Headline : Languages and civilisation Editorial 5th Apr’19 IndianExpress
Importance of language:
- Language is a tool for intellectual and emotional expression.
- Language is a vehicle for the transmission of culture, scientific knowledge and a worldview across generations.
- It is the vital, unseen thread that links the past with the present.
- The great Indian poet Acharya Dandi had said that if the light of language does not exist, we will be groping in a dark world.
Indian literary tradition:
- There is a rich literary tradition in many languages, especially the ones recognised as classical languages by the Government of India.
- Modern Indian languages have ancient roots and are derived in some way from the classical languages.
Great Sanskrit literary heritage in India:
- Sanskrit, of course, is one of the oldest Indo-European languages, dating back to the second millennium BC.
- The manuscripts still in existence in Sanskrit number over 30 million, one hundred times those in Greek and Latin combined, constituting the largest cultural heritage that any civilisation has produced before the invention of the printing press.
- Since studying the classical languages and literature would provide access to authentic sources of history, the National Mission for Manuscripts was set up in 2003.
- Preservation of ancient texts is only the first step. We need to encourage scholars to do research using these primary sources and unearth new nuggets of knowledge.
- It is important to study ancient texts and propagate them among modern audiences.
Classical languages of India:
- Some languages have been given classical language status because of their ancient literary heritage.
- For instance, Tamil literature dates back to 500 BC, Telugu to 400 BC, Kannada to 450 BC, Malayalam to 1198 AD and Odia to 800 AD.
- Each of these languages has a rich treasure house of literature, examples include:
- Sangam literature and Tholkappiyum in Tamil
- Kavitrayam’s Andhra Mahabharatam in Telugu
- Ramacharitham of Cheeraman in Malayalam
- Kavirajamarga of Amoghavarsha in Kannada
- Kharavela’s inscriptions in Odia
- For each of the populations speaking these languages, their literature is a matter of pride and distinct identity and the language is a goddess to be revered. There are songs in praise of these languages in Telugu, Kannada and Tamil.
Honouring those working on classical languages:
- Recently, President’s award was given to scholars of Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Arabic, Persian, Telugu, Kannada, Odia and Malayalam for their service in the preservation and development of classical languages.
- It shows nation’s appreciation and recognition to renowned scholars who are keeping alive the traditional knowledge and acting as the intellectual bridge between the past and the present.
Falling linguistic diversity of India harms our cultural richness:
- India is a multilingual country where more than 19,500 languages or dialects are spoken.
- However, studies by experts estimate that almost 600 languages are on the verge of extinction and that more than 250 languages have disappeared in the past 60 years.
- Almost 97 per cent of the population speaks one of the 22 scheduled languages.
- When a language dies, an entire culture dies.
Preserving and developing India’s linguistic heritage:
- Our languages are a crucial part of our history, our culture and our evolution as a society.
- It is important to protect and conserve our linguistic heritage.
- Protecting our cultural heritage, including languages, is our constitutionally-mandated duty.
- The resources required to develop language technology and artificial intelligence-based tools are inadequate or unavailable for many Indian languages.
- We must harness the power of technology to preserve and promote our languages and culture.
- The Government of India launched the Linguistic Data Consortium for Indian Languages (LDC-IL) in 2008 and has been preparing high-quality linguistic resources over the last 11 years in all the scheduled languages of India.
- The Data Distribution Portal is also being launched, where more and varied datasets will be added using several types of AI-based technologies such as automatic dictation, speech recognition, language understanding, machine translation, grammar and spell check.
- The Central Institute of Indian Languages has been doing commendable work to provide linguistic resources in Indian languages.
A multi-pronged approach:
- Language preservation and development needs a multi-pronged approach.
- Education: It should begin at the primary school level and be continued to higher levels of education. Functional literacy in at least one language should be ensured.
- Usage at homes: More and more people should start using their native languages at home, in the community, in meetings and in administration.
- Encouraging literature: More people should write poetry, stories, novels and dramas in these languages. We must accord a sense of dignity and a sense of pride to those who speak, write and communicate in these languages.
- Publications: We must encourage Indian language publications, journals and children’s books.
- Dialects and folk literature must be given adequate focus.
- Language promotion should be an integral part of good governance.
- Language should become a catalyst for inclusive development.
- By harnessing technology, the mission of “digital India” can be a mission for a literate India and a mission for an inclusive knowledge society.
GS Paper I: Society
Section : Editorial Analysis