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

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Gandhi, Gujarati Spelling and the Ideology of Standardisation

This note makes an intervention in the ongoing discussion on Gandhi's role in standardising Gujarati spellings and the recent spelling reform proposals in Gujarati. It tries to take the discussion beyond the polemic of the Gujarat Vidyapith Jodani versus Unjha Jodani Parishad debate, by reviewing the process of standardising spellings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It also takes a look at the concept of diglossia, Gandhi's plea to conserve an "intercommunity communicative ethos" and by reflecting on the education of linguistic minorities and pedagogy.

Gandhi, Gujarati Spelling and

While a longer part of Sebastian (2009) discusses the role of Mahatma Gandhi and

the Ideology of Standardisation

the Gujarat Vidyapith in standardising Gujarati spellings and recent spelling reform

 

proposals, in the section titled “Mapping

 

the Context”, he mentions “for the sake of

Himanshu Upadhyaya

brevity” (p 96) only a few Gujarati dic-

This note makes an intervention in the ongoing discussion on Gandhi’s role in standardising Gujarati spellings and the recent spelling reform proposals in Gujarati. It tries to take the discussion beyond the polemic of the Gujarat Vidyapith Jodani versus Unjha Jodani Parishad debate, by reviewing the process of standardising spellings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It also takes a look at the concept of diglossia, Gandhi’s plea to conserve an “intercommunity communicative ethos” and by reflecting on the education of linguistic minorities and pedagogy.

Himanshu Upadhyaya (himanshugreen@ gmail.com) is at the School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

T
he polemical rejoinders to Sebastian (2009) by Modi (2010) and Dave (2010) raise the question of whether we have access to archival materials such as newspaper columns or correspondence dating back 70 years, to understand what sort of orthography reforms were proposed not only for Gujarati, but other Indian languages as well in the 1930s.1 When one actually tries to look back, one finds that the contribution of Gandhians such as Dattatrey Balkrishna Kalelkar (affectionately called Kakasaheb) to spelling reforms, or their preference for one script, namely, Devnagari, to represent all those Indian languages that had roots in Sanskrit provoked a response from people taking antichange positions, a predicament not very different from the one being experienced today by the proponents of Unjha Jodani or spelling school.2

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