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Structural linguistics: Murdering the spirit Indic languages

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Language is the medium of expression. It empowers us to enunciate the events which are sensed by our body. In ancient Greek civilization they had used sign language, similarly in India we had Prakrit and Sanskrit as two of the ancient languages out of which all other regional languages evolved. The study of language and its structures is called as linguistics.

Towards the end of first world war, linguistic structuralism was defined by Ferdinand de Saussure. He argued that words never give reference to reality. The traditional meaning of words representing reality are not acceptable to Saussure. His argument was based on the understanding that we do not know how something works by tracing its history. Words have no association with reality.

One of famous post-structuralist critique suggests that to build meaning out of such an interpretation one must (falsely) assume that the definitions of these symbols are both valid and fixed. Structuralists have a rigid tendency in the sense that they don’t affirm to more than one meanings of this symbols (words). On the contrary the Post-structuralists have broad perspective on this. According to them Words are symbols to convey some meaning. In other words, the symbols give us the meaning of reality.

Going by the above logic the symbols (words) in Indic languages never found their equivalents in any other languages.

धर्म ≠Religion: For western world word ‘religion’ always represented Abrahamic faiths which had fixed, strict and valid tenants, hence they tend to reject the idea of religion. There can’t exist multiple ways to interpret religion. On contrary to this धर्म has very dynamic meaning which is not fixed and doesn’t have any kinds of validations associated with it. Dharma means responsibility or righteousness. Feeding a hungry man or animal with the sole intention of relieving his hunger or giving water to a thirsty person or animal with the sole intention of quenching their thirst, it is धर्म . धर्म is flexible, it isn’t rigid and there can be many interpretations.

संस्कृति≠Culture: ‘Culture’ in west always had manifestations of human intellect, ideas and customs within a particular society was at center, where as Indian संस्कृति always had spirituality at its center. The very idea of spirituality is to know oneself from within. The art, customs and traditions are subsidiaries or a way to extend this spirituality and make it accessible to more and more humans. The sole idea of spirituality is to create a sense of collective consciousness in society. संस्कृति had an element or essence or तत्व (as it is known in Sanskrit) has stayed constant, and the subsidiaries have kept on evolving.

राष्ट्र ≠ Nation: The Western countries have taken race, language, geographical limits as basis of their nation. These defintions are exclusive in nature and lead to conflicts. A nation is a stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, history and ethnicity. राष्ट्र has a more inclusive and wider basis, it takes into account संस्कृति. In India despite differences in looks, languages and worshiping patterns, it is the संस्कृति and it basic element or तत्व in common and it binds us together.

जाति ≠Caste: The biggest injustice is being done by equating the two. Caste was defined on behalf on India as ‘Each of the hereditary classes of Hindu society, distinguished by relative degrees of ritual purity or pollution and of social status’ this does not acknowledge the Indian perspective of ‎जाति. Even though it has lost its relevance today but as defined by rigveda in Purushsukta it has nothing to do with hierarchy. Rather there is a very systematic and simplified definition of universe and its parts.

सहस्त्रशीर्षा पुरुष:सहस्राक्ष:सहस्रपात् |स भूमि सर्वत: स्पृत्वाSत्यतिष्ठद्द्शाङ्गुलम् ||१||

This is first verse, it personifies society as a mighty human being with who has hundreds of eyes, hundreds of heads and hundreds of feet.

यत्पुरुषं व्यदधु: कतिधा व्यकल्पयन् |मुखं किमस्यासीत् किं बाहू किमूरू पादाSउच्येते ||१०||

This the tenth verse which says the ones with wisdom describe this mighty human in many different ways. They define his face, arms, thighs and legs and how is the structure of his body.

ब्राह्मणोSस्य मुखमासीद् बाहू राजन्य: कृत: |ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्य: पद्भ्या शूद्रोSअजायत ||११||

This is the eleventh verse it personifies the face of this mighty human (society) as that of a Brahmin which performs task of a teaching. His arms are that of Kshatriya, stomach that of Vaishya and his legs as that of Shudhra.

No where this a sense of hierarchy in the above description of society, nor is there any mentioning of Caste as a system.

There are many more instances in linguistics where opting for a Post Structuralism approach would help understand the true meaning and essence of Indic thought. Post -Structuralism takes into account the dynamics of these symbols (words) and presents a much more liberal approach, where as structuralist’s inflexibility, stubborn and adamant attitude has lead to destroyal of the spirit of Indic languages.

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