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Author's personal copy Language Sciences 32 (2010) 602–614
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On mother and other tongues: sociolinguistics, schools, and language ideology in northern India Chaise LaDousa Department of Anthropology, Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Road, Clinton, NY 13323, USA
a r t i c l e
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Keywords: Banaras Bhojpuri English Hindi Ideology Language
a b s t r a c t This is an expanded version of a paper given at a conference held in Cape Town, South Africa from December 11–13, 2008 entitled ‘‘The Native Speaker and the Mother Tongue.” In keeping with the conference’s themes of exploring and interrogating the notions of ‘‘mother tongue” and ‘‘native speaker,” I consider constructions of languages emergent from the school system in Banaras, a city of approximately 2,000,000 in northern India. I do so, in part, because they offer the opportunity to critique sociolinguistic work on northern India for the different ways scholars have used the notion of ‘‘mother tongue” to ignore the institutional milieu – schooling – through which they emerge in everyday life. It is true that ‘‘mother tongue” is an incredibly salient notion in northern India, and that what language variety can be said to constitute the ‘‘mother tongue” exhibits great variety in a single locale. But the rich body of scholarly research on language difference in India has largely ignored ethnographic approaches such as the one I offer wherein schools emerge as a key site for people to imagine the signiﬁcance of language in social life. In order to indicate what an ethnographic approach to the intersection of language difference and school difference might illuminate, I reﬂect on audio-taped conversations in Banaras, Uttar Pradesh between people from various class and school backgrounds and myself to show that one language variety, Hindi, emerges as the only ‘‘mother tongue” authorized for school use. More importantly, I show that such ideological work underpins a speciﬁc kind of narrative about what it means to be able to succeed in school but remain faithful to one’s ‘‘mother tongue.” In doing so, I hope to contribute to one of the conference’s goals: demonstrating the sociopolitical underpinnings of the notion of ‘‘mother tongue.” Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction Scholars have shown that the notion that a person or a group can possess a ‘‘mother tongue” is an ideology reﬂecting ‘‘the situated, partial, and interested character of conceptions and uses of language” rather than an objective, unmediated feature of the world (Errington, 1999, p. 115). As such, scholars and lay people alike have used various grounds on which to deﬁne or argue for a ‘‘mother tongue’s” existence. These include the notion that a language was learned ﬁrst, that a language is known best, and/or that a language is used most (Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson, 1989, p. 453). In turn, such arguments have been shaped by historically and politically particular notions like the ‘‘insistence on the authenticity and moral signiﬁcance of ‘mother tongue’ as the one ﬁrst and therefore real language of a speaker, transparent to the true self” that can be traced to the Herderian equation of a people and a language (Woolard, 1998, p.18). The uses of such arguments are legion and include the call for the recognition of, the call for the inclusion of, or the valorization of some practice or group associated with the ‘‘mother tongue.” Mitchell (2009, p. 23) explains that ‘‘the defense of one’s ‘mother tongue,’ whether in public or in E-mail address: [email protected]
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private, is a learned behavior rather than a natural impulse. Yet, this does not mean that such a learned behavior is insignificant or should be dismissed.” Thus, Pattanayak’s claim that ‘‘‘mother tongue’ is both a sociolinguistic reality and a product of the mythic consciousness of a people” is correct insofar as the notion is understood to have rather powerful ideological effects (1981, p. 54).1 This article aims to trace some of the institutional lives of the notion of ‘‘mother tongue” in northern India, the site of my own ethnographic research. Doing so necessitates the exploration of both scholarly and ethnographic domains. The exploration of the ways in which the notion of ‘‘mother tongue” is used in scholarly publications in sociolinguistics helps to explain why the ethnographic domain of the school is not only underrepresented therein, but also treated as un-Indian. In another institutional domain, the census of India, scholars of sociolinguistics have been adept at tracing multiple denotational values for the term ‘‘mother tongue,” and have shown how such values presuppose and produce ideological effects from census to census. They have been less willing to trace such effects in the institutional domain of the school, however. This article explores select key publications in sociolinguistic work on India, noting that schools’ use of standardized language proved to be anathema to scholars’ arguments about India’s lasting plurilingualism. Indeed, according to such work, schools provide no place for the ‘‘mother tongue.” What, then, can be learned in an exploration of schooling and its relationship to language in northern India? This article illustrates some of the ways in which talk about schools is productive of language ideology, and that such ideology involves the notion of ‘‘mother tongue.” The article traces the ways in which schools do indeed exclude languages, but at the same time provide a way for people to assert the existence and institutional location of the ‘‘mother tongue.” Such assertions are hardly uncomplicated, however, and people who reﬂect on languages and schools often become entangled in contradictions. In one extended narrative presented herein, for example, a university professor establishes schools as types via language, and makes claims about students’ dispositions within them based on notions of ‘‘mother tongue.” She then subverts her assertions by claiming herself to be an exception. In the second extended narrative presented herein, a secretary and mother invokes a language variety excluded by schooling to lampoon a girl who claims not to know the language that makes one subordinate in distinctions between schools as types. This article presents the two interview excerpts because they show the dual necessity of considering languages as ideological constructs and considering languages’ social locations and values. Indeed, they illustrate people grappling with the lack of ﬁt between language ideology, the institutional location of languages, and the ways in which the two fail to account of the complexities characteristic of the lives from which the narratives emerge. It is the exploration of such complexity that has largely been missing in sociolinguistic scholarship on India. In sum, this article argues that rather than arguing for India’s uniqueness or difference from some Western sociolinguistic paradigm that leads to the neglect of the school because it emerges as an exemplar of standardization, scholars should explore the complex ways in which schools serve as a vehicle for ideologies focused on the notion of the ‘‘mother tongue” as well as a site of particularly dense ideological contradiction. The next section offers an explanation of why the school has been neglected in sociolinguistic work on India.
