Home » Language Policy As Whimsical Affair: Manipur Right Now

Language Policy As Whimsical Affair: Manipur Right Now

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 6 minutes read

By: Amar Yumnam
Imphal, Dec 6:

Manipur has not experienced language related social upheavals after the movements decades back for the inclusion of Manipuri (Manipuri, not Meeteilon/Meitelon) in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. But we need not wait for sooner than later there would emerge social upheavals almost like inter-communal tensions in a way almost like leader-induced.
Manipur is undoubtedly a heterogenous society with naturally heterogenous social and cultural properties. The formulation of anguage Policy in such a context is a very serious matter, and definitely not one which can be just uttered by the head of the people in a public meeting. Bernard Spolsky opens his 2004 book titled Language Policy thus: “A fifty-six-year-old Turkish woman was refused a heart transplant by clinics in Hanover on the grounds that her lack of German (common among Gastarbeiter) made the recovery process dangerous. The clinic defended the decision: the patient might not understand the doctors’ orders, might take the wrong medicine and might not be able to get help if there were complications. The state minister for health said(Sunday Telegraph, August 27, 2000) that in future in similar cases they must find a more practical solution. Doctors and hospitals make language policy when they decide how to deal with language diversity.” He emphasises that for a Language Policy the “first step is to distinguish between the three components of the language policy of a speech community: its language practices — the habitual pattern of selecting among the varieties that make up its linguistic repertoire; its language beliefs or ideology — the beliefs about language and language use; and any specific efforts to modify or influence that practice by any kind of language intervention, planning or management.”Einar Haugen in the early 1960s studies on “language conflict and language planning relating to Norway suggested that the field could be organized under four headings: the first two were selection of a norm when someone has identified a ‘‘language problem,” and codification of its written(or spoken) form, its grammar and its lexicon.”Heinz Kloss (1969) with the Quebec experience called selection‘‘ status planning” and codification ‘‘corpus planning”. The other two headings Haugen proposed were implementation (making sure that a policy is accepted and followed by the target population) and elaboration, the continued modification of the norm to meet the requirements of modernization and development.” There is also the fact that there is inter alia a very strong ideological component in which “Bad language is considered dirty and impure. Clean, un corrupt, pure language is highly valued ideologically.”The Zuni Indians did not allow foreign words in ritual performances, as part of their opposition to innovations in ceremonies. The Arizona Tewa had a similar ban; they also disapproved of language mixing. The hundred or so generally bilingual speakers of Tariana, an Arawak language in the Amazon region of Brazil, consider lexical borrowing ‘‘incompetent and sloppy”. Purism becomes important during a time of language cultivation and modernization, providing a criterion for the choice of new lexicon. Purism favours native sources and tries to close off non native sources. It is closely connected with national feeling. There are similar concerns to keep foreign influence out of music, literature and architecture. Keeping languages pure by excluding foreignisms became an important management task in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and was the central role of the language academies modelled on the Académie francaise.” These are not very simple issues in an underdeveloped, small but diverse social system within a single governance regime, which still has a long way to cover for attaining more or less complete coverage; this is Manipur.
Clare Mar-Molinero and Patrick Stevenson in their edited volume on Language Ideologies, Policies and Practices Language and the Future of Europe (2006) write: “More recently, increasing attention has been paid to the effects of globalization and the transnational flow of goods and services but also the transnational traffic of people and therefore of language(s), both physical and virtual. Yet a tension remains between these two preoccupations: between the static framework of the national, with its fixed parameters, and the fluid forms of the transnational.” Further as Anthony J. Liddicoat and Richard B. Baldauf Jr. write in their 2008 piece Language Planning in Local Contexts: Agents, Contexts and Interactions: “it is not through the coercive and normative power of institutions – the power ascribed by status or realised through sanctions (Carspecken, 1996) – that behaviours are changed but through more subtle operations on the choices of others. Among these are the strategies …..as charm – the ability to use culturally understood identity claims and norms to gain the trust and loyalty of others – and contractual power – an agreement specifying reciprocal obligations between parties.
Within a more elaborated view of power, an exclusive focus on macro-level phenomena becomes problematic for a full understanding of the nature of language-related processes. This analysis suggests that language planning work in local contexts is a fundamental and integrated part of the overall language planning process, which merits attention both within the context of the operation of macro-level planning– as a necessary extension of it – and in its own right – as a local activity with no macro roots. The focus on local contexts in language planning mirrors an increased concern for the democratisation of decision-making in social policy in general which recognises the impact of power asymmetries on policy outcomes. Concern for democratisation has been prompted by a realisation that existing national-level power structures have undergone an erosion of legitimacy in many contexts which cannot be remedied by centralisation of decision-making, and in which there need to evolve local processes to address local contexts. A focus on local contexts is not only warranted by the democratisation of decision-making, but also from the perspective of devolution, especially in education where the locus of much of the decision-making lies with local communities.”
All these imply very well the implications of developing languages and the significance of language policy. In this context, the recent launching in Manipur of a programme for learning seven dialects is a significant one. But while inaugurating the programme, the head of the people of Manipur is also reported to have emphasised: “Further stating the importance of learning different dialects, he informed that priority would be given to those candidates who know multiple local languages, in recruitment of the State Government’s Job.” (Imphal Times, 03 December 2022). This is where the problem arises. Whereas English and Manipuri are constitutionally recognised languages, the training on the dialects is just being started. Well, relating to the jobs is an important decision and taking such a decision cannot just be based on the emotions arising while launching the training programme. Before being lifted to such a stage with such hastiness, more logical steps would be putting experts for evolving Curriculum based on these languages for the Primary and Secondary Levels. Linking with the jobs in right earnest without these foundations is like Putting the Cart before the Horse. But the announcement has already created a basis for social tensions among the various ethnicities in Manipur to emerge. Though lull for the time being, language is already a charged area, but it is being aroused emotionally and sentimentally. Any locality anywhere in Manipur can now exploit the scope for trying to communicate with any government official posted in the locality only through the local language. If the official turns out to be different from the locality linguistically, the local population now have the right to immediately demand posting someone who can speak the local dialect. Social Tensions would now be induced; I would call it Leadership-Induced Tension.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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