Classicalization of Literary Form Erects Barriers to Mobilization

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Several articles on Karnatique in the past have talked about the distance between colloquial Kannada and the literary form of Kannada. If you have not come across this topic before, you would get a fair understanding by reading this article.

In many of the discussions regarding the distance between colloquial Kannada and the literary form, the question invariably arises "is this something specific to Kannada?". The answer is "no". Some people have also suspected that because Kannada belongs to Dravidian family of languages, borrowing words from the Sanskrit language (belonging to Indo-European language family) for usage in literary form of Kannada is the reason for this distance. Well, it might come as a surprise to many that even the languages belonging to Indo-European family, Hindi for instance, have this enlarged gap between the colloquial and the literary forms. The gap is mainly due to giving up of the words regularly used in spoken forms to make way for words from the Sanskrit language. One research paper that was published in the year 1968 has captured this phenomenon. Language Hindi is the subject of study in that research paper. In this article, we shall understand the phenomenon, with the help of findings mentioned in the research paper.

Linguists Joshua A. Fishman, Charles A. Ferguson and Jyotirindra Das Gupta have come up with a book titled “Language Problems Of Developing Nations”. The book, first published in 1968, is a collection of research papers around the subject of socio-linguistics. In the book, there is a research paper titled “Language, Communication and Control in North India”, jointly written by Jyotirindra Das Gupta and John J. Gumperz.

The research paper talks about the developments around languages in the geographical area that fall under the present day states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, in the Indian Union. The developments recorded in the research paper have occurred in the 1900s. The below pasted text is an excerpt from the research paper that sheds light on how the standardization efforts moved the literary form of Hindi far away from the colloquial forms.
The Hindi scholars have interpreted the task of language development as being synonymous with increasing classicalization. But classicalization implies that the literary language diverges sharply from the common speeches, thus causing an increasing separation between the media of elite communication and mass comprehension. Evidently, the Hindi scholars are less concerned with standardizing the language for popular use than for retaining its purity from the contamination of the outside influences. Hence the policy of elitist sanctity has been of greater salience to their conception of language planning than the policy of extension of mass communication.
In summary, the official Hindi that is being used in teaching and for governmental communications today is built to suit elite communication, rather than mass comprehension. As the written form of a language moves away from the spoken form, naturally the masses find it difficult to comprehend.

The authors of the research paper have also listed a couple of examples that have been sourced from sign boards intended for the public, and also from the text of the Indian Constitution. The examples listed below have been reproduced from the research paper.
Example 1:
- dhuumprapaan varjint hai (official text)
- smoking prohibited (English translation)
- sigret piinaa manaa hai (approximate equivalent in the colloquial)
Example 2:
- raastrapati kaa nirvacin eek aisee nirvaacik gan kee sadasy kareengee (official text)
- the president’s election will be done by electors chosen to include (English translation)
- raastrapati kaa cunaaoo eek aisee cunee huwee sadasy kareengee (approximate equivalent in the colloquial)

Apart from these two examples, the authors also cite the words used commonly in the literary Hindi and their counterparts in the colloquial Hindi. Some of those are:
- yadi for agar (if)
kintu for magar (but) 
atah for isliye (therefore)
pratham for pahlaa (first)

By citing these examples, and highlighting the differences between the literary Hindi and the colloquial Hindi, the authors opine thus:
It seems evident that the new grammatical differences between colloquial and literary Hindi resulting from recent language reform materially add to the ordinary speaker’s task of learning literary Hindi. Many of the new rules are irregular in that they affect only certain parts of the vocabulary. Others affect deeply ingrained pronunciation patterns. Considerable exposure time is required before such rules can be mastered. Many native-speakers of Hindi, including some educated persons, feel uneasy about their control of literary Hindi. On the other hand, those who have been exposed to the present form of literary Hindi as part of their family background have considerable advantage in the educational system. New barriers to mobilization are being created, providing an opportunity for elite particularism to assert itself.
The situation is not much different in my mother-tongue Kannada. The present day literary form of Kannada language has drifted far from the colloquial Kannada. There are efforts to bring the literary form of Kannada as close to the spoken form as possible. Such efforts help undo the barriers to mobilization that have been erected. In the end, any language standardization process must strive to make the literary form suitable for mass communication. Mass communication will only succeed with mass comprehension, won't it?

