Hindi &c.

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at giasbg01.vsnl.net.in
Thu Nov 28 15:14:01 UTC 1996

(In reply to L.M. Fosse)

lf> If India decides to use a highly sanskritized Hindi as a link
lf> language, the inevitable consequence is the one you describe. If
lf> Hindi is to truly succeed as a link language, the first thing to do
lf> would seem to be to remove much of the Sanskrit and use the kind of
lf> language the majority of Hindi speakers speak, what usually was
lf> called Hindustani. 
lf> Any opionions?

Getting the whole of India to speak de-Sanskritized Hindi is a pipe
dream of people who are unaware of what the 21st century will demand of
language. (Hey, Lars... were you not the person who accused me recently
of being out of touch with the world?) It is only on the basis of that
highly Sanskritized vocabulary that Hindi has any chance at all of
catching on outside the so-called Hindi belt, because Sanskrit is the
only indigenous all-Indian language (and this is the motivation for that
Sanskritization). Hindi as it is now is already difficult, but ".the.th
hindii" is completely incomprehensible for people in other parts. The
burden of learning the new vocabulary of such 'Hindustani' (which will
be a poor, underdeveloped language, limited to only a low 'register')
will only strengthen the position of English. Hindi speakers already are
a minority, and if this Hindustanization becomes the new norm for Hindi
competence, it will decrease their number still further.

In any case, linguistic engineering is a dubious matter. I have some
beautiful opinions of others which I wish to share with everyone. This
is Krishna Kripalani: Hindi was

"invented by the English, and first used as a vehicle of literary prose
composition in 1803." (K. Kripalani, _Literature of Modern India._ New
Delhi: National Book Trust, 1982, revised ed., p. 53.)

Also, Hindi is

"the highly laboured medium consciously cultivated by Pundits of the
Fort William College which Grierson described as 'an artificial dialect,
the mother tongue of no native-born Indian, that wonderful hybrid
language known to Europeans as Hindi and invented by them.' There is
little doubt that this medium which was primarily needed for the use of
British civil servants had literally to be manufactured" (ibid., p. 54).

The question still remains whether, except for purely sentimental,
nationalistic reasons, _any_ indigenous language should be the link
language. How large is the percentage of people who have regular
important dealings outside their home state, and what is their level of
education? Chances are that either they are English-educated, or they
learn the real language of the one neighbouring state / linguistic area
with which they have dealings. I and others have already pointed out
that Hindi is divisive. Furthermore, to quote Hermann Berger,

"The 'Hindi fanatics'... are an uncommonly clear example of how a
narrow-minded nationalism, which is born of hatefulness and a lack of
understanding, leads to the total destruction of national character
instead of to its preservation.... They want to bring a grotesque
homunculus to power, a purely intellectual Esperanto which has been put
together in imitation of English." (H. Berger, "Hochsprache und
Volkssprache in Indien," in _Jahrbuch des Suedasien-Instituts der
Universitaet Heidelberg_ 1966, pp. 32-33. My translation.)

In the same article, Berger points out how new Hindi words look
Sanskritic but are semantically English rather than Indian. This amounts
to saying that those who are constructing Hindi are, in thought, not
really Indian any more, the people whom Nirad Chaudhuri calls 'Brown
Sahibs'. They have no need for Hindi themselves, and the people who
learn their construct are learning a surrogate English. And so the words
which are recognized as Sanskritic actually offer problems to learners,
who think the words mean the same as in their mother tongue.

Opinions? :-)

Robert Zydenbos.-

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