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Defining the Indefinable: Delimiting Hindi


Edited By Agnieszka Kucziewicz-Fras

The nine extensive essays of this volume are by specialists on South Asia whose research focus includes the extremely complicated problematics of the linguistic situation there. It is devoted to the broadly understood problem of defining Hindi as well as indicating the different ranges of its use. The authors of the included texts come from Europe, the USA and India, and grapple with questions such as what Hindi is, how it functions in the social, political and cultural dimensions of present-day India, and how it is being used by authorities and various influential actors at different levels of Indian reality. The volume should be important and useful for all those who are interested in Hindi, its official and non-official status, and in Indian linguistic policy and politics generally.
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Defining Hindi: An Introductory Overview Rahul Peter Das


Defining Hindi: An Introductory Overview

Rahul Peter Das

At that time [after the Revolution of 1789] the longstanding and previously unremarkable existence within the French polity of substantial subcommunities who neither spoke nor understood French came to be viewed as unacceptable. The unity of the new revolutionary state was henceforth to be expressed via a common language, replacing the linguistic heterogeneity that in the revolutionary view had served the purposes of a discredited monarchy by preventing various segments of the country’s population from making common cause with one another. The Alsatians, the Basques, the Bretons, and the Occitanians would come to feel their national unity and would express it, according to revolutionary tenets, by adopting the use of the French language. Certain characteristically European ideological positions were given expression in the implementation of this policy. A single language variety associated with people of high social position (the king and his court, in this case) was accorded fixed form and unique authority through standardization, and a monopoly of legitimacy and prestige was conferred on that single form. In the resultant linguistic hierarchy, the unstandardized language varieties of politically and socially subordinate peoples within the state underwent a parallel attitudinal subordination and were subjected to what has been termed an “ideology of contempt” (…) (DORIAN 2006: 441)

1. Both the importance of language in India and the potential for conflicts based on language are very evident from the fact that many of the Indian states have been...

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