Ring ring


Indian multilingualism is characterized by a very interesting scene: more languages are now involved as participants in the current increase in bilingualism and tri- lingualism; more than one script is used to write many languages, and many scripts used to write a single language; many Indian languages share a similar set of linguistic features across the language families, etc. In this multilingual context, the relation between the majority and minority languages has not been stable. We notice that historically some minority languages have wielded greater social and political power than the majority languages, and have demanded and received strong loyalty for them from the majority. Once Sanskrit, and now for over two hundred years, English, are minority languages. But they had, and continue to have, power to attract the majority language speakers (or speakers of Major Indian Languages) due to their social prestige and the economic power. They are the second languages of the elite.

The number of mother tongue speakers of English is on the decline, according to the decennial Census -1961 : 223788 ;1971 : 191595 ;1981 : 202440 ; 1991 : 178598
At the same time, the number of speakers declaring English as second or third language is increasing. As per the 1991 Census, the percentage of bilinguals and tri- linguals in English(8.00 %, 3.5 % respectively) is more than those of the same categories in Hindi(6.15 %, 2.16%). In recent past, the majority- minority language relations have depended upon various factors and diverse issues like the Constitutional provisions, population, language use statistics, legal interpretations, and, above all, political compulsions and interpretations. The majority-minority relations are influenced also by factors such as whether the speakers of a language or a group of languages or dialects have a religious or tribal back up support, and whether the context of such identities jibe well with the historical context in which the issue is raised and discussed.

An Indian language having a state, ie., a defined geographic territory for its spread in terms of bilingualism, tri-lingulism and opportunities for its use in more and more functional domains, contributes for development and change of majority and minority relation. We may recall here that Sindhi and Urdu were accorded the status of a Scheduled language in the Constitution of India even when they did not or do not have a defined territory. The quality and importance of the majority-minority relation at the time of partition of India and in the years after independence of the nation do not exist now; nor is the context during the 1960 s and 1970s going to be repeated now. At the same time, the present lack of focus or urgency on maintaining a proper majority-minority linguistic relation may not continue for ever.