The Myth of National Language
Indian Statistical Institute
March 13, 1996
Frontier, Vol. 32, No. 28, pp. 4-7, 2003
Symposium on National Language Policy in India, 1996
All the dichotomous concepts of “High” and “Low” languages reflect the “center-periphery” relation and constitute “otherness” in a form of either external or internal colonialism. The same thing, the problem of logistics, also happens in case of selecting a variety or few varieties as national language/s by captivating and defeating other varieties which are equally potential enough from the strict core-linguistic perspective. It is redundant to say that all the selection of codes are instigated by some non-linguistic factors. Keeping in mind such non-linguistic determining forces in attesting “prestige” of language, in this paper, author examined the discourse on National Language as it is found in India. In independent India, depending on the Eurocentric “development and growth” of certain languages via print capitalism, some “privileged” languages of same (imagined) communities are selected as “national languages” ignoring the plurality of Indian grass-root multilingualism. The Indian Constitution incorporated some enumerated and solidified languages, which are included in the eighth schedule of the constitution. Apart from this there are some languages which are not acknowledged by the Indian constitution, Sahitya Akademy, National Literacy Mission or media. The outcasts from the list, from time to time, have protested against their exclusion. They are feeling deprived as they do not have the “national identity.” The question arises here that these groups who are not part of any list, are they not “nationality”? Answering this type of question leads us to the domain of identity crisis of many groups with their non-prestigious languages. This type of identity crisis is not too old as it is colonially derived in a modular form at the time of the British Raj. Quite contrary to the pluralistic as well as multilingual language planning policy prescribed by the Indian linguists monistic myths are created to impose one language for the Indian nation. This section highlights these myths. These myths are like rumours and are spread by manipulating our age-old oral tradition as well as modern advertisement techniques. It also reveals the paradoxical and simultaneous existence of de jure code and de facto imagination of the mass.
1. “Hindi is the only National Language of India.” Sed contra: As per the eighth schedule, there are 17 more national Languages. 2. “Official Language”, and even “National Language” are popularly translated and called as “RajbhaSa”. These two terms are often used synonymously. Sed contra: Tough there is no de facto raja or king in our country, the concept of dynesty is still in vogue. Thus Official language is translated as “rajbhasa” and it is equated with National Language. Popular notion is that there is only one National Language, i.e. Hindi. 3. Hindi-speakers are highest in number.’ Sed contra: No one except a linguist questions how the number is exaggerated. At least 52 languages, which are often referred to as dialects of Hindi (e.g. Pahari, Chattisgari, Bundelkhandi, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Magahi etc.) 4. “Hindi bears the authentic legacy of Sanskrit and therefore mother of alI Indian languages.” This notion is often expressed in Hindi Haphta (Hindi Weak) of which there is no parallel in other Indian languages. Sed contra: Genealogically speaking, Hindi or Bangla is derived from spoken languages of Old Indo Aryan, which comprises of many inter-languages. Sanskrit is selected, fixed, appropriated and codified (i.e.standardized) form of one of such variety. Who knows, other than linguists, there are three more families of languages as well as some unclassified languages in India. 5. Hindi is a non-regional language vis-a-vis non-Hindi regional languages. This notion is often expressed in the discursive formation like Non-Hindi films are regional films and Hindi films are non-regional (National) films. And also Hindi programmes in Doordarshan are shown in the national programmes vis-a-vis “other” languages in regional programmes in the non-Hindi area. Sed contra: Instigated by these types of arrangements, one may think that non-regional Hindi is above the space-time and thus an incarnation of supreme being.
This perception regarding ones own language, makes us reconsider the costly expenditure of maintain scheduled languages vis-a-vis the shadow economics of so called “undeveloped/ backward” languages. This grass-root multilingualism does not need money to enhance it. But, developmental economics always envisages paid enterprise like energy-generator unit or language planning-unit without considering the indigenous method for solving problems.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 4
Keywords: myth (Barthes), grass-root plurilingualismAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 8, 2012
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