Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, the Baroda-based organization for indigenous peoples, has launched a People's Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI). In the words of G N Devy, who is the founder of the Bhasha trust, and who is leading the initiative:
"Bhasha... convened a national meet of language representatives in March 2010 in which representatives of 320 languages had participated. [Among those invited to speak was Probal Dasgupta, President of the World Esperanto Association - Giri.] It was decided during the concluding session that a People's Linguistic Survey of India be attempted by networking linguists, cultural organisations and NGOs working with language issues.
"Bhasha Centre has already commenced the work and has completed the mapping of three Himalayan states, and has initiated work in three other states."
One of those three states is Andhra Pradesh. On 9 August - appropriately, the International day of the world's indigenous peoples - Bhasha and Osmania University Centre for International Programmes (OUCIP), got together at OUCIP some 30 interested individuals from academia, government and civil society to brainstorm. At the end of the session, participants agreed to write entries for the PLSI on 16 languages spoken in Andhra Pradesh. Other languages spoken in the state will be taken up in the next phase of the project.
Prof Devy emphasized that this was a people's survey; the idea was to get as complete a "snapshot" as possible of the language as it exists today, and to do so using speakers of these languages to write the entry.
The proposed format for each entry is also interesting. Apart from a basic, linguistic description, the survey will also record a brief (1000-word) history of the language; a short bibliography; four or five songs or poems and tales (translating them into English and Hindi); kinship terms; proverbs; colour terms; time and space concepts, and so on - a people's linguistic anthropology, in fact.
As many participants affirmed, a massive project such as this promised new knowledge and new understanding of the consequences of our development models. One participant spoke of the need to "re-invent knowledge categories", so that they serve the Indian reality.
It is to be hoped that such a project will also improve the quality of conversation between India and Bharat.
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