Language and identity in Assam with special reference to Bodo

Author: Araiswrang Basumatary (JNU)
Speaker: Araiswrang Basumatary
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Linguistics is the scientific study of human language and it describes and analyses language event in order to identify with how it behaves. The largest part of our thoughts and a great deal of our identity are language mediated and depend directly on our language. The fundamental perception of understanding the world is through our native language and our mother tongue is our mind’s conceptual homeland.

Assam is a multilingual and linguistic minefield state wherein at least fifteen different indigenous languages are spoken and may be more. It is also a polyglot state where most people speak more than one of these languages. Language plays a pivotal role in shaping and sustaining the community and extremely important to community’s identity. Assamese and Bodo languages are the official languages of Assam. The consciousness of the linguistic identity among Bodos became more vocal and bold in the light of Assamese linguistic supremacy in post independence period.Concerted and systematic efforts by the dominant language of the state and linguistic hegemony over the other languages were very much visible.

As a result, minority languages faced multiple issues and challenges and Bodo is also not an exception. Bodos had been seriously experiencing not only an identity and linguistic crisis but also economic exploitation and social, cultural and political oppression and above all linguistic dissimilation. As a result, Bodos had gathered the strength to assert because they had began their search for distinct identity from the Assamese. The paper discusses the following major issues relating to the Bodo language: (a) the linguistic assertion and evolvement of Bodo language post India’s independence; (b) current status and challenges; (c) situations in times of globalization; (d) speakers’ attitude towards their language.