“(M)Other Tongue Syndrome: From Breast To Bottle.”

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Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

দেবপ্রসাদ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়

 Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata


This paper explores, from the perspectives of different inter-disciplines, the genesis of the historical a priori, “Mother Tongue” (MT) instigated by a sexist question, “Why is it not Father Tongue?” It at a time relates psychology of mother-child relation in specific social milieu and its implications in Psycholinguistics and History of the concept in relation to the birth of nation-state. In India, the word “mother” has been deployed in the realm of land and language and subsequently proliferated in every sphere of discourses. Is it only due to the social proximity of mother-child that gives birth to such notions? When “the name of the Father” is dominating the social sphere, and the Father’s tongue is child’s tongue, why the name of the dominated mother is nominated and affiliated to the objects like “land” and “language?” This discussion on the MT inaugurates four distinct issues: (a) The mother to other or breast-to-bottle switch-over [in case of language death]; (b) The proliferation of (M)other-tongue Industry aided by professionals; (c) Mother-children dyad in relation to language acquisition; (d) the artificial means for detaching the dyad by the introduction of feeding bottle Industry. Author did not agree with Kakkar (1981:55) that the “controversy between breast and bottle feeding” is “false.” I think, the switch over from breast to bottle has a larger implication in understanding gestalt of “mothering” in its psycho-physiological connotations or in its metaphoric senses as revealed in “mother land” and “MT.” The metaphor of “breast to bottle” switch over stimulates us to look into the history of Industrialization in which the “nature” is defeated by the manufacturing of technological “culture”. Author’s imaginative effort to feminize the “tongue “ends in vein as the author admitted that the term “MT,” since the term was first used, had never meant the vernacular, but rather its contrary. The term was used by Catholic monks to designate a particular language they used, instead of Latin, when they are “speaking from the pulpit” (Illich in Patttanayak, 1981:24). That is, the “holy mother of the Church” introduced this term and it was inherited it from the Christianity, thanks to the effort made by foreign missionaries in the colonial period in India. Illich (ibid) aptly pointed out that the word “MT was introduced into Sanskrit in the eighteenth century as a translation from English.” It is not only a derivative technical term, born out of translation, but it was also altered as the Indian mother-cult had also an impact on this translation. The total endeavor to relate mother-child with the language-acquisition process is nothing but a fantasy as the biological mother has nothing to do with the language-object per se in a given all pervading patriarchal culture except to introduce substantial inputs to the child like “other” associates of the child. The author concluded that the “MT” as a metaphor is a politico-theosophical construct that, later on, has become a technical term in the discursive formation of administration and academics. Culture supplies us notion; we then try to make their notations and we neutralize that symbol by deploying different “scientific” and “cultural” methods. However, the symbolic order retains its symbolism. The whole discursive formation circling around MT is endowed here with the metaphoric illness and thus termed as “(M)OTHER TONGUE SYNDROME.”


Number of Pages in PDF File: 12

Keywords: Symbolic Order, Mother Tongue, Linguistic Human Right

About Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

Debaprasad Bandyopdhyay (b. 1965), through his 25 years journey in the realm of institutionalized academics did 27 different types of works, which are someway different from the earlier paradigms or, one might say that those works are not only mere reproductions of his inherited institutionalized cultural capital or a mimicry of a colonially imposed model that leads to intellectual anorexia or rather a type falsification of earlier paradigms. However, that might be not only a lofty claim but it also hid the fact that all our information and knowledge are socially accumulated knowledge that was, it is matter of regret, posed as private property through the sign © and the wisdom is rarely available. Bandyopadhyay’s works and projects are the products of his social milieu. Bandyopadhyay is a local sub-altern public sphere academician, who avoids the technical intelligentsia (followers of Sahib’s models and they are not committed to the persons who are accommodating surplus work-time to them by performing surplus labour) or inorganic intellectuals and thus fails to be a part of academic tribe and its subsequent socialization process. Of course, that socialization process does not lead to legendary Socratic dialogue. He is also a political activist though he has not affiliated to any political parties as he was always talking about the corporatization of political parties within the money-sign-based democratic system. He is a regular participant in TV and radio talk-shows and documentary films, street-corners’ talks and International seminars on socio-political, psychological, linguistic, environmental and economic issues. He also writes editorial columns in newspapers. He is also a part of parallel academics as it is found in West Bengal’s Little Magazine Movement, though that was not counted as the part his academic pursuit by his parent institute. His parent institute justifiably does not believe in the domain of parallel academics as this unorganized sector does not directly contribute in the transactions of formal/organized print capitalist eco-enemy paper-publication. Though the dissemination of knowledge is also observed in this space of these parallel academics as all these writings in public sphere simultaneously influence the classroom-discourse and some of them are translated into English, French and Italian. Not only that, Bandyopadhyay also sought engagement with the people, who, by supplying their surplus labour, are sustaining his livelihood. Bandyopadhyay, a linguist by training and a Ph.D.-holder (1996), a junior lecturer (1999-2011) in an autonomous central government institute in India, tries his best for those from he has received and is receiving the manifestation of surplus labour by executing some self-funded projects on economic issues in West Bengal, India. Recently he has got a consolation promotion to the post of Assistant Professor. He has done following 27 research works: 1. Crippled Creativity: An inquiry into language, psyche, society: 2. VALENCY OF BANGLA VERB AND PROBLEM OF COMPOUND VERBS: 3. Archaeology of Bangla Grammar : 4. CAN COMPUTER SPEAK? 5. FUZZY LOGICAL EXPRESSION IN BANGLA : 6. FOLKLORE AND FOLK-LANGUAGE: MYTH OR REALITY? 7. HISTORICISM IN THE DISCOURSE OF BANGLA LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 8. ABHABA, ECP, DELETION AND TRACE 9. SVATVA OR MY-NESS AND ECONOMIC ENTITLEMEMT 10. TRANSLATION STUDIES 11. MASCULINITY STUDIES 12. YAYATI & BABAR COMPLEX 13. SOCIO-ECONOMIC SURVEYS IN AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY IN WEST BENGAL 14. CONCEPT OF BODY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY AND ARCHITECTURE 15. THE CONCEPT OF ERROR (KHYATI) IN MAD-(WO)MEN’S LANGUAGE 16. THE CONCEPT OF PERCEPTUAL TIME AND GRAMMATICAL TIME IN BANGLA 17. BANGLA CALLIGRAPHY, LANGUAGE ART AND LINGUISTIC PEDAGOGY 18. WO(L)D SPACES: NON-EXISTENCE OF WORDS 19. ANEKANTA METHODS 20. SILENCEME: SILENT OTHER IN LINGUISTICS 21. IMAGINED BOUDARIES AND PRE-COLONIAL INDIAN IMAGI-NATION 22. MAKING OF THE INDIAN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE 23. SEGMENTING THE SUPRASEGMENTALS : MUSICKING IN SPEAKING 24. INTERPRETING GENETIC STRUCTURE BY DEPLOYING LINGUISTIC STRUCTURE 25. GLOTTOPOLITICS OF LINGUISTIC SUBALTERNITY OR AN AGENDA FOR PLANNING FROM BELOW 26. SEMIOTICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY 27. SOCIOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY ACADEMICS
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