PLANNING IN MAHARASHTRA
is so familiar to us that it is difficult to see how we can indulge
in language planning. Most
of the time we use language simply as a means of conveying our thoughts
and feelings and wishes or concealing these, as the case may be.
We male up a new sentence or pick up a ready-made formula such
as, What can I do for you? It is only when we become conscious of difficulty—say
when the speaker doesn’t know how to say in Marathi that the father
could not communicate with the son, or when the listener cannot understand
the radio news bulletin, or when a traveler does not know the local
languages, or when a harmless comment leads to a violent misunderstanding—that
we consciously think of problems presented by language. And, of course, people are solving such language
problems all the time—the speaker makes up a new word or says that
thing in a roundabout way, the reader of a letter asks for a clarification,
the traveler carries a phrase book in his pocket, the shopkeeper puts
up a sign “English is spoken here,” and so on.
But some language problems crop up repeatedly, and some are
too difficult to solve without expert advice, and some call for cooperation
and coordination on a large scale. In other words, we need to carry
out language planning with the help of language experts.
Unfortunately, in India we don’t seem to have realized the
importance of the study of linguistics and allied language disciplines
such as language psychology and language sociology.
Still less have we realized the need to seek the advice of
A typical case is the effort made some years ago to standardize
the keyboard of a Marathi typewriter.
Expert typists were called, but expert linguists were never
called. As a result, avoidable mistakes were made and then rectified at
great cost. A worse fate awaited
the standardized dot-and-dash code for sending Hindi telegrams. Again, the code was prepared without the benefit
of language experts. As a
result, it is cumbersome and leads to transmission errors. Very few people dare to use it. Even those wishing to send telegrams in Hindi
simply romanize them crudely.
I have just mentioned a couple of examples of language-related
technology—telegraphic codes and typewriter keyboards.
One can extend the list to include Braille, shorthand, telecommunication
codes, typesetter and computer keyboards, the establishment of conventions
for alphabetization and the writing of Indian personal and geographical
proper names in Devanagari and Roman, the preparation of standardized
tests of proficiency in Indian and foreign languages and proficiency
in using communication media for different languages.
But it should be obvious that there is more to language planning
than standardizing language technologies.
The central idea behind language planning is that language
is as much a national resource as manpower or the railways or energy
SCOPE FOR LANGUAGE PLANNING
India has many languages; there is no getting away from this
fact. Western scholars have been accused by Indians
of exaggerating in this matter. The
large number of languages mentioned by the former is deflated—some
are merely alternate language names, some are census-takers’ mistakes
(Zulu in Kulu valley, Himachal-Pradesh), some are spoken by an insignificant
number of speakers, and so on and on run the arguments.
The assumption, of course, is that a large number is a bad
thing. Even the smallest number, fifteen, if we fall
back on the Language Schedule of the Constitution of India, is a fairly
large number for a single would-be nation-state though it is not at
all a large number for a subcontinent.
Now the fact that India has many languages is neither a good
thing nor a bad thing; it is simply the legacy of history, just as
Europe’s many one-language nations are legacies of history.
What is good or bad is what we make of this fact.
Indians tend to jump to one of two extremes.
We may decide that this multiplicity of languages is a silly
nuisance and that whatever pet link language one espouses, Hindi or
English or even Sanskrit, should take over all the fields of communication
that matter. Perhaps we grudgingly concede a place to the
local lingo in the kitchen council or the neighborhood chat. Alternatively we may decide that pride in one’s
own language is not complete without an obstinate refusal to adjust
or compromise or an insane jealousy of other languages.
For the last half-century councils have been held to provide
uniform calligraphy for Kannada and Telugu, the script being essentially
the same. The outcome is always the same—Kannada speakers
recommend that Telugu speakers should adopt the Kannada script and
vice versa. It does not occur
to anyone to propose that Kannada speakers can start using Telugu
letter-shapes when they want to do the equivalent of italicizing and
vice versa, so that both get used to each other’s calligraphy—a major
step toward unification. Other examples can be multiplied from other
parts of India.