2. ‘‘Mother tongue, the census, and education in the sociolinguistics of India Scholars of language variation in India have been especially adept in describing the bewildering number of meanings and uses of the notion of ‘‘mother tongue.” I mean for my review of scholars’ valuable assertions about the multiple and sometimes incommensurable and distorting meanings and uses of ‘‘mother tongue” to serve two purposes. On the one hand, I want to note that such scholars were aware of multiple meanings of the idea of ‘‘mother tongue.” They were adept at tracing the ways in which certain denotational values of the term were linked to different usages. And, most importantly for my argument, they were willing to explore the ways in which the census of India was an institution in whose hands the meanings of ‘‘mother tongue” might change, and in whose reports the enumeration of sociolinguistic realities might be shown to be inherently inaccurate. On the other hand, I want to show that such scholars were relatively unwilling to explore another institutional domain, the school, with the same intellectual distance. In discussions of schooling, scholars working in the sociolinguistics of India have tended to treat the ‘‘mother tongue” as a residual realm of knowledge to be valorized. Indeed, the ‘‘mother tongue” emerges as something to be upheld and praised as Indian in opposition to the language of the school which emerges as something to be dismissed. In a classic critique, Pattanayak (1981) presents a great number of possibilities for what ‘‘mother tongue” can mean. He decries the commonplace understanding of ‘‘mother tongue” as ‘‘one’s own language” as too vague for sociolinguistic use because two or more languages might ﬁt appropriate criteria (p. 47). The gloss ‘‘language of nature,” applied to the deaf and their ‘‘language of signs,” he explains, presupposes no language community at all (p. 47). He invokes Rabindranath Tagore’s assertion that ‘‘Sanskrit is the mother of Indic languages in the same sense as the earth is the mother of the worm” to critique the notion that the ‘‘mother tongue” is ‘‘the original language from which others spring” (p. 47). Pattanayak explains that ‘‘learning a language without formal training” can be understood to make a language a ‘‘mother tongue” (p. 50). He questions the idea that ‘‘language which allows one to have the cognizance of the world is the mother tongue” by noting the vagueness of ‘‘cognizance” (p. 51). He proceeds to explain that ‘‘mother tongue” has rested on the emotional attachment one feels to a language that is often underpinned by the notion of ‘‘mother land,” one’s nation or would-be nation (p. 51). Yet 1
For other explanations of the concept of language ideology, see Blommaert (2006), Kroskrity (2000) and Silverstein (1979).
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another meaning of ‘‘mother tongue” can be comprised by the capacity for ‘‘cognitive development” and ‘‘creativity.” Pattanayak cites a commonly held belief that ‘‘precision of thought and clarity of ideas are considerably hampered without the ability to speak effectively and to read and write correctly and lucidly in one’s mother tongue” (p. 52). Finally, Pattanayak notes that ‘‘mother tongue” can mean something like ‘‘home language,” and argues that such can be subverted by the existence of more than one language spoken at home (p. 53).2 Pattanayak illustrates the institutional vicissitudes of the meanings of ‘‘mother tongue” by examining the questions meant to solicit respondents’ ideas about language in the Indian censuses. Pattanayak (1981, pp. 47–48) writes: In the census of 1881, 1931, 1941, and 1951 a question on mother tongue was asked. In the 1881 census mother tongue was deﬁned as the language spoken by the individual from the cradle.” In the 1891 census the term was changed into ‘‘Parent tongue” which was deﬁned to mean the language spoken by the parents of the individual. In the 1901 census it was further modiﬁed into ‘‘Language ordinarily spoken in the household.” In the case of bilingual respondents, the language used with the enumerator was noted. In 1921 the question was simply ‘‘language ordinarily used.” The very notion of ‘‘mother tongue” shifted from census to census. The instructions given to census enumerators, Pattanayak proceeds to demonstrate, treated the idea of ‘‘mother tongue” in such a way as to skew sociolinguistic realities sought in the questions. Pattanayak (1981, p. 48) notes: According to the instruction given to the enumerators in the 1961 Indian census, ‘‘Mother tongue is language spoken in the childhood by persons’ mother. If the mother died in infancy write the language mostly spoken in the person’s home in childhood.” Pattanayak (p. 48) notes the potential for two possible answers: in the case of a Bihari mother tongue speaker (as declared in the census) marrying a Hindi speaker. Assuming that the mother was a speaker of a language/dialect which she could have declared as Bihari in the census, then if she were living that would probably be recorded as the mother tongue of the child even if she was married to a man who would have recorded his mother tongue as Hindi. However, if at the time of recording the mother tongue the mother was dead then the language mostly spoken in the person’s home being Hindi would be recorded as the ‘‘Child’s mother tongue.”3 Two aspects of Pattanayak’s disposition toward the idea of the ‘‘mother tongue” are important to the argument to come. There is, on the one hand, a profound ambivalence on the part of Pattanayak about the use of the term as a sociolinguistic descriptor. On the other hand, there exists the possibility of the emergence of both standardized (Hindi) and non-standardized (Bihari or Hindi) language varieties as candidates. Key to understanding the relationship between the notion of the ‘‘mother tongue” and the institution of the school in the sociolinguistics of India is the pervasive idea that there exists in societies such as India the possibility of a lasting and contextually appropriate multilingualism.4 Ostensibly, some societies are unlike India because they do not provide such a possibility. For example, in their review of sociolinguistic work on India, Agnihotri and Khanna (1997, pp. 33–34) claim that: In heterogenous societies such as that of India, languages are learnt in non-authoritarian contexts leading to continuous sociocultural and cognitive enrichment. Variations in linguistic behaviour act as facilitators rather than as barriers in communication. Languages are kept distinct as they perform different functions in different domains. On the other hand, there are several domains in which different languages converge towards a common lingua franca. . .. Although there is an underlying sociolinguistic unity that characterizes Indian multilingualism, it is this unity that nurtures rather than forbids ﬂexibility and variability. Although Agnihotri and Khanna’s focus is on languages rather than institutions, the scholars’ depiction of India as a place of lasting multilingualism – where languages are learned outside of authoritarian contexts such as the school – involves institutional contexts. Against the backdrop that Agnihotri and Khanna create, the school emerges as unnatural and dangerous for its use and dissemination of language varieties incompatible with ﬂexibility, variability, or accommodation.5 2
