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LANGUAGE PLANNING AND LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
Language is a typically human phenomenon. In moving from the 'natural being' of animal existence to the 'cultural being' of human existence, language plays the decisive role. Language gives a sense of identity to an individual as well as a social group and, in the process, creates multiple identities. The maintenance, merger, clash and change in identities based on and reflected in the language change has prompted linguists, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and political scientists to study language in its multifarious dimensions. Since economic and societal planning have to, of necessity, take into account the context of planning, there is no wonder that worldwide attention has been drawn towards language planning.
Language is an asset and a primary instrument of human communication. However, language can become a problem and a barrier to communication, sometimes symbolically so, under conditions of multiplicity of ethnic groups, languages, dialects, styles, registers and scripts. These conditions may lead to one or more of the following situations which necessitate language planning :
(i) Mutually unintelligible language, dialects or scripts competing for supremacy of dominance
(ii) Mutually intelligible languages, dialects or scripts,
(a) threatening mutual identity,
(b) with mutually unfavorable attitudes.
(iii) Existence of diglossia, triglossia or multiglossia.
(iv) Existence of languages with dominant/minority relationship with a national frontier.
(v) Social variables correlating with language use and creating communication zones.
(vi) Official action in recognising official languages, distributing patronages for development of languages which may even have the remote implication of displacing or disturbing in reality or symbolically, the existing domains of language use.
(vii) Language used by the politicised elite to retain their elitist privileges by restricting language use in education, administration and mass media.
There is an urgent need for serious attention to language planning in a country like India. The following examples are illustrative of situations which demand the attention of educationists and planners to the crucial importance of language in society.
1. Sometime back, the Physics Department of the Aligarh University administered a standardised creativity test to the high achievers of the University. To their great surprise they found the result absolutely erratic. After hurried consultations among the scientists involved, it was decided to translate the test into Hindi---Urdu, the mother tongue of the students taking the test. It is only then that the test yielded the expected standard result2.
2. A very significant programme, the preparation of a Bridge Course in Kannada, was undertaken by the Central Institute of Indian Languages some years back. From experience and observation the Institute came to a few conclusions:
1. Language teaching, particularly that of teaching the mother tongue in the Indian schools, is defective
2. What is taught in the name of language is literature.
3. The teaching of literature is restricted to the teaching of ancient and
medieval literature and seldom touches the contemporary.
4. Even in literature, more emphasis is given to teaching about literature than really teaching literary sensibility and critical judgment.
5. No attention is paid to the teaching of different registers.
6. As a result, there is a gap between the language attainment at the end of the school stage and the language requirement at the beginning of the college stage, particularly when taught through the mother tongue medium.
As a result of this, the students cannot cope with their college studies. Some 900 students selected from three Universities of Karnataka were given a pre-test. A hundred-hour Bridge Course developed by the Institute was offered to an experimental group of about 400 students and a post-test given to all the 900. It was established that the hypotheses suggested by the institute were valid and that, pending revision of the school curriculum, the Bridge Course was of immediate necessity, particularly in the context of switchover to the mother tongue medium at the University stage (Upadhyaya 1972 and Dave 1974).
3. In Nagaland, there are 22 mutually unintelligible Naga languages, of which 16 recognised by the State Government. The language of communication among the people is Pidgin Naga, which is used even in the floor of the Assembly, though not an officially recognised language. In the absence of an acceptable common language, the State Government has adopted English as the State Language (Sreedhar 1974). This has not only created a wide gulf among the elite and the masses of people, but also deprived the common man from effectively participating in the processes of governance of the State.
4. The widespread radio network in the country has shrunk distances. The growing television network has demonstrated the potential of revolutionising communication in a very short time. However, out of the 1652 mother tongues of the country, broadcasting is not done even in 150. Broadcasting in languages other than the 15 major languages is meant mostly either for entertainment, or for purposes catering to peripheral interests of the listeners. The television is much more restricted in the coverage. Under these circumstances, in spite of all the outer-trappings, the message broadcast over the mass media reaches a very restricted audience (Pattanayak 1974). A study of the language of newspapers and that of the film is bound to reinforce the above conclusion.
5. Illiteracy is a major problem of the country (Pattanayak 1974). Out of 800 million illiterates in the world, India is credited to have 400 million . if in eradicating illiteracy the intention is to move from a 'culture of silence' to a 'culture of thinking' participation and the emphasis is on the creation of an intelligent task force for economic and industrial development, then, urgent and bold steps need to be taken in this area. Literacy in a multilingual must be based on the expressed needs of a people3. Secondly, the language of literacy has to be determined keeping in view the various contexts of language use and strategies linking the languages of literacy with that of education and administration.
