarily because there is no provision to learn Indian languages at the outset.  Learning English is considered more important than learning state languages. 

As long as Marathi remains the language of Tiffinwalas and house maids and not of doctors, engineers and financial experts it will not be learned by immigrants in Mumbai creating bad blood and regionalism.

        Language planning is necessary to revive multilingualism and to encourage cultural exchanges between various language groups of India.  One of the tragic impacts of the overwhelming dominance of English over Indian languages has been the absence of cultural exchange through different forms of literature.  Renaissance in Europe empowered native languages of every linguistic state. It paved the way for modernity. India is yet to witness it.


Read Malayalathinde Bhaavi-Bhasha Asoothranavum, Maanava Vikasanavum” (The Future of malayalam - Language Planning and Human Devolopment) in Malayalam written by K. Sethu Raman published by Maathrubhoomi Books for further details and analysis.