March 10, 1998
(M)other Tongue Syndrome: For and Against the Learning Abstract:
At the moment of presenting this paper in 1998 at Indian Statistical Institute, there was a big controversy on the introduction of English in the Bangla Medium primary schools and a one man committee headed by Prof. Pabitra Sarkar was set up by the West Bengal Government. There were three basic questions related to English Language Education in the context of primary education in West Bengal, India. These three questions are: (a)Why should we learn English(why should we not learn any other foreign language?) (b)When should we learn English? (c) How should we learn English? This paper deals only with the question (a).The author describes Indian plurilingual scenario and politics of language choice(s) and hegemonic role of English in India. It is part of the legacy of the Nehruvian elitist India-project, which envisaged science, technology and total centralization in the name of modernization, that the westernized middle class begun to patronize English to combat traditional elite. On the other hand, the traditional elite supported and is also supporting a form of highly Sanskritized Hindi for the sake of larger communication and as a part of Anti-Urdu and Anti-Muslim stance and to sustain thier bharata-project. This plea was supported by Hindu revivalist like Jansangh as well as the whole Sangh parivar. Gandhi and Socialist like Lohia, Rahul Sankrityayan encouraged indegenous Hindusthani and contradicted English and Sanskritized Hindi as these elitist languages debar mass from the participation in the decision-making body. Thus, there are three positions regarding language-choices for the newly developed nation-state. Let us rephrase this position by deploying technical vocabulary of Linguistics. Linguistics, though theoretically uninterested in the relative strength of one language over another from the strict core-linguistic point of view as it believes in the potential equality of all the languages, also noticed the hiearchical position of High (H) over Low (L) code in the hierarchical society. According to the language choice one H or L code is selected to meet certain purpose of the society. Nehru’s choice was obviously H/ Foreign and Hindutvavadis’ choice was and also is H/ archaic. On the other hand, Gandhi-Lohia’s choice was L/ Contemporary or indigenous language. The problem arises out of this state of affairs, when the pro-L/indigenous group does not stick to their linguistic Human Right and opt for H/Foreign or H/archaic to be in the process of upward mobilization or Sanskritization or Formal Elaboration of Social Hierarchy (FESH). That is, as some Indian linguists termed it, “sunflower syndrome”: we are like sunflowers, instead of looking at each other, we are looking at the supposed sun or a language of prestige and technical-power to accelerate our status. It is just like the suicidal process of desiring to be a member of Neuclear club. A peculiar dialectic of collaboration and non-collaboration from the part of the Dalits (downtrodden), arose when in 1989, Mulayum Singh Yadav a noted Dalit leader, begun “aNreji HOTaw” (banish English) movement, and in 1991, Lallo Prasad Yadav, another noted Dalit ledear, propagated “aNreji le aW”(introduce English) Movement. This desire of a Dalit leader triggers FESH.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 5
Keywords: Formal Elaboration of Social hierarchy, Sun Flower Syndrome