Many critiques of the census and the changing denotational values of its linguistic descriptors exist. A particularly rich example is Khubchandani (1983). Downright arbitrary is the procedure described by Pattanayak (1981, p. 49) whereby ‘‘respondents [in the 1961 census] who spoke and understood more than one language in addition to their mother tongue, two languages were recorded by the census enumerator, the tabulation was based only on the language recorded ﬁrst by him.” 4 There have been a few exceptions, but no study of an institutional domain of language ideology as offered here. Vaughier-Chatterjee (2007, p. 360) quotes Khubchandani (1991) in order to explain: The ﬁve decades since independence [of India] have seen the birth of a new linguistic order and, to quote an Indian scholar, India is ‘‘turning away from an organically accommodating plurilingual nation into an institutionally assertive multilingual nation.” See Aggarwal (1997) for a critique of the sociolinguistic notion of India’s plurilingualism that ignores institutional domains such as the school. 5 Lachman Khubchandani (1981, p. 2) claims similarly (but with less emphasis on national identity): Under the present educational system, the easy-going grassroot multilingualism of the illiterate masses is being replaced by an elegant bilingualism (or trilingualism) with standardisation pulls from different directions, e.g., neo-Sanskritic Hindi, Perso-Arabicised Urdu, BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] or AIR [All India Radio] English, medieval literary Telugu and classicised modern Tamil. The emphasis on distinct normative systems (i.e. standard languages), nurtured in historically and geographically unrelated ‘‘traditions,” is at variance with the requirement of active bilingualism in a society. We do not learn more about schools’ relationships to languages beyond this, however. 3
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Schooling emerges in Agnihotri and Khanna’s overview as an alien institution. They turn to policy measures undertaken by the Government of India during the 1960s in order to critique the artiﬁcial, arbitrary impositions of schooling on students, as well as the ofﬁcial acknowledgement of the value of languages that have been deemed ﬁt for use in schools: Two assumptions that have often guided the deliberations of these [government] committees are ﬁrstly, that every child in the country should learn the same number of languages and secondly, that learning Hindi and English are of paramount importance for everyone. Both of these assumptions militate against the ﬂuid plurilingual texture of Indian society (Agnihotri and Khanna, 1997, p. 35). Here, Agnihotri and Khanna are critiquing the three-language formula constructed by the Kothari Commission of the Central Government of India from 1964 to 1966 (Chaturvedi and Mohale, 1976; Jayaram, 1993; Sridhar, 1991; Srivastava, 1990). The commission decided that students should study in three languages to foster national linguistic integration. One should be the ofﬁcial language of the state in which the school is located. The second language should be another language such as English, or in the case of students from minority language-speaking communities, there being at least 40 in a school or ten of them in a grade level, the second language should be that language (Government of India, 1971, p. 8). Sridhar (1996, pp. 331–332) notes that there are ﬁve ways of understanding a sociolinguistic situation to constitute a minority status in India: a language not recognized in Schedule VIII of the constitution; a major recognized language outside of its are of dominance; a language of a scheduled caste or tribe; a language of a religious minority; a major recognized language whose speakers lack numerical strength (such as Kashmiri); and a language of an ethnic minority (such as Anglo-Indians). It is speakers of tribal languages, Sridhar explains, who suffer the worst disadvantages because their languages are the most quickly dispensed with as a medium of instruction in school. What the third language should be depends on the axis of northern (Indo-Aryan) and southern (Dravidian) language difference. For students from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, or Tamil Nadu, speakers of Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, or Tamil, respectively, Hindi or some other ofﬁcial state language of the north should be required. For students from one of the northern states, outside of the Dravidian language area, one of the four aforementioned languages should be required. The three-language formula is underpinned by a desire to facilitate communicative competence in an Indian language with people residing elsewhere in the country. Agnihotri and Khanna (1997) ﬁnd such legislation and its vehicle, the school, to be incompatible with the linguistic ethos and the sociolinguistic realities of Indian society. Schools and their language varieties are rendered unIndian.6 In another classic critique, Dasgupta (1993) uses the distinction between high (H) and low (L) varieties of language in Fishman’s (1967) sense of extended diglossia to characterize an essential division in education in India.7 For Dasgupta, the distinction can be used to depict the relationship between language and education, H and L emerging as something like styles of cognition. One is reminded of Bernstein’s (1971) distinction between ‘‘elaborated” and ‘‘restricted” codes, respectively. Education is thus a relation between two discourses. The H discourse level of systematic knowledge codiﬁes and organizes the textual and practical complexes in terms of the simple primes into which serious and systematic thought analyzes the complexes. The L discourse level of the learner – and, in his or her ordinary life, the teacher – conceptualizes items as being difﬁcult, or remote from experience, versus easy, or accessible to common perception. Education is a mapping between the simple primes of the H world and the easy percepts of the L world (Dasgupta, 1993, p. 104). Dasgupta’s usage differs from Bernstein’s in that in India, the classroom and ultimately the textbook become the locus of H, whereas the ‘‘ordinary life” of teacher and student becomes the locus of L. It is in L that education, or the translation between H and L can take place. Much later in the book, we ﬁnd that another distinction serves to anchor H and L. Drawing on the ﬁrst line of the constitution, Dasgupta argues that the referent of ‘‘India” is H and the referent of ‘‘Bharat” is L. Rather than bemoaning the advance of standardizing tendencies in government policy and the decline of India’s natural plurilingual ethos as Agnihotri and Khanna (1997) and do, Dasgupta (1993, pp. 182–183) celebrates the resurgence of that same ethos in the return of ‘‘Bharat.” As a consequence of this shift from the teaching mode, where the Indian elite took the social and cognitive initiative, to the learning mode, in which Bharat’s many collectivities unevenly and regionally initiate processes of learning whose very brokenness reﬂects the (plural) pleasure of the people and marks the limits beyond which the modernization project cannot proceed, the nation-image of Bharat begins to emerge as a new reality, capable of constructing a credible past and future for itself, and of contesting the India image’s presence as well as its projections into the past and the future. Thus, Dasgupta equates H with the ‘‘teaching mode,” ‘‘India’s elite,” and a single ‘‘modernization project” and L with the ‘‘learning mode” and ‘‘Bharat’s many collectivities” which are ‘‘regionally” situated. Only outside of the institution of the school do teacher and student have the ability to render H as difﬁcult, arcane, and disembodied. 6 This assertion, I would point out, begs the question of whether resistance to these tendencies of policy – especially in the South as noted by Brass (1990), Das Gupta (1970) and Ramaswamy (1997) – were indeed fueled by the ‘‘ﬂuid plurilingual texture of Indian society.” 7 In Charles Ferguson’s (1959) original formulation, H and L are varieties of the same language, whereas in Fishman’s (1967) reformulation, H and L are differentiated by the dichotomies of the original formulation – textual versus oral, formal versus vernacular, institutionally acquired versus mother tongue – but not necessarily related linguistically.