It would thus be quite clear that whether it is in the field of language use in education, language use in administration or in mass media, there is a constant need to weigh alternatives and plan action. The examples cited above are as true of any multilingual country as they are of India. Such examples not only establish the necessity for language planning, but also the need to analyse its process and product.
Before talking about language planning, one must understand the motivation and mechanisms of planning. Planning is not merely a catalogue of resources and the organisation and mobilization of these resources to reach a certain defined goal. Since the technocrat is seldom the decision maker, it is important that the planner provides alternatives and options are given, the goal is stated and the strategies are spelled out the politician-decision maker can take a decision.
The two aims of planning are growth promotion and environment amelioration. Here, environment is not used merely in the physical ecological sense, but is used in the sense of sociocultural context of the individuals in society. It is most unfortunate that the pre-occupation with economics as the only discipline of concern of planning blinded the planners to its equally important second aspect of planning.
Those who are obsessed with growth and economic development take the social and cultural imperatives for granted. Like the textbook and laboratory controlled experiments, where all other conditions being equal a certain conclusion flows out of it, the economic planner takes the context of planning for granted and concentrates on the economic planning. He forgets that in actual life all the conditions seldom remain equal and that the context in which social problems are nurtured is as important as the problems themselves. Planning is not merely a balance sheet of inputs and outputs. That input-output statements of growth have to be checked against cost benefit to the society, need to be emphasised more, if planning is not to defeat its own purpose.
Language planning does not merely entail drawing a list of mother tongues spoken in a defined territory, nor does it merely mean listing of their actual and desired domains of use. Whether in a unilingual or in a plurilingual society, language planning is essential to deal with such problems of dialect, language standard, all aspects of language development and the contexts of language use are areas of concern of a language planner.
It would be much more meaningful and sensible to talk of relatively unitary and pluralilstic societies, as the great divide seems to be unitary and pluralilstic rather than developed and developing in the context of language planning. In pluralistic societies, choices, options and alternatives are imperatives of planning, as the basis of pluralism is transparent and easily manipulated.
Speaking of language development, Khubchandani (1975:102) offers the following framework which accepts the distinction between developed and undeveloped languages:
Dimension Developed Language Undeveloped Language
Range of communication Wide,Sometimes multinational. Limited to region.
Ecological status. Spoken by dominant majorities. Spoken by dominant minorities.
Domian of use. All. Restricted as with vernaculars.
Writing system Present. May not be present.
Literary status With literary traditions. Colloquial, bazar languages.
Social prestige Standard language, acceptable to the elite. Non-standard or sub-standard: slangs, hybrids
This is too simplistic a model. Following this one can argue that the major (scheduled) languages of India are both developed and un-developed and they are neither developed nor un-developed. One can say that, barring their restricted domain of use, they fulfill all the criteria of developed language. At the same time, looking at the situation from national and international perspective, one can say that, being diglossic, they have all the features of undeveloped, whereas in Latin America, the major language is developed and the minority (such as Indian) languages are undeveloped. If one takes the case of English alone, this scheme will lead to untenable conclusions. Actually such a schematic presentation conceals and confuses issues rather than clarifies them.
Ferguson's criteria (Fishman 1968 : 28) of a developed language, inter-translatablity with languages in the industrial society, is ethnocentric. One may wish to give the benefit of doubt by saying that the industrial society probably has developed the most varied registers of the language used. But, in the agricultural society, certain contemplative disciplines have flourished which may not have found place in the industrial society. In any case, there is no reason why value judgement about a society need be bodily transferred into the discussion of language use without establishing its relevance to such discussions.
What, then, is language development? Can a language be developed by a language planning society ? One popular notion of a developed language is its antiquity. Languages which are older are generally considered more developed. Scholars of history of language and literature in all Indian languages usually devote considerable space and time to this aspect of the question. Another popular notion is linked with the availability of creative literature in a language. Thus, a quarrel whether Bengali or Tamil is more developed has resulted in a lot of unproductive debate. A corollary of this stand is the rejection of spoken languages as languages and give them a grudging recognition as dialects. Scholars have even gone to the extent of saying that Saora has only 700 words, and therefore it does not deserve the status of a language, thus putting the premium on the vocabulary.
Presentation of a norm or standard where competing varieties of a language exist is a primary step in language development. This can be achieved by standardising spelling, writing grammars, dictionaries, textbooks, etc. Developing a script for non-literate languages forms a legitimate concern of language is another major concern of language development. This is best achieved by promoting new registral writing, creating technical terminology, and encouraging translation, etc. In a multilingual society, allocation of domains of use to each language and ensuring its increased or decreased use for specific domains forms part of the study of language development. Language planning agencies, endowed with sufficient technical expertise, and executive power, and certainly do a great deal to influence language development, and, through planning, help reduce conflict and tension.
