Artikolo De Probal Daŝgupto: Malsamoj inter versioj

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'''Language policies and lesser-known languages in India'''
+
ĉgukseh qczo stkuecyr nthk etalojrdn ucleybkhv zhpnjcmxg
 
+
''Probal Dasgupta''
+
 
+
 
+
pretigita por la aperonta libro:<br>
+
''Globalization, technological advances and lesser-known
+
languages in South Asia''<br>
+
Anju Saxena (ed.)
+
 
+
 
+
 
+
In this intervention I make a case against treating
+
lesser-known languages as points on a scale that
+
ranges from the neediest communities to the least
+
needy. My argument refers to factors that become
+
salient during the transition from a modern order of
+
nation-states to an unsettled dynamism involving
+
heterogeneous spaces. Under the exigencies and
+
anxieties of globalization, the experiences become
+
traumatic and call for urgent efforts to formulate and
+
address what are experienced as vital issues on the
+
ground.
+
 
+
For clarity, I briefly present first the view I
+
oppose, calling it ARSA, the Aid Recipient Spectrum
+
Approach. I then outline the alternative I advocate,
+
ILCEA, the Inter-Local Community Empowerment Approach.
+
Once these have been introduced, the Language Policies
+
in India section situates the problem with respect to
+
India; the ARSA section discusses how the consensus
+
both in India and elsewhere has swung towards ARSA;
+
and the final section focuses on ILCEA, considers
+
reasons for wishing to turn the tide and proposes ways
+
of bringing this about.
+
 
+
ARSA takes a cluster of aid donors as given. It seeks
+
to draw up a list of recipients deserving
+
appropriately targeted aid. On this view, a community
+
deserves aid at different levels for different
+
dimensions. If the assistance is to empower the
+
community at the level of its language, then the
+
targeting must be tailored to the needs associated
+
with specific empowerment goals. These are to be
+
measured in terms of language vitality indicators. The
+
communities that lie the furthest from empowerment
+
must be prioritized for maximal assistance. According
+
to this logic, middle-ranking communities also need
+
aid, but will have to wait in the queue, and must be
+
persuaded not to sulk.
+
 
+
ILCEA takes the view that two communities can deal
+
with each other on a basis that becomes mutually
+
empowering if the process brings out their agency in
+
ways that respect both symmetry and difference. Such a
+
dialogue cannot be validly framed from above by a
+
supposedly rational system instructing each member of
+
every dyad to behave properly. Welfare is maximized by
+
communities in an interlocal dialogue that strengthens
+
each community's sense of agency. On this approach,
+
the most natural dialogue partner for a community
+
speaking a lesser-known language is the immediately
+
dominant regional language constituency. When
+
confidence comes to be seen as the main resource,
+
economic issues appear in a different light because of
+
a revision in the conceptualization of what shall be
+
counted as goods. Relevant economic models must
+
closely hug the interlocal ground and cannot be
+
predicted from generalized patterns. It follows that
+
there can be no single global spectrum from those most
+
urgently deserving aid to those least urgently
+
deserving it. Nor can one usefully visualize any
+
single process characterizable as linguistic aid from
+
the global power centres to the local power
+
peripheries. On the contrary, given globalization,
+
particular dialogic dyads become more crucial than
+
ever before.
+
 
+
The next section prepares the ground for a debate
+
between ILCEA, the viewpoint I advocate, and ARSA, the
+
prevalent viewpoint I oppose.
+
 