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This quotation from Dasgupta is prescient to my argument because it intimates what happens to the notion of ‘‘mother tongue” once schooling is invoked. The ‘‘mother tongue” ceases to have the range of possibilities emergent, for example, in Pattanayak’s critique of the census, where standardized and non-standardized languages both emerge as possibilities, and begins to mean that knowledge that exists in the shadow of the school or language legislation. The ‘‘mother tongue” emerges in contrast to the ‘‘other tongue” (Pattanayak, 1981) or to the ‘‘auntie tongue” (Dasgupta, 1993) that derives its lifeblood from the lifeless school. Pattanayak (1981, p. 63) sums up the set of oppositions supporting the identity of the ‘‘mother tongue” as that language variety quashed by the school: ‘‘Schooling is a major break in the natural acquisition of language where ignorant pedants teach the non-existent logic, identify varieties as incorrect, create a low self-image by branding the home language as non-standard and try to establish their right to teach the correct as the standard.” On the one hand, it is not my intention to contest these scholars’ assertions that processes of standardization present hurdles to policy makers, those who are charged with instituting policy decisions, or those who lack access to or control of standardized varieties. As will become apparent in the discussion below of varieties of language in Banaras and northern India and the varieties that are deemed acceptable for use in schools, many of the assertions made by the scholars cited herein ring true. Schools do indeed exclude certain languages, especially those that ofﬁcials feel have not been standardized. On the other hand, I mean to call attention to the absence in sociolinguistic work in India of the kind of discursive activity to be presented in two narratives below, that which focuses on schools as sites constituted, in part, by distinctions between language varieties. The absence seems likely given the ways in which sociolinguistic work in India has pined for a plurilingualism that the standardizing tendencies of the school as a site of language use, primarily in the form of the textbook, embodies. Almost all sociolinguistic work conducted in India acknowledges the existence of schools, but assumes that they are places where standardized language varieties can be found. One learns little about schools as places in which people might have an interest and use schooling as a way to engage in discursive practice that exhibits language ideology.8 Indeed, one learns little apart from what particular standardized languages are taught there or, more minimally, what languages a particular state’s policies allow for use in schools. This article ﬁnds this state of affairs particularly in need of attention because notions of what constitutes the ‘‘mother tongue” play an especially prominent and important role in the language ideology that emerges. 3. Schools and language (erasure) in Banaras Talk about schools in Banaras, the site of my ﬁeld research for a year from the end of the monsoon (late September) in 1996 to the same time of year in 1997, for several weeks in 2005–2006, and for two months in 2007, often invoked language distinctions whether or not language difference was an explicit topic of talk. Indeed, a common way in which one can refer to a school is to call it either ‘‘Hindi medium” or ‘‘English medium,” ‘‘medium” referring to the primary language of classroom discourse and language materials in a school. As per the three-language formula described above, Hindi and one other language are taught in English-medium schools as subjects, and English and one other language are thus taught in Hindi-medium schools. The nomenclature of schooling in Banaras and in urban areas across northern India is quite complicated. In addition to the distinction in medium, there is a distinction in ownership (government vs. private, often called ‘‘public” schools); board certiﬁcation (Uttar Pradesh Board in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh or UP being the state in which Banaras is located vs. Central Board of Secondary Education, among many other private boards); religious afﬁliation (‘‘convent” schools run by Christian denominations vs. madrassas run by Islamic foundations vs. schools run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the National Self-service Society, a militant Hindu organization, among many more), NGO (non-governmental organization) afﬁliation; and gender (all-girls, all-boys, co-educational); all in addition to the clustering of grade levels (nursery (lower kindergarten and upper kindergarten), primary (classes 1–5), secondary (classes 6–10), and inter-college (classes 11–12)). In a number of articles, I have described the ways in which language medium distinctions based on the difference between Hindi and English align with other institutional distinctions such as low versus high cost, government support versus private ownership, and an orientation toward Banaras and its environs versus an orientation outward, primarily toward Delhi, respectively, to recreate and contribute to a particularly robust and salient dichotomy (LaDousa, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007). By invoking the division between Hindi- and English-medium schools, people in Banaras often ‘‘erase,” in the rubric of Gal and Irvine (1995), a number of languages and institutions that fail to be salient to the division.9 Bhojpuri is one of these languages. Bhojpuri is a language variety that exhibits regional variation different than Hindi. Yet, like that of Hindi, the sociolinguistic history of Bhojpuri is extremely complex. Both Hindi and Bhojpuri can be found in 8 Though he does not approach the relationship between languages and schools in a closely considered case, as this article does, Khubchandani (2003, p. 251) outlines some of the dimensions of the relationship: One needs to adopt a pragmatic approach to linguistic usage in education (such as when phasing the shift and/or combining the mediums of instruction) and take into account the mechanisms of language standardization in plural societies when tackling the literary problems through varying demands in the spoken and written genre of the same language. 9
Note the difference, for example, between the ethnographic account of the notion of language medium and the account of Khubchandani (1984, p. 55): Owing to the rigorous academic base and to selective education, English, in spite of such intense use by non-native speakers, has not been so greatly pidginized in the Indian context, but it deﬁnitely has acquired a certain regional ﬂavor which distinguishes South Asian English from native standard varieties (British English, American English, etc.). The most prominent characteristic of South Asian English is the cheerful acceptance of regional deviations in pronunciation. To people in Varanasi with whom I worked, much more important than schools’ effect on the nativeness of English was its juxtaposition with Hindi as a medium of instruction. I present Khubchandani as an exemplar because his is one of the most ethnographically sophisticated approaches.
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locations throughout the world as a result of migration underpinned by indentured servitude in the 19th century (Barz and Siegel, 1988; Eisenlohr, 2006; Gambhir, 1981; Mesthrie, 1991; Mohan, 1978) and later migrations partly dependent on policy shifts in various countries. The allure of employment opportunities has drawn speakers of Bhojpuri to various urban areas of northern India, especially Delhi, and away from the area still associated with Bhojpuri speakers, the western part of the state of Bihar, the eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, and the northern part of the state of Jharkhand. In that region, from the colonial period to the present, ofﬁcials and linguists have identiﬁed regional variation in Bhojpuri (Grierson, 1967; Masica, 1991). The intersection of regional variation and names that people use to identify variants is messy such that some laypeople, on the one hand, and ofﬁcials and scholars, on the other hand, use ‘‘Bihari” to refer to Bhojpuri found in parts of the state of Bihar and Jharkhand or in the speech of migrants from such areas residing in eastern Uttar Pradesh and beyond, while other scholars dispute the term’s reﬂection of sociolinguistic variation (Masica, 1991). My purpose is not to weigh in on such discussions, but rather to acknowledge that Bhojpuri is a language with complex and variation that has been the target of some controversy in the scholarly literature. Less controversial is that people in Banaras are said to speak a variety called ‘‘Banarsi Boli” or ‘‘Banaras Talk.” Hindi differs from Bhojpuri in two respects, among others. First, Hindi covers a much wider territory, stretching across entire states in northern and central India. People across this massive Sprachbund typically speak a language such as Bhojpuri, Avadhi, or Marwari in addition to some level of competence in Hindi (Gumperz, 1958, 1964). Shapiro and Schiffman (1981, p. 65) rightly explain: In large portions of South Asia it is difﬁcult to construct a model of standardized languages directly subsuming discrete classes of regional dialects. Most of the spoken vernaculars of North India, for instance, comprise a virtual continuum of speech forms extending across the subcontinent from Bombay to Ahmadabad in the west to Calcutta in the East. Nevertheless, Hindi can be said to contrast with the more regionally delimited languages such as Bhojpuri because Hindi is realizable as a variety that has undergone standardization for use in domains such as the newspaper, government publications, and school texts (Dua, 1994; Gumperz, 1961; Orsini, 2002). Many people throughout the Hindi-speaking region call this variety of Hindi ´suddh Hindi (pure Hindi). Some people will laud and some people will complain about its use of