The problems in a linguistically plural society are complex, the options are competitive and the goal is difficult to perceive, because of the volotile nature of the context of language use. It must be understood that no language or culture group is absolutely unitary or monolithic in nature. For example, all persons speaking English do neither speak a uniform language nor do they share a single culture. Even all English speakers in England or America cannot be so classified. Communication facilities, ethnicity, religious grouping, uneven opportunities leading to uneven education and cultural development are some of the parameters which account for regional linguistic differences even where a single language is dominant.
In the past, linguists assumed a uniform and invariant structure of language. At the present moment it is generally accepted that the speech matrix of a community is constituted of varieties of varieties of the language. These are generally treated under rubrics of style, register, dialect, sociolect, etc. While in a single dominant language society, the different varieties tend to have specialised functions, in a multilingual society, in addition to varieties of mother tongue, one or more other languages share the communicative domain.
When there are people using different languages and different varieties of a language, it is natural that they develop certain attitudes towards each other. These attitudes indicate social ranking and relative status of groups and also intergroup cohesiveness or lack of it within a broad framework. Each person considers his language to be the paragon of beauty and sweetest sounding of all. The neighbour's language usually comes in for a drubbing. The neighbour with whom one comes in constant communication, competes for socio-economic advantages, trades and establishes other societal relationship, naturally exerts a lot of linguistic influence. The nature of this influence depends on many factors, the important one being the political-economic power of the communities concerned.
A Telugu speaker calls Tamil by the given name 'Aravam', meaning 'sound not sweet to hear'. The neighbour's language is described in many languages as the sound of pebbles in a tin drum or sounds coming from a mouth filled with pan. One's own language is like peeled sweet banana, sweet as sugar and like nectar. When so expressed the unconscious feelings are expressed as conscious attitudes. The epithet of Devabhasha 'language of the gods' brought out the retort from the Maharashtra saint poet, 'If Sanskrit is the language of gods, is Prakrit the language of thieves ?' All such overt attitudinal statements are grist in the mill of the linguist and the language planner.
The above attitudes are not strictly confined to interlingual relationships. Attitudes of dialect speakers of one language towards each other may result either in consolidation and standardization of the language, or separation and split of a language.
The notion of dialect may or may not have a pejorative connotation for the for the standard language speaker, but, for the dialect speaker, it is related to local pride. Any effort at standardisation must take this factor of local pride into consideration. A study of dialects of Hindi in India alone will provide examples of both consolidation and separation.
As attitudes towards others' language have serious sociolinguistic implications, so has one's attitude towards one's own language. A derogatory attitude or a sense of deficiency towards one's own language results in the looking for an external standard, acceptance of a culture language or even language loss. The Canadian French speakers looking towards Parisian French, the Caribbean Hindi speaker, the Ceylonese Tamil speaker and the Malayalee settlers in Hon Kong looking towards India, for standards is the result of a feeling of deficiency by the speakers of those languages outside their homeland. Non-literate minority languages adopting a dominant language for almost all purposes other than home use, as in the case of Kannada for Tulu, Kodagu and Marathi or Kannada for Konkani in India, are examples of culture languages. Examples of loss of language due to weakened loyalty can be found almost in all parts of the world. In India various tribal languages which are lost because of the modernising thhrust of various dominant languages may be taken as examples.
Sometimes loyalty towards one's own language is shaken due to induced circumstances. For example, the team roller publicity in favour of American white English and standard is responsible not only for the lack of confidence in the native black and brown speakers of English about the standard of their mother tongue in the USA itself, but also for the lack of faith of the non-English world in Asia and Africa in the non-white speakers, including native speakers of English of Latin American origin in the USA as class room models.
As would be clear by now, although language planning in some form is needed in al societies, the need for it is greater in a muitllingual society where the problem of communication is complex, and confronts the speaker with multiple options.
Linguists have conceived of primary, secondary and tertiary speech communities on the basis of communicatory situations linking the National languagewith the secondary and the international language with tertiary (Haugen 1972:166). But such a simplified model is inadequate to explain the situation in multilingual societies in general and Indian situation in particular. Take for example, a group of Dravidian and Munda language speakers using a common code, Desia, for communication, which is a dialect of Oriya, an Indo-Aryan language. Oriya as a language has dialects which shade of into Marathi, Hindi or Bengali. If one measures the country in any direction on a straight line with points at short intervals, it will be quite evident that there is break in communication only at the extreme points of the scale. Viewed from on angle, there is 'partial understanding' among contiguous speech communities in India; viewed from the other, there is Switzerland - like tertiary speech communities among whom interpreters are needed as there is no of creation and change of primary language loyalties, the process of a group transcending the primordial linguistic loyalty through and identities, sub-national or national, is concealed in these simplified models.
