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Ampersand: An International Journal of General and Applied Linguistics

Edited By R. Cann, H. Pichler, K. Van De Poel, D. van Olmen, and K. Watson

Academic Paper

Title: 'Language-Planner Rabindranath'
Paper URL:
Author: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Indian Statistical Institute
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Discourse Analysis; Philosophy of Language; Sociolinguistics
Abstract: The author of this paper was trying to show that two opposite projects with a distinct epistemological break were part of Rabindranath Tagore’s (a Nobel Laureate in Literature) language planning policy in the context of early C 20. This paper focuses on these two polarized language planning policy adopted by Tagore and has three distinct parts. In the first part (The Expansion of Self), the linguistic attitude of Tagore in reference to Asamiya and Oriya was described, as Tagore wanted to include Asamiya and Oriya as two 'dialects' of Bangla as a part of his Nationalistic project in the context of division of Bengal (1905). In the second section (Recovery of Self), a particular portion of ‘banla bhasa poricoy’(Introduction to Bangla Language) was analyzed to understand the nature of Tagore’s Language Planning policy, which was essentially anti-nationalist as Tagore questioned the myth of national language. In the third part, micro level discourse analysis of Tagore’s text was led to the broad spectrum of pluralistic decentralized language planning in connection with the Tagore’s Economic Planning. Though there are several discussions in Bangla on Tagore’s contribution to Linguistics in general and Language Planning in particular, the language planning policy in the perspective of Tagore’s philosophy of economic planning which includes samavaya(co-operation)and decentralization with Tagore’s emphasis on the so called Indian 'little tradition' and socially controlled self-determination were not highlighted. The author of this paper showed different dimensions of anti-nationalist decentralized politics propagated by Rabindranath and Gandhi (cf. Nandy 1994). Rabindranath’s idea of kingless society and decentralized autonomy as discussed in svadesi samaj, kalantar or in lectures on 'Nationalism' leads us to think about a world without the government or king - a totally decentralized solidarity of people. Tagore prescribed decentralization and tried to develop the notion of society based on samavaya (co-operative). Pluralistic language planning may be enriched by this notion of bhasa-samavaya (Co-operation or peaceful co-existence of languages). This concept of bhasa-samavaya can eliminate the 'drain of language'. Tagore opined that opting for a single ‘national’ language could be compared with the snatching away of oil from domestic units to lit the lamp of the royal gate. This may also be compared to the snatching away of surplus by the super-ordinates, which is, according to nationalist economists, 'drain of wealth.' In case of drain of wealth, taxation, raised by the king, like the moisture sucked up by the sun, does not returned to the earth as fertilizing rain, but that taxation is utilized to develop another privileged land, i.e., the moisture of one land fertilizes and 'blesses' other lands. So also the case of language-drain, where one selected variety is 'developed' (as National or standard language) at the expense of 'other' languages. Tagore commented that the external unity leads to death (poncotto 'merging into five elements', 'death') and internal unity leads to poncaYet (people’s participation in the decision making body) and to Tagore, a poncaYet is a symbol of decentralized self-determined unit of co-operation. It is also evident from the speech of Tagore given in Uttarbharatiya Bangasahitya Sammelan (‘SaHitter pothe’,1923) that Tagore was to against the monopoly of single language as he said that to use a steam roller for constructing king’s way might create external equality, but that did not create internal unity of human beings.Keywords: Bhasa-samavaya (co-operative of languages)
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: PILC Journal of Dravidian Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 89-95, January 1998

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