Sanskrit-derived elements (Rai, 2000). The use of Persian- and Arabic-derived linguistic elements will often cue the language label Urdu. What distinguishes Urdu and Hindi has become an increasingly complicated issue over the late-19th and 20th centuries (King, 1994; Lelyveld, 1993; Rai, 1984). Some stress similarity and mutual comprehension and enrichment in spoken forms especially, while others stress difference and even moral incompatibility. Certainly, script has come to demarcate one from the other (King, 2001). The use of the Nastaliq script has come to be associated with Urdu and the use of the Devanagari script with Hindi. The mere existence of a school with its textbooks and exams rendered in standardized language, Hindi, Urdu, or English, banishes Bhojpuri.10 I asked about the possibility of using Bhojpuri in schools often. My queries were met with an absolute stance, always negative and sometimes peppered with amusement. Sometimes, outside of a discussion of schools, people told me that Banarasi Boli, Bihari, or Bhojpuri provided the basis of ´suddh Hindi. A few particularly well-educated people pointed to the efforts of Bharatendu Harischandra in the late-19th century to vouch for the use of a Sanskritized, ´suddh Hindi. Harischandra’s home was Banaras. The city was also home to journals and other publications inspired by him (Dalmia, 1997). But people found the idea of using Bhojpuri in school texts and exams, much less in interaction, ridiculous. They had at their disposal a whole set of descriptors to explain why Bhojpuri is not meant for school. People I knew consistently contrasted Bhojpuri as ~v ki bha (language of the village) and ghar ki bha sa (language of the house) to Hindi as r a (national language) sa st rabha sa ga ´ or des ki bhasa (language of the land/nation). As such, Hindi could stand proudly next to English, often described as st rabha (international language). sa antarra Simon (1986, 2003) rightly argues that Bhojpuri and Hindi do not have ﬁxed ideological underpinnings, but rather embody a salient distinction that speakers can partially manipulate in a given context. For example, she notes that Bhojpuri can connote something that is Banarsi or Banaras-like, especially when the particular variety, Banarsi Boli, or Banaras talk, is used or mentioned. It can become local with respect to a more universal Hindi. But, in certain situations, Hindi can connote something particular to Banaras vis-à-vis Bhojpuri, associated with neighboring Bihar. These pragmatic possibilities are erased in the school as well because Bhojpuri is banished in favor of Hindi. Only one, the next section of the article demonstrates, emerges as the ‘‘mother tongue.” This is true in both the senses of a language variety used in school and a type of school. 4. Notes on a ‘‘complex While it is true that schools do banish Bhojpuri, and this reﬂects what sociolinguists claim about schools in northern India, they also provide a means for talking about Hindi as ‘‘mother tongue.” Schools are so important to consider in the study of language ideology in northern India because schooling presupposes a divide between Hindi- and English-medium institutions, but also the dispositions of students who attend them. Students attending Hindi-medium institutions are said to be 10 See Benei (2008) for the case of the state of Maharashtra where Marathi achieves the status of ‘‘mother tongue” in a way very different from the case of Hindi and the languages in its geographic domain.
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studying in their ‘‘mother tongue” while students attending English-medium schools are not. The notion that a student can develop a ‘‘complex” rests on the distinction between Hindi- and English-medium schools, and thus is a particularly rich notion for the investigation of language ideology.11 The use of the term ‘‘complex” presupposes the institutional labels of Hindi and English medium, but focuses on the student. Speciﬁcally, a ‘‘complex” can ‘‘develop” in the person who moves from a Hindi-medium school to an Englishmedium school, or a ‘‘complex” can develop in the person who has been educated in an English-medium school and comes into contact with a person who, until joining the English-medium school, has been educated in a Hindi-medium school. The student in the former situation is said to feel ‘‘inferior” and the student in the latter situation is said to feel ‘‘superior.” The use of the term ‘‘complex” presupposes much else besides. A ‘‘complex” is likely to develop at speciﬁc times during a student’s progression through school. Students can ‘‘develop a complex” at any age, and some teachers at English-medium schools did use the term to describe youngsters who had transferred from Hindi-medium schools anywhere from the ﬁrst level to the ninth level. And though most teachers chalked up a reticence to talk on the part of children in the ﬁrst, second, third, or fourth level to bashfulness and insecurity of the very young, a few claimed the culprit to be a lack of practice in talking in English that attendance at Hindi-medium schools is said to entail. The most common moment of the onset of a ‘‘complex,” however, coincided with the point at which students educated in Hindimedium schools most commonly ﬁnd themselves amid students educated in English-medium schools for the ﬁrst time, the university classroom. Even those people who talked about a ‘‘complex” being relevant at the high school level, such as the woman in the second example to be presented below, noted that the shift from a Hindi-medium to an Englishmedium high school was undertaken in anticipation of minimizing the possibility of a ‘‘complex” in forthcoming university courses. Ramanathan (2005, p. 6) offers a description of institutional forces that contribute to the dilemma facing Hindi-medium students desiring higher education: . . . if the English proﬁciency of students educated in the Vernacular [Gujarati in the case Ramanathan describes; Hindi in the case described herein] is deemed insufﬁcient at the end of the 12th grade, which by and large is the case, they are denied access to these ‘prestigious disciplines.’ Furthermore, in instances when VM [Vernacular-medium] students are admitted to EM [English-medium] colleges, they face the uphill task of not only taking classes with their EM counterparts but of having to make the same set of state-mandated examinations in English. In many cases, this proves to be insurmountable for many low-income VM students and many of them drop out of the education system during and after college. Ramanathan’s invocation of ‘‘prestigious disciplines” demonstrates yet another way in which the notion of ‘‘complex” is grounded in a highly complex intersection of language difference and institutional structure. At Banaras Hindu University and at many other central universities around the country, courses in science, technology, medicine, and management are offered in English whereas many courses in the social sciences and arts are offered in either English or Hindi. During ﬁeldwork in 1997, students in primary and secondary schools claimed higher education in the sciences to be their own or some ‘‘bright” sibling’s ambition. By 2005, the answers ‘‘commerce” or ‘‘computers” had taken the place of ‘‘science” entirely. The language deemed necessary for higher education in such prestigious ﬁelds has remained the same, English, and the notion still holds that students coming from Hindi-medium schools who want to study ‘‘commerce” or ‘‘computers” will likely develop a ‘‘complex.” The ﬁrst example presented below, the case of a university professor in Banaras, shows the ways in which the notion of a ‘‘complex” rests on ideas about the ‘‘mother tongue” of students. The professor’s narrative quickly makes apparent the assumption that Hindi is the ‘‘mother tongue” of students. The professor uses this idea to argue that students at the university level coming from Hindi-medium schools are severely but unfairly disadvantaged. The professor later explains that she studied in Hindi-medium schools. In order to account for the incongruity between her past and present, the professor invokes a status common to all schools, regardless of language medium, that trumps the ‘‘complex.” Her narrative shows that the institution of the school must be taken into account in sociolinguistic work on India not only because it provides an institutional focus for language ideology based on the notion of the ‘‘mother tongue,” but also because people like the professor reproduce that ideology just as they embody an exception to it. The second example presented below, the case of a government secretary, argues for the consideration of language ideology emergent from talk about schooling for a different purpose. The secretary presupposes ideas about the ‘‘complex” just as the professor does. In her narrative, however, Bhojpuri, the language banished from school, provides an ironic twist. Though the notion of ‘‘complex” presupposes the fact that Hindi is the student’s ‘‘mother tongue,” in the secretary’s narrative, one is left wondering whether it is really Hindi or Bhojpuri. None of these ideological constructs or the contradictions that arise in narrative reﬂection are able to emerge in sociolinguistic work on India that imagines the school solely as a place of standardized language varieties. (See Fig. 1) 11 mpleks; midiam, and ta par ‘‘Complex,” like ‘‘medium” and ‘‘topper,” is a ‘‘bivalent” term in Woolard’s (1999) sense. One might even render them as ka because they can be used in utterances in Hindi without any recognition that any other language is being used. Indeed, I often heard utterances like ‘‘he got a mpleks gayi hai), ‘‘she studies in Hindi medium” (v aha hindi midiam m~e par hti hai), and ‘‘she was a topper” (v aha t a part thi). See LaDousa complex” (usko ka (2007) for an explanation that the bivalent use of English words in matters of education, but not Hindi words, might be understood to index the school system’s colonial origins.
