as a State Language
study in Language Planning
PLANNING IS THE TRANSFER to the social level of
what the intelligent individual tries to do all the time. When a young
man decides to Sweden his tongue having realized that his sharp tongue
puts him at a disadvantage in business or to learn German because
he wants to go to into chemical engineering, it is his individual
planning. When a society decides to encourage the study of German
or to discourage the sloppy and inexact use of language, it is language
Planning, like democracy, is an expression
of the faith in man’s ability to solve his problems rationally. Man
is not satisfied with using his intellect to understand reality but
man wants to use it in order to change it. Planning is revolution
made permanent; that is why we can compare it with biological evolution
and the evolution of culture through changing customs. Man is very
much the product of history, history shapes man. In planning man is
trying to shape history. This is like the replacement of traditional
crafts and techniques by engineering. Indeed some people have given
the name of language engineering to what we call here language planning.
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 them as the case may be. But
some language problems crop up repeatedly and some are too difficult
to solve without expert advice and some call for co-operation and
co-ordination on a large scale. In other words we need 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 efforts made
some years ago to standardized the keyboard of a Marathi type writer.
Expert typists were called, but expert linguists were never called.
As a result available 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. It is cumber-some and leads to transmission errors.
Very few people dare to use it. Even those wishing to send telegrams
in Hindi simply romanise them crudely. (I have prepared an alternate
code and knocked at the doors of authorities for a try-out. Needless
to say, I did not even get an acknowledgement.)
And then there is the mistaken notion
that a knowledge of Sanskrit automatically makes one an expert on
all aspects of language problems – at least when the language is an
Indian language. Now a knowledge of Sanskrit can be a help some of
the time, but such knowledge without a scientific outlook on language
problem scan be a real handicap too. Unfortunately the ignorance about
linguistic and other language descriptions is not confined to the
general public and administrators. The academic community in India
is no better. What is worse, ignorance is often reinforced either
by open or concealed hostility (especially among teachers of literature)or
by plain indifference (especially among social scientists).
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 scripts, the preparation of standardized
tests of proficiency in Indian and foreign languages, and proficiency
in using communication media for 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 piece of national
resource as manpower or the railways or energy sources.
While skilled and energetic and resourceful
people can constitute the nation’s principal strength, sickly and
indolent and lackadaisical people merely present a population problem.
The same is true of language. It is said by some that the economically
backward nations of the world tend to be multilingual or the other
way round – and of course the finger points to India. How significant
is this tendency? How valid is it to read it in the Indian situation?
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 deflected – 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 Eighth Schedule of of the Constitution of India
is a fairly large number for a single would-be nation state: it is
of course not at all a large number for a subcontinent. Now the fact
that India has many languages is neither a good nor a bad thing: it
is simply the legacy of history, just as Europe’s many one-language
nations is a legacy of history. What is good or bad is what we make
of this fact. Indians tend to jump to one or two extremes. Either
we decide that this multiplicity of languages is a silly nuisance
and 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 neighbourhood chat. Alternatively we decide
that pride in one’s own language is not complete without an obstinate
refusal to adjust or compromise or an insane jealousy for other languages.
For the last half-century councils
are being held to have a uniform calligraphy for Kannada and Telugu,
the script being essentially the same. Every time the outcome is the
same – Kannada speakers should commend 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 italizing and vice versa, so
that both get used to each other’s calligraphy – major step forward
towards unification. (Examples can be multiplied from other parts
of India. This cautious parenthesis is necessary since such is the
climate of ill will and suspicion that Kannada and Telugu speakers
will immediately accuse me of animosity towards them. It is unfortunately
not needless to say that such is not at all the case.)
Now adopting either of these two extremes
– suppression of regional languages or intolerant pride in regional
languages – 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 in India. We need airplanes and bullock carts and lots of things
in between. What is more to the point is that we need 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 tyres, languages certainly can, for change is the very law
of language as any beginning student of linguistics can tell you.