+
 
+
Language Policies in India
+
 
+
A few stereotypical points are frequently made when
+
journalists or ordinary citizens comment on how
+
language policy in independent India has been dealing
+
with lesser-known languages, an issue generally
+
reduced to a tribal question. The republic's first
+
rulers, Bad News, inherited white colonial attitudes
+
towards tribals. But Nehru, Good News, imported a
+
variant of Soviet language policy into the Indian
+
political system. The problems of all tribal languages
+
are similar enough that the constitution's guaranteed
+
umbrella reservation of educational opportunities and
+
jobs for the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes
+
(SCs and STs) can offer uniformly useful support to
+
them all. The beliefs just listed are (I am citing yet
+
another stereotype now, this is not yet my voice!)
+
contested in the space of a neoliberal cynicism that
+
has enabled the upper caste Hindu elite to detach many
+
Dalits from the SC/ST coalition, interpellating Dalits
+
as Hindus and convincing them and others that a
+
technologically advanced country must drive tribals
+
out of their traditional habitats for the public good.
+
Now, all these stereotypes, though they are different
+
from each other, are embedded in a general discourse
+
about language and literacy that takes the direction
+
of progress and the homogeneity of technology for
+
granted.
+
 
+
It is difficult to know where to begin if one wishes
+
to move out of the non-debates of the small talk that
+
consistently stayed at this uninformed level and never
+
took off as a public discourse. At the same time, we
+
can hardly afford the arrogant lŭury of scholarly
+
contempt directed at the thoughtless crowd and the
+
vapid journalism it elicits. Public policy always has
+
to be fashioned through a process that enables the
+
population's initial beliefs to collide with each
+
other and with the contributions of experts including
+
linguists. That some of these initial beliefs are
+
called stereotypes by some of its critics is only a
+
factor facilitating this arranged collision process.
+
 
+
One idea might be to try to formulate contrary
+
thoughts critical of the stereotypes presented. Trying
+
this approach, let us negate the Bad News claim and
+
say that the point of post-independence policy was not
+
to harm tribal languages but to ensure due attention
+
to the majority language of each region. The temporary
+
marginalization of tribal languages was an unintended
+
side effect and did not indicate any colonial mind-set
+
inherited by the republic's first rulers. Negating the
+
Good News claim, let us attribute the regional
+
language policy not to Nehru's fascination for the
+
Soviet Union but to the traditional pressure of the
+
linguistic state agenda that the Indian National
+
Congress had been stampeded into after the resistance
+
to Curzon's partition of Bengal, Potti Sriramulu's
+
fast unto death, and a historical cascade triggered by
+
these and related factors. Are steps like these going
+
to move us out of the stereotypical space?
+
 
+
The sad truth is that such moves, which are in fact
+
sometimes made, remain equally embedded in a general
+
discourse about language and literacy that takes the
+
direction of progress and the homogeneity of
+
progress-inducing technology for granted. This general
+
discourse takes spoken language to be the lowest rung
+
of a ladder of ascent. Then there are tools. Writing
+
is the first tool. Digitalization deploys the latest
+
generation of tools. Societies have to climb the
+
ladder to make it to the highest rung. Those at the
+
top of the ladder are the best placed to help those
+
who are still climbing. Help takes the form of
+
transferring technology and the ability to use it.
+
Tribal cultures have remained stuck in preliterate
+
methods of transmitting values and norms. Linking them
+
to the literate world is the highest priority for
+
Indian language policy as far as lesser-known
+
languages are concerned.
+
 
+
One notices immediately that this general set of
+
assumptions, summarized in the ladder metaphor, is
+
compatible with the stereotypical proposition that in
+
1947 Indian power moved into the hands of brown whites
+
who inherited the colonial habit of oppressing
+
tribals. The same ladder metaphor, however, is equally
+
compatible with the simple-minded reversal of the
+
stereotype, a reversal that says a true nationalist
+
leadership began by empowering a Telugu speaking
+
Andhra Pradesh, a Marathi speaking Maharashtra and so
+
forth without prejudice to the claims of tribals and
+
other marginal communities less well-placed to benefit
+
at once from national independence. Negating the
+
stereotypes as they stand only has the effect of
+
producing the appearance of a debate. The ladder
+
metaphor remains intact through this entire process.
+
 
