Pressures of modern systems of education and development have pushed the youth and others in opting for different languages for education, politics and governance but disowning their own mother tongues.
This was a matter of great concern, said professor Sukhdev Singh, director seminar, at the two-day national seminar on ‘Language shift and endangered languages – issues, effects and responses’ held in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art & Culture Heritage (Punjab chapter), the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, and the department of English, Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU).
Prof Panchan Mohanti, director of the Centre For Endangered Languages, Central University of Hyderabad, who was here on Friday, apprised the students about conserving linguistic diversity and asked them to popularise a slogan which states “Biodiversity is important for physical health of the mother earth and linguistic diversity is important for mental health of the mother earth.”
Mohanti, who was key speaker at the seminar, said that “biodiversity will survive only if linguistic diversity survived”.
While Sukhdev Singh talked about the modern models of economic development and urbanisation and said that they had impacted various languages in such a way that either some languages have been pushed to complete death or were facing the danger of slow death or extinction. The major reason of such an impact is the loss of cultural heritage, identity and traditions which are destroying diversity and promoting homogeneity.
“While we have lost cultural diversity, we are heading towards loss of language diversity also. Need of the hour is to document and record the languages and state governments should ensure that mother languages are compulsory subjects in schools,” said Singh
Prof Mohaniti said that there was an urgent need to preserve small languages and cultures as they have contributed to the development in major languages and cultures. “Languages and culture has a lot to give and take and India culturally and linguistically is plural but unfortunately this is shrinking today. The need is to preserve dying cultures and languages.”
He said, “When I show concern about the linguistic diversity getting affected, people tell me what is the worry about it and that irritates me as ‘when a language dies, the knowledge system is contained it vanishes’”.
Prof Mohanty said, “Those people who know more languages are more intelligent and thus flexible in lives.” He said, “More languages you know and speak, more healthy life you would lead.” He asked students to first respect and speak their mother language and then learn and speak other languages.
Eminent educationist Joginder Singh Puar, former vicechancellor, Punjabi university, Patiala, was guest of honour and ON Koul took the first technical session where he highlighted endangerment of languages in multilingual contexts whereas Gurpreet Bal gave sociological point of view of the language endangerment.