Decisions about language should be taken in a level-headed manner
after a thorough analysis of costs and benefits.
ONCE WE TAKE such a level-headed view
of things certain things claim our attention.
The multiplicity of languages certainly imposes certain liabilities
on a country struggling to find its economic feet. A part from the
obvious liability of the cost of essential translations or multiple
versions (e.g. of union government notifications, advertisement campaigns
of large corporations, results of important research available in
regional languages), we have to accept limits on the mobility of white-collar
jobs, educational opportunities, technological innovations, and the
like. The regional economic and educational imbalances between “backward”
and “advanced” areas consequently become to that extent harder to
At the same time it will be a piece 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 dance
use rendering a Manipuri dance or a Tamil vocalist singing a Telugu
composition. After all the political unity 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
In the India of ancient and medieval times, the traders, the
pilgrims, the travelers, the scholars, and the rulers did face and
solve the problem of inter-regional 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 slow pace, we can at least emulate their good sense and flexibility.
These qualities are certainly not incompatible with language planning.
Rigid slogans, violence, wordy rhetoric, and procrastination are certainly
inimical to 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 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 all-India level, Hindi, or English or Urdu or Sanskrit may
act as a contact language between the regional languages in a gathering
of traditional pandits, musicians, scholars, and scientists with a
university education. 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 sub-regional dialects, minority
languages, and tribal dialects. If regional language partisians need
“assurances” from the all-India contact languages, they also in turn
should be ready to offer “assurances” to the dialects and minority
The so-called language problems of India are not exclusively
problems arising out of the multiplicity of languages. After all even
large monolingual under- developed or developing countries face certain
language problems and India faces those too in addition to the better-advertised
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 on economics, or to 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 watch word 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 specializing in Marathi – and why
not? If a young Tamilian can specialize in Frwench, there is no reason
why he shouldn’t be given the opportunity of learning Marathi within
the school or college system if he wants to. Instead of making a bug-bear
or 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 member-ship of a new community, a new freedom.
We have already hinted at the other
principle when we spoke of redesigning bullock carts and airplanes.
A distant example will perhaps enable us to appreciate the point with
greater objectivity. The Swedish language 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 cannot open his mouth
without first determining his exact status relative to the others
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 change. We have to remould
our languages nurtured in an agricultural, rural, stratified, and
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 routinised contents so as to make them accessible
to the man 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 lapsing into clichēs, 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 remoulding our languages
cannot be wholly solved in the committee room or even the class room.
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 the writers and speakers of talent. 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
speaks to you – and, what is even more important, to recognize an
impostor when he 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. It should become the concern of academic experts
and educationists, authors and public speakers, journalists and mass
media people – indeed, the concern of every citizen.
AT TRUE TIME of the Yādavas (12th-13th
centuries) the state language of Maharashtra was Marathi. In the Bahāman#ī
kingdom and two of its successors the Adilshāh#ī of Bijapur
and the Nizāshāh#ī of Ahmednagar (all together, 14th
-17th centuries) Persian became the state language, though
the two Indo-Aryan languages Marathi and Dakhani-Urdu also played
a secondary role with a heavy load of borrowings of Persian administrative
and judicial terms. The same picture holds good of the Asafjāh#ī 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 Maratha dominion
not only introduced Marathi as the state language but asked a scholar.
Raghunath Pandit, to prepare the Rājavyavahārakosha (circa
1676), which is chiefly a Persian-Sanskrit lexicon of administrative
terms arranged topic-wise in verse form. This led to a considerable
lowering in the text frequency of Persian loans in Marathi. (V.K.