+
The way out of stereotypes, then, cannot be to simply
+
negate them, as such a move would leave the underlying
+
assumptions undisturbed. This would also happen if we
+
were to succumb to the temptation of focusing too hard
+
either on the socialist model Nehru is supposed to
+
have imported from the Soviet Union's experience or on
+
neo-liberal alternatives. The kinds of rethinking
+
thrown up by India's 1991 liberalization rest on the
+
assumption that the market's economic logic is
+
systematically distinct from the excessive
+
administration of commanding heights socialism. Real
+
differences do exist, to be sure. But even a moment's
+
reflection shows that the market economy shares with
+
socialism exactly the same prejudices about the
+
intrinsic value of technology, the identifiability of
+
a single direction of progress, the misery of the
+
tribals, and the designation of writing as a first
+
tool and of digitalization as a state of the art
+
toolkit. While socialism and liberalism may deliver
+
differently, their classical shopping lists look
+
identical when language policy is at stake.
+
 
+
Independent India's language policy evolved along with
+
its interpretation of the constitutional notions of
+
the states and of the unitary Indian republic
+
consisting of them. The overall agenda was focused on
+
development, and the fact that that period's model was
+
socialistic quite possibly did not matter. The
+
republic was to deliver development. In most parts of
+
the country this delivery would occur through the
+
intermediate organization of the state. This
+
arrangement was viewed as politically meaningful in
+
regions with a literate and competent elite capable of
+
running a responsible legislature. Again, this kind of
+
viewing seems to be done in comparable ways by
+
socialists and liberals. Regions with this desirable
+
trait were organized into linguistic states over the
+
50s and 60s. By the 70s, the dominant regional
+
language in each state had attained the hegemony in
+
education and cultural life that had been intended,
+
and provincial politics rearticulated itself around
+
this pan-Indian fact.
+
 
+
The other side of the picture is that it was
+
understood, from the very start, that some areas of
+
the country lacked the type of elite the republic had
+
faith in. The union territories were salient examples.
+
The republic administered them directly, working for a
+
future when prototypical linguistic states would
+
emerge there. Some of these regions, in the northeast,
+
were tribal. But the presence of tribals in Orissa,
+
Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar
+
exemplifies the impossibility of correlating this
+
process with tribality. In the other direction, so
+
does the union territory of Goa, Daman and Diu. Goa's
+
emergence as a state was connected to the process of
+
the republic convincing itself that Konkani was a
+
distinct language and not a dialect of Marathi.
+
 
+
One might argue that nothing follows from Goa. The
+
republic does continue to see Goa as a special case,
+
given the Portuguese past, the tourism focus making
+
multilingualism necessary, and other factors that are
+
rapidly adduced whenever the issue is raised. But the
+
number of special cases is embarrassingly large. The
+
ideal type of a mainstream consisting of distinct
+
monolingual elites hegemonic in prototypical states
+
has always been a non-starter. Punjab was such a
+
special case that it had to split in the 60s and went
+
into crisis in the 80s. Assam was so special that it
+
unleashed a crisis of a different type in the same
+
decade. The proverbial wealth of many Punjabis and the
+
endowments for Sikh studies professorships in
+
metropolitan countries may make it hard to see that
+
Punjabi, compared to Hindi, is a lesser-known
+
language. But it is widely recognized that languages
+
with as small and underdeveloped a population as
+
Asamiya are indeed lesser-known languages in any sense
+
of the term.
+
 
+
Thus, we cannot afford to confine our discussion to
+
tribal languages. However, in order to locate our
+
issues on a map that has been shaped by the salience
+
of tribal languages, we do need to take a look at what
+
their prioritization has been like.
+
 
+
The Indian republic's explicit policy has arranged
+
separate, protected and partial cultivation for tribal
+
languages. The prototypical case has tribal children
+
receiving primary schooling in their mother tongue,
+
once the republic has sent the linguists over,
+
produced the books and so on. The republic expects the
+
output of primary schooling to make a gradual and
+
pain-minimized transition to secondary education in
+
the dominant regional language of that part of India,
+
or, if there is a vacuum, in Hindi or English. This
+
background is what renders intelligible the otherwise
+
surprising fact that neither Santali nor any variant
+
of Naga is the official language of any Indian state.
+
 
