[lg policy] South Asia: Global language meet opens in Vadodara

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 8 17:16:39 UTC 2012

Global language meet opens in Vadodara

Express news service
Posted: Jan 08, 2012 at 0208 hrs IST


Vadodara The two-day global conference on languages, Bhasha Vasudha
(languages of the world), began here today with linguists, bureaucrats
and politicians from across the world underlining the need to protect
minority languages from expansionist attitude of a few dominant
languages of the world.

The meet is being organised by the city-based Bhasha Research and
Publication Centre headed by Dr Ganesh Devy.
Most speakers today welcomed multilingualism but warned against their
onslaught. Rajeeva Wijesinha, a member of Sri Lankan Parliament, said
people should be given the option of multilinguality but also the
option of the language they would like to function in. “Our policy of
exclusive language has proved destructive. In 1940s, we made a big
mistake by compartmentalising education in mother tongue. That
compartmentalised society,” Wijesinha said, adding that the incumbent
President of Sri Lanka was stressing on a tri-lingual approach.

The case of Bangladesh was that of linguistic chauvinism, according to
Zahid Akter, a literary critic from the country. “A number of
languages are not officially recognised and this was creating
problems. Some are even arguing that the country having the name
Bangladesh is highly problematic since it recognises the dominant
Bangla people and their language,” he said, adding that extra-lingual
forces in the fields of economics, military, science etc. were forcing
people to be monolingual but multilinguality is a fact.

Antonie Gizenga, a Congolese representative of Aide et Action, an
international organisation working for preservation of languages,
said, “There used to be 300 tribes with their languages in Congo.
Today, only 215 languages are known. Only four languages, including
Swahili, Lingala and Cayuga, dominate these communities.”

Oriya author DP Pattanayak said we need to protect smaller variants of
languages also. “There are 36 varieties of Hindi but all of them are
not recognised. The Hindi is suppressing its own variants. Similarly,
Maithili is suppressing its variants like Angika and Buddikah and
others. On the same lines, the English is suppressing Englishes of the
world,” Pattnayak said.

Sudarshan Iyengar, Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth in Ahmedabad,
said, “Gandhi advocated initial learning in mother tongue. He believed
all the languages of the world should flourish.

However, English has brought with it the pattern of development which
talks of cutting-edge technology and it is cutting the stability of
our environment. To bring back eco-stability, we need to protect
languages and communities which speak them and the geographies they
live in,” he said.

On his part, Devy kicked off the debate with an attack on the
“political class” for not considering 96 per cent of the worldview by
not recognising their languages.  Vibha Puri Das, secretary in the
Union ministry of Human Resources Development, said, “In India, we are
extremely fortunate to have political commitment to language,
especially in policy-making.” She added that languages of communities
need to be made a formal part of university education so that research
happens in this area.

Representatives of 900 languages of the world are attending the
two-day conference which began with the release of pre-publication 15
volumes of Peoples Linguistic Survey of India carried out by BRPC. The
volumes cover languages of states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu
and Kashmir Maharashtra and others. The survey is expected to be
completed by December this year. The exercise is claimed to be the one
of its kind after Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India in 1961.


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