Languages growing simultaneously in any society are a binding force. Language cannot be a reason for mutual exclusion and antipathy
Communication is central to all living entities. Plants communicate; creatures and animals communicate; and, of course, human beings communicate. They communicate not only amongst themselves but also across different categories and species. The examples are many, the illustrations are numerous, hence, there is no need to over-emphasise this aspect of communication. The big concern is not with the act of communication but with the modes of communication.
For example, the uses and anatomy of communication among plants are well mapped, but there are not many who attempted an extensive research study of plant communication.
There are some exceptions, especially in the form of references and awareness. Illustratively, Kalidasa, in his epic drama ‘Abhigyan Shakuntalam', would have us believe that when Shakuntala was leaving the ‘Tapovana’ (the hermitage) of Sage 'Kanva', the creepers of the jungle wrapped themselves around Shakuntala to bid an emotional farewell. What Shakuntala said would probably never be known, but it was obvious that sentiments and expressions were involved. The creepers wrapped themselves around Shakuntala as a kind of embrace and communication medium. Like an electronic system, the system of communication points requires encoding and decoding, and there is a thought process behind it.
Plants don't make sound in the way that animals, insects or some other creatures do. This makes the act of communication between insects and animals somewhat more sophisticated. The chirp of the insects of one variety or another is an act of communication, as indeed is the howling, barking, whining, and such acts of the animals among themselves and across species.
All these creatures make sounds through their throats and mouths, and depending on the kind of noise that comes out of the animal, it is encoded and decoded. There are sounds of fear, just as there are sounds of invitation. There are sounds of anger and the sounds of nothing more but peace and the invitation of an attempt to put together a group or give an alert about a danger. All put together, the derivation is obvious: ‘communication’ is not just a human phenomenon. It is as rich as the mind of the entity.
A dog, for example, communicates in multiple ways and is capable of sounds of aggregation, mating, warning, and more. The sound of a dog varies from species to species and from one breed to another. It is another matter that not many texts have been scripted on this theme, and hence there is little available on the language of the dogs.
Amongst human beings too, all races don’t have a script, yet within the race, they communicate. The matter does not end there.
Amongst human beings too, as indicated, there are a large number of variations among those of human species that don’t have a script for their language but still communicate with each other. The difficulty with such a situation is the lack of standardisation and communication that the group needs when dealing with a new group. Thus, there is a geographical limit to the expanse and range of languages. In the more evolved type of human species, a script is available, and after a period of practice, the script is comparatively evaluated. In the times of yore, there was a Roman script, there was a Dravidian script, a Devanagari script, and there were Chinese scripts; there may have been a few other scripts that are no longer alive but must have existed. As time passed and the human species moved, mother scripts of Latin, and Sanskrit, acquired prominence and thus many modern languages were sprouted under their impact. It is not clear how many human languages exist on the planet today or, for that matter, how many languages are dead today.
Literature, as we understand it, is available in some of the languages.
The coming of writing was another phenomenon. It is reported that in the earlier stages of writing, the writing was on palm leaves, and pointed tips of hard material like bamboo branches were used to sketch an imprint on the leaves. The growth of writing is a specialisation in its own right, it is not feasible to attempt to document different stages of writing here. Put one clear thing, if that is the only clear thing, that the writing of the language adds to its durability.
Language is a binding force between individuals and groups. It also attempts to integrate a range beyond the sounds of languages and written scripts of languages.
In most parts of the world, among all human beings, there may be a struggle between human groups for dominance, but certainly no struggle over the value of any language. Any language within its range, growing along with each other, should be a binding force. It cannot be a force for mutual exclusion and antipathy. Put simply language is the vehicle of the mind.
(The writer is an internationally acclaimed management consultant. The views expressed are personal)