+
The Indian republic has spent considerable money to
+
develop certain tribal languages, giving them a
+
priority that Asamiya or Konkani were denied. But the
+
project was not going to be pushed to the point of
+
using a tribal language as the medium of instruction
+
at university departments of history, political
+
science, or sociology. The system has taken the view
+
that there are no resources to pursue such utopian
+
projects and that the tribals themselves do not want
+
developmentally irrelevant decorations. Consequently
+
lexical development at the tertiary educational level
+
has not been on the agenda for tribal languages.
+
 
+
Thus on the one hand tribal languages were not going
+
to be integrated into the world system of mutually
+
translatable modern languages. On the other hand, the
+
Indian republic evinced no interest in the indigenous
+
knowledge resources embedded in the vocabulary systems
+
of tribal languages. The fact that under pressure on
+
this front from international initiatives a layer of
+
such talk is now being hastily added to the discourse
+
on tribal welfare merely betokens the ad hoc
+
willingness of the republic's functionaries to say
+
whatever is likely to fetch funding. The republic's
+
actual policy has been to treat tribal cultural and
+
linguistic spaces as frozen in time and as incapable
+
of cognitively dynamic interaction with modernity.
+
Only tribals as individuals can be rescued from
+
cognitive and developmental stasis, the Indian
+
republic has believed, by weaning them from their
+
primordial identity and inserting them into the
+
provincial mainstream. Of course I say "provincial"
+
advisedly, hoping the reader will pay some attention
+
to the oxymoronic sound of the phrase "provincial
+
mainstream". For this is indeed the fate that the
+
republic of India has fashioned for its rescued
+
ex-tribals.
+
 
+
The Indian republic certainly did not intend this fate
+
for Konkanis or Asamiyas. Goa and Assam were provinces
+
in their own right with low populations and weak
+
profile languages, twin misfortunes they were expected
+
to deal with as they grew. But a vaguely marked but
+
clearly felt delimitation between an Us and a Them
+
left the republic feeling reasonably sure that
+
Konkanis and Asamiyas belonged with Us who give
+
developmental aid to the unlucky bottom rung. The
+
republic was sure that neither Konkanis nor Asamiyas
+
were to be equated with tribals, with Them who take
+
such aid.
+
 
+
I quite understand and sympathize with an Indian
+
republic that has thought like this. It had no choice,
+
steeped as it was in the culture of languages. The
+
question for our times is whether an Indian democracy,
+
engaged with a culture of conversations, will be
+
literate enough to recognize and undo the canonization
+
game that made the old rules of our policy what they
+
were.
+
 
+
ARSA
+
 
+
It is time to recognize that the game the Indian
+
republic has been playing is a variant of the Aid
+
Recipient Spectrum Approach, ARSA. The Indian variant
+
breaks the set of languages up into at least two
+
subspectra (Them tribal languages and Us others), with
+
further nuances not specified in the summary so far.
+
But the distinctive traits of ARSA manifest themselves
+
with some clarity. Every language is measured in terms
+
of a uniform notion of progress or development. Some
+
languages, at the tribal lowest rung of the ladder,
+
have to be left to their sentiment-only status,
+
without any hope of serious knowledge production
+
occurring in those languages. The welfare enterprise
+
requires that the speakers of those languages be
+
offered a reasonable rescue as individuals. The
+
republic meets this requirement. It gives them graded
+
access to languages that enable them to participate in
+
the world of industrial production and mobility, and
+
in the world of the knowledge that corresponds to and
+
reproduces this economy. There is salvation for the
+
individuals. For their languages, nothing.
+
 
+
The ARSA approach as I read it stems from the
+
classical imperative of defining a possible knowledge
+
in terms of a canon-based pedagogy. On that construal
+
of knowledge systems, a society can sponsor a
+
cognitive progression for its children only if they
+
can be taught to move up an age-graded ladder of
+
knowledgeability. Suppose the highest rung on the
+
ladder consists of being able to read, write and
+
understand serious texts corresponding to the
+
industrial state of the art, in principle. The task of
+
producing such texts is interwoven with that of
+
educating young adults who can keep producing them.
+
Such activities are sustainable if the pedagogic
+
interface with their juniors and the economic
+
interface with their industrialized superiors are both
+
sustainable. If we take the industrial state of the
+
art as a given, planetary index that drives the
+
assessment of any locality's performance, then the
+
tribal language's race for modernity is over before it
+
has even started. Discouraged for valid reasons, the
+
speakers must pin their hopes on some aspect of their
+
lives other than the language they have been unlucky
+
enough to be born into.
+
 