Now adopting either of these two extremes—suppression of regional
languages or intolerant pride in regional language—will be a misuse
of national linguistic resources.
Nobody in his right mind will suggest that airplanes (or bullock
carts) ought to be the sole means of transport in a huge and highly
populous country like India. We need airplanes and bullock carts and lots
of things in between. What
is more to the point is that we need better airplanes and better bullock
carts, and by better I mean better-suited to meet certain specific
needs. And if bullock carts can change and can be
fitted with pneumatic rubber tires, languages certainly can, for change
is the very law of language. Decisions
about languages should be taken in a level-headed manner after a thorough
analysis of costs and benefits. Once
we take such a level-headed view, certain things claim our attention.
The multiplicity of languages imposes certain liabilities on
a country struggling to find its economic feet.
Apart from the obvious liability of the cost of essential translations
or multiple versions (e. g., of Union Government notifications, advertising
campaigns of large corporations, results of important research available
in regional languages), we have to accept limits on mobility in white-collar
jobs, educational opportunities, technological innovations, and the
like. The regional economic and educational imbalances
between backward and advanced areas consequently become that much
harder to eradicate.
At the same time, it will be a place of narrow utilitarianism
to overlook certain other facts just because these lend themselves
to romantic sentimentalism. The slogan, “let a hundred flowers of regional
and popular culture bloom to reveal the rich diversity within Indian
unity,” makes perfectly good sense when we find a Gujarati danseuse
rendering a Manipuri dance or a Tamil vocalist singing a Telugu composition. After all, the political unit of India today
is a democratic unity and not an imperial unity.
There are areas in which the two extremes seem to meet. The advocacy of linguistic states relied upon both utilitarian and
In the India of ancient and medieval times, traders, pilgrims,
travelers, scholars, and rulers faced and solved problems of interregional
communication in their own diverse ways.
No uniform solution was imposed, and the modalities were informal
and leisurely. Now, while we cannot quite afford total informality
and a slow pace, we can at least emulate their good sense and flexibility.
These qualities are certainly not incompatible with language
In advocating any plan of large-scale learning of any second
language, we must be mindful of the limited resources and manpower.
Our teachers are too few, not too well trained, and given the
unattractive salaries, not too talented.
(Our “born teachers” are more likely to become labor leaders,
advertisers, journalists, and so on.)
Our students, again, are insincere and poorly motivated. Improved teaching methods are not magic wands
for replacing hard work, as some Indians seem to think!
At the All-India level, Hindi or English or Urdu or Sanskrit
may act as a contact language or link language between the regional
languages in a gathering of traditional pandits, musicians, scholars
and scientists with university educations, Muslim theologians, and
so forth. But these very regional
languages also act in turn as link languages and are imposed (if we
must use the word) on subregional dialects, minority languages, and
tribal dialects. If regional
language partisans need assurances from the all-India contact languages,
they also in turn should be ready to offer assurances to the dialects
and minority languages.
The so-called language problems of India are not exclusively
problems arising out of the multiplicity of languages.
After all, even large monolingual underdeveloped or developing
countries face certain language problems, and India faces those too
in addition to the known problems arising out of linguistic diversity.
Knowing a language is no guarantee that you are articulate
in that language. A mere working knowledge is insufficient for
all but the most elementary purposes.
Thus, a mere working knowledge won’t help you to read an English
book of economics or follow a Hindi speech by a parliamentarian. Let us not deceive ourselves on this account.
Even articulateness in one’s mother tongue is not guaranteed—
witness the unhappy fate of many English-medium pupils even when residing
in their home state.