Rajvade cites *three sample documents dated 1628, 1677, 1728 with
the percentage of Persian loans being 86, 38, 6 respectively.) The
Marathi of those days distinguished between two situational modes
– Sanskrit loans and Sanskritized diction for serious work and plain
language drawing upon tadbhava and deshi words for the
ordinary people prāk,rtajana) .This distinction applies to the
two kinds of literature. State craft was of course serious business
and called for the former style. (The underlying framework of thought
is not entirely obsolete. Only, state craft in a democratic context
is now being recategorized as ordinary people’s business.) The British
rulers broadly 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
During the freedom movement (up to the coming of the 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 Maharashtra State in its present Shāsana form came
into being (one must note in passing that Marathi enjoyed a brief
spell of being the State language along with Hindi in the old, linguistically
composite Madhya Pradesh from 1958 to 1956.)
The question came to a head but there was no straight forward
answer. Indeed the question got redefined in some such terms:
Should Marathi truly become the language of the state of
Yes, it should.
No, it need not.
If it should, what form should it take?
It should lean towards Sanskrit and Sanskritized Hindi.
It should not lose its characteristic native flavour.
That yields three schools of thought – 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 (rājabhāshā) 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 served to highlight neglected aspects and
the lack of any simple-minded uncomplicated answer.
Against the back drop of the rājabhāshā 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 the task
of framing Marathi administrative terms. As a first instalment The
padanām- kosh (a dictionary of designations) was put out
in 1962 and promptly attacked by the late P. K. Atre, journalist and
literary artist. Atre wanted thata Marathi as a State Language should
remain Marathi and should not get over-Samskritized. The Marathi Rajabhasha
bill was proposed and passed in 1965. A preliminary edition of the
vyavahār kosh (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 larger scale.)
The publication in 1973 of the finalized 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 for mathematics in the context of the adoption
of Marathi as a medium of instruction. (Te latter controversy also
lent itself to the emergence of three schools on analogous lines).
A Government of India directive designated 1979 as the Rajabhasha
year. In Maharashtra this occasioned a fair number of talks, articles,
seminars, and the like (both under government and non-governmental
auspices) on administrative terminology and the use of Marathi and
thus served to bring up a number of interesting points.
BEFORE WE PROCED to set forth the points advanced by the
three schools of thought in their favour, 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, it will
be recalled, from 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 respect – both of them urge an early adoption of Marathi as
a rajabhasha (‘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, they think, is
better and in any case more democratic. They are for limited language
planning. The preference for tadbhava and deshi words
is a means to this end. In comparison 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 to the State level?
In this perspective, we may substitute a new set of labels
for the three schools of thought – 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.) 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. But it will be better to
refrain from attributing motives if we are interested in finding the
right direction for action.
The school advocating well-controlled planning pleads the
following points in its favour:
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 give 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. (Sometimes, however, this last point develops into a homily to
Marathi speakers – why don’t you follow the example of the Hindi-speaking
people and accept without noisy complaints the government sponsored
terms? I should at this point like to interest – one should rather
be happy that the Marathi speakers are so jealousy alert and discriminating
about the shape of their language and unhappy at the excessive docility
of the Hindi-speakers.)
must not make 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?
simplicity is not merely a matter of avoiding heavy consonant sequences.
Shouldn’t we be equally mindful of matching different senses by resemblant
word-forms? One must discriminate between law, by-law, rule, ordinance,
bill, and the like; and one must be able to spawn a whole family of
words – words for law, lawful, and the like. It is always easy to
ridicule a word just because it is new or going to be used in a novel
linguistic integration of India is desirable, and it is better to
base this 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 delighted.
To call a clerk or a sweeper or a piggery-officer by Sanskritic names
like lipik or svacchak or sūkarālaya-adhikār#ī
is so much more considerate and respectful than to use more homely
names like kārkūn (Persian) or jhādū,vālā or ∙ukkarvā∙ā-adhikār#ī.
A little one thought should be enough to make realize that
points 1, 2, 3 are arguable but that points 4, 5, will not bear examination.
The school advocating limited planning pleads the following
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 very ordinary citizen who
is supposed to be served by it is unable to follow, and grasp the
administrative terminology so created?
a genuine sympathy for the ordinary citizen’s problems will being
home to one the real evil 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.
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 dahā dashalaksha (ten
ten-lacs)? If only one thinks in Marathi, one comes out with ek
crore) quite naturally.
