Ecosystem Languages and How they Unlock the Potential of the Populace

Photo by Fabio Santaniello Bruun on Unsplash

Language is not a monolith, and while needs to be always understood in the realm of language studies/sciences, it is important that the potential of the populace, is accorded with that language. Years ago, nobody could predict that content in Hindi would create a storming market. Nobody expected decades ago the potential of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films. Nobody expected the potential of Indian entrepreneurs, lawyers, artists and even developers. The question of how exploitation is calculated, is a case-to-case issue, anyways.

Now, let us understand what is an ecosystem language. I remember having an intriguing discussion with Dr Balram Shukla, formerly in the Indian Institute of Advanced Study about Sanskrit, Farsi and Urdu, and I came across this realisation that in the ancient times, while some people used to converse in Prakrit, replies were given in Sanskrit. Imagine what could the kind of research developed on inter-dialect and inter-language conversations, unlock the ever-coherent potential of a population. Languages are not just about expression or culture: their culture enables the populace to unlock and leave the imprints of their own potential. That is reflective, for example in how the Rajputs had brought the mathematics of Euclid in India, and translated cum made the content from Europe, in Indian terms, for the Indian people. It is similar to the fact that Dara Shikoh, Aurangzeb’s brother did share the contents of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita to the Arab world. Many European thinkers were inspired by our ancient and medieval literature, while even we, in some fields, depending on the context, have been inspiring from the foreigners (and not just Europe and America, and the UK).

This interplay itself is interesting because that shapes the future of languages, cultures and fundamentally, the way human quality of life is shaped.

So, an ecosystem language, as what I could decipher from Dr Shukla’s views, is a language which shelters other languages within its fold. So, Sanskrit, historically, whether under the Indo-Aryan understanding or the Out-of-India understanding, somehow, has had the potential to give space and positive inclusion of various dialects and regional languages across the Indian subcontinent. Now, in the colonial era, the same was proposed or tried to be reflected by the poets and authors of the Chhayawaad and Modern Hindi movement (such as Jaishankar Prasad, Bhartendu Harishchandra, Sumitranandan Pant, Suryakant Tripathi, etc.,) for Hindi.

And I agree that Hindi, whether in Sanskritised form (Tatsam), Standard form (Manak and Tadbhav) or in conjugation with Urdu (which like Hindi is an Indian language coming from Apbhransh) can become an ecosystem language, sheltering various languages, like Dogri, Tamil, Bengali and others. The potential of the dialects is usually left untouched. Nobody cares to look at that, sadly. The problem with the mainstream Hindi and Urdu we see, hear or talk every day is that it is heavily based on a low-end model of commercialisation, now more plunged into derision due to slang worlds, and mediocrity, that their nuance and beauty are not even unlocked. There is a genuine reason why people in the South have pioneered their cultural spaces and languages so much, as if the Japanese and the Koreans (ROK) have tried to do. We must learn from Kannadigas, Malayalis, Tamilians and others in the South part of India.

Now, legally, you do not need one national language in the case of India. What do you need is those official languages, which are communicable and sensible. I remember as per the Indian Constitution, Hindi and English are those Official Languages. Maybe, in future, Sanskrit and Tamil can be added for good, as two more Official Languages. How would that perpetuate at the United Nations, to make any one of these 3 languages one of the working/official languages at the UN, is a diplomatic, and political question. My view is that this is a far-fetched take because it does not make sense despite demographics. Either accept one of the official languages to be accepted there in unison or leave this project. There is a case for an Indian language to be given a status at the UN as an official/working language. Which language it could be? I certainly do not know, and cannot advise.

Yet, the potential of an ecosystem language has a great impact on the markets. It can not only shelter regional languages and dialects, it can also protect them and empower the population. We have to remember that we have to uplift a large section of the Indian population out of poverty. There are drip-to-drip social impact measures, which revolutionise in a while. There is a reason why India’s vaccination strategy, its reachout to the Panchayats and the UPI initiative (including RuPay) became successful. India has certainly achieved a lot of successes, and I am sure like we were correct in having Hindi as one Indian official language apart from English, we can afford to have 2 more, as I suggested — Sanskrit and Tamil. I guess the Union Government is already ensuring along with the Courts (led by the Supreme Court of India) to publish content of government and the judiciary in different languages. AI technologies which work on the NLP/NLU models are already being encouraged to promote inter-language interactions. However, my proposal is not to merely usher some technology/tech infrastructure as a mere third party to usher things. I seek human-to-human cultural innovation, which mainstreams various dialects and languages in India, and creates a cohesive economy, which uplifts all languages, with time. It has to be decentralised in pursuit.

I remember some start-ups and thinkers already trying to do the same.

This is why I suggest:

Project Sanskrit and Hindi ecosystem languages and using self-consumed and voluntary measures, make it more lively. As a high culture language, Sanskrit is doing well.

Let me give a blunt example.

How will you teach public international law or conflict economics 101 in Sanskrit? If these fields look like heavy to you, let me bring a simpler field for understanding. How will you teach chemical engineering in Sanskrit, if there is no academic and market ecosystem/institution/set of institutions to support the mobility in pedagogy? It is not going to happen in some void that some people are now seeing in desperation.

Impossible until you make the Indian languages and dialects “homely” to the Sanskrit framework (at the level of the public). Do that first.

Create an industry which furthers languages and ecosystem languages like Sanskrit and Hindi. Maybe Tamil can also become that ecosystem language, in a much great sense. Then, slowly permeate. Invest in the process, live it, feel it.

The part of “live it, feel it” has to be integral and not noisy. It does not happen without being in vogue. It has to happen when forces of marketing and information, become subordinate to the potential that populations bear upon languages. When this happens, people automatically become mature to realise whether English should be banned in India or not. I think English is not just a commercial language, but our populations have somehow percolated English within their part of life for good or bad reasons. The language is one only, but the emotive and cultural clout that shapes the proliferation of English everywhere in India, which in 1 word is called as context, is very different in some ways, from other countries, across the world. China and Japan homogenised their populations to mainstream their national languages. The United States is in these 250 years, an English-speaking country, but the American natives do have had their own languages, which is reflective in both the North and South parts of the American continent. The languages in Scandinavia have some real value, like German and Russian in Eastern and Central Europe. So, the world recognises the value of languages.

You cannot automate innovative and creative contributions in Sanskrit as a language. Impossible. You can make it softly permeable and more curious to people.

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Abhivardhan

Abhivardhan

Host, Indus Think | Founder of Think Tanks & Journals | AI-Global Law Futurist | YouTuber | Views Personal on the Indus Think Blog