Bilingualism and Multilingualism in South Asia



This chapter presents a case study of the varied dimensions of multilingualism in South Asia (henceforth, SA) with particular attention to India. The chapter argues that multilingualism in SA is shaped primarily by natural forces of networking and communication (e.g., media, trade, multiple identities) rather than being the result of externally imposed models and government planning. It calls for rethinking sociocultural diversity in general and linguistic diversity in particular. Although the focus is on India, the generalizations drawn are valid for other countries in SA as well, to varying degrees. In addition to isolating the defining features of bilingualism in India/SA, the chapter will describe both the contemporary and the historical sources, the processes, and the results of bilingualism. An attempt has been made to uncover those dimensions of multilingualism which have been neglected in the sociolinguistics of SA (e.g., bilingualism based in rural vs. urban varieties of speech). For comparative and contrastive purposes, other countries will also receive attention.

South Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and the Maldives) represents an astonishing array of linguistic diversity with four language families, and more than 650 languages as well as numerous geographical, social, ethnic, religious, and rural varieties or dialects. The subcontinent competes ...

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