(4) Marathi has put up all these years with the dominance
of Sanskrit, Persian, English in turn. Let it not suffer from Hindi
imperialism. Let Marathi retain its individual character.
Out of these points 1, 2, 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 Marathi-ness 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 which 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 lots of 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 which it is
best to ignore. Even so each school has some substantial points to
offer which 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. It
is some of these neglected facets that we shall now present in the
form of four call-attention notices.
THE FIRST GAP in our thinking on the subject that I become
aware of is the absence of the realization that the question of administrative
terminology is but a small portion and not whole of the question of
State language. In our pre-occupation with terminology, we must not
lose sight of three other aspects of a State language. First, the
non-technical, ordinary vocabulary in governmental related communication.
The presence of technical terms inevitably makes the language a little
heavy-going. By way of compensation the non-technical word should
be kept especially plain and simple. It is so much better to use the
plain disūn yetāt become apparent) than the learned
yetāt (come into the scope of our vision); and again, to
avoid the Anglicism durdaiv#ī vichār (unfortunate idea) and
resort to the more robust kar,antā vichār or ve∙gaḷ (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
an 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” is the more natural way of saving
it in Marathi without any loss of meeting.
Last but not least, the style of administrative communication.
It 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 thought of the sign: “This is
a jhopa∙pa¶¶ī (shanty-town) improved under the Slum Clearance
Scheme.” (The Marathi word galiccha vast#ī for slum
means filthy settlement.) The draft contract of a semi-government
scheme in Maharashtra for encouraging authors is un-conscionably arrogant
and patronizing and calculated to hurt – I have met an author who
felt too hurt to accept it. Of course, an administrator’s 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 complemented on his Marathi. While this is certainly to his credit,
it also reflects very unfavourably on the general run of Marathi-knowing
government officers. Their distaste for writing in Marathi is very
often rooted in their inarticulateness in Marathi (and often in English
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. The contextual functions should govern the criteria. True
there has been some nodding recognition of the special precision of
legal language, but this is hardly enough. Indeed our elected representatives
are as much in the dock as our government officers so far as the proper
use of Marathi is concerned. We mustn’t overlook this. To take a more
comprehensive view, the State language functions distinctively in
the following contexts:
between the citizen and the elected representative: simplicity is especially important;
let us hope that precision will gradually
the citizen and the administrator: The administrator’s language
should be both plain and precise; lack
of precision may lead to
misunderstanding and consequently a sense of grievance on the
the elected representative and the administrator: More or less on
the same lines as (2).
administrators: Being fairly technical in nature, a certain heaviness may have to be accepted as
a price for precision and clarity.
the citizen and the lawyer: More or less on the same lines as (2).
the lawyer and the judge: More or less on the same lines as (4)
the elected representative as a legislator and the lawyer or the
judge: The language of the statutes is the most technical and
the legislators have
very little to do with it, but the drafters must pay heed that the
as drafted really represents the legislator’s intention.
A good deal has been said about the all-India character
and uniformity of administrative terminology. There should be no two
opinions about the desirable uniformity of legal language under contexts
(6) and (7). But elsewhere the insistence on uniformity cannot be
pressed too far. Formerly the same office was designated as tehsildar,
mamlatdar, lambardar, etc. in the different provinces. It is certainly
an improvement to have the same name for the revenue official and
general administrator for the smaller divisions of a district. While
elections may be called by their plain names, say, chunāv
in Marathi, we can still retain the Sanskritized nirvācan
as a secondary all India term. On the other hand there is little point
in having an all-India term for, say, arrears; the simple thakbā
is good enough for Marathi. Perhaps I may be permitted to make a concrete
suggestion in respect of contexts (1), (2), (5) that between them
involve such technical terms as are needed even by the ordinary citizen
– perhaps about 40 percent of the total stock of terms. It will be
very helpful to bring out a handy dictionary for such terms – with
Marathi entry-headings, English equivalents, and a descriptive explanation
with examples in the main text and an English-Marathi index in the
appendix. (Highly technical definitions will be uncalled for.)
