Wednesday November 22, 2017

Five reasons why Indian languages are getting neglected

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There is a growing concern that Indians are gradually getting uprooted from their bases leading to the extinction of a rich varied culture.

There are obvious reasons behind the increasing concern.

The advent of technology, inclination to ape foreign culture and cultural invasion of the West is gradually corroding the base of our culture. And regrettably, none of the governments took any serious measures to address this grave concern.

Never did any politician promise, in his election manifesto, that they would reinvigorate the lost glory of our languages and cultures.

Here are a few reasons why several Indian languages are staring at a bleak future.

Lack of government initiatives: After George Abraham Grierson conducted his survey on Indian languages between 1894 and 1928, it was the People’s Linguistic Survey of India which took up the uphill task of carrying out a comprehensive survey on Indian languages. Reportedly, it was the first survey in as many as 80 years. And what came out in the survey was appalling.

The body counted the staggering presence of 780 languages across India. Furthermore, the survey indicated that there might be over 100 more languages hidden in the nooks and corners of our vast country.

Lack of survey in over 80 years attributed greatly to the decay of Indian languages and the state it is in today.

Migration in search of livelihood: Many Indian settlements were set up near rivers and coastal areas and people indulged in various occupations including farming, fishing and others. With the influx of modern technologies, work became easier but people lost their livelihood. As a result, people started to migrate to other places. As the situation demanded they adapted to the new cultures and spoke new languages abandoning their mother tongues.

The Criminal Tribes Act: Criminal Tribes Act is gruesome act that brands a person as a criminal by virtue of his birth in a certain community. The legacy of the nomads continued to haunt the 313 nomadic tribes who lived in India. Economically crippled and hounded by government forces, the members of the tribes were forced to alienate themselves and forge a completely new identity. Lost were their cultures and their languages.

Reportedly over 60 million people belong to theses so-called nomadic tribes.

Notably, this Act was first enacted in 1871 as the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. 

Lack of usage: Survival of any language depends on the fact that it is spoken regularly. English medium schools make it mandatory to speak in English forcing the students to abandon their mother tongue. In the process, local languages get neglected.

Influence of media: English media channels have created a niche for themselves. They claim to be the most authentic and propagate that watching them ‘enhances’ social status. Consequently, more and more people opt for English channels and regional language channels get overshadowed.  

In the words of Sankrant Sanu, India needs a proper language policy and a “Bhasa Andolan” to address the issue and restore the lost glory of the Indian languages.

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In the realm of ignorance: Koshur the neglected language?

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photo source : www.koshur.org

By Shriya Katoch

  • Koshur is the language of Kashmir, which is at least 750 years old.
  • Though, recognized as one among the 22 scheduled languages of India, the language is slowly disappearing.

HISTORY

The Kashmiri language known as “koshur” has many influences associated with it. It is one of the oldest languages in the world, with Indo-Aryan roots and has a very rich history.
The language itself has elements of different languages, borrowing from Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Russian, Persian, Punjabi, and even English.

Though its origin emerges from an ancient linguistic group of Dardi in the 8th and 9th century. According to European linguist G.T Venn, this time worn language has half of its words from Sanskrit, 33% from Tibetan, 10% Persian, 5% Hindi, and 2% from Dogri.

The Kashmiri language is the only Dardi language that has a literature of its own. In fact, Kashmiri literature dates back to about 750 years , this is equivalent to the age of modern English.

STRUCTURE

The Kashmiri language did not have its own script until the late 20th century. Three orthographical structures are set in place to write the Kashmiri language: the Sharada script, the Devangiri script, and the Peso Arabic script. After the 8th century AD the Kashmiri language was written in Sharada script, but this has been discontinued and has only been revisited by the Kashmiri Pandits during religious ceremonies.

In  modern times it is written in Peso -Arabic and Devangiri script. Through the times Kashmiri Peso Arabic script has been affiliated with the Muslim community, whereas the Devangiri script is associated with the Kashmiri Hindu community.

The reason why Koshur is different from other old Indo Aryan languages like Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, etc. is because it has retained its Aryan roots. Infact, some vocabulary features that Kashmiri preserves clearly date from the Vedic Sanskrit era and had already been lost even in Classical Sanskrit.

PRESENT SCENARIO

Even after surviving the test of time after 750 years,  Koshur is dying. The Koshur language is among the dying heritages of the world.

In a multilingual state like Kashmir, it is hard to make a language so time worn to survive. Though attempts have been made by the government.

Koshur has been declared as the official language of Jammu and Kashmir. It has also been included as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.

A group of writers in the Kashmir attempted to popularize the age old language to empty results. Finally, in 1980 government included Koshur in their academic syllabus and opened a Kashmiri department in Kashmir university, but all these attempts could not restore the tarnished language. Only the older population in Kashmir uses this language,with most youngsters using  more common languages like Urdu, Hindi or English.

As of November 2008 Kashmiri language has been made a compulsory subject in all schools in the valley up to the secondary level.

Despite all these attempts made by the government to restore the glory of this age old language, the attempts have been made way too late. The government needs to create a way in which  this centennial old language can be a common tongue in households.

Shriya Katoch multitasks as an Engineering student, an avid reader, a guitar player and a death note fan. Twitter: @katochshriya538

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Sanskrit is the new craze among Mumbaikars

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Sanskrit

Fiona Fernandez

Chandrahas Halai is a man of many pursuits. He is a mechanical engineer, a mathematician, a travel writer and history buff. Tying these varied interests together now is a language that history seems to be in no interest to forget.