+
This is how things are bound to look to a republic
+
that intends to perform at levels that significant
+
others cannot argue with. India in 1947 was such a
+
republic and could be forgiven for not taking other
+
approaches seriously. Today, it has started
+
performing, and can afford at last to reconsider what
+
performance has meant, what it is going to mean, in
+
and for India. In 1947, the republic was locked into a
+
defiant conversation with British and American
+
achievers, and the point was to prove that Indians
+
could speak the language of industrial achievement. At
+
that stage, a language was what its literary elite
+
could make of it. This limited the number and
+
diversity of the languages India could run its systems
+
with.
+
 
+
For the literary elite of each language would have to
+
control its pedagogy; this was the shape of India's
+
educational options in 1947. Independent India's
+
budding literary elites were not capable of much more
+
than controlling the provinces. They could run
+
nationalist school systems, show the children how to
+
emote as obedient citizens, and hold out the hope that
+
some of these citizens would one day perform in the
+
world arena through English, India's window on the
+
world. The rules of such emoting and such obedience
+
were in place where nationalism had mobilized the
+
provincial middle class. In languages where the
+
freedom struggle had not fashioned these rules, India
+
would not be able to invent a nationalist secondary
+
schooling now. The republic could only offer a graded
+
transition from tribality to one of the provincial
+
modes of access to Indianness. Here is one way to
+
unpack the logic that prevented independent Indian
+
nationalism from developing secondary schooling, and
+
more, in tribal languages.
+
 
+
The main point is what this analysis implies about
+
just why the tribal child must move from primary
+
schooling in Santali to secondary schooling in (say)
+
Bangla. The logic says that this is because it is only
+
in Bangla, not in Santali, that pre-independent India
+
has fashioned a literary canon in which it can
+
recognize the aspirations of national independence.
+
That canon, in turn, represents an expressive
+
subnational domesticity. This domesticity manages one,
+
national, interface with the Anglophone industrial
+
world that future Indian performance will achieve
+
continuity with. It manages another, provincial,
+
interface with the hinterlands (the women, the
+
peasants, other marginals, the children) from which
+
the future performers (prototypically the upper caste
+
males designated for hegemony) would be selected
+
through educational opportunity narrowing. In other
+
words, it is the canonical uniqueness of
+
English-carried industriality outside India that
+
defines the nation in terms of where its future
+
achievements are headed. Reflecting the big
+
verticality of this relation between India and
+
metropolitan modernity, the canonical literary
+
languages within India construct little verticalities.
+
Tribal languages have to fit into these structures or
+
perish as languages, or so it appeared to independent
+
India's early strategists.
+
 
+
We have to understand that the vocabulary available to
+
them gave them little choice but to think along
+
roughly these lines.
+
 
+
 
+
ILCEA
+
 
+
When we have finished sympathizing with the
+
constricted thinking of the young republic half a
+
century ago, we can start acting our age and playing
+
the role of a mature democracy. The analysis just
+
given suggests that we got locked into the code
+
approach to language precisely because of the point we
+
were trying to prove in the face of derision from
+
significant others, such as the ex-colonial masters
+
and their American successors. That is also why we
+
invested so heavily in English, to complete our
+
accession to modernity. But by now we have made that
+
point.
+
 
+
Properly learnt, English itself leads us now to the
+
next step. Through this major language we sought
+
global outreach, the hallmark of modernity. The
+
postmodern transition now under way means that we will
+
now need more "inreach" if we wish to keep growing as
+
a nation. If we want India to be a strong country we
+
must see that the nation will need the muscle tone and
+
synergy that make strength sustainable. We cannot
+
afford to leave a large part of our work force feeling
+
sorry for itself because of the destruction of recent
+
achievements.
+
 
