Prof John Baugh delivers web talk on Linguistic Imperialism and Linguistic Profiling

Aligarh : “The phenomenon of identifying an individual’s race or ethnicity on the basis of auditory cues, in particular dialect and accent is a phenomenon that can lead to stereotyping and discrimination,” said renowned American academic and linguist, Dr John Baugh (Professor of Psychology, Anthropology, Education, English, Linguistics, and African and African-American Studies, Washington University in St. Louis, USA).

He was delivering the web talk on ‘Linguistic Imperialism and Linguistic Profiling in Global Perspective’ of the Department of Linguistics, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Prof Baugh addressed issues of why some languages come to be used more and others less, what structures and ideologies facilitated such processes, and the role of language professionals.

“The imposition of the colonisers’ language on the natives has been instrumental in the colonial process. Many empires put extra effort into teaching children the imperial language and made it the official language in which all education occurred. Those speaking the imperial language had power, while those who only spoke native languages were marginalised,” he stressed.

Prof Baugh emphasised how the colonisers’ language was intrinsic to the expansion of their empires and its culture in the colonies.

He elaborated the current notion of English as a ‘world language’ and the indelible impact it left on both the post-colonial societies and the language itself.

Speaking on the history of linguistic imperialism in the United States, China, South Africa and India; Prof Baugh stressed that linguistic imperialism was mainly driven by political and economic interests, and clear examples can be found with the spread of English as ideologies were enforced in policies—which purposely advantaged English speakers, and disadvantaged speakers of other languages and now English attracts the label of a global ‘lingua franca’, portraying a positive connotation for communication purposes.

Discussing the influence of Mahatma Gandhi all over the globe, he pointed out: “As Mahatma Gandhi led India’s independence movement and organised peaceful protests against British rule, he inspired people all over the world, including civil rights leaders in the United States. One of the most famous people he inspired was Martin Luther King Jr. who read Gandhi’s writings and drew heavily on the Gandhian idea of nonviolence in his own activism. King wrote that Gandhi was a ‘guiding light’ for him. Malcolm X later recognised the worth of King’s non-violence movement in the USA and began his tentative participation in it”.

Conducting the programme, Prof Mohammad Jahangeer Warsi, Chairman, Department of Linguistics spoke on multilingualism in India.

He said: “India is an incredibly diverse country and home to many native languages, and it is also common that people speak and understand more than one language or dialect, which can entail the use of different scripts as well. The New Education Policy emphasises the importance of multilingualism which has a great cognitive benefit for young children. We hope to transform education and put a significant thrust on learning about how to think critically and solve problems”.

Prof Warsi also delivered the welcome address.

Dr Nazrin B Laskar extended the vote of thanks.


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