Last July, Halai signed up for a certificate course in Sanskrit that would eventually enable him to read the Samarangana Sutradhara. Written in Sanskrit by Raja Bhoja, the 11th-century ruler of Malwa region, this text is a discourse on civil engineering detailing the construction of buildings, forts, temples, idols of deities and mechanical devices. “I am interested in temple architecture.

In our country, temples 210 feet tall have been built in the pre-modern era. What was the sort of machinery that was used? How did the workers carry the stones to that height?” The answers to these questions, says Halai, lie in the 80 chapters of the book. And although translations exist, he fears much of the essence will be lost. Plus, he wants to avoid reading history from a Westerners’ perspective.

An interest in mythology borne out of a need to better a television script and a better left brain-right brain balance are some of many reasons driving Mumbaikars to Sanskrit classes. And, as is the case with Halai, it’s not in order to read religious texts.

Madhavi Narsalay, assistant professor and head of the department of Sanskrit at Mumbai University, says this year has seen 100 students enroll for the certificate course that runs over weekends. It’s full capacity. The numbers, she adds, have been at a high since 2000.

In between, the class average would be 50-60.

In 2013, she was asked to consult on the show by the producers of Mahabharat, 267 episodes of which were aired. “They wanted someone to provide them the exact story by reading the original texts and not translations,” says Narsalay, who has been with the department for 20 years. She would also be required to identify shlokas from the original text that would fit in when a certain character was introduced.

“For instance, for the entry of Draupadi who rose from the fire… I had to go back and read a lot of original texts,” she remembers.

Reading Sanskrit, however, isn’t everyone’s passion. Arjun Vyas, who greets you with a Namo Namah (he will make it a point to tell you that the greeting has nothing to do with the country’s Prime Minister), says he stumbled upon the class on a social messaging group and felt obligated to join. A few classes in, however, the 51-year-old industrial project consultant was hooked. “All my life I though Sanskrit was a difficult language, but it’s so easy,” he exclaims. Vyas attended the free of charge, 10-day, spoken Sanskrit camp conducted by Sanskrit Bharati in Bandra East this February. He recommends the class because it’s all about conversational Sanskrit: “Upanetram kutra aasti?” (where are my spectacles?)”. Which brings us to the tough question. Once they do learn Sanskrit, where do Vyas and his batchmates practise?

It’s a bit of an admission. “We would call each other and speak. Else, there are weekly sessions where people can come and practise,” he adds. Plus, he says, he now converses with his wife Snehal in Sanskrit. Snehal, 51, a breast cancer survivor says someone first asked her to start reciting Sanskrit shlokas in 2013 since it would help her tongue stiff from chemotherapy, recover. But, watching her husband speak the language fluently prompted her to join the class. “Part of the motivation was envy. How could he speak better than me,” laughs the manager at NIIT. Now, the two have found a code language to speak in, she says.

The lure of Sanskrit, says Malhar Kulkarni, who teaches the language at IIT-Powai, is that it’s free in order. “For instance, you can’t change the order of the words ‘tiger eats man’ in the English language without changing its meaning. In Sanskrit, this is possible,” says Kulkarni, who holds weekly classes for advanced-level students at Vile Parle, again free of charge.

Sanskrit, he says, also finds takers among software engineering students who want to use the language — considered to be the root of several Indo-European languages — to develop tools to analyse others languages and train machines to translate them.

Kulkarni emphasizes that the curiosity about the language crosses borders of religion and social strata. “It’s part of our psyche, everyone feels connected with it. Once I was walking in Vile Parle and came across two drunk men fighting outside an illicit bar. One, in a fit of anger, said to the other, ‘I will send you to the yama sadan!’ Not hell. But, yama sadan. That’s how much we’ve grown up with Sanskrit.”

This article was first published at midday.com

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English needs to be treated as local language: Prof Mohanty

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Hyderabad: The English Dept of Maulana Azad National Urdu University conducted the 4th National Conference on“Language, Literature, and Society”. The Dean, Prof Panchanan Mohanty, School of Humanities, the University of Hyderabad was also present there.

The professor remarked, “French is the language of France, Spanish is the language of Spain but Hindustani is not the language of Hindustan.”

Prof C R Vishweshwara Rao, former VC of Vikramasimhapuri University inaugurated the conference.

Continuing his speech, Prof Mohanty told that only 4 percent of Indians speak English but this language keeps the entire country united. There are 22 scheduled languages which 96.6 percent people speak. He felt the need for research on Indian English.

He told that if Indian English is recognized as an Indian language, it could be taught as a local language instead of a foreign language. Teaching English through another language is one of the basic difficulties of acquisition of this language. English should be taught without the intervention of any other language as we teach our mother tongue.

Prof Vishweshwara Rao reviewed the critical thought process right from Aristophanes to the modern historians. He told that society was construed in the context of the development of Literature. Now it is being considered as a literary text.

Prof Naseemuddin Farees, Dean, School of Languages, Linguistics and Indology applauded the efforts of the Dept of English of MANUU for organizing this conference. By selecting the topic as “Language, Literature, and Society”, the conference has been made very valuable.

Dr Shugufta Shaheen, Head of the Dept of English, MANUU told that society is the mirror of Literature and hence the important task of Literature is to promote Human values.

The issue of theoretical principles and aesthetic values which have been engaging the attention of the writers right from the ancient times is continued in the modern era also. Thus, it becomes essential to organize Literary discussion and discourses like this.

(Inputs from The Siasat Daily)