The sudden debate about making the crude medium “Nagamese” an ‘official language’ represents a modern evil: a third-world society’s battle to retain native capital amid an onslaught of modern narratives.
The paradox of the debate, however, is not Nagamese per se. It is in the fact that the demand was first pitched by none other than the Gaon Bura institution, a self-professed vanguard of indigenous Naga culture. There lies the danger which misplaced ambitions and anachronistic position to satisfy ideas of pluralism and cross-cultural existence, can cause.
Nagamese is neither a pidgin nor a complete Creole. For comparison, an explanation of the two modes of communication will clarify the natural place within the context of communication and lore.
First: Pidgin is a simplified form of a language, typically English, Dutch or Portuguese, with borrowed elements from local languages.
Second: a Creole is a stable natural language developed from a pidgin after having been made native by a generation’s offspring as their first language. In effect, creoles have fully developed vocabulary and system that compares fairly to standard languages.Nagamese fits in neither scheme. It is, in fact, closer to patois–a dialect of a particular region that in comparison has remarkably low status and even lower educational principals in relation to prevalent standard languages.
History and concurrent movements across the world are a testimony that be it pidgin, creoles, or patios, their emergence within a community invariably spells the destruction of native history, and loss of indigenous lore. Most alarmingly, it dilutes the lessons which socio-cultural discourses impart to peoples and communities.
One must remember this: Language is not merely a vehicle for communication; language is a conversation of cultural capital. The argument of the Nagamese advocacy that the patois be made an official tongue because of its wide use carries no merit for recognition by any degree.
This truth is illustrated in lifestyle standards of expressions. For instance, obscenity and slang are languages too–but they represent no cultural capital, leave alone ethnological merit that appreciates a people’s history.
Among the Naga communities, few dilemmas have posed problems of linguistic reconciliation than have the Tenyimia Diasporas. It is true that the codified system of Tenyidie has offered a semblance of location for its speakers.
But for Nagaland, a tiny state that teems with approximately 2.270 million people representing more than two dozen major and sub-tribes, they do not require a common language that would unify their identify as a Naga. Rather, they require promotion of each local dialect to conform to their identity as a Naga–diversity is the inherent demographic and geopolitical narrative of Naga culture, and represents what makes a Naga who he is.
An official status in any degree will destabilize indigenous identities and irreversibly distort interactive tribal movements. The decline of aboriginal languages in Australia and the Paharis in the Subcontinent are some of the most drastic examples of how amorphous languages destroyed native cultural histories forever.
Half of the world’s 7,000 languages are expected to be extinct by the end of this century. Researchers have estimated that one language dies out every 14 days. But it is not the extinction of language itself–it is also the extinction of the historical indigenous institutions, the lore and conventions of the people who used to speak them.
The dangers that Nagamese–or it being accorded a cloak of statutory recognition–poses to the Naga people’s linguistic treasures, are several:
Assimilation: A process in which a group gradually gives up its own language, culture and system of values and takes on those of another group with a different language, culture and system of value through a period of interaction.
Acculturation: A process in which changes in language, culture and system of value of a group happen through interaction with a different language, culture, and inter-located systems of values.
The consequences of letting in formless dialects such as Nagamese over existing dialects are far too many, and complex and irreversible. There are the dangers of cultural hegemony: cultural hegemony is achieved when dominant communities create a consensus by convincing others to accept their language norms and usage as standard or model.
Likewise, with the loss of cultural information comes the loss of cultural identity. For instance, when an Ao Naga man and a Lotha Naga converses in, say, English, they are employing a medium that both subconsciously identify a common history that points to common appeals of education, their cultural identity unified by the translation of common heritage (western missionaries and their legacy, for instance). That is cultural capital.
But when, two Naga persons converse in Nagamese, what psychological, cultural and emotive dispensation drives it? The only reason being both can understand through Nagamese – a crude, unstoried tongue that sprouted from business compulsions to, a century later, encourage expansionist ambitions of non-Naga persons to annex local land assets. That is absence / loss of cultural capital.
According recognition to Nagamese over any Naga dialect will spell destruction for the Naga vernacular. Even at this point of modern codified systems of education, no Naga tribe has a scripted, written, and codified dialect. Hence, the chances of Naga dialects becoming extinct are far more definite than would Nagamese if the latter were accorded official recognition.
The consequences as stated in the preceding passages point only to one truth again: Native languages are not merely a vehicle for communication; they are a conversation of cultural capital.
Updated at 7:00 PM, 06/02/2016: Recompiled for web edition.