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National convention airs concern over threat to Indian languages

Representatives of 320 languages participating in the Bharat Bhasha Confluence 2010 from across the country held placards — each bearing the name of a language,written in Gujarati,Hindi and English — and marched to Sayajibaug in Vadodara from C C Mehta Auditorium.

Written by Express News Service | Vadodara |
March 10, 2010 2:56:20 am

Representatives of 320 languages participating in the Bharat Bhasha Confluence 2010 from across the country held placards — each bearing the name of a language,written in Gujarati,Hindi and English — and marched to Sayajibaug in Vadodara from C C Mehta Auditorium.

Eminent linguist and the founder director of Central Institute of Indian Languages,D P Pattanayak,while addressing the gathering,expressed hope that the Union government would conduct a linguistic survey “because that is the only way to know all our languages”.

On Tuesday,the participants along with representatives of 320 languages visited the Tejgadh Tribal Academy in Panchmahals district,where parallel sessions were held and were chaired by various scholars and literary figures.

“One major highlight of the discussion was redundancy of the scripts for smaller languages. Creative writers in languages such as Kork of Santhals,which follow Roman as well as Devanagari script,have now stopped writing because there are two scripts on many occasions. On the other hand,the issue of ‘landless’ or ‘displaced’ languages was also discussed at length,which generally happens because of migration of indigenous peoples. Also,another important thing that emerged out of the parallel sessions is that states are witnessing a growth of speakers of diverse languages due to migration,” added Professor G N Devy.

The language conference will discuss and deliberate on social problems that come along with the extinction of languages. The conference was opened with invocations in different Indian languages including Uttarakhandi,Bangla,Kannada,Sanketi,Tulu,Konkani,Malayalam,Ho and Gujarati.

“All Indian languages are threatened. And it is not only the small tribal languages,but even major languages like Hindi. We are witnessing a situation where English is at the top while 35 Indian languages are at the bottom. The smaller languages are facing a double threat from English and other major Indian languages,” said Pattanayak.

Also participating in the confluence,linguist Anvita Abbi from Jawaharlal Nehru University shared her experience of having a close association with Boa Senior,an 85-year-old Andamanese woman,who was the last surviving speaker of the Bo language and passed away on January 26 this year.

“With her a 65,000 year-old language died. While there was much concern shown by foreign nations and the media until her death,very few bodies were concerned about it,” added Abbi.

The issue of linguistic survey was taken up by INTACH director Kamalini Sengupta with the director of the Mysore-based Central Institute of Indian Language,Rajesh Sachdeva,who said that accurate information on the number of languages,especially smaller languages,was a need of the hour.

On linguistic survey,Sachdeva said that “the government had developed cold feet”.

Over the next two days,participants across the country,including eminent literary figures like Mahashweta Devi,Ramanika Gupta,Shiv Vishwanathan and Tridip Suhrud,would address parallel sessions on languages,while about 60 students from Kalinga University speaking in 21 languages would encourage the speakers.

Ganesh Devy,organiser of the confluence,expressed concern: “While our cities have become ‘Bhasha Bharat’ (drawn from the Mahabharata) with migrations of speakers of different languages,we did not prepare them for this situation,leading to many social problems.”

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