Wednesday December 13, 2017

‘Bilingual children are better than monolinguals at problem solving’

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Toronto: Kids who can speak in two or more languages have a better command on routine functioning, reveals a study.

According to researchers, bilingual children are better than monolinguals at a certain type of mental control, and those children with more practice switching between languages have even greater skills.

“This switching becomes more frequent as children grow older and as their vocabulary size increases,” said senior author of the study, Diane Poulin-Dubois from Concordia University in Montreal, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

“Therefore, the superior performance on these conflict tasks appears to be due to bilinguals’ strengthened cognitive flexibility and selective attention abilities as they have increased experience in switching across languages in expressive vocabulary,” Dubois added.

“For the most part, there was no difference between the bilingual and monolingual toddlers,” Poulin-Dubois stated.

It was not surprising to the researchers that the bilingual children performed significantly better on the conflict inhibition tasks than did their monolingual counterparts, the study found. (IANS)

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Environmental factors behind linguistic diversity, says study

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It is a known fact that the gradual evolution of human biology involves the anatomy, physiology and functions of the body. However, recent findings of an international research organisation suggested that distinctions in human linguistic evolution are also a result of the adaptation to local ecological conditions.

Most of our human features are found in other species as well, even if they are rudimentary in nature. But what sets us apart is our rich and productive human language. The evolution of human speech represents a quantum leap in the assembly of Eukaryote cell. A Eukaryote refers to any organism whose cells contain a nucleus and other organelles enclosed within a membrane.

A study took place to examine the relationship between sound structures with worldwide samples of human languages and climatic and ecological factors including temperature, precipitation, vegetation and geomorphology.

The results indicate a correlation between ecological factors and the ratio of resonance that are responsible for linguistic diversity. This resonating sound is produced by the uninterrupted airflow in the examined languages.

This points out that species adapt their acoustic signals to optimize sound transmission in the environment they live in. These acoustic signals finally turn into human languages.

“We find that the number of distinct sounds and the degree to which consonants cluster together in syllables correlate with mean annual precipitation, mean annual temperature, degree of tree cover and the geographic elevation of the area in which they are traditionally spoken,” Ian Maddieson, the primary researcher and adjunct professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico, was quoted as saying.

“Both the number of distinct consonants and their distribution in syllabic structures are lower where tree cover and temperature are higher,” he added.

This is why people living in areas of abundant tree cover tend to have a less consonant-heavy language as compared to people living in an environment where higher frequencies are less realistically transmitted, leading people to favour the use of low-frequency sounds, or loud sounds.

Putting this in a context of the Indian demography, it, very interestingly, clarifies the reason behind the extreme linguistic diversity in the acoustics of Indian languages.

It is striking that in this comparatively small geographical area, we have such phonetic extremes and vast linguistic diversity. For instance, Hindi and Kannada have an entirely different sound catalogue.

Even though Indian languages are majorly divided into just two language families of Indo-Aryan languages and Dravidian languages, we have phonetics changing from city to city due to the contribution of our diverse geography.

People in the Himalayan states such as Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are softer in their tone while the astringent tone is used in Punjab and Haryana. The Dravidian languages, which include Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam, are mostly limited to southern India and uses a combination of mild and unusual sounds.

These differences can very evidently be seen in the exceptionally diverse musical tones of India. Thus, we need to maintain this environmental balance which has gifted India with not only geographical diversity but also acoustic diversity.

“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard,” Sun Tzu rightly said in The Art of War.

This is exactly what India represents– an archipelago of phonetics. We have hundreds of dialects and a thousand acoustic ways to express them.

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Plight of Punjabi language in India

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I vividly remember it was in grade six when we were required to select our second language in school; Hindi being the first and compulsory language. Fortunately, the Rajasthani town where my school was located had a considerable number of Sikhs, and thus the Punjabi was also taught there, but in Gurumukhi script.

My Sikh friends, therefore, would choose Punjabi and Hindus, Sanskrit. I, being a Punjabi Hindu, should have ideally gone for Punjabi instead of the ancient language, but I was made to choose the latter. In retrospect, I cannot but regret the fact that I was made to choose between Sanskrit and Punjabi, both being my own languages.

A different script for Punjabi i.e. Gurumukhi seemed an impediment and sounded a bit alien to me, for heretofore I had learnt only Devanagari and Roman scripts like the majority of Indians. In an ideal world, the choice should have been between Punjabi and English, the latter being a foreign language.

“We have to adopt one language, one script, one literature, one ideal and one nation, but the adoption of a single language precedes all the other unities so that they can communicate with and comprehend each other,” Bhagat Singh wrote.

However, for decades, learning English has been a compulsion here, as one’s livelihood depends on one’s proficiency in the language. Despite securing our ‘so-called freedom’ in 1947, we have somehow kept our slavery intact.

Today, English is a language of classes instead of masses.

“We have this great Indian inferiority complex. Those who speak Indian languages are seen as inferior beings and are discriminated against. In fact, English is the reason behind our backwardness. According to a study, only 10 per cent Indians know English; rest of 90 per cent literate Indians study in Indian languages. English is there because the state favors it and discriminates against Indian languages,” Sankrant Sanu – an entrepreneur, writer and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon, tells NewsGram in an interview.

