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Monday, March 01, 2021

Explained: How was ‘Aatmanirbharta’ chosen as the Hindi Word of the Year by Oxford Languages?

While the word of the year shows that the term resonated with the people during a given year, it does not guarantee its addition to the Oxford dictionary.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: February 4, 2021 11:05:04 am
Oxford Languages has selected ‘Aatmanirbharta’ as the Hindi word of the year for 2020 since the team saw a significant increase in its usage (Getty/Thinkstock)

Oxford Languages has chosen ‘Aatmanirbharta’ or self-reliance as its Hindi word of the year for 2020.

The 2019 Oxford Hindi word of the year was “Samvidhaan” or Constitution as the panelists felt that in 2019, the Indian Constitution “gained renewed significance for the common man of India” because of the Sabarimala issue, the abrogation of Article 370 and the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute among some other events that brought attention to the Constitution and the values of “democracy, secularism, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity”.

Even so, while the word of the year shows that the term resonated with the people during a given year, it does not guarantee its addition to the Oxford dictionary.

What is Oxford Word of the Year?

Oxford’s Word of the Year is a word or an expression that has attracted a great deal of interest in the preceding year. For 2020, Oxford Languages has not chosen a single word in English since they believe that the year cannot be summed up using one single word.

Therefore, this year they have released a report titled, “Words of an Unprecedented Year” in which they have analysed themes such as COVID-19 and terms related to it, political and economic volatility, social activism, environment and the uptake of technologies that supported remote working and living. This includes words such as lockdown, social distancing, shelter-in-place, remotely, unmute, bushfire, climate, Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter and Cancel Culture among others.

In 2019, the English word of the year was “climate emergency”, in 2018 it was “toxic” and in 2017 it was “Youthquake”.

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How are these words chosen?

Oxford Languages says that candidates for the Word of the Year are drawn from evidence gathered through their language research program, which includes the Oxford Corpus that gathers about 150 million words of current English from web-based publications every month. From this list, lexicographers identify new and emerging words and examine the shifts in how more established words are being used.

Significantly, while the word of the year does not have to be coined in the preceding month, its use needs to have become more prominent in the last 12 months.

Why was ‘Aatmanirbharta’ chosen as Hindi Word of the Year?

The Oxford Hindi Word of the Year is a word or expression that is chosen to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.

Oxford Languages has selected ‘Aatmanirbharta’ as the Hindi word of the year for 2020 since the team saw a significant increase in its usage, “highlighting its increased prominence as a phrase and concept in the public lexicon”, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation in May 2020.

In this address, Modi announced the COVID-19 recovery package that emphasised the need to be self-reliant as a country, economy and as a society of individuals. During the address, Modi said: “Aatmanirbhar Bharat is not about being self-contained or being closed to the world, it is about being self-sustaining and self-generating. We will pursue policies that promote efficiency, equity and resilience.”

“On an individual level, 2020 required self-reliance more than ever before. From homeschooling to remote working, from creating our own means of entertainment to finding ways of keeping ourselves physically fit within confined spaces, from cooking for ourselves to caring for ourselves, and being forced to remain away from family and loved ones for extended periods of time, what has gotten many of us through is self-reliance,” Oxford Languages said in a statement.

How was the Hindi Word of the Year chosen?

The team at Oxford Languages chose this word in consultation with three panelists who are Hindi language experts. To select the word, entries were obtained from Hindi speakers on Twitter. The panelists include Kritika Agrawal, who is an Advocate-on-Record and a graduate from the University of Oxford, Dr Poonam Nigam Sahay, who is an Associate Professor in English Language, Literature & Linguistics at Ranchi University, and Imogen Foxell, who is an Executive Editor for Oxford Languages.

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