Two basic principles emerge that should be the watchword of
our language planners. One
is that every language that Indians can lay hands on is a link language
for some purpose. Thus standard Marathi is simply the link language
between different regional and social dialects in Maharashtra—a peasant
from south Ratnagiri and a peasant from north Chandrapur cannot discuss
problems of rice cultivation if each insists on using his local dialect. It is also a link with Marathi literature and
culture for a young Tamilian can specialize in French, there is no
reason why he or she shouldn’t be given the opportunity of learning
Marathi within the school or the college system if he or she wants
to. Instead of making a fetish of learning additional languages, we
should amplify, improve, and diversify language-learning facilities. Language planning does not spell language compulsion
but language freedom. To learn
a new language is to gain the membership of a new community, a new
An example of the other principle is provided by the Swedish
language, which is full of expressions of status and hierarchy handed
down from a feudal past. In
today’s egalitarian Sweden, a young Swede finds them a nuisance—he
or she cannot open his mouth without first determining his or her
exact status relative to the other person. No doubt the Swedish language will one day
rid itself of these. Given
our historical situation, in India we cannot afford to let custom
take its slow course to effect such a change.
We have to accelerate some changes and keep in check other
changes. We have to remold our languages nurtured in
an agricultural, rural, stratified, an segregated society to enable
them to cope with the needs of a modern society.
These needs are :
the need for impersonal, standardized expression of science and other
routinized contents so as to make them accessible to the person who
the need for the richly distinctive expression of novel ideas and
highly personal feelings in literature and thought so that the individual
is not submerged in a mass society;
the expression of shared ideas and feelings without falling into stale
clichés, bombast, or pseudo-technicalities in journalism and public
The major languages of
Europe modernized themselves over a period of four centuries. Indian languages cannot afford to wait that
long. At the same time, the
problem of remolding our languages cannot be wholly solved in the
committee room or even the classroom.
But committees can give direction and indicate possibilities;
and teachers can alert their students to the problem and to the new
tools being forged by talented writers and speakers.
Let not the writer feel frustrated because his reader is too
lazy to meet him half way. A school cannot make you a Shakespeare or a
Bertrand Russell, but it can make you able to recognize a Shakespeare
or a Russell when he or she speaks to you—and, what is even more important,
to recognize an impostor when he or she uses verbal bombast in order
to conceal the absence of any real thought or feeling.
Language planning is therefore not something to be left to
a government agency. If should become the concern of academic experts
and educators, authors and public speakers, journalists and mass media
people—indeed the concern of every citizen.
A CASE STUDY: MARATHI
AS A STATE LANGUAGE
At the time of the Yācavas
(12th-13th centuries), the state language of
Maharashtra was Marathi. In
the Bahāmanī of Bijapur and the Nizāmshāhī
of Ahmednagar (all together, 14ht-17th centuries), Persian
became the state language, though the two Indo-Aryan languages Marathi
and Daikhani-Urdu also played a secondary role with a heavy load of
borrowings of Persian administrative and judicial terms.
The same picture holds good for the Asafjāhī rule
(Nizam’s dominion), which took shape out of the disintegrating Mughal
empire (18th century) and covered a sizable portion of
Maharashtra. I have not made any separate mention of Arabic
borrowings, since these came largely through Persian. Doublets of Arabic borrowings taken directly
and taken through Persian are rare—a case in point will be kāgad
in Marathi and kāghaz in Urdu as the words for paper.) Shivaji, the founder of the Marathi dominion,
not only introduced Marathi as the state language but asked a scholar,
Raghunath Pandit, to prepare the Rājavyavahārakosa
(circa 1676), which is chiefly a Persian-Sanskrit lexicon of administrative
terms arranged topically in verse form.
This led to a considerable lowering in the text frequency of
Persian loans in Marathi. V.K.
Rajavade (1903) cites three sample documents dated 1628 and 1728 with
percentage of Persian loans being 86, 38, and y respectively.
The Marathi of those days distinguished between two situation
modes—Sanskrit loans and Sanskritized diction for serious work and
plain language drawing upon tadbhava and desī words for the ordinary
people (prākrtajana). This distinction applies to the two kinds of
literature. Statecraft was,
of course, serious business and called for the former style. (The underlying framework of thought is not entirely obsolete.
