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Presentation on theme: "PLANNING FOR HERITAGE LANGUAGES UDAYA NARAYANA SINGH NELD WORKSHOP SEP 19, 2003."— Presentation transcript:


2 Disappearance, Death, Danger Disappearance is at an alarming pace, so much so that in one prediction only 10% of the current 6,000 world’s heritage languages will survive. Death of a speaker is understandable. Wiping off of an entire community is painful. Aboriginal elders who speak their languages, but also younger people who mourn their loss, point to the connection of Aboriginal languages with culture, and with one's roots and identity. A Red Indian Secwepemc elder Nellie Taylor once noted that "without your language you're nothing, you are like a white person, lost and without a home.“ How very true even in South Asian context?

3 ... Even this vastly reduced reservoir of linguistic diversity … constitutes one of the great treasures of humanity, an enormous store-house of expressive power and profound understandings of the universe. The loss of the hundreds of languages that have already passed into history is an intellectual catastrophe in every way comparable in magnitude to the ecological catastrophe we face today as the earth's tropical forests are swept by fire. Each language still spoken is fundamental to the personal, social and - a key term in the discourse of indigenous peoples - spiritual identity of its speakers. They know that without these languages they would be less than they are, and they are engaged in the most urgent struggles to protect their linguistic heritage. (Zepeda and Hill, 1991) Zepeda, O. and J.H. Hill, 1991. The Condition of Native American Languages in the United States. In R.H. Robins and E.M. Uhlenbeck, Robins (editors). Endangered Languages. Oxford: Berg Publishers

4 Let’s take up a concrete case: Canada Over 60 languages were originally spoken in Canada, according to Kinkade (1991:158); At least 8 were extinct by 1990 (approx. 13%); 13 languages (21%) are judged 'near-extinct'

5 More about Canadian situation 23 languages in Canada are 'endangered' (38%) now, because they have few speakers under 50 years old and almost no children are learning them. Most of the remaining languages in Canada are seen as viable but having small populations - a risk in itself. Only 4 languages may survive in the long run. In a later study by Norris (1998) study using 1996 Census data, the estimate of Indigenous languages likely to survive in Canada is down to 3.

6 We can plot the decline in the percentage of speakers of Indigenous languages among the Indigenous populations of Canada in the following manner: Table 1: Percentage of Indigenous population that speaks an Indigenous language, Canada 1951196119711981198619911996 Canada 87.475.757.129.3 ? 32.726 Source: Burnaby and Beaujot 1986:36. Plotting the Decline in Canada

7 Indigenous language speakers as percentage of Indigenous population, Canada

8 The North American Scenario For North America as a whole, any assessment or prediction is difficult; North America had had a turbulent early history of colonisation and massive mortality due to introduced disease; As for the number of Indigenous languages originally spoken, Bright (1994) and Mithun (1999:1) put it at around 300. Chafe (1962) counted 211 languages as still living in the USA and Canada in 1960; Out of these only 89 (42%) had speakers of all ages; Therefore, we could place most of the other 58% in the categories 'endangered' or 'near-extinct'. Thirty years later Zepeda and Hill (1991:136) estimate that 51 (approx. 24%) of the 211 languages supposed to have been alive in 1960 have disappeared. Campbell (1997:16) predicts that 80% of the North American languages spoken at the turn of this century 'will die in this generation'. The prediction is for 20-30 Indigenous languages will survive in North America by 2040. QUITE GRIM

9 Krauss (1996) uses a four-fold classification based on which age groups speaking the language, could be placed in respect of the United States in this way: Category A, still being learned by children, 20 languages, 12% Category B, still spoken by the parental generation, 20 languages, 12% Category C, spoken by grandparents and up only, 70 languages, 40% Category D, spoken by only a few very oldest, 55 languages, 36%

10 Indigenous people in Eastern USA

11 Australia: Disturbing Statistics 1.Out of about 300 in 1800, there has been a decrease of 90% in the number of such speakers of all age groups who can speak fluently. 2.Decline rate in Indigenous people speaking their own languages from 100% in 1800 to 13% in 1996. If these trends continue unchecked, by 2050 there will no longer be any Indigenous languages spoken in Australia. In absolute terms, there may actually be 55 000 speakers of Indigenous languages there. Of the 20 languages categorised in 1990 as 'strong', 3 should already be regarded as 'endangered'.