+
For globalization has left many cases of newfound
+
linguistic pride shattered. Just as speakers of an
+
Asamiya or a Konkani begin to get ready to join the
+
race, we all suddenly notice that the new race is one
+
that nobody in our neighbourhood can ever hope to win
+
if old definitions of victory continue to prevail. If
+
we leave those definitions intact, many of us will
+
wallow in self-pity, hardly a satisfactory outcome. On
+
this new planet of more widely distributed humility,
+
reconfiguring possibilities of coalition and even
+
friendship becomes a real option. I have no recipe for
+
ensuring that the language code pride that some
+
communities had just begun to achieve can be regained
+
under a globalized sky. I can only suggest that we
+
move out of the ARSA game that viewed languages as
+
codes, into the new game, here called ILCEA, which
+
sees them as sites of discourse.
+
 
+
This transition does not involve abandoning the very
+
category of assistance. All communities need to help
+
each other visualize and manage their discourses as
+
dynamic sites of learning by interconnected persons.
+
Once such management leads to synergy and tangible
+
success, all participants will feel genuinely pleased.
+
Out of this pool of cooperating talent, new forms of
+
pride will emerge and, with them, new conceptions of
+
what it is for humans to be languaged beings.
+
 
+
The ILCEA vision grows out of actual vectors of the
+
present. Provincial Indians today are less insecure
+
than they used to be. If a sociology teacher freely
+
peppers her classroom performance in Bangla with
+
English words, her Bengali students do not feel
+
threatened, provided that the syntactic frames are in
+
Bangla. The 1950s need for committee-created Sanskrit
+
coinages masquerading as Bangla technical terms is no
+
longer a socially real imperative. Secondary and
+
tertiary education in many major Indian languages can
+
proceed without massive corpus planning exercises. At
+
such a moment, we can afford to consider such
+
education in minor Indian languages as well on the
+
basis of large-scale borrowing.
+
 
+
With this radical but evident background point
+
established, let us imagine a concrete case now.
+
Consider the population of a village V that speaks
+
Santali and has local knowledge of Bhojpuri. By
+
default, Santali is always already imbricated in the
+
Hindi nexus and the English nexus. The Santali
+
discourse at V, call it Santali-V, is situated in a
+
niche of discursive ecology schematized as follows at
+
a first approximation:
+
 
+
Bhojpuri < = = = > Santali-V < = - = - = > Hindi
+
                                  ^
+
                                    |
+
                                    |
+
                                  \/
+
                              English
+
 
+
Villagers at V do business with Bhojpuri for
+
day-to-day contact. But their secondary schooling and
+
later insertion into the (ultimately industrial)
+
economy is through Hindi and English. The diagram
+
marks these discourse couples (see Dasgupta 1993 for
+
the theory of these) by using differently drawn arrows
+
to indicate that each discourse couple runs its own
+
renegotiation of what is initially known and what is
+
learnt through the interaction.
+
 
+
This exemplifies the ILCEA approach to language use
+
that focuses on the discourses and the conversations
+
as practical arrays of events rather than as codified
+
theoretical toolkits.
+
 
+
To improve on this account, a second approximation
+
will work with a textured image. In the popular
+
direction, we will bring a contact language like
+
Sadani into our picture. On the elite side, canon
+
formation in Santali must be factored in. For it
+
already affects the educational and cultural choices
+
open to any Santal. At a time when heroic narratives
+
of tribal resistance to British rule are being
+
retrieved and are modifying the image of tribals
+
throughout India's discourses, a richly textured
+
written canon in Santali interpellates the
+
prototypical child at village V. This texture reflects
+
discourse couples that link Santali to Oriya, or to
+
Bangla, or other non-local couples acting on the
+
cultural milieu available to V. The process gives V no
+
direct access to Oriya or Bangla. The point is about
+
the richness of the texture of local participation in
+
the respecified nation. Even under
+
discourse-ecological assumptions, the canon as a site
+
of imagining the nation remains real, though it looks
+
less powerful than the code-centred view of language
+
made it out to be.
+
 
