Vital Statistics

Artur Karp hart at POLBOX.COM
Wed Jan 5 22:25:47 UTC 2000

At 18:29 2000-01-04 +0100, Dr. Koenraad Elst wrote:

>I leave you to figure out just who has an interest in denying the unity of
>Hindi, but fact is that any criterion which would break Hindi up into its
>dialects would break up most other languages as well.

One is interestingly reminded of the recent debate on conversions, with the
question of the unity of Hinduism (and criteria of belonging to Hindu fold)
in its center. Ugly motives and hidden interests suspected also then. But -
enough of that.

What for convenience sake is called Hindi linguistic area has several
centers and unstable peripheries. Historically, each of the components of
this continuum, whether they are treated as dialects or languages, is linked
to its own local center of political power, usually in control of a regional
or trans-regional market. Negating their separateness is as irrational as
denying their interrelatedness. Interrelatedness, however, is not unity.

By representing jointly the numerical data on the nuclear and peripheral
varieties of Hindi, the Web digest of the 1991 census constructs a new,
statistics grounded reality. The linguistic facts (functional
multilingualism) are replaced in it with the objectives of modern language
policies (one language standard).  Unity in Diversity is beginning to be
replaced by its easier variant: Unity in Unity.

Characteristically, the populace of the Hindi belt does not seem to be
worried by the lack of one specific name by which they could call themselves
(or could be called by others) - or are they? They well may be telling us
that their identity is built not around language, but around the traditional
mechanisms of exchange (goods, work/services, brides). Such mechanisms bind
people much more effectively than language or religion. Unfortunately, they
are hard to translate  into political idiom or administrative/management

Is it really possible to build a Hindi nation just by stabilizing the
constellation of Hindi dialects/languages around one fixed model of
linguistic expression? That remains to be seen. There are some obvious
advantages, and tempting prospects. But there are also costs to consider.
And, in my turn, I leave Dr. Elst figure out, what they might be.

With regards,

Artur Karp
University of Warsaw

P. S. I have always wondered why so much more attention  old-style Indology
devoted to what divides people than, rather, to what makes them want to be
together. Years ago my teachers spent quite a lot of time on hammering into
my poor head the quaintest genetic/typological classifications of Indian
languages and religions, but gave me nothing on the traditional institutions
that make trans-linguistic, trans-caste and trans-religion exchange
possible. They talked about great Indian dynasties and their wars, but gave
me no idea of the mechanisms of mediation used by local kingdoms to solve
their conflicts. They described pure forms of thought and poetry, but told
me nothing about trade activities of Buddhist monasteries, or about one
Ismail Jogi,  - or Tatig Nag, the devotee of Sib Mahadeo studying Ilm Quran

in the town of Gokal...

It's perhaps no matter of chance that my high school teachers used a similar
conceptual framework while describing the history of the Polish-German
relations. Also for them any cultural form that wouldn't fit the
Central-European Romantic definition of pure nationhood was automatically
suspect and if it deserved any serious attention, then only as an example of
national treason. As a result of a couple of World Wars the purely Polish
population is now finally separated from the purely German population by a
thin border line; no more mixed dialects, trans-national patterns of culture
(with their low-level informal systems of exchange); no more mixed
loyalties. If after crossing the border one wants to understand more than
left-right directions, one can always formally study the language - or hire
services of a professional interpreter.

Is it possible that some people responsible for the language policies in
India (and in Pakistan) got their education in schools with a history
program similar to the one taught in mine?

A. K.

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