Op-Ed, Views & Reviews
Significance of new orthography in Ruangmei’s literature
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne of the facts that there are much more languages than nations and cultures is one of the mysteries of humankind. And it seems people haven’t found the convincing answer. All the living species have their common mode of communications but human is an exception. Humans are always in the progressive paradigm. In the context of the Zeliangruang Naga, despite we have similarities in our dialects unfortunately we couldn’t speak one language. Though we believed to have live together before a major dispersal, the concept of common languages couldn’t carry forward down the generations. In fact, our leaders in the past have made an attempt to create common dialect but couldn’t materialize it. For long, the concept of Zeliangruang has hampered the emancipations of each unit. To strengthen the larger body (Zeliangruang) importance should be given to different sub-units. Moreover, the assertion for ones identity and linguistic status quo has become more rigid and irresistible. The idea of communicating in one language or for a single tribe has become an abstract reality. Rather we need to move forward on the path of progress through what Jacque Rousseau would call “General Will” i.e. will of the people as a whole. We should develop the best way to communicate effectively and promote at the global space. A language is a part of human heritage representing ones culture, mirror one’s identity and mends brotherhood. Through proper communicative tools human relations will become more influential and effective. American political scientist Joseph S. Nye has developed a concept called “Soft Power” to describe the ability to attract and co-opt. Soft power is an actor’s value, culture and language. Spread of language represents an actor’s behavioral way of getting the outcomes you want. Language is a particular set of normative structures that governs society’s behaviours. It is through “social norm” (language) that brings society together, reflects and communicates beyond the boundaries. Hence, language acts as a hegemon in the existing social structure. We have seen how English has become a global language.
The new orthography developed by the Ruangmei Literature Society (RLS) is something which everyone should appreciate and endorsed. It is evolved through many years of research by some of our pioneers. The new Ruangmei orthography is unique and standardize that no other neighboring Nagas has taken up to such level. Tonal languages are extremely common in East Asia and Africa. Our language falls in this category and many words are differentiated solely by tone which would otherwise be homonyms. Many have criticized for using consonants in our literature. In fact, instead of symbols these consonants are used to mark the glottal, rising and falling tones respectively. Unlike other nations we don’t have our own script neither we are well equipped in Information and communication technology (ICT). Many nations have used roman scripts for their own conveniences and development of their literature. Therefore, for time being ‘romanization’ which is the use of Roman (Latin) alphabet to represents the sounds of spoken Ruangmei is the best convenient and suitable for us. In the future, we can find away and create a space to have our own script. We should develop fullest for the progress of our literature. Such orthography can be developed even by our neighboring indigenous people too.
Differences are the norm in a larger democratic set up of any society. Constructive criticism and inputs is always healthy for the development of any social structure. Rather criticizing and confronting the new orthography, we need to give constructive approach to carry forward at the higher level. For that, we need to put our brains together into constructive approach for the uniformity. No one can deny the fact that the Ruangmeis speaks varies of tones in different regions of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. For instance Ruangmeis in Imphal areas has difficulty in catching the tones of people living in Tamenglong. Therefore, the new orthography is developed linguistically in a systematic methods that the regional variations amongst the Ruangmeis are tackle. Has this project taken up a little late? We could have end up like our own unfortunate Zeme Naga brothers who could not communicate amongst themselves. Through language we connect each other and make sense of our identity. It is an integral part of social structure. Its usage enriches the individual and enables to take an active part in the community and emancipates it. Today, many dialects in Arunachal Pradesh are in the process of extinction and are assimilated either into Hindi or Assamese. Similar trend is happening within our folks residing in Imphal valley and Dimapur areas— with Manipuri language and pidgin nagamese. We need to confront things before getting too late. Our society is in the process of development and is still in budding stage. Therefore, we need to look beyond our horizons and promote our uniqueness.
The writer is a Research Associate at the Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi. Views expressed are of the author and do not represent any organization.