ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gandhi and the Standardisation of Gujarati

The process of linguistic standardisation usually sets up one dialect as the yardstick to judge the correctness of a language. It not only relegates other dialects to the periphery but also actively produces and reproduces structures of inequalities. Gandhi initiated a systematic effort to standardise the Gujarati language in the 1920s through the Gujarat Vidyapith which published a dictionary with a set of rules for correct Gujarati writing. It is this form of Gujarati that has been recognised by the state government as the standard language. This article explores the notion of language standardisation and the inherent inequalities within that process, the context of Gujarati standardisation, Gandhi's role in it, and the problems and contestations involved in the linguistic standardisation in Gujarat.

E fforts to standardise the Gujarati language rst began in the opening decades of the 19th century with the publication of dictionaries, grammars and school textbooks. However, the standardisation process remained disorganised until Gandhi took the initiative in the 1920s to mediate through the Gujarat Vidyapith, a university established by him, and which published the Gujarati dictionary known as the Jodanikosh. He also took considerable interest in the implementation of the standard Gujarati propounded by the Gujarat Vidyapith. On the occasion of the publication of this dictionary in 1929, Gandhi wrote: After the publication of this dictionary no one has the right to do as his fancy dictates in the matter of spelling (Gandhi 1970c: 213). This quote which appears in Gujarati in every edition of the dictionary seems to reect a sense of nality and closure about the Gujarati language. The signicance of this Gandhian inspired dictionary consists in the fact that the orthography system adopted by this lexicon is the one recognised by the Gujarat government and used as the standard language in the state.

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