Only, statecraft in a democratic context is now being recategorized
as ordinary people’s business.) The
British rulers assigned administration at the district and lower levels
to the regional language (in our case, Marathi) and that at the provincial
and all-India levels to the English language.
Administrative Marathi retained the Persian borrowings (surviving
largely in judicial matters) and also absorbed many new English borrowings.
The princely states in Maharashtra (with the exception, of
course, of the Nizam and possibly of Janjira) used this kind of Marathi
with many Persian and English administrative words.
the freedom movement (up to the coming of independence in 1947) the
ideas of linguistic reorganization of provinces and the use of Indian
languages in government were mooted.
(Raghunath Pandit’s lexicon was printed in 1860, 1880 with
this in view by the editors. The
poet Madhav Julian in his song in praise of the Marathi language expresses
the lament and the hope in his line—“even though Marathi is not the
state language today.”) When the time came, after independence, to
implement these two ideas, other ideas and other attitudes (as of
laziness, clinging to vested interests) came in the way.
The question of accepting Marathi as the state language came
to a head in 1960 when the Maharashtra state in its present form came
came to a head, but there was no one straightforward answer. Indeed the question got redefined in some such
terms as : Should Marathi truly become the language of the state Maharashtra
and if it should, what form should it take? Should it lean towards Sanskrit and Sanskritized
Hindi, or should it not lose its characteristic native flavor?
questions yield three schools of though—Sanskrit-inclined, Marathi-inclined,
and English-inclined. It is
surprising to note that the English-inclined were quite unopposed
to accepting Marathi as the state language (rājabhāṣā)
on the formal plane. Perhaps
this need not surprise us, given the Indian penchant for formal rituals. Indeed, in the subsequent controversy the followers
of this last school are content to remain on the sidelines and merely
comment on the goings-on. All
this has naturally delayed the solving of the problem but also has
served to highlight neglected aspects and the lack of any simple-minded
uncomplicated answer. After all, isn’t such a turn of events natural
and welcome in the democratic process?
the backdrop of the rājabhāṣā
controversy, the events from 1960 on can be quickly reviewed. The year 1961 saw the establishment of the
Directorate of Language and the associated Language Advisory Committee,
which between them set about framing Marathi administrative terms. As a first installment, the Padanām
kos (a dictionary of designations was put out in 1962 and was
promptly attacked by the late P.K. Atre, a journalist and literary
artist. Atre wanted Marathi to remain a state language
and not become over Sanskritized.
The Marathi Rājabhāsā bill was proposed and
passed in 1965. a preliminary
edition of the Sāsakīya vyavahāra kos (a dictionary
of the business of government) was circulated confidentially in 1968
to elicit opinion. Making it confidential was probably a misguided move and prevented
the elicitation of more useful comments on a large scale. The publication in 1973 of the final edition
by no means allayed the controversy.
Actually the controversy merged to some extent with that about
the technical terminology in Marathi for natural and human sciences
and mathematics in the context of the adoption of Marathi as a medium
of instruction. The latter controversy also lent itself to
the emergence of three schools on analogous lines. A Government of India directive designated 1979 as the Rājabhāsā
Year. In Maharashtra this
occasioned a fair number of talks, articles, seminars, and the like,
both under government and non-government auspices, on administrative
terminology and the use of Marathi and thus served to bring up a number
of interesting points.
we set forth the points advanced by the three schools of thought,
we may do well to get certain things out of the way.
To begin with, this three-way allocation of arguments is made
only for convenience of thinking and should not be given exaggerated
value. Secondly, the labels Sanskrit-, Marathi-, and
English-inclined are not quite exact, as will be seen in the discussion
to follow. An even more inexact
set of terms is sometimes used in the heat of controversy—the Brahmans
for Sanskrit, the Marathas for Marathi, and the bureaucrats for English. (The Marathas form the dominant peasant caste
of Maharashtra.) We shall
presently propose a better set of terms.
and the Marathi-inclined are, of course, one in one respect—both of
them urge an early adoption of Marathi as a state language not merely
as a formality but as a reality and would want a deliberate speeding
up of the process. In other
words, both of them advocate language planning.
