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Defining the Indefinable: Delimiting Hindi

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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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Traces of Sacredness in Imaginings of Hindi Hans Harder

1.Sacred Languages and the Case of Sanskrit

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Traces of Sacredness in Imaginings of Hindi

Hans Harder

Let there be no mistake: Hindi is definitely not commonly regarded as a sacred language, or at least no more than German or Italian or any other modern ‘vernacular.’ The expression “sacred language” is, of course, not a rigorous category, and there may be different opinions and varying estimations regarding the sacred nature of any given linguistic entity. But in whatever way we may understand the term, in the case of Hindi we do not see any community, pressure group, or lobby, either in the past or at present, that would try to openly promote it as a sacred language. So are we not devoting attention to an entirely irrelevant topic? Not quite; for on a closer look, we do find traces of sacredness indirectly attributed to the Hindi language in various debates on the topic.

It is well-known that there have been sustained efforts throughout the twentieth century in various scholarly, political and public spheres in India to invest Hindi with status. The point of departure for the present contribution is that strategies to enhance Hindi’s standing have at times also included drawing on sacrality as one specific kind of symbolical capital. The following will attempt to identify some of these threads in a very preliminary and somewhat random fashion, in the awareness that deeper research on a much more profound material basis would be needed to tackle this issue satisfactorily. The article will...

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