language (DUO)

Tove wasted no time sending me a link to a newsletter with several articles about linguistic rights and a pdf with info about submersion – a subtractive educational methodology that has been studied extensively in regard to indigenous and minority students. Without doing more than a quick skim right now, the first thing that strikes me are questions about the definition and categorization of “indigenous” and “minority”.
Meanwhile, after reading about linguistic imperialism, Amanda sent a link to a blogpost on Sinhala Sign Language, used by the Deaf community in Sri Lanka. “Sinhala Sign Language (SSL) does not differentiate among “who?” “what?” and “how?” The sign for all three is simply shaking your fist.”* A lively discussion ensues after this concerning the ethics of introducing foreign signs to accomplish the functions these lexical items serve in English and American Sign Language (among others).
I suppose this is a smaller scale example of the Karnataka decision on English instruction in Kashmiri schools? Or perhaps it is an example of a different order – pidgenizing a language is a different change strategy than blatant replacement. The Karnataka decision is also opposed; obviously the question of mother tongue or English instruction is volatile. The debate has been going on for a while. A “map” of the language policy terrain was provided in 2002.
I’ll need to do more reading and thinking before I can wade further into this, but it is striking to me how politicized language is in this Indian state. I know that language is complicated throughout India (largest number of official languages of any country, right?) Why is the language contest so overt in this instance? What other factors have conspired to bring mother tongue, Kannada, and English into the academic and political limelight?
(FYI: A “fist” of one kind or another has shown up in three contexts within the last four days.)

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