But they differ in the form of language planning.
The first school would control language as and when required. Sooner or later, it argues, the people are
bound to come round; after all, it will be to their own good. The dependence on Sanskrit and the imitation
of Hindi in this respect is a matter of detail. This is essentially the party for language control. The second school would rather go by the natural
process of linguistic adaptation in language planning. This is better and in any case more democratic,
so they think. They are for
limited language planning. The
preference for tadbhava and desī words is a means to this end. Compared with the first two schools, the third is more for the status
quo. They don’t really believe
in language planning and artificial speeding up. After all, they ask, what is wrong with the existing allocation
between Marathi up to the district level and English for the state
perspective, we may substitute a new set of labels for the three schools
of though—the school of well-controlled planning, the school of limited
planning, and the conservative school.
(Students of economics will inevitably be reminded here of
the arguments for centrally controlled planning, mixed economy, and
laissez-faire economy, and laissez-faire economy.)
Now there are going to be some people at least who are going
to side with one of these not on the merits of the arguments but on
their immediate personal and class gain.
advocating well-controlled planning pleads the following points in
its favor :
There is little time now left for the natural process to work itself
out. National languages in the West had four to
five centuries in which to adapt themselves to the role of the language
of government and administration; we hardly have had four to five
decades. For someone totally innocent of English the
choice of a new word doesn’t make any difference—he will assimilate
whatever word is presented to him.
One must not make a fetish of the simplicity of language. Is the ordinary man so dull-witted that he will fight shy of a few
unfamiliar words? Can’t we
trust him to show some adaptability?
And simplicity is not merely a matter of avoiding heavy consonant
sequences. Shouldn’t we be equally mindful of matching
different senses by different words and resemblant senses by resemblant
word-forms? One must discriminate
between law, bylaw, rule, ordinance, bill, and the like; and one must
be able to spawn a whole family of words—words for law, lawful, unlawful,
and the like. It is always easy to ridicule a word just because
it is new or going to be used in a novel sense.
The linguistic integration of India is desirable, and it is better
to base it on an indigenous language like Sanskrit rather than on
imported languages like English or Persian.
The language of the state should sound weighty and dignified. To call a clerk or a sweeper or a piggery-officer
by Sanskritic names like lipik or svacchak or sūkaralaya-adhikārī is so much more considerate and respectful
than to use more homely names like kārkūn (Persian)
A little thought should be enough to make
one realize that points 1, 2, and 3 are arguable but that points 4
and 5 will not bear examination.
advocating limited planning pleads the following points:
is certainly desirable to undertake language planning and by so doing
to improve the capacity of Marathi as a state language.
But surely all this effort will come to nought if the ordinary
citizen who is supposed to be served by it is unable to follow and
grasp the administrative terminology so created?
(2) Only a genuine sympathy for the ordinary
citizen’s problems will bring home to one the reality of a language
bar. To say that eventually one can get used to
anything is to imply that the ordinary citizen can put up with anything
can’t we trust the Marathi language—that is, its speakers—to be enterprising
and innovative? How long can
Marathi nourish itself with translation?
Why does one have to translate ten million blindly as
danā dasalakṣa (ten ten-lacs)? If only one thinks in Marathi, one comes out
with ek koṭī (one
crore) quite naturally.
has put up all these years with the dominance of Sanskrit, Persian,
and English in turn. Let it
not now suffer from Hindi imperialism.
Let Marathi retain its individual character.
points, 1, 2, and 3 are worthy of consideration.
Point 4 merely appeals to one’s emotions. One has only to make a counter-appeal to see its hollowness. Is the Marathiness of Marathi so flimsy that
a few borrowings from other languages will be enough to destroy it?
school arguing for the status quo pleads the following points:
us plant our feet on the ground.
Language is after all only a means to an end: technical language
even more so. A technical terminology that does not convey
anything to the person addressed is a mere bauble that will gladden
only the fool.
