Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 10 : 6 June 2010
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.



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Patterns of Indian Multilingualism

B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.


Understanding the pattern of existence and use of languages in a country helps in understanding the sociolinguistic position of that country better. When a country is monolingual, it has one kind of issues to be taken into account, and when a country is multilingual, issues to be understood are multiple.

The Webster's Dictionary says that "… using or able to use several languages especially with equal fluency" is multilingualism. However, Wikipedia identifies multilingualism as "…the use of two or more languages, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers" and it also says that "… multilingual speakers outnumber monolingual speakers in the world's population". Hence multilingualism is considered as the norm and mono-lingualism an exception (Peter Auer/Li Wei: 2008).

Indian Multilingualism

Indian multilingualism and its society is described using many terms such as melting pot, salad bowl, etc. None of these is able to capture the real texture of Indian multilingualism. Indian multilingualism is unique; it has no parallel anywhere in the world.

The Focus of This Paper

This paper aims to analyze the Census data to capture some aspects Indian multilingualism. The major source to understand Indian multilingualism comes from the decennial census conducted since 1872 till 2001. However the language information is collected only from 1881 Census. In general, the Census data provides inputs to various kinds of planning in the country, and language data helps us to understand the sociolinguistic situation of the country. Unfortunately, in my assessment, the data obtained has not been used much in language planning in post-independence India.

Languages in India Today

The Constitution of India today has 22 languages that are classified as Scheduled Languages since they are in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. In the beginning this schedule is treated as a rigid document, resisting any changes to it through Constitutional amendments. However, in recent decades, the Schedule is treated as an open ended list which has got additions whenever the socio-political conditions forced or favored inclusion of a specific language. Hence the information is available in terms of Schedule Languages and Non-Schedule languages. According to latest information, India is endowed with 22 scheduled languages and 100 non-scheduled languages which include English also. These 22 languages have 243 mother tongues embedded in them. The mother tongues spoken by less than 10000 persons are not accounted.

The Question of Mother Tongue in Many Avatars!

From 1881 Census onward, the question on mother-tongue was included in the census though it was used by the enumerators differently in different Censuses. In the Censuses of 1881, 1931, 1941 and 1951, the question was 'Mother-tongue'. The mother-tongue was defined as the language first spoken by the individual from the cradle. In 1891 Census, the question was 'Parent tongue' which has been defined as the language spoken by the parent of the individual. In 1901 Census, 'Parent tongue' was replaced by 'language ordinarily used'. In 1911 the question was 'language ordinarily spoken in the household'. In 1921 the question was simply 'language ordinarily used'. The question on Mother tongue was repeated from Census to Census from 1931 to 1971. In 1971 Census, the mother-tongue was defined as "language spoken in childhood by the person's mother to the person. If the mother died in infancy the language mainly spoken in the person's home in childhood was recorded as the Mother-tongue'.

In Census 2001, mother tongue is enumerated as "…the language spoken in childhood by the person's mother to the person. If the mother died in infancy, the language mainly spoken in the person's home in childhood will be the mother tongue. In the case of infants and deaf mutes, the language usually spoken by the mother should be recorded. In case of doubt, the language mainly spoken in the household may be recorded".

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Patterns of Indian Multilingualism | The Use of Catchy Words: A Case Study from Pakistan | Conquering Psychological Alienation - How Amy Tan Looks at It | I`gbo` Verbs of Communication | Honorifics and Speech Levels in Meiteiron | Social Functions of Metaphor - A Case Study Applying Tamil and Telugu Examples | Pragmatic Approaches and Models of Linguistic Politeness | Emerging Paradigms in Language Communication in India and Their Impact on the Corporate Competencies | Role of Encoding Temporal Fine Structure Cues in Time Compressed Word Recognition | Negotiating Boundaries: Arab-American Poetry and the Dilemmas of Dual Identity | The Role of Self-Directed Learning Strategy in Higher Education | Attitudes toward Women Expressed in the Speech of Male College Students | Teachers' Professional Development in ELT at Tertiary Level: ELTR Project of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan - A Case Study | The Changing Image of Women in Indian Writing in English - A Study of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things | The Administration of the East India Company: A History of Indian Progress: Native Education | Teaching English Language and Literature in Non-Native Context | Improving Chemmozhi Learning and Teaching - Descriptive Studies in Classical-Modern Tamil Grammar | Global Perspective of Teaching English Literature in Higher Education in Pakistan | Two Trends That Would Deface Classical-Modern Tamil - How to Reverse These Trends? | A PRINT VERSION OF ALL THE PAPERS OF JUNE 2010 ISSUE IN BOOK FORMAT | HOME PAGE of June 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysore 570 006
Karnataka, India

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