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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

Ed. by Garcia Otheguy, Ofelia

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Volume 2010, Issue 205 (Jan 2010)


Languages, inequality and marginalization: implications of the double divide in Indian multilingualism

Ajit K. Mohanty
  • Corresponding author
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University
Published Online: 2010-10-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl.2010.042


Features of Indian multilingualism are discussed to show that, despite several positive forces favoring maintenance of minority languages, languages are subjected to inequality and discrimination. It is argued that multilingualism in India, as in other South Asian countries, is hierarchical in nature, characterized by a double divide — one between the elitist language of power and the major regional languages (vernaculars) and, the other, between the regional languages and the dominated ones. The nature and implications of this double divide are analyzed in respect of the relative positions of English, Hindi, regional majority languages and other indigenous/minority languages. The paper shows that, at the same time as hierarchical multilingualism has led to a general loss of linguistic diversity, the progressive domain shrinkage and the marginalization of the surviving indigenous and minority languages affect the dynamics of the relationship between languages and linguistic groups in contact and negotiation of linguistic identities. The chasm between policy and practice affecting the place of languages in society, it is argued, leads to educational failure, capability deprivation and poverty in the minority linguistic groups, particularly the tribal mother tongue speakers. Programs of multilingual education are briefly discussed in the context of recent attempts to deal with classroom language disadvantage of tribal children in India.

Keywords:: double divide; English-vernacular divide; English-other language divide; language and education; multilingual education

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Published Online: 2010-10-05

Published in Print: 2010-09-01

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl.2010.042.

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