12 ABS 1994 Survey of Aboriginal: Relative proportions of those who can speak an Indigenous language and those who speak an Indigenous language as the main language at home.

13 Proportion of Indigenous People speaking an Indigenous Language or Creole, 1996

14 Spread of Speakers of Indigenous Languages by Absolute Numbers

15 Matter of Rights The Preamble to the United Nations Charter says "We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, and for these ends, to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another …"

16 In December, 2002, at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland at the Eighth Session of the Working Group on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (WGDD), the tussle between large nation states like US, Canada & Australia and the indigenous people became evident. The Draft includes a preamble as well as 45 Articles; e.g. Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality. The Draft was adopted in 1994 by the Sub- Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the UN Commission on Human Rights. It was then channeled to the WGDD where it has been kept in limbo by the larger States. The Draft is to be finalized by 2004. Article 43 states: "All the rights and freedoms recognized herein are equally guaranteed to male and female indigenous individuals” Disturbing debates Charmaine White Face, a freelance writer, in

17 Let’s try to understand the Spread of the problem in India T he Scheduled Tribes account for 67.76 millions representing 8.08% of our population – living mainly in the forest and hilly regions (1991 Census); More than 70% are in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat. We not only need special provisions for their protection from social injustices and all forms of exploitation, we also need concrete plans for development with safeguards including promotion of educational and economic interests; I think a concrete Language Development Plan is a need of the hour.

18 What could we do in India? There is a general feeling among those who do not understand the Indian polity and the administrative set up of the country that we do not have a mechanism in place to protect and promote minor and minority languages. The trouble is that they often point to small countries like Nepal where both in Constitutional provisions and in Universal Education documents these issues are specifically mentioned. In case of India, the sheer size of the country and complexity of the administrative set up are such that it cannot be compared with other nation-states in this respect.

19 Responsibilities shared here: Evidences 5 th & 6 th Schedule of the Constitution & Article 224 made special provision; but these are under Home Ministry; Special representation for the STs in the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies till 25 th January, 2010 (Arts, 330, 332 and 334) also made; Under Articles 164 and 338, separate State-level and National Commission at the Centre was set up to promote their welfare and safeguard their interests; Currently it has Dr. Bizay Sonkar Sastry (Chair), Ven Lama Chosphel Zotpa (Vice-Chair), Tapir Gao, VK.Chaudhary etc. But the Ministry of Tribal Welfare, set up in October 1999 is the nodal agency. Commission for Linguistic Minorities (Allahabad) under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment; Grant-in-Aid scheme under Article 275(1) was also created; Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 were enacted; Planning Commission took a landmark step by opening 43 Special Multi-purpose Tribal Blocks (SMPTBs) during 2nd Five Year Plan, later called Tribal Development Blocks (TDBs); Later, under 4th Plan, six projects with Rs.2 crores set up in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, and a separate Tribal Development Agency was established

20 The Fifth Five Year Plan marked a shift in the approach when the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) for direct benefit of the STs was launched; In 1987, the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation (TRIFED) was set up to provide marketing help & remunerative prices to tribals for their minor forest produce (MFP) and surplus agricultural produce (SAP); The GIA scheme covers 376 NGOs working in this area, each getting about 90% grant. BUT ARE ALL THESE ENOUGH? A lot more needs to be done with concerted focus, esp. in prevention of land alienation from tribal to no-tribal, review of National Forest Policy and Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, etc

21 Possible areas we could move in Cultural documentation Dictionaries (general purpose) Thesauri Specialized/Technical Glossary Literacy books Primers Style Manuals Initial Literary Attempts


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