Sunday, August 14, 2011

Orthographic Modification is Need of the Hour

                                                                   Peter Pegu
(O! My people, do not kid me, I am your mother: Let Mishing Language go beyond Prof. Tabu Tawid)

Mishing language phonetics, as is interpreted today by Prof Tabu Tawid and also inspired Mishing Agom Kebang by him for its propagation, leaves a lot to be desired; inasmuch as, it calls for a full-course review at this stage.. In his “A Dictionary of the Mishing Language” Prof Tawid has elaborately dealt with Mishing language and it phonetics taking its pre-literate colloquies, meekly characterized by the toddler’s spluttering of pre-dental growth. For instance, he said the English ‘president’ would be ‘pesiden’ in Mishing phonetics and accordingly the orthographic constructions of such words would be: like istail, iskul, silipar etc. No doubt, neologism is a process of borrowing words from other speeches by accepting its distorted value; but one has to check the level of phonological corruption in the language. Too much of negativity does not contribute positive growth of anything. It is not prudent to count pre-molar vocabularies as regular lexicon for building a standard language. In his treaties, there is little concern about linguistic evolution totally ignoring the infusion of phonetic wisdom to the community in the wake of widespread literacy. Prof. Tawid is a highly revered person in the community and a prolific writer on versatile subjects. But these do not amount to the sort of linguistic pride the Mishing people could derive from his individual achievements. On the contrary, by his ‘extra-linguistic pursuit’ on the Mishing phonemics, he has pulled up the community to a comical end, where Mishing turns to Mising and then tends to a big Missing. Such caricature of linguistic jargons does not generate any inspiration for sustenance; rather oddly fizzle out within short stints. The Mising Autonomous Council and the NETV’s Mising News have, for instance, now totally become Missing and Mising language classes in primary schools is steadily Missing out. When a person is identified with ‘mising tribe’ (with missing pronunciation), it perceptibly jeopardizes the image of the tribe and on sentimental reason, it causes annoyance. Basically, annoyance is detriment to popularization.
    • Popularization of Mishing language, as is always the case for any vocal speech, usually has two-prong intentions: preservation and glorification. If we stick only to the former, the lexicography to that end could be constructed deploying any given alphabetical symbols in any manner with proper footnotes, as is, it seems, done by the author under reference. On the other hand, if aim for both preservation and glorification of our mother tongue, a graceful orthographic methodology for academic purpose is obviously an imperative need. Prof. Tawid’s unilateral analysis of the Mishing phonetic lacks such refinement. Rather, it has pushed the entire community to linguistic abysmal to say the least - to the realm of mock and joke entertainments. A language cannot grow or gain popularity when people at the receiving end play down with lighter vein.

      To bring our point home, we refurbish some of our views which have time and again been expressed in earlier editions of this magazine. As the geographical area broadened due to expansion of literacy and employment of the masses beyond our traditional economic domain, we are comically reduced to mere ‘missing-identity’ out of ‘mising-homonym’, theoretically taken by entire population of the country. Even hundred times corrections, in person and in print, the mising remains as missing. It is excruciatingly humiliating. Such illusory notion of the people undermines even the very existence of our community: that too, at our own choice. We should not leave any scope for falsehood. What advantage we accrue choosing ‘mising’ over Mishing?

      Another, ko-kho go-gho English and their alphabetic order is an absurd thing in Indian context. Absurdity can be allowed to happen only in a forest glade; but in the country’s open soil, it turns indeed to a comedy circus. Sadly, we become part of it. Still another theory that Mr. Tawid postulated for the language is: one character corresponds to realize one and only one phoneme. Unless you revert to kiddy colloquia, the ‘one-to-one relation’ rule does not, in principle, go with Roman alphabets. This is because of the fact that there are very many allophonic variants within a single phoneme in any given language which is habitually represented by combinations of letters in the scripts. If we strictly follow this rule, our language will be reduced merely to a quaint dialect with a strangely twang accent - mumbling within two lips. Nobody wants linguistic vulnerability of pre-literate kind from our language. Mother tongue cannot be played with kiddy stuff; in any manner kid her not. We ought to make concerted efforts to give a Standard Language for academic purpose.

      Add to the woes, the clumsy diacritical marks or explosive denotations with dashes, colons, hyphens over and alongside the characters are another bottlenecks that would necessitate technological rectification, particularly on typing machines. But, technological modification and creating training centers exclusively for Mishing language will perhaps be next to impossible for us at this stage; even otherwise, it would be a white elephant to the community. Generally Germany, France, Portuguese and some few others deploy such techniques for their languages and made provisions in the key-board accessories. We in India follow the English language key-board. There is no typing institution in the country where typing technique can be trained French or Portuguese ways. We do not think Mishing people have enough resources to create key-board and training facilities separately. The arguments about absence of ligature in the beginning and end of a word, digraph, aspirate, fricative as well as affricative sounds in Mishing language are proved to be linguistic antic – a pre-literate concept and archaic notion; majority people view these as things of the past, which need no sustenance in rigid terms. Mishing masses have rejected such linguistic rigidity on wholesale basis. These and many more speak squarely and loudly that Mishing language should be freed from the hobbles of alphabetic constraints introduced by Prof. Tawid. It is therefore time now to come out from such uncomfortable confinements. Else, to remain static is to become stagnant. Language is never static.

      Mishing Society of Mumbai has provided with a fitting option of the Mishing Language Orthography devised on rationalization concept, the salient features of which were highlighted in the previous issue of this publication. We have crafted it scrupulously bearing in mind that it is not debasing the pristine idiosyncrasy of the language. We sincerely invite Mishing Agom Kebang in particular and the linguists and well-wishers of the Mishing language in general to examine the idea in detail, point by point and offer their firm views either ways.
      The writer is the editor of Mumbai based annual magazine 'Asinang Onam' and founder of Mishing Society of Mumbai(MSM).

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