Proceedings of The 2nd International Conference on Social Sciences in the 21st Century
Revitalizing Endangered Languages in India: Can Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Work?
Dr. Rajendra Kumar Dash
The UNESCO’s latest interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger has identified nearly 2,500 languages endangered out of the 7000-odd languages spoken across the world. With as many as 197 endangered languages among its 600 plus tongues spoken, India tops the list. Further, among the worst hit are the tribal languages. In a country that boasts of linguistic and cultural diversity, language attrition of this scale is arguably a major democratic setback, if not failure. With the death of a language, we lose the life force of a community — its secret practices, future interpretation of extant literature, environmental knowledge, ancestral world views, and cultural heritage. Alarmed by the UNESCO’s 2010 revelation about the country’s threatened voices, the Govt. of India has put in place the Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India (SPPEL) in 2013 for the revitalization of endangered languages and for a reverse language shift (RLS). The Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), a research and teaching institute of Govt. of India, is overseeing the implementation of the SPPEL (http://www.sppel.org). Under the scheme, Central Universities have been entrusted with the documentation of 500 vulnerable languages that are spoken by less than 10, 000 people each, called “potentially endangered” language by the UNESCO. While critiquing the strategies adopted by SPPEL and allied agencies towards language revitalization (LR) on grounds of pragmatics, this paper argues that the active involvement of an endangered speech community is indispensable in any long-term effort towards preservation and promotion of its language as any LR programme, to be truly successful, requires the convergence of both ‘top down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches and practices, lamentably absent in India. Besides identifying the gap areas in the existing LR strategies, this paper also discusses a conceptual framework namely PPP model that can be designed and implemented by governments or public agencies/institutions, and private stakeholders for the protection, preservation, and promotion of endangered languages in India.
Keywords: Endangered language; Language loss; Linguistic diversity; Language death; Reverse language shift; Public-Private Partnership; PPP; SPPEL.