Adivasi languages – Ganesh Devy on changing languages and the question of legislation

There are two things. One is the state of Indian languages— the bhashas. Prof. Ananthamurthy has often argued that the bhashas have been drawing conditionally from many other bhasha systems, the subsets of bhashas. I’m only reporting what he has said—there’s a system of bhasha that is developed in the kitchen and the backyard, a language system that you call dialects. I never call them dialects, I call all of them bhashas. The Adivasi languages in a state have always strayed into the larger language of that state. The contact with Persian, Arabic, which was active at one time too has weakened now. The market needs have brought the bhashas closer to English, and there’s too much of intimacy with English. So languages keep changing all the time. And so long as human beings are there, interacting with the phenomenal world, languages will be there. They need greater attention, but it cannot happen through legislation. Languages should not be legislated. When there was no legislation, languages were safer. With legislation, they start going down. That is the experience all over the world. In Russia, Spain and China it has been so, in India it has been so.

Prof. Ganesh Devy in response to a listener’s question on the assumed benefits derived from legislation [India’s “scheduled languages”]

Source: “A View of Higher Education in India” pp. 51-52 by Prof. Ganesh Devy
Chair, People’s Linguistic Survey of India, Bhasha Research and Publication Centre

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Click here to read the entire text of “A View of Higher Education in India”, a public lecture delivered on September 26th, 2010 at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

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