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Linguistic Heritage of India and Asia

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Item Code: NAX303
Author: Omkar N. Koul and L. Devaki
Publisher: Central Institute Of Indian Languages, Mysore
Language: English
Edition: 2000
ISBN: 8173420769
Pages: 344
Other Details 9.00 X 7.00 inch
Weight 740 gm
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Book Description


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 Volume useful.


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:

  1. Sanskrit as Heritage

  2. Grammatical Tradition as Heritage

  3. Multilingualism as Heritage: Majority Language

  4. Multilingualism as Heritage: Minority Language

  5. Multilingual Education

Sanskrit as Heritage

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 form.

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 link language.

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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