(2) Marathi can’t prosper by hating other
languages. After all, English
gained its vaunted richness largely through borrowing from other languages
unhampered by senseless taboos. Nothing
is to be gained by hating English or Persian.
are many more important things that the ordinary Indian citizen has
to learn and assimilate. A
new terminology that is more a burden than a convenience is worse
and accuracy is of the utmost importance in administration. English has won these qualities after years.
How can we possibly do without its support?
points 1 and 2 are weighty, points 3 and 4 are only based on half-truths.
of these schools has its lunatic fringe that is best ignored. Even so, each school has some substantial points to offer that reveal
to us the many facets of the question of the state language. It must be borne in mind, however, that the
facets revealed in the course of this controversy do not exhaust all
the facets. We shall now present
some of these neglected facets.
gap in our thinking is the absence of the realization that the question
of administrative terminology is but a small portion and not the whole
of the question of the state language.
In our preoccupation with terminology, we must not lose sight
of three other aspects of a state language.
First, there is the non-technical, ordinary vocabulary in government-related
communication. The presence
of technical terms inevitably makes the language a little heavy-going. By way of compensation, the non-technical words
should be kept especially plain and simple. It is so much better to use the plain disūn yetāt
(become apparent) than the learned dṛṣṭotpattīs
yetāt (come into the scope of our vision); and, again to
avoid the Anglicism Idurdaivī vicār (unfortunate
idea) and resort to the more robust karantā vicār
or veḍgaḷ vicār (wretched
idea, crazy idea), depending on the context.
The second aspect is syntax, the hang of the sentence. It is perfectly possible to write an obscure
sentence with plain words. The
version “Only such an officer can cancel and order that has originally
issued it” is unusual in Marathi and sounds clumsy, while the version
“What officer has originally issued an order that alone can cancel
it” it is the more natural way saying it in Marathi without any loss
of meaning. Last but not least, the style of administrative communication should
be precise and crisp. Unfortunately
it invariably tends to be verbose and slow in coming to the point.
Sir Ernest Gowers conducted a one-man campaign against this
tendency (documented in the Penguin The Complete Plain Words,
which will be instructive to Indians too). Indian governmental communication, whether
in English or in Indian languages, is
not only true to type, but often needlessly arrogant and discourteous
to boot. It was an officer
of rare imaginativeness who though of the sign : “This is a jhopaḍpattī (shanty-town) improved under the Slum Clearance
Scheme.” (The Marathi word
for slum means filthy settlement.)
Of course, an administrator’style is the expression of the
administrator’s personality. But
at the same time, it is often no more than a result of ignorance and
heedlessness about the good and bad effects of language.
In the course of the controversy about Marathi as a state language,
the language director, Y.S. Kanitkar, has often been complimented
on his Marathi. While this
is certainly to his credit, it also reflects unfavorably on the general
run of Marathi-knowing government officers.
Their distaste for writing in Marathi is often rooted in their
inarticulateness in Marathi (and often in English too).
gap concerns the lack of realization that the criteria for good administrative
Marathi cannot be wholly uniform for the different functions it is
designed to perform in different contexts.
Contextual functions should govern the criteria. Elsewhere the insistence of uniformity cannot
be pressed too far.
we may focus on the administrative terms as such in Marathi. What are the considerations that need to govern their selection
and coinage? In the first
place, any linguistic taboos on the sources of terms are clearly to
be set aside. A comparable case in point will be the terminology
of cricket in Marathi, which just “growed” without the midwifery of
any committee and was made popular thanks to the efforts of the journalist
A.B. Kolhatkar and others. It
is shamelessly eclectic and cheerfully accepts the English loans leg
and off, the Persian binbad (not-out), the homegrown
pāycit (leg-before-wicket), the Sanskrit yaṣtirakaṣk (wicket-keeper), and
even the hybrid golandāj (bowler) combining Sanskrit and
Persian. Nobody is known to
have complained about the last two words.
