“Myth of National Language.”

Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

দেবপ্রসাদ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়

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 plurilingualism

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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One Response to The Myth of National Language

  1. Pingback: Attention on language (and linguistic boundaries of identity) « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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