The Central Institute of Indian Languages was established on July 17, 1969 with an aim
to help evolve and implement language policy of the Govt. of India and co-ordinate the
work of various institutions in India and abroad with regard to the development of
Indian languages. In order to achieve the objectives. the Institute conducts various
projects and programmes.
The Institute organized an International Conference on the Linguistic Heritage
of India and Asia in collaboration with the UNESCO at Mysore on March 6-10, 2000.
Linguistic Pluralism is an essential part of the linguistic heritage of the people in this
region. The diversity in terms of languages and cultures is not only the fact of life but
also a cherished value. It is the sustaining force of the democracy. Globalization and the
impact of fast growing information technology are perceived as a threat to the
diversities in the third world countries. There is a widespread fear that the traditional
pluralistic societies might be more and more homogenized in the years to come. There is
a need to establish proper criteria and policies to address these issues.
The issues related to language diversity are related to other linguistic and socio-
economic issues, protection of minorities and their rights. Preservation of
multilingualism is used as an economic strategy for mobilizing collective identity.
The papers presented in the Conference focused on various aspects of preservation
and promotion of multilingualism. The papers primarily deal with India, Myanmar,
Indonesia, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Japan. The Conference took stock of the
linguistic situation in various Asian countries including India and recommended
appropriate interventions necessary for the promotion and preservation of
multilingualism. These recommendations are included in the Mysore Document, which
was prepared and released at the end of the Conference. I trust that scholars will find the
The papers included in this volume were presented in the International Conference on
Linguistic Heritage of India and Asia. This Conference was held by the Central Institute
of Indian Languages, in collaboration with UNESCO at Mysore from March 6 - 10,
2000. The scholars who attended the conference represented different Asian Countries
and India. Since 1999-2000 was the year of Sanskrit, Sanskrit was given a special
session in the Conference.
The Conference has drawn scholars from several fields of expertise. All the papers
presented in the Conference have been included in the volume except for the paper of
Prof. Ramli Md Salleh that was not made available to us.
The Conference aimed at looking at the issues related to linguistic diversity,
protection and promotion of linguistic rights of minorities and the strategies to promote
multilingual education. UNESCO interprets the concept of linguistic heritage as
diversity, and most presentations follow this definition. Other scholars use it in different
ways. These interpretations are classified into five themes and the papers are grouped
accordingly. These themes are:
Papers on the theme of Sanskrit as heritage have looked at the unifying role of Sanskrit
across diversities. Ananthanarayana’s paper examines the role of Sanskrit in the Vedic
period and in the Middle Ages. The role of Sanskrit as a binding force, literary activities
in Sanskrit, influence of Sanskrit on naming, scientific terminology are some of the
aspects dealt in the paper. Nagalakshmi presents the diversities across religion, culture
and language. This is followed by examining the role of Sanskrit as a binding force
cutting across diversities. Prabodhachandran Nayar focuses on the unifying force of
Sanskrit. He discusses the influence of Sanskrit on Malayalam at the phonological,
lexical and grammatical levels and on performing arts and scientific literature.
Vidhata Mishra and Nagamma Reddy have limited their focus to the phonological
system. Mishra looks at the loss of Vedic sounds in Sanskrit and makes a plea for its
preservation. The focus in Nagamma Reddy’s paper is wider and discusses the influence
of Sanskrit sounds on modern Indian languages. The discussion covers vowels,
consonants, plosives, aspirations, retroflexion, nasals, fricatives and suprasegmentals.
The significance of the paper lies in its analytical framework, which is inclusive of both
major as well as tribal languages.
Grammatical Tradition as Heritage
Some scholars have interpreted linguistic heritage as representing Grammatical
Tradition. Annamalai’s paper is actually the Keynote address of the Conference. It
discusses the Panianian and non-Panianian grammatical traditions and the phenomena of
multilingualism. The paper highlights the need for differentiating form and content in
discussing the influence of Sanskrit on Tamil. The distinction is illustrated with
examples where Tamil has been influenced by the content of Sanskrit but has resisted its
Rangan presents the concept of ‘vazu’ in Tolkapppiyam — the known earliest
grammatical tradition of Tamil. The logistics of deviant sentences are laid bare in
different kinds of vazus. The grammatical tradition is shown to be exhaustive covering
syntax as well as content and by its applicability to situational and poetical discourse. In
contemporary sense, vazu and vazuvamaiti are seen as referring to appropriateness
conditions of language use.
Bhat also views grammar as a part of linguistic heritage. For Bhat, however, the
tradition is largely unconscious. The paper deals with syntactic differences between
languages in terms of parts of speech and verbal categories contextualizing them in the
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The category differences across languages are viewed as
unconsciously constraining thought.
Multilingualism: Majority Language
The theme of multilingualism deals with the status/role of major/majority language
either in States/other countries in the bedrock of linguistic diversity. Goswami looks at
the status of Assamese in the Northeastern parts of India. Assamese is a link language
across these states. The paper shows how different tribal groups have nativised
Assamese to form Nagamese in Nagaland and Nefamese in Arunachal Pradesh.
Thoudam discusses some problems in the analysis of Manipuri. Lack of adequate
training of scholars to work with genealogically different language, imposition of
Sanskrit or English based grammars on Manipuri are some of the major problems that
have been identified. These problems have resulted in certain faulty claims about the
linguistic nature of Manipuri and the paper discusses some of these claims.
Bandhu discusses the pictusre of linguistic diversity in Nepal. The presentation
examines the status of certain languages like Sanskrit, Tibetan and some minor
languages. It also looks at the development of-Nepali as national language as well as a
Oc Choun. raises the question of whether Khmer is a product of Sanskrit-Pali
language or it is a language of Cambodia. Based on linguistic evidences at the
phonological and syntactic levels and the process of Khemarisation in case of words
borrowed from Sanskrit-Pali it is concluded that Khmer is the original language of
Cambodia that has been influenced by Sanskrit-Pali. It is noted that this process of
nativisation holds good not only. with reference to language but also to culture, literature
and scientific activities. .
Yin Yin Myint presents a brief report on the various surveys of the indigenous
languages in Myanmar. The study makes an important contribution to scholars working
in the language diversity in Myanmar as the report is accompanied with a detailed list of
the surveys. A glimpse of diversity in Srilanka can be obtained from the paper of
Kalanathan. The influence of Portuguese, Dutch, English and Sinhalese on Tamil in
Srilanka has been presented.
Rocky Miranda examines the problems faced by Konkani because of the spread of
Konkani across Maharashtra, Cochin and Karnataka in addition to it being concentrated
in Goa. The problem is further compounded by the variable of different religious
affiliations because both Hindus and Christians speak Konkani. These problems are
reflected in different dialects, scripts and vocabulary. In view of the problems created
due to diversities, the need for standardization is discussed.
Lauder discusses the historical background, and growth of Bhasa Indonesia in
Indonesia. The status is seen as varying across host of variables like the geographical
area, domains of education and occupation, religious affiliation and the use of other
regional languages. The paper also present the findings of an on-going project for
mapping regional languages and the conclusion stresses on the need for informed
policies that promote coexistence of national and regional languages.
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