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Next Nobel prize must go to Kannada: Says Devy

August 28, 2013
Sunitha Rao R, Interviw the Linguist Ganesh N Devy 
Ganesh Devy
BANGALORE: What fascinates Ganesh N Devy (63), who started his career as a professor of English, most is the formation and evolution of languages. Since 1996, Devy has been researching on the life of languages. He spearheaded the recently concluded People's Linguistic Survey of India. Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What impressions have you gathered of Indian languages from your survey?
A: We started this survey four years ago and some findings are about the gradual decline of denotified nomadic community languages. A positive note is that many major Indian languages will soon overtake foreign languages.

Q: How will Kannada be more popular than German, French in 20 years?
A: We concluded this going by the size of the Kannada speaking population. Going by census 2010, the number of Kannada speakers is larger than Russian language speakers. Kannada will be spoken by more people than French in two decades. In fact, going by the quality of its literature, the next Nobel prize must be to a work in Kannada.
Q: How does a language become endangered?
A: There is no specific yardstick to declare the death or endangered status of a language in India. The only parameter is the census. In the Indian census 1961, 1,652 mother tongues were mentioned, and in 1971, the number came down to 108 because the government decided to take the Unesco yardstick to count only languages spoken by over 10,000 persons.
Q: Is the death of languages is a natural process?
A: Languages are like rivers; it can only flow and not die. It's a myth to think that a language gets polluted. Kannada is the best example of how a language can imbibe words from its feeder languages to grow. Languages grow till they become mega languages like Latin and Sanskrit. But a wrong policy implementation of a language can accelerate its decline.
Q: Your solutions to protect endangered languages?
A: The need of the hour is to change the national perception of language. Language diversity at economic capital must be identified.
Language diversity is not a liability, but an asset. All technologies in future are going to be language based and technology will require universal translation. There is need to take up studies on language mining, and providing multilingual platform.
Q: How can the public, government save languages?
A: If children are not given an option to study in their mother tongue, it amounts to snatching away their rights. Government can neither make a language nor make it grow. What it can do is to create and protect livelihood options within one's own language zone. That's necessary to keep a language alive.
The 2001 census mentioned 122 Indian languages of which 28 were from Karnataka. Nomadic and coastal communities are losing their languages. Siddi, Ramoshi (spoken by a labour community in Bijapur) and Vaddar (of the stone-crushers' community) are some endangered languages. Sea-faring, fishing and ship-making communities are slowly migrating from their native place due to lack of livelihood. These communities have been stigmatized, and thus members conceal their identity.
Though Siddis entered Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka in the 13th century, the language is now missing in Gujarat.-Sourcs TNN Aug 10, 2013

Ganesh N Devy | linguist-Biographical notes
Ganesh N. Devy, formerly professor of English at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, and a renowned literary critic and activist, is founder and director of the Tribal Academy at Tejgadh, Gujarat, and director of the Sahitya Akademi’s Project on Literature in Tribal Languages and Oral Traditions. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award for ‘After Amnesia’ (1992), and the SAARC Writers’ Foundation Award for his work with denotified tribes. He has also won the reputed Prince Claus Award (2003) for his work on the conservation of the history, languages and views of oppressed communities in the Indian state of Gujarat. His Marathi book Vanaprasth has received six awards including the Durga Bhagwat memorial Award and the Maharashtra Foundation Award. Along with Laxman Gaikwad and Mahashweta Devi [Mahasweta Devi], he is one of the founders of The Denotified and Nomadic Tribes Rights Action Group (DNT-RAG).
Source: “A View of Higher Education in India” p. 55
10 tribal languages on the verge of extinction in Karnataka:
India is becoming graveyard for languages !!

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