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 aqnd others.
It is shamelessly eclectic and cheerfully accepts the English loans
leg and off, the Persian binbād (not out),
the homegrown pāyc#īt (leg-before-wicket), the Sanskrit
yashtirakshak (wicket-keeper), 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 synonyms words from different sources
we can often find use both – bhūmiti and jamīnmojņī
both mean ‘land-measuring’, but the first is a branch of mathematics
(geometry) and the second belongs under the revenue department. Having
settled the donations of saṁsad , loksabhā,
rājyasabhā, vidhānparishad, and vidh ānsabhā,
we shall find handy the left-over kāydemaº∙al when speaking of all these bodies together (in the sense of any
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 bhāshā -sañchālaya
(language directorate) should past muster, but is actually more difficult
to pronounce than bhāshā-sañchālan-karyālaya
(language director office). Nor again is it a matter of familiarity,
What is more to the point is the learnibility of the word. The word
prasādhan-kaksha 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 blundered into the correct answer to a sum
has any notion of how one arrives at it. To say that the boy can do
the sum is misleading in either case. To render the term culvert as
is certainly otiose; but the attractive-sounding puliyā
(bridge-let) 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 bhuy ārīgaṭār
(tunnel-drain). One should admit that for rendering midwife,
the suggested prasāvikā sounds more obscure than
the homely suīn; but one should admit that its
relationship with prasūti (childbearing, delivery) and
sūtikā (the woman being delivered) is much more transparent
and learnable. The epithets plain, simple are highly
One final word – about the target of a lot of criticism,
the Shāsana vyavahār kosh with its 30,000
entries. I did a sample check of 20 pages, that is, about 1,000 entries.
Out of these, about one percent of the entries paired an obscure and
a simple Marathi term:
Government: shāsan, sarkār (simple term
Overhead expenses: varka∙ kharcha, uparivyaya
(simple term first)
Another three percent of the entries offer words that could
perhaps be improved upon and typify the terms that draw a lot of journalistic
and literary fire.
Passed with grace: anugrahottīrņa
So about three hundred plus nine hundred terms have brought
a bad name to this dictionary. And one cannot expect otherwise. 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 more offending. One cannot underestimate
their capacity for language pollution. I urge that the Government
should really 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 Yeshwantrao Chavan
(in Lokrajya. 1 October 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 someday this will lead us to less obscure terms.
(Chavan was Chief Minister of Maharashtra when Atre said this: he
had expressed chargin at Atre’s attack.)
PERHAPS A GLANCE at 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 and developing countries.
Punjabi 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
excessively laden with words of Perso-Arabic orgin.) There are not
many Muslims now among Panjabi speakers in India. The Sikhs favour
Panjabi and Persian orientation. The Hindus under the influence of
the Arya Samaj tend to favour 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 muāshīmuāmalā.
Hindi has a strong tendency to get more sanskritized. Thus
while many Marathi-speakers have protested against using nirvāchan
at the expense of niva∙ņūk
for an election, one doesn’t see too many defenders for Hindi chunāv.
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 will be easier for ordinary Hindi-speakers, the one that
prefers nirvāchan may 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
Sanskrit loans do not always make for uniformity among Indian
languages. The so-called “false friends” abound. While cheshta 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 saṁskṛti in Marathi for ‘culture’, Rabindranath
Tagore picked it up for Bangla, and eventually it spread to other
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 text books and belles-letters.
The Marathi reader is also to blame for the 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 own language need not be equated
with a hatreds 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 native 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.
This was published in New Quest no 23: 265-77, Sept-
* Rajvade Marāṭhyāncyā Ithhāsā#ī Sadhane, vol. 8, Kolhapur: Granthmala 1903,
Introduction. Reprinted in his Aitihāsik Prastāvanā,
Pune: Chitrashala 1928, pp. 368-480 see pp. 383-4