languages (question) (was Re: pronunciation of Sanskrit)

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Sun Apr 13 16:12:09 UTC 1997

In a message dated 97-04-13 11:30:18 EDT, you write:

<< Correct me if I'm wrong: I've heared English is still widely used
 at the official level because Hindi's not acceptable to the southern
 states. Now I do understand how this implies Hindi alone would not
 be acceptable, but I don't think I'm able to follow the implication
 this makes English indispensable. Is there no combination of 2 or 3
 or even 4 languages which as Union languages would be acceptable to
 all? Could anyone explain this to me a bit more clearly? >>

The attitude of Indians towards languages is a topic on which volumes could
be/have been written.  You probably read the following in an earlier posting
in Indology.

<<From: WILLIAM HARMAN <wharman at DEPAUW.EDU>
Subject: Your Letter from Embassy of India (March 27, 1997)

Honorable Siv S. Mukherjee
Embassy of India
2107 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Phone (202) 939-7041
Fax (202) 462-7276

I have received your letter describing the Indian Government's intention 
to bring out a Directory of Scholars of Hindi living abroad to 
commemorate India's 50th anniversary of independence. You describe your 
intentions to produce a directory with personal biographies, and 
photographs, as well as published works and awards and honors. You also 
indicate that if my interest is not in Hindi, you are not interested in 
including me in the directory. The message seems to me to be rather 
clear, and quite damaging to the notion that India is a nation concerned 
for the united cooperation of India's linguistic, cultural, and literary 

I am a scholar of Tamil, and I regret that you have decided that the Tamil
language, culture, and people are irrelevant or, at best, secondary to
India's national celebration of independence.  I would like to remind you
that Tamilnadu has a long and remarkable history in terms of literary and
religious contributions to national life in India. India is a great
nation, but I would hate to see it diminished by parochial notions such as
those claiming that any one linguistic, racial, geographic, or religious
group carries the banner for the entire nation. 

I send this letter to academics on several lists concerned with the study 
of India. I encourage them not to participate in the project unless 
the project is enlarged to include all languages of India.


                                        William P. Harman
                                        Associate Professor of Religion
                                        DePauw University>>

The attitude of the Indian Government as experienced by Prof. Harman and the
farcical following of three-language formula by Hindi-speaking states is
well-known. (They are supposed to study a non-Hindi language, but it is
simply not done.) Tamilnadu and, if I am not mistaken, West Bengal openly
adopted the two-language formula. In many non-Hindi states, I have heard that
for passing Hindi, you have to just attend the exam and hand in your paper
with your name, etc. written. I do not know if this is true any more. May be
members more familiar with other states can elaborate.


S. Palaniappan 

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