Because of ethnic cohesiveness and consequent density in communication, at the intermediate contiguous points even languages belonging to two different families are found to share a common grammar. Gumperz (1971 ; 255) has pointed out that the bilinguals in the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka operate with a single grammar and move from one language to the other through a set of transformation rules.
It is not always that a third language is used as a common code. In the cases of Konkani : Marathi : Tulu : Kannada, the former has adopted the latter as culture languages, thus allocating the culture language the domain of formal commuinication.
All these call for a re-examination of notions like national language, George Puttenham's comment (1589) "After a speech is fully fashioned to the common understanding, and accepted by consent of a whole country and nation, it is called a language" is a poor definition both of nation and of language. In a nation like India, where there are languages of all India importance, languages of regional importance and languages of local importance, all the 1652 mother tongues, listed by the Census are national languages. This includes the so-called foreign mother tongues which have become part of the national cultural heritage of the country. It must be understood in this connection that 'nation' is a political concept. A political entity becoming a nation faces the challenge of developing a sense of nationalism among all the people inhabiting it. If already a majority of people have imbibed the spirit of nationalism, the task is to persuade the minority to accept the national goals set by the majority. In a nation inhabited by people of diverse ethnicity and language without a dominant group, a national outlook has to emerge through consensus. This requires coherence between the local group needs and national needs, between micro-planning, and macro-planning, and between economic development and political development. In short, it requires coherence between economic development through planning and socio-political context for such developmental planning.
The 'sons of soil theory' as propounded in different regions of India has to be viewed in this general perspective. In fact, this phenomenon is not peculiar to India. The demands of the French in Canada, the Tamil in Sri Lanka, the Bengalis in the erstwhile Pakistan, the Flemings in Belgium, the various ethnic groups in Philippines, UK, USA and even in the USSR for equal national importance and equal share in development can be subsumed under this rubric. Such theories arise out of micro-planning at its narrowest application and is anti-national in both approach and content. India as a nation can be viewed as constituting a single soil, Maharshtra or Tamil Nadu may be viewed as disparate entities and independent soils. Within Maharashtra. Vidarbha and Marathwada claim independent soil status, whereas Marathas, not to speak of the backward classes, are not even given equal treatment with Brahmins in the same soil. Under these circumstances 'sons of soil' is not only a pernicious doctrine, but any planning based only on such considerations without reference to macro-planning is bound to defeat the very purpose of planning. Those who plead for sons of soil theory, often due to lsck of perspective, draw strength and support from notion such as situation-bound language planning (Khubchandani 1975).
In a nation state with pluri-lingual society, it is important to be aware of the local needs as well as the national needs. Exclusive concern either with the dominant or the minority without reference to the other is bound to hurt both and destroy the society. Neighbourhood is important and of immediate relevance to all; but extension of the neighbourhood or at least the awareness of its extended frontiers so as to reach out to the national frontiers is of equal importance from the point of view of the existence of a nation. If there is no coherence between a speech area and a language area, then it is bound to create conflict. Language planning and language development, to be effective, must have the twin focus on micro and micro level needs, aspirations and resources.
The Western view is liner and binary whereas the Eastern is cyclical and spiral. However, the westernised eastern elites, who are in charge of planning, follow essentially the Western world view. That is why, all language problems are reduced to binary oppositions such as English:Hindi; Hindi:Urdu; Hindi:Indian languages, etc; and all integrative solutions elude them.
'Unity in diversity' is so worn out through constant use that it is often rejected as a cliche. And yet if language planning is to be achieved without coercion in a multilingual, multi-ethnic society, it has to be viewed in the grand design offered by Gandhi in his concept of the 'oceanic circle'. In this structure, composed of innumerable speech communities, "life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual", always ready to defend and enrich his mother tongue, each speech community ready to defend and enrich the standard, the superposed or the culture language, each such group ready to defend, enrich and sacrifice for the regional dominant language and the latter ready to defend, enrich and sacrifice for the link language, national language or language and languages of national and international integration, "till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals, never aggressive in arrogance, but ever humble, sharing the majesty of the oceanic circle of which they are integral unit".
1. These multiple identities may be both multi-lingualism in the mother tongue and plurilingualism in the sense of different language use. See : wandruszka, Mario, Interlinguistics-Outlines of the New Linguistics. Education; Vol. 12. Institute for Scientific Co-operation, Tubingen, Landhausstr. 18, FRG, 76 ff.
2. Personal communication from Prof. Rais Ahmed, formerly Professor of Physics, Aligarh Muslim University, and later Director, NCERT, New Delhi.
3. Ph.D. thesis of Daniel Moulton in the University of Texas based on his field work in Andhra Pradesh, India under supervision of the author.