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Languages and language politics

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One of the most linguistically and culturally diversified countries in the world, Nepal is in the midst of linguistic and cultural chaos. Linguistic and cultural diversity itself is at its centre. One explanation for the sad situation is that the ruling elites, who have held power since Nepal’s inception in the eighteenth century, have conducted an invisible politics of privileging languages and of deliberately ignoring issues related to minority and ethnic languages to promote the languages of their choice. While this invisible politics of ‘unplanning’ of languages has been responsible for the loss of scores of languages, it has helped the elites to achieve ‘planned’ linguistic edge over the speakers of other languages. In the changed political climate, the Nepalese people have embarked upon a debate about what language policy the country should have and what roles and statuses should be accorded to the local/regional, national and international languages. The socio-political and linguistic context of the current language policy debate and the lack of a clear and consistent language policy allow the ruling elites to adopt an approach which in the existing situation does more harm than good.
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Keywords: Nepal; Nepali language; invisible language planning; language hegemony; language policy; language policy debate; language politics; linguistic elitism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 6, 2011

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