+
The canon of books can perform its limited but
+
important function effectively only by retaining
+
continuity with normal discursive exchanges located in
+
the fluidity of periodicals, web sites and other
+
transactional venues. The era of high technology
+
globalization can render optional a very large and
+
daunting challenge of book production for lesser-known
+
languages if the discursive ecology paradigm enables
+
Santals, for instance, to use fluid venues creatively.
+
Imagine a set-up whereby Santal students, operating
+
the computers themselves, can take part in a computer
+
list and exchange notes in Santali from time to time
+
on some high school or junior college subject they are
+
studying in Hindi. Since Santals study in Hindi over a
+
large area, the critical mass is high enough that one
+
can expect a properly organized cybergroup to produce
+
satisfactory results. Batch after batch of students
+
will be able to use their mother tongue, with wild and
+
uncontrolled admixture of Hindi and English words, in
+
order to digest what they are learning. If such a
+
cyberdiscussion group is run by sensitive and
+
moderately tech-savvy schoolteachers who consistently
+
sound as hospitable and helpful as they have to, the
+
existence of the cybergroup will mean that the absence
+
of textbooks in Santali stops counting as a major gap.
+
 
+
While this type of second approximation is an
+
improvement on the excessive schematicity of the
+
diagram, it fails to address the fundamental strategic
+
question. Our communicative and transactive style must
+
shift from the ethos of an initially authoritarian
+
republic to the democratic respecification of its
+
initial defaults; how do we achieve this? How do we
+
build into the pedagogic process itself the
+
conversational maximization of each community's sense
+
of agency? How do we undo the damage caused by the
+
linear model of progress from orality through literacy
+
to high technology and beyond?
+
 
+
The ILCEA answer is to challenge the poverty
+
paradigm's mindless quantificationism embodied in the
+
image of a ladder to climb or a race to run.
+
 
+
A community in a state of misery must mobilize courage
+
and a sense of purpose as it faces significant others.
+
But it must face them meaningfully, not under the
+
abstract non-gaze of a measurement system that merely
+
tabulates indicators to rank achievers and
+
underachievers. A community engages with significant
+
others of various types, and it needs them all. It
+
needs neighbours, for the sake of the immediate flow
+
of perception, practice, goods, and cognition. It
+
needs the canon of its own language, to sustain the
+
historical and rational flow of its theoretical
+
approaches (not "approach", for we must not
+
homogenize) as these get refashioned in the light of
+
the community's new transactions and data. It needs
+
external transaction partners, to link domestic flows
+
with those of other communities, especially those
+
crucial for economic and cultural dynamism (for the
+
economic dimension always coarticulates with cultural
+
meanings).
+
 
+
Where a community finds itself is not a quantitative
+
question mere indicators can answer. It is a
+
qualitative matter of how the community is locating
+
itself, boosting its morale or failing to, in the
+
actual conversations its prototypical young members
+
keep having with significant others of these and
+
related types.
+
 
+
An educational system is impoverished if it is not
+
vibrantly surrounded by a supportive flow of
+
communicative others willing to listen and share. By
+
neighbourly others, who speak another language but
+
perhaps also feel excluded by some of the same
+
hegemonies. By canon-bearing elders or their modern
+
avatars refashioning the community's canonical
+
tradition. By prosperous but helpful outsiders, who
+
are more than just aid donors, for they earn their
+
right to help by showing their capacity for friendship
+
and reciprocation. All these kinds of transaction
+
partners are needed if the educational set-up in a
+
lesser-known language is to lead to meaningful human
+
follow-up for those so educated.
+
 