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Fig. 1. Language and places mentioned in the article.
5. The ‘‘complex and the ‘‘topper The ﬁrst example comes from an interview I conducted in December 2005 with a professor, Shona Shastri, in the social sciences at Banaras Hindu University, a major university known throughout India. This article presents a lengthy section of the interview because the professor recreates the notion of a ‘‘complex” arising from language medium difference, only to claim herself as an exception by virtue of a disposition in school that has nothing to do with language, per se. Initially the professor talks of the ‘‘complex” as relevant to those students in the university who have studied in English medium at the undergraduate level who meet and feel superior to students at the graduate level who have taken their bachelor’s degrees in Hindi-medium courses. She thus shows that the most salient structural insecurity in schooling underpinned by the language-medium divide – the Hindi-medium intercollege student desiring admission to an undergraduate course of study – can be extended further upward to characterize the Hindi-medium undergraduate desiring admission to select disciplines grouped by the language in which they are offered. Shona Shastri (SS hereafter): English still dominates. But, ultimately, the drawback, what is there, that here those students who come from lower-middle class or from the rural background, actually they do not, they do not know English. And because they are poorly nourished, their brains are also not that very sharp sometimes, you know, so they ﬁnd it really very difﬁcult to learn a new language. Yeah. And for them it is very easy to learn their own mother tongue, learn the subjects in their own mother tongue. Sometimes they are very bright, but they have not been exposed to English-medium education because in the villages where there is less facility of schooling it is so difﬁcult to get the English-medium education, you know. These children, they pass out in under. . . in BA, in undergraduate level, with good marks. But when they
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come to this university, ah, they ﬁnd it very difﬁcult. They generally. . . unfortunately, English-medium boys, they suffer from some kind of superiority. The professor lumps together a lack of nutrition, a rural background, lower-middle class economic status, and access to education via the ‘‘mother tongue,” all in juxtaposition to an English-medium student. Her usage of ‘‘mother tongue” nicely represents the shifting referential capacities of the term. Generally in Banaras, the term ‘‘mother tongue” can refer to any linguistic variety that is not English. Reﬂecting the discussion of ‘‘erasure” above, when ‘‘mother tongue” is used to talk about languages used in schools, the term’s referential possibilities narrow and Bhojpuri, for one, is excluded. The professor relies on and reproduces the erasure of Bhojpuri when she states that subjects are easier to study in one’s ‘‘mother tongue.” Indeed, in primary, grammar, and high school levels, teachers told me that Hindi is often the most difﬁcult subject for students, more tra forms, or combinations of condifﬁcult than English, because students have a very difﬁcult time producing the correct ma sonants and vowels. Some teachers exclaimed with humor that students ‘‘do not know” or ‘‘cannot write” their own ‘‘language” or ‘‘mother tongue.” In this explanation, ‘‘language” and ‘‘mother tongue” meant Hindi speciﬁcally to the exclusion of Bhojpuri. The amused exasperation about a situation in which students make mistakes in their own ‘‘language” or ‘‘mother tongue” makes sense of the fact that Hindi and not English would seem to be the more difﬁcult subject. In any case, the professor’s explanation takes for granted that Hindi is one’s ‘‘mother tongue,” in juxtaposition to English. In her next few comments, the professor explains that she protests to her own students that the complex is unjustiﬁed because one’s language medium background is an inaccurate measure of one’s intelligence. She explains that she chastises students coming from an English-medium background for ‘‘not knowing your mother tongue” at the same time that she ‘‘encourages” students coming from a Hindi-medium background, ‘‘try to learn that language” [English]. SS: what happens generally you will ﬁnd that the English-medium students, uh, somehow or the other, they dominate other students. Chaise LaDousa (hereafter CL): I see. ~ [yes]. SS: Because uh, uh, snobbish, snobbish is a word, na? Snobbish, ha CL: Yes. SS: Yeah. Snobbish. A snobbish value comes to them that they, they are perfect in English, they know English. CL: I see. ~ ~ ~ ~ ; ha ; ha ; ha . SS: ha CL: What kinds of things do they say? SS: Do they say because they will only mix up with those children who know English. They will not mix up with those children who know Hindi. And they form a different group, an elitist group. CL: I see. SS: You know? So that is exhibited through their behavior and other things, you know? So, those, those who are good in Hindi, uh, they feel bad about it. They complain. They come to us and then they say ki [that] they feel so sorry that they do not know English, you know? But what we try to do in the class, we give equal importance to both of them. And we always tell our English-medium students it is not a great thing that you know English, because you have been educated in English medium, that’s why you know, but not knowing your mother tongue is not a thing to be complemented. If a Hindi-medium student asks a good question, I will always encourage him or her. So it very much depends on the attitude of the teacher also. How do you take them, you know? So they are. . . and I always tell Hindi-medium students never feel inferior that you do not know that language. Try to learn that language. If I can learn French at this age you can learn English at that age, you know? And you should learn English because there is so much of literature. There is, you can get, most of the good books are in English. They have not been translated in Hindi. So for your survival and progress you should learn English. So try to learn English. Even at this stage you can learn it. In this excerpt, the professor wrestles with the medium divide and, in so doing, becomes entangled in some of the contradictions common to discourse about language, schooling, and notions of ‘‘mother tongue” in northern India. For example, the professor begins by arguing that the ‘‘complex” felt by students who have been schooled in English-medium schools can be chalked up to snobbishness. She then states that those students of hers who are good at Hindi feel bad about their proﬁciency. We gradually learn that proﬁciency in Hindi implies a lack of knowledge of English. She then asserts that those students who have been schooled in the English medium might claim not to know their mother tongue, but that this is not a stance of which one should be proud. In keeping with the ideological nature of the nexus of schooling and language medium, one has the impression that were students disabused of the ‘‘complex,” the superiority and inferiority associated with English and Hindi medium backgrounds, then one’s ability in one or the other language would disappear as a concern. The excerpt of the interview with the professor, however, hints at why this might not occur. The beneﬁt of the ‘‘mother tongue” to students who have attended English-medium schools is never addressed, for example. In the ﬁnal excerpt, the professor introduces a surprise: she was educated in Hindi-medium schools. Given that she is now a professor at a major university, this embodies a contradiction to most all of what she has claimed thus far about the ‘‘complex” emergent from the language-medium divide. SS: You will be very surprised to know, because you take up my case, throughout I studied in Hindi medium. Throughout. Because, not because I belonged to a lower-middle class, because the place where I was living, all the nearby schools were in Hindi medium.
