Link language question: Hebrew revival and Sanskrit revival.

The below note is by a friend.

In terms of what we could learn from the Jews, the revival of Hebrew is very important:

India had a unique ecosystem that supported *genuine* diversity. This is best seen in its linguistic ecosystem, with a two-level Sanskrit-Prakrit division, each one nourishing the other. I compare it to the water cycle – where the rivers, seas and marshes all contribute to the crystallization of clouds, and the clouds in turn dispense distilled water onto all of these again.

But today that ecosystem has been broken. And there is a false dichotomy and a vicious politics between the “logical” and “sentimental” types that will never allow Sanskrit to rise and rehabilitate that ecosystem…which in turn means that all Indian languages will fall to ugly, “haphazard Anglicization” rather than “systematic Sanskritization”.

This false politics that thrives on the tension between a “logical” and “sentimental” dipole (which the Congress has been playing), can be broken only by policy that is shoved past these voices – either by sleight of hand or by brute force. That is my takeaway from how it happened with Hebrew:

1. In the mid-1800’s, a small number of weird, impractical and nerdy Jews started a “spoken Hebrew” movement, just like Samskrita Bharati. They started using Hebrew for regular, secular subjects rather than only religious incantations. Short stories and novels in Hebrew were published.

2. But that was not enough – only a few Jews were intellectually inclined to take up this “hobby”, and most of them made “logical” arguments about how in this modern age we should all learn German/English/Russian etc (depending on where they were living). Of course, the same intellectually lazy, “logical” and “practical” members of Jewish society also paid customary tributes to Hebrew as a repository of their ancient culture and identity, but no doubt pointed out that it was wise to be “practical” and accept the reality of the domination of European languages in modern times…

When some Jews from various countries migrated to the Palestinian Mandate under British rule, they needed to have a link language. The towering “logical” types as well as the well-grounded “sentimental” Jews suggested Yiddish, since that was the language of a majority of Ashkenazi Jews, like Hindi in India. But Jews from other parts objected – because they were equally “sentimental” about their mother-tongues. Then some “logical” types suggested English, given the “reality” of the post WW-2 “world”.

But unfortunately or fortunately, Israel was founded by those “impractical” “nerdy” types whose thought currents were not rooted in the same Reality as the “logical” types. So they made it the law that Hebrew and no other language would be the link language for multilingual Israel.

Thus, a gradual “spoken Hebrew movement” created a small but critical mass of intellects who saw what was possible. Then this small class made a POLICY decision to goad the rest of the lazy / logical / practical types to learn the bloody language.

Thus, in India also, we will see the “logical” Indian urging us to just learn English and keep our mother-tongues for popular culture, and we will see the “sentimental” Indians urging us to “protect” their mother-tongues from, both, English as well as one another (Tamil versus Hindi, etc). Sanskrit will have to navigate this political space deftly, by appealing to, both, the logical and sentimental, and tricking them both!


Link language question: Hebrew revival and Sanskrit revival.&rdquo पर एक विचार;

  1. Parallels with the Hebrew-movement withstanding, in the case of Sanskrit, at least some of the core dynamics of Aindra Sanskrit needs to be rediscovered before implementing any amount of Sanskrit. Aindra, I believe (with good reasons), is equivalent to abstract mathematics, so the teaching (as well as simultaneous research) should also be equivalent to an enquiry into mathematics. In this way, Sanskrit can become its own force for its own implementation.

    At the least, the core group of researchers need to understand that Panini is only a starting point. The thousands of rules have to be demolished one by one, to put it plain.

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