+
When I compile such a wish list, I cannot imagine as
+
blunt an instrument as the state delivering such a
+
nuanced and responsive support environment, needless
+
to say. I must admit that I am expecting this social
+
architecture to be built, at least on a trial basis,
+
at least for a few cases, by the bright young
+
technologists at India's premier institutions whose
+
hands itch to do good to the marginalized and who have
+
been saying for some time now that hand-held digital
+
technology can deliver decentralized rural and tribal
+
empowerment and bypass the heavy Nehruvian
+
administrative apparatus of the conventional sorts
+
that have bred corruption and perversity.
+
 
+
Of course, many of these bright young techs are in the
+
game of advancing their own understanding of the
+
language/ culture/ knowledge interfaces in the context
+
of helping locality-confined children both to
+
appreciate the cognitive wealth of their elders and to
+
connect with knowledge available in the wider world.
+
Consequently, such projects will inevitably involve
+
putting communities speaking distinct little languages
+
in touch with each other, either directly (as part of
+
the cybergroup exercises) or through the structure of
+
cross-vocabulary or cross-cognitive-system comparisons
+
that may figure in the dialogues.
+
 
+
At that level, I find it inevitable that one of the
+
toys our bright young techs will use in their efforts
+
is the inter-minority link language Esperanto. For one
+
thing, Esperanto has a history, since 1887, of
+
representing the ordeals and the rights of
+
lesser-known languages, from Catalan to Bodo (Fettes
+
2000, Fiedler and Haitao 2001, Janton 1993, Schubert
+
2003). For another, technologists are continually
+
fascinated by the way Esperanto shows some of the
+
regularity and precision of the formal languages of
+
computation and yet remains a spoken human language.
+
Its unusual versatility in fashioning words for
+
composite concepts make it the tool of choice if one
+
wishes to compare vocabulary with vocabulary,
+
cognitive set-up with cognitive set-up. Technologists
+
will of course write their reports in English; my
+
thought is that they may use Esperanto words as tools
+
in order to encode their cross-lexical conceptual
+
comparisons.
+
 
+
Neither geeks nor marginal language speakers,
+
naturally, will run our experiments for us. They have
+
their own interests to pursue. We happen to be living
+
at an improbable moment at which an objective
+
convergence draws the material and vital interests of
+
these two very differently constituted categories
+
together. My job is to point this out and then get out
+
of the way. The job of little language communities and
+
of young technologists is to find each other, get
+
along, prove that they can fruitfully collaborate
+
without the government's blessings, force the
+
government to bless them after the fact anyway, and
+
turn upside down our obsolete notions of language
+
policy.
+
 
+
In the process, the old boundaries between the
+
aid-giving urban Us and the quintessentially
+
aid-taking tribal Them will quietly disappear.
+
 
+
I end by thanking Amit Sood, a once-young technologist
+
whose ideas, expressed in his youth, have shaped this
+
argument. The usual disclaimers apply.
+
 
+
 
+
 
+
REFERENCES:
+
 
+
Dasgupta, P. 1993. The otherness of English: India's
+
auntie tongue syndrome. New Delhi/ Thousand Oaks/
+
London: Sage.
+
 
+
Fettes, Mark. 2000. (Un)Writing the Margins: Steps
+
towards an ecology of language. In Robert Phillipson
+
(ed.) Rights to Language: Equity, Power, and
+
Education, Celebrating the 60th Birthday of Tove
+
Skutnabb-Kangas.  London: Lawrence Erlbaum. 92-94.
+
 
+
Fiedler, Sabine; Haitao, Liu (eds.) 2001. Studoj pri
+
Interlingvistiko / Studien zur Interlinguistik:
+
Festschrift fuer Detlev Blanke zum 60. Geburtstag.
+
Prague: Kava-Pech.
+
 
+
Janton, Pierre. 1993. Esperanto: Language, Literature,
+
and Community. Albany: State University of New York
+
Press.
+
 
+
Schubert, Klaus (ed.) 2001. Planned Languages: From
+
Concept to Reality. Brussels: Hogeschool voor
+
Wetenschap en Kunst.
+
 
+
* reiru al [[Tekstoj Pri LHR]]
+

Nuna versio ekde 10:15, 27 Jun. 2010

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