Ashok R. Kelkar








            Language 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 language experts.    


            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 sources.




            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 romantic arguments.


            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 planning.


            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 freedom.


            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 :


(a)    the need for impersonal, standardized expression of science and other routinized contents so as to make them accessible to the person who needs them;


(b)   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;


(c)    the expression of shared ideas and feelings without falling into stale clichés, bombast, or pseudo-technicalities in journalism and public life.


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.





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.


During 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 into being.


The question 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?


These 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 (rājabhāā) 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?


Against the backdrop of the rājabhāā 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.


Before 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.


The Sanskrit-inclined 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 level?


In this 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.


The school advocating well-controlled planning pleads the following points in its favor :


(1)   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.


(2)   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?



(3)   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.


(4)   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.


(5)   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) or jhāūvālā or ukkarvaā-adhikārī.


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.


The school advocating limited planning pleads the following points:


(1) It 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 under pressure.


(3) Why 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 dasalaka (ten ten-lacs)?  If only one thinks in Marathi, one comes out with ek koṭī   (one crore) quite naturally.


(4) Marathi 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.


Of these 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?


The conservative school arguing for the status quo pleads the following points:


(1) Let 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.  


(3) There 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 than useless.


(4) Precision and accuracy is of the utmost importance in administration.  English has won these qualities after years.  How can we possibly do without its support?


While points 1 and 2 are weighty, points 3 and 4 are only based on half-truths.


Each 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.


The first 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 vega 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 jhopapattī  (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). 


The second 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.


Finally, 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 yatirakak (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 jamīnmojī 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 sasad, loksabhā, rajyasabhā, bidhānapariad, 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 bhāāsancālanālava (language directorate) should pass muster but is actually more difficult to pronounce than bhāā-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-kaka 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 adhapranāl 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 bhuyārīgaār (tunnel-drain).  One should admit that for rendering midwife, the suggested presāvikā sounds more obscure than the homely suī; 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 ones.


One final 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)

Overhead expenses                   varka kharca, uparivyaya (simple term first).


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 fire.


            Overseer                     avekak

            Part-time                  amsakālik

            Passed with grace            anugrahottīra


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 nivanūk 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 samskti in Marathi for “culture,” Rabindranath Tagore picked it up for Bangla, and eventually it spread to other Indian languages.


            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.





Rajavade, V.K.


1903        Marāhyāncyā 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.