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The Economics of Language Policy$
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Michele Gazzola and Bengt-Arne Wickström

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034708

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034708.001.0001

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Linguistic Diversity in India’s Polity and Economy

Linguistic Diversity in India’s Polity and Economy

Chapter:
(p.469) 15 Linguistic Diversity in India’s Polity and Economy
Source:
The Economics of Language Policy
Author(s):

Selma K. Sonntag

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262034708.003.0016

This chapter examines the linguistic dimension of the tension between India’s democratic politics and its liberalized economy. I argue that there is a divergence between languages used in the polity and languages used in the economy. In the polity, characterized by a semblance of empowerment through the electoral participation of the weaker sections of society, vernacular languages predominate. In contrast, the language of the economy in India, particularly since economic liberalization in 1991, tends to be English. It is in the economy that India’s class and caste chasm manifests itself linguistically: between the English-speaking elite and the vernacular-speaking masses. While the noted Indian economist, Deepak Nayyar, warns of an impending clash between the democratically empowered masses and the economically privileged elite, I suggest that in terms of language use India’s robust democracy may well trump market forces. And while linguists have warned that English as the language of the globalized marketplace can have dire consequences for linguistic diversity, I argue that India’s linguistic diversity, at least in terms of its major regional languages, remains impressive. In the case of India, I conclude, the spread of the language of globalization, English, as the language of the economy, is mediated by the languages used in India’s vibrant democracy.

Keywords:   India, Languages, Economy, Democracy, Diversity

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