People's Languages Key For Growth and Eliminating Inequalities

French economist Thomas Piketty's celebrated book, 'Capital in the Twenty First Century', has been a much discussed one since its first publication in 2013. The book discusses in depth on the subjects of generation and distribution of capital (or wealth), and analyses their causal factors, relying mostly on historical tax data and other records of several countries, spanning over two to three centuries. Based on these records Piketty analyses distribution of wealth, historical ups and downs in the economies of various geographical regions, economic inequalities, and also discusses various solutions that can address inequalities - both within nations and between them. In this article we will examine Piketty's analysis of global distribution of wealth across nations and major geographical regions, the resulting inequalities and their causal factors, and see what lessons we can take for a developing country like India.

In economics, Gross Domestic Product, or simply GDP, is one of several important parameters used to measure a country's economic development. It is the total output of all goods and services within a nation, in a given year. There is also another important parameter to measure economic development - per capita GDP. Simply put, it is the GDP of a nation divided by its total population. Thomas Piketty makes some important observations on historical global distribution of wealth using per capita GDP as a parameter, and analyses its possible causes. He chooses two continental blocs, Europe-America and Asia-Africa, the former with mostly developed economies and the latter having mostly under-developed ones, and observes historical economic inequalities, starting from 1700s. Here is a graph of the percentage of the global average of per capita GDP of both the continental blocs:

With a per capita GDP share of 150% of the global average in the 1700s, the Europe-America bloc, shows a consistent rise with time. As the West goes through an industrial revolution, the Asia-Africa witnesses a fall in the per capita GDP share. From the 1700 onwards the two lines show a consistent divergence from each other with the developing world trying to pull back only from the 1990s. Convergence of these two lines now, does not appear to be all that complex after all. The developed nations already have enough capital, and they can invest in the developing economies that are in need of money. Apparently, it is win-win for both, as the developed countries can profit from investing additional capital they already have, and the developing countries can benefit by utilizing the capital for production and output. Not so easy, says Piketty.

If nations have to achieve true economic development it is important for them to build highly skilled labour force that can provide top-quality goods and services, with which they can also compete in an open global market. So, it is important to keep scientific and technological skills of the population on the rise. Piketty cites the examples of economic development witnessed by Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and also China, in the recent years. So, if these two lines on the graph have to really converge, it is important that the under-developed nations develop skills of their population to be able to effectively benefit from the opportunities of the open global market. Piketty uses the term 'knowledge diffusion'. So, by the detailed analysis of historical data, Piketty comes to the conclusion that development of skills of the population, is of prime importance, and investment in quality education, especially in science and technology, is key for development of poor nations.

So, it follows that poor nations, like India, will benefit from building strong primary and higher-education systems. So, how strong are the education systems in India? Is india headed towards building stronger education systems that will help drive development? The answer, is a clear NO.

It has been proven beyond doubt that mother tongue based education is most effective in learning. Studies conducted around the world have time and again proven this fact. UNESCO not only recommends mother tongue based education but also considers it a right of every child. It is important that governments focus on building strong primary education systems in the mother tongue, and also strive to build institutions of higher education in the language of the people. This will provide a strong foundation towards achieving 'knowledge diffusion' that Piketty talks about. Successive governments in India have done trifle little in building higher education systems in people’s languages. Unfortunately, educationists, intellectuals and civil activists too have failed in building a narrative in this regard.

Industrialization alone, without much focus towards knowledge diffusion, has its limits in achieving economic development. Building a highly-skilled labour force is critical, and an education system based on people’s languages plays a key role, as is the case in the examples of countries like Japan, and South Korea.

But India, unfortunately, seems to have succumbed to a notion in education that is pulling it in the opposite direction.  The narrative that the English medium education is a panacea has successfully hijacked the society into believing in the myth that English medium is the only way to achieve success in the era of globalization. It appears that to be successful, people have to cross the English language barrier, which only a small percentage can manage to do. A huge mass of people aspiring to be part of the anglicized elite that the system has built, is still deprived of quality education. So, what we really need is a far-sighted focus towards building strong primary education systems, followed by top-notch higher education systems, in our languages.

It is important to note that Japan and South Korea that are part of the Asia-Africa bloc managed to close the gap with the West by building strong mother tongue based education systems. Needless to say, nations like Britain, France and Germany that witnessed development with the industrial revolution, and countries like Sweden, Denmark and Finland that caught up with them later too developed on the foundations of education systems in the languages of their respective people. And it is not a co-incidence that nations in the Asia-Africa bloc that have struggled to achieve economic development despite investments flowing in, have failed to build education systems in their languages.

Lessons for India are very clear. Industries are important, but there is no way we can eliminate inequalities and reach the levels of development achieved by the West without education in people's languages.