Why couldn’t we show the same good sense in other fields? Even when we have two synonymous words from
different sources, we can often find use for both—bhūmiti
and jamīnmojṇī both mean “land-measuring,”
but the first is a branch of mathematics (geometry), and the second
belongs under the revenue department. Having settled the denotations of saṃsad, loksabhā, rajyasabhā,
and vidhānsabhā, we shall find handy the left-over
kaydemaṇḍa! when speaking of all these bodies together (in the sense of anylegislative
body). The criterion of simplicity
and plainness is easier to defend than to apply. Drawing a straight line, as the Hindi saying
goes, is quite a difficult job. Simplicity
is no mere counting of conjunct letters or syllables. The word bhāṣāsancālanālava
(language directorate) should pass muster but is actually more
difficult to pronounce than bhāṣā-sancālankaryālaya
(language director office). Nor
again is it a matter of familiarity.
What is more to the point is the learnability of the word. The word prasadhan-kakṣa is not too bad for
the room where ladies powder their noses, but to use it for the urinal
is a piece of illiteracy, a senseless translation of the English toilet. Very often it is pleaded that a certain English
term is already quite familiar even to the Marathi speaker who doesn’t
know any English. An example
cited is the word seed farm. Now it is one thing to say the peasant is acquainted
with the term, but it is quite another to claim that he “understands”
the term. He may know that
a certain place is called a seed
farm, but he has no more
an idea why it is so called than a schoolboy who has any notion of
how one arrives at it. To
say that the peasant knows the term and that the boy can do the sum
are equally misleading. To render the term culver as adhaḥpranāl is certainly otiose; but the
attractive-sounding puliyā (bridgelet) in Hindi is also
inappropriate in that it achieves simplicity by sacrificing precision. The English term does not refer to the passage
for vehicles but to the passage for the water. An appropriate term could be bhuyārīgaṭār (tunnel-drain).
One should admit that for rendering midwife, the suggested
presāvikā sounds more obscure than the homely suīṇ;
but one should also admit that its relationship with prasuti
(childbearing, delivery) and sūtikā (the woman being
delivered) is much more transparent and learnable. The epithets plain and simple are highly question-begging
word—about the target of a lot of criticism, the Sāsakīya
vyavahār kos with it 30,000 entries.
I did a sample check of twenty pages, that is, about 1,000
entries. Out of these, about 1 percent of the entries
paired an obscure and a simple Marathi term :
Government sāsan,sarkār (simple term second)
expenses varkaḍ kharca, uparivyaya (simple
Another 3 percent of the
entries offer words that could perhaps be improved upon. They typify the terms that draw a lot of journalistic and literary
Passed with grace
So about three hundred
plus nine hundred-terms have brought a bad name to this dictionary. And one cannot expect other-wise. In eating rice, the pebbles stick in one’s
mind; one doesn’t keep a count of the rice grains that went in past
them. Moreover, the offending minority of words may
include some that are needed quite frequently and therefore prove
to be even moiré offending. One
cannot underestimate their capacity for language pollution. I urge that the government consider this a question of prestige
in a constructive sense and take speedy steps to appoint a scrutiny
committee and bring out a revised and improved edition of this dictionary. P.K. Atre, who was the first to cast a stone,
is reported by Yashwantrao Chavhan (in Lokarajya, October 1,
1979, p. 70) to have consoled him : let you of the government do your
job and let us do our job of criticizing your efforts, and some day
this will lead us to less obscure terms.
(Chavhan was the chief minister of Maharashtra when Atre said
this: he had expressed chagrin at Atre’s attack.)
Perhaps a glance of some of the other states of India may not
be out of place here by way of rounding off this case study.
After all, the problem of administrative terminology, indeed
of all scientific and technological terminology, is a problem that
is also being faced by Indians other than Marathi speakers and indeed
by people of many other underdeveloped countries.
Panjabi is the chief language of Punjab.
The Indian languages Kashmiri, Urdu, Sindhi, and to some extent
Panjabi are oriented towards Persian rather than Sanskrit.