But at the same time, being connected to one’s roots and learning one’s own language is important (duh).

As this Punjabi poem goes,

O rahiya rahe jandya, sun ja gallan meri

Sir to pag tere balait di, ihnun fuk muatara la.

(O passerby, listen to me. Burn that foreign turban which thou art wearing on thy head, And take to ‘Muatara’.)

Until the cataclysmic partition of Punjab in 1947, three views prevailed in the state. Muslims were staunch supporters of Urdu that was also the language of the court; Sikhs favored Punjabi in Gurumukhi script while the Hindus rooted for Hindi in Devnagari script. It is a matter of great regret that in order to secure a separate identity and homeland for Muslims, our Punjabi Muslim brothers apparently abandoned their own language.

Indian freedom fighter Shaheed Bhagat Singh had an interesting take on this issue. He believed that most important thing before us was to make India a unified nation, but this could not be done all at once.

“For this we have to move step by step. If we cannot adopt one language for the whole of India at the moment, we should at least adopt one script,” he wrote in an article for Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in 1923, elucidating why Punjabi should be taught in Devnagri script.

Bhagat Singh believed the Urdu script based on the Persian language could not be called a perfect one. As per the Indian freedom fighter, idealists’ vision of turning the world into one single nation, one global nation was a good idea. But, we have to realize that ideal in our own country.

“We have to adopt one language, one script, one literature, one ideal and one nation, but the adoption of a single language precedes all the other unities so that they can communicate with and comprehend each other. A Punjabi and a Madrasi must not sit together mute at a gathering, but try to communicate their ideas and emotions, and this should be done in our own language, Hindi, rather than in an alien language like English.”

Remember that Bhagat Singh expressed these views in 1923, stressing upon the need to have one script for all the Indian languages. Alas, 24 years later India was divided along the lines of religion. Muslims rooting for Urdu got their Land of the Pure i.e. Pakistan, with Punjab witnessing unprecedented violence. Thousands of people – Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims – were rendered homeless, butchered and raped as they tried to flee their homelands.

That was apparently the final nail in the coffin of Punjabi in Pakistan. Today, there are about 10 crore Muslim Punjabis in Pakistan who speak Punjabi but disown it for obvious reasons. Those who speak Punjabi are seen as inferior beings. Besides Pakistanis write Punjabi in Persian script and use a highly Arabised version of it. For them, Urdu is their mother tongue. Moreover, Punjabi is not even taught in their schools and those who wish to learn it are required to hire private tutors, to the extent that language is on the verge of extinction in the Islamic Republic.

A Muslim Punjabi in Pakistan I interviewed for the purpose of this article told me how her father hired a private Sikh tutor to teach her Gurumukhi script.

“In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they teach Pushto, in Sindh they teach Sindhi and in Balochistan there are multiple races so they teach Brahvi Persian Pushto. But, alas, in Punjab they don’t teach Punjabi in schools.”

In India, there are about 3 crore Sikhs and as many Hindu Punjabis. Unfortunately, the majority of Hindu Punjabis disown it as their mother tongue and prefer Hindi or Sanskrit over their own language. Therefore, it is a pity that out of total about 16 crore Punjabis in India and Pakistan, only 3 crore Sikh Punjabis own it as their mother tongue.

Bhagat Singh had a solution to secure justice for and promote the Punjabi language in the country. He believed that Gurumukhi script was even more incomplete than Urdu.

“But when we already have a scientific and perfect Hindi script, what is there to feel hesitant about adopting it? The Gurmukhi script is only distorted form of the Hindi script.

“Right from the start all the rules are same, then, how much will we be benefited by our immediate switch over to this. The Punjabi language will start developing immediately by adopting this perfect script… We shall plead with the supporters of Hindi that, ultimately and certainly, only Hindi will be the language of the whole Bharat, but it will be more convenient to propagate it from now on. Punjabi will become like Hindi by adopting the script and then all the differences will disappear and it is desirable that common people could be educated which is possible only through our own language in our own script.

(Image courtesy: sikhsocietyflorida)

2 responses to “Plight of Punjabi language in India”

  1. it is better if all Punjabis irrespective of their religion accept Punjabi in its current form than making experiment with different scripts.
    By your logic then Roman should be the script we Punjabis should try becauue then not nationally but internationally people can learn Punjabi.
    Language is only language when its has it own script and grammar. Gurmukhi is perfect script for Punjabi.It gives its identity. it is matter of only mindset. Gurmukhi originated in india. it is as Indian as any other Indian script. then I don’t know why you guys only relate it to Sikhism ( even Sikhism is 100% Indian religion)
    In villages of Punjab there is hardly any difference between culture and language of people from different religion. It is only educated person like you create differences based on religion and make Language part of that.
    Time is changed now even Punjabi Hindus has accepted Punjabi as their mother tongue in its current form. You may be still living in 80s.

  2. Devanagari is not fit for the Punjabi language.it is a complicated script. It does not have all Punjabi sounds.Gurmukhi script is much easier than Devanagari. It is a perfect script for Punjabi.Punjabi is never written in Devanagari script.All Punjabis should Learn this script.