Linguistic diversity needed for the country’s economic future, better representation – People’s Linguistic Survey of India

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Times of India, TNN | Feb 13, 2014

PUNE: The future for most of the 780 surviving native Indian languages is bleak if they continue to be neglected, linguist Ganesh Devy said on Wednesday. Treating languages as a form of economic capital is the only way to retain the country’s linguistic diversity, he said.

Devy was in the city to deliver a lecture on ‘Language diversity of India: Its conservation and preservation‘, organised by the department of sociology of Fergusson College and city-based Alternatives Forum. College students, teachers and language enthusiasts attended the lecture.

Devy emphasised the need for an attitudinal change that would allow the country to develop on a multilingual culturally diverse model, where people value the different languages they speak.

“The country has already lost about 250 languages in the last 50 years. The state must recognise that a monolingual nationalistic model is not just robbing us of our linguistic richness, but also limiting the economic potential of the country. Diversity of language is not a burden on us. Rather, considering that even the most cutting-edge technologies are language-based, different languages spoken across the country have the potential to better build the country’s economic future. The country needs to be sensitive towards them,” he said.

Devy recently helmed the ‘People’s Linguistic Survey of India’, the largest such survey conducted in the country after 1928, which will be published in 50 volumes till December 2014. […]

Devy said that language extinction was a global phenomenon; even those speaking English as their first language feared a takeover by other languages, such as ‘Hinglish’. “Across the world, there is an anxiety that linguistic diversity is going to end. While there are 6,000 surviving languages in the world at present, experts fear that as many as 4,000 will disappear by the end of the 21st century. Moreover, of the remaining 2000, as many as 1,700 will just about continue to survive, with no real domain such as being the medium of communication, justice, education or healthcare,” he said.

While Devy credited the preservation of the large number of Indian languages to the Indian tradition of respecting diversity, he also rued the lack of representation of each in the Parliament. “Every language has its own unique world view. Just about 4% of these are represented in our Parliament, creating a massive disconnect between the ‘rulers’ and the ‘ruled’. This form of ‘language disconnect’ is frightening for the largest democracy. Which is why it is important to preserve the diversity so that it can find better representation,” he said.

Source: Need to preserve linguistic diversity, says expert – The Times of India
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