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CL: I see, SS: English-medium schools were very, very very far, you know? So, I studied there, but English I always learned as a subject. And because I learned. . . CL: And which area are you from? SS: Banaras only. Banaras. The ghats. I was living near ghats.12 CL: In the old city. SS: The old city, yes, very near ghats. And, but English I learned as a subject. And as a subject I felt that my writing in English was much much better than those, you know. When I joined here MA, then I joined English medium because I thought I should also be good in the spoken English, so I should also learn, you know? Because unless until you communicate, and if you are sharp you can pick up the things very fast, you know? So at the age of MA when I was studying then I joined English medium. And then I picked it up and then I started teaching in English and other things, you know? So I know through what stage the students go, you know, and feel, and all that, you know? CL: Did you ever face this complex yourself? ~ , so actually to whatever language you may be, but if you SS: I, my case actually, you know, I was a topper throughout. Ha are a topper, generally you are taken in a high esteem, you know? Although the professor uses the school medium as the basis for describing an essential difference between her students, and describes herself in terms of the language divide, such distinctions disappear when she describes herself with a term common to both Hindi- and English-medium schools, the ‘‘topper.” In every school, those students who have ‘‘topped” their board exams, especially at the 10th and 12th levels, have their names and photos displayed temporarily, sometimes permanently, in prominent places including the school’s entrance, hallways, or principal’s ofﬁce. In the professor’s rendition of the relationship of languages to schooling through medium designations, becoming a ‘‘topper” seems to offer esteem that can overcome the ‘‘complex.” The professor thus demonstrates the ways in which schooling presupposes the idea that Hindi is one’s ‘‘mother tongue” and that this understanding rests on an institutional juxtaposition with English. She also demonstrates that success in the institution can nullify the very challenges posed by the institutional distinction of Hindi and English. The professor emerges as an exception to the state of affairs she has just narrated. 6. ‘‘Like all her life she was speaking Bhojpuri with her parents, and naturally she would not have known any Hindi The second example comes from an interview conducted in the summer of 1997 with another woman, Arti Aggarwal, who was working as a secretary for a relatively low-ranking government ofﬁcial. Arti worked near the place where I took lunch after morning visits to schools and before afternoon visits to teachers or the families of schoolchildren after the school day. While the example of the professor illustrates the importance of studying the school because success in it provides an exception to the contradictions of language ideology, this second example does so because Arti launches a rather complicated critique of the ‘‘complex” that invokes Bhojpuri, a language erased from the language-medium division in schooling. Arti exhibits a possibility missing in the professor’s ruminations: the possibility of irony and subversion. Arti had a three-year-old daughter at the time of our interview. Arti focuses the ﬁrst part of the excerpt with a consideration of the decisions she has made regarding her daughter’s education, and turns to her own youth to consider the medium divide. Arti Aggarwal (hereafter AA): And one thing is there that the public, though I want to send my kid to a public school, an English-medium school, that has several reasons that I told you, that, like for higher studies she will be needing this and, I mean, she should not be developing this complex that ‘‘my mother didn’t send me to an English-medium school and now I don’t know how to cope up with my further studies.” CL: Right. AA: But, it’s a, like, superiority complex. CL: The public school. Superiority complex. ~ , they think, they think they are superior to the other Hindi-medium school-going children. AA: Ha CL: How so? I mean, like, can you give an example? AA: Yes. Um, uh, for class. . .. I went to, uh, Central Hindu Girls School for Class IX and, uh, as I, as you know, I was studying in Kendriya Vidyalaya.13 CL: Right AA: And, the girls coming from, uh, Saint John’s School, when they, when they got to know that I, OK, I, I am, the medium of instruction I’m opting is English, they were just like, ‘‘you wanna come in English-medium class?” I mean, they, they thought, ‘‘OK, she’s coming from the Kendriya Vidyalaya, so no way she can do it in English medium.” CL: Right AA: So it was like, ‘‘are you coming? In this class?” I said, ‘‘why not?” CL: In English, you mean, you said this. AA: Yeah, yeah. [clears throat]
The ghats are the steps leading up to the city from the Ganges River. A school run by its own board meant to serve the children of central government employees who may be posted far away from their last assignment.