The choice before their speakers is between plain language
and learned, Persianized language.
(Thus Urdu speakers from India find Pakistan Urdu excessively
laden with words of Perso-Arabic origin.)
There are not many Muslims now among Panjabi speakers in India. The Sikhs favor Panjabi speakers in India. The Hindus under the influence of the Arya
Samaj tend to favor Hindi and Sanskrit orientation. Gradually Panjabi is coming into its own free from either Urdu dominance
or Hindi dominance. At the
same time, the orientation to Sanskrit is gaining ground when it comes
to technical terms—thus economy is now rendered as sanjam
rather than as muāsīmuāmalā.
Hindi has a strong tendency to get more Sanskritized. Thus while many Marathi speakers have protested against using nirvācan
at the expense of nivaḍnūk
for an election, one doesn’t see too many defenders for the Hindi
cunāv. hindi speakers have been pretty docile about
the growing obscurity of technical and administrative Hindi. There is an added twist that makes things more
complicated for Hindi. While
the sort of Hindi that prefers cunāv will be easier for
ordinary Hindi speakers, the one that prefers nirvācan
may be less difficult for Dravidian-speaking learners of Hindi.
What then is the person using Hindi to do?
Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu speakers have
no qualms against eking out vocabulary gaps with words lifted from
Sanskrit. Tamil speakers have
had serious qualms on this matter in the last few decades in the wake
of the Tamil resurgence. Such
Tamil speakers turn to classical Tamil—sometimes excessively so, to
the puzzlement and distress of the man in the street who cannot follow
this ultra-pure Tamil.
Sanskrit loans do not always make for uniformity among Indian
languages. The so-called false friends abound. While ceṣṭā means “efforts” in Bangla
and Hindi, it means “teasing jokingly” in Marathi and Telugu. While the English term history is rendered
as itihās in Marathi and Hindi, it is rendered as caritramu
in Telugu. These loans are
often passed on, however, from one Indian language to another. Thus V.K. Rajwade coined samskṛti in Marathi for “culture,” Rabindranath
Tagore picked it up for Bangla, and eventually it spread to other
Bengal presents a case worth mentioning.
The few decades that were available to Indians to develop technical
terms in a natural way were fully utilized by Bangla speakers. Bangla has been producing copious literature on scientific and other
subjects for several years. (By
way of contrast, the Marathi publishing business rarely ventures beyond
school textbooks and belles letters.
The Marathi reader is also very much to blame for this poverty.)
Now the Bangla speaker’s love of his own language is sometimes
carried to an excess, but it does not seem to have stood in the way
of his use of the English language.
The Bengalis can claim a prominent share both in respect of
quality and quantity in the English books published in India.
Love of one’s language need not be equated with a hatred of
English. The Marathi speaker’s attitude towards English
presents a curious spectacle. He
seems to have developed a strange sense of insecurity in respect of
English right from the days of Tilak.
There are not many authors who have written plentifully in
both Marathi and English. On
the other hand, there have been many worthy scholars who are poorly
known outside Maharashtra because their writings are available exclusively
in Marathi (with no English translations made).
The Marathi speaker often exhibits a naïve penchant for English
or a blind hatred of it—in either case, he is expressing a deeper
inferiority complex. It is high time that he ruthlessly reexamined his attitude to English.
itihāsacī sādhane, vol. 8.
Kolhapur : Granthamala, 1903
(intorcution). Reprinted in his Aitihāsik prastāvanā.
Pune: Chitrashala, 1928 (pp. 368-450; see pp. 383-384).
This was contributed to the International Institute in Language
Planning at Mysore, June-July 1980 and published in the selected contributions
: LanguagePalnning : Proceedings of an Institute, ed. E. Annamalai,
Björn H. Jernudd, Joan Rubin, Mysore : Central Institute of Indian
Languages; Honolulu Hawaii : Institute of Culture and Communication,
East-West Center, 1986, p. 360-84.