A study of Language Attitude among non-Bengali Speakers in Kolkata

Author: Aditi Ghosh (Department of Linguistics, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India)
Speaker: Aditi Ghosh
Topic: General Sociolinguistics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


This paper analyses the language related attitudes of 495 permanent residents of Kolkata who are speakers of various languages other than the locally dominant languages, i.e. Bengali. The aim is to see how and to what extent the multilingual modern city affects the attitudes of the speakers of minority languages. The responses are elicited through a questionnaire directed to discern the relative significance of the languages according to the perception of the respondents. Though the respondents also come in contact with a number of languages in their everyday life in the city, it was seen that the four major languages of relevance here are; Bengali – the official language of the state of West Bengal (of which Kolkata is the capital), English – one of the two official languages of India and an immensely prestigious language in the country, Hindi – the other official language of India (also frequently misrepresented as the national language of India) , and the various Mother Tongues of the respondents.

This study primarily uses a Likert-type scale questionnaire, presenting the respondents with a set of statements which they are required to rate in a five-point rating scale depending on the extent to which they agree with them. The statements are designed to bring out their attitude towards the different languages, linguistic communities and their speakers; towards multilingualism in general; towards correct uses of the different languages and towards language shift and maintenance.

A study of language attitude among the long-term migrant populations in a multilingual city like Kolkata, can reveal significant insight about the instrumental role of languages in constructing the socio-cultural context and how individuals negotiate their own identities in that context.

Findings of the study show that the respondents attach different symbolic values to different languages. Bengali is associated with Kolkata, Hindi with India, English with accomplishments and Mother tongues with home and past.

Keywords: Multilingualism, language attitude, Kolkata, minority languages