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Arti reiterates the professor’s assertion that English is the medium of choice for higher, post-secondary education, and introduces another term, ‘‘public,” that is used only for fees-taking schools in which the medium of instruction is English. Of course, not all fees-taking schools in Banaras are English-medium, but Arti illustrates that high cost, entailed in her use of ‘‘public school,” serves as a vehicle for a language-based institutional choice, ignoring the complex ways that fees and language co-vary in the city. Furthermore, Arti demonstrates the reproductive power of the language-medium divide by talking about it as a choice, one about which she has personal knowledge, and, therefore, one for which she can envision consequences for her three-year-old daughter. Arti has, prior to the excerpt presented here, expressed her desire that the possibility of her daughter’s future in science be left open by attendance at an English-medium school. But what happens in Arti’s excerpt here speaks to the social circulation of the notion that a complex can develop in a student and the risk the development embodies for a parent. Arti shifts to the ﬁrst person – from her daughter’s perspective, that is – in order to explain, ‘‘my mother didn’t send me to an Englishmedium school and now I don’t know how to cope up with my further studies.” In parallel fashion, Arti uses ﬁrst person quotations to animate her own pain involved in switching from Hindi-medium to English-medium education. Thereby, the ‘‘complex” is dramatized. She herself has been met with the question ‘‘are you coming? In this class?” It is a question posed by students coming from the English-medium St. John’s School to her because she has come from the Hindi-medium Kendriya Vidyalaya. The Central Hindu Girls School, where the question was posed, is exceptional in Banaras because it is a government school in which English-medium education in considered to be quite good. It is a question that she does not want for her child to be asked. Indeed, Arti ﬁnishes her narration of the experience of changing schools and joining the students coming from the English-medium school by clearing her throat and pausing for nearly ten seconds before beginning again. As Arti continues in the next segment in the excerpt, however, she complicates depictions of the language-medium divide offered by the professor and herself by focusing on the hypocrisy on which the superiority felt by English-medium students might be based. In order to do this, she introduces Bhojpuri, a language that plays no part in the institutional dichotomy of English- and Hindi-medium schools. Particularly interesting is that she draws on distinctions such as those between the rural and the urban mentioned by the professor, but does so in order to complicate and destabilize the disposition claimed by the girl she mocks toward the social value of language medium. AA: And there were some uh, some students from Valiant School, Dehra Dun, it’s called Valiant Girls’ School Dehra Dun, and her background was like she belonged to Ghazipur, it’s a totally rural area. CL: Near Banaras, right. AA: Yeah, near Banaras, and she would tell other students of my class that she doesn’t know a word of Hindi. She doesn’t know a word of Hindi as she was in an English-medium school. And this, Chaise, she was very proud of this. OK, ‘‘I don’t know any Hindi.” And as I belong to Dehra Dun, my hometown is Dehra Dun, the other students will come and ask me, ‘‘Arti, is this school like this that they don’t teach at all in, any Hindi at all? Or the students do not know any Hindi?” I said, ‘‘it’s not that.” And then, they say, ‘‘but the girl who has come from Valiant School in Dehra Dun, she doesn’t know a word of Hindi.” I said, ‘‘of course, how do you expect her to know Hindi because she must be knowing Bhojpuri because she’s .14 coming from Ghazipur!” And, the other day, her parents came, her father was wearing dhoti; kurta CL: Right. AA: Very traditional dress. And then, they were, my friends were, they came running to me, ‘‘see, her father has come, her father has come.” I said, ‘‘so? What do you realize now?” They said like, ‘‘I think you’re right.” CL: Yeah. AA: Like all her life she was speaking Bhojpuri with her parents, and naturally she wouldn’t have known any Hindi. CL: So it’s a joke [laughingly] AA: Yeah [laughingly] So this is the kind of mentality these English-medium, uh, students have. CL: Wow. AA: I guess they think, as they can converse in English, they are very superior. Arti begins by introducing the case of a student who has come to Central Hindu Girls School in Banaras from the Valiant School, a private, fees-taking, English-medium school in Dehra Dun. Arti’s relatives live in Dehra Dun while the girl’s relatives live in Ghazipur, a town close to Banaras. In the narrative, Arti uses her transcendence of her classmates’ knowledge of other locations in order to lampoon a girl’s claim that she cannot speak Hindi. The girl has claimed maximal distance from Hindi, presumably to attain maximal identiﬁcation with English. Arti, however, turns the girl’s claim of superiority on its head. Bhojpuri functions – ironically in a narrative about schools wherein the language is considered unﬁt for use – as the element that lends the story a ridiculous twist. The girl does not (even) know Hindi because she comes from Ghazipur, a place that is not (even) Banaras. Certainly, Bhojpuri occupies the lowest position among languages because it is the secret that unmasks a claim. But its use in the narrative is unanticipated by the dichotomy of Hindi-medium and English-medium schools. In this case, Arti uses an association with Bhojpuri to show-up the claim not to know Hindi as utterly ridiculous. In the meantime she critiques what the language-medium divide presupposes, the rather conﬁdent feeling that those educated in English14 is the stitched shirt worn on the upper body. The dhoti can be considered A dhoti is a piece of cloth that is worn by men around the waist and legs. A kurt a traditional and/or formal depending on the context.
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medium schools are superior to those educated in Hindi-medium schools. And just like in the previous example, this critique rests on the idea that Hindi-medium schools teach in the students’ ‘‘mother tongue.” Indeed, when I asked if anyone might not know Hindi at a place like Central Hindu Girls School, she answered that the very idea is ridiculous given that Hindi is the students’ ‘‘mother tongue.” 7. Conclusion This article has explored several domains, scholarly and social, in which the notion of ‘‘mother tongue” can be found in northern India. In showing that the notion of the ‘‘mother tongue” changes in its denotational value as its uses in various censuses are traced, scholars of sociolinguistics in India have made a valuable contribution to the understanding of language itself as always situated and anything but natural and unmediated. In their zeal to argue for a lasting plurilingualism in India, however, those same scholars came to disregard the school as a site of exploration for its standardizing tendencies. This has been a mistake, this article contends, because just as the census teaches us valuable insights about the ideological disposition of the notion of ‘‘mother tongue,” so does the school. People in northern India believe one type of educational institution to embody the ‘‘mother tongue.” The ‘‘mother tongue” gains its institutional recognition through its juxtaposition with English. So salient is the institutional divide that students believed to have studied in the medium of their ‘‘mother tongue” suffer anxiety when confronted with someone who has studied in an English-medium school. The two people whose narratives are presented in the examples argue against various aspects of the institutional divide, but do not imagine an institutional arrangement apart from it. The narrative activity and the language ideology that emerges from it is important to consider seriously because it demonstrates the contradictions that the institutionalized linguistic divide entails, on the one hand, and the unexpected possibilities for critique that involve languages outside the institutional divide, on the other hand. The narrator of the ﬁrst example presented above, for example, was trained exclusively in Hindi-medium schools until master’s coursework, yet she now is a professor in an English-medium university. The category that allows her to emerge as exceptional to the state of affairs she has just narrated – in which such shifts seem so unlikely – is the ‘‘topper.” Thus, success in school in either medium serves to prove exceptional to the language-medium divide between one’s ‘‘mother tongue” and English. It is thus important to realize that the institution of the school is crucial to the study of language ideology lest language ideology come to mask the possibility of contradiction. The second example shows that the language ideology presupposed by the language-medium divide does not exhaust the languages relevant to critique. Indeed, the narrator employs Bhojpuri, a language excluded from the language medium of schooling, to question the ‘‘superiority” of English-medium-trained students. These reﬂections show that languages and schools are not entities to be coordinated and counted, although this is a pervasive idea presupposed by the notion of ‘‘medium,” but also components of the world with which people struggle to conceptualize such unstable notions as ‘‘mother tongue.” Acknowledgments The ﬁeld research on which this article is based was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation, a Faculty Development Grant from Southern Connecticut State University, and Hamilton College’s Dean of Faculty. Discussions with Lavanya Murali Proctor, Bonnie Urciuoli, and Susan Wadley helped to clarify the arguments. For guidance and friendship in India, thanks are due to Neelam Bohra, Ravinder Gargesh, Krishna Kumar, Nita Kumar, Chandrakala Padia, and Rakesh Ranjan. Special thanks are due to Nigel Love and Umberto Ansaldo for being such excellent organizers, hosts, and critics. References Aggarwal, K., 1997. What’s Indian about Indian plurilingualism. 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