By: Barnali Bose, Editor-ICN Group
KOLKATA: Man uses language to communicate.It is a medium for the expression of one’s thoughts and ideas.How language came into existence and how it has been evolving ever since its inception is worth a thought.
How early man communicated:
Prehistoric man, a nomad, painted on cave walls to express his thoughts and ideas. Not only that, he used sounds and gestures to communicate.
Later some of these sounds developed into words and then a combination of words began to be used.This was how language came to be formed.
How Language developed:
As man learnt to grow crops, he gave up his nomadic life. Men began to settle in groups. Thus tribes came to be formed.Members of each tribe tried to communicate more clearly and effectively by using common sounds, words and gestures within their group.
Words began to be used as symbols of ideas and opinions.
With time,these developed into a language, though not within the framework of grammatical rules.
A particular language however remained confined within the restraints of a particular region and was spoken by a particular group or tribe.
There were numerous types of the spoken word. Ambiguous or not, men often misconstrued what was said due to the lack of a common language. This often led to strife amongst tribes.
How oral traditions came into being:
In ancient India, oral language was the only one in use . History tells us that it was a tradition to tell stories, most of which were figments of imagination and full of improbabilities.These came to be known as oral traditions.
As these stories went on to be told and retold, they changed with every narration.The narrator added his own imagination to the narrative, often giving a new twist to the tales retold.
Storytellers, teachers, Craftsmen and puppeteers used oral traditions,thereby passing on knowledge and skills from one generation to the next.
The ancient Guru-Shishya tradition comprised oral transfer of knowledge and skills. Not only that, knowledge of the use of medicinal herbs too was transferred orally.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata as well as the Vedas remained oral traditions for centuries. Even today, grandma’s tales never fail to fascinate children.
The evolution of the written word-the birth of scripts in India :
The large size of the Indian subcontinent and the varied landforms were the causative factors for the development of more than 800 languages and about 20 scripts in this country.
The Harappans were the first to develop a script. They inscribed on clay tablets. Unfortunately, till today, their script has not been deciphered.
The Brahmi script that developed more than 2000 years ago, is therefore considered the oldest in India. In eastern India,most of the edicts inscribed on Ashokan pillars were written in Magadhi Prakrit using the Brahmi script.
In Western India, a language similar to Sanskrit was used in the Ashokan pillars, written in the kharosthi script. These edicts were deciphered by British archaeologist and historian James Prinsep in 1837.
Devanagari is the script in which languages such as Hindi, Sanskrit and Marathi are written. Persian was the official language of the Mughals in India.
Persian influenced Urdu which went on to become the national language of Pakistan .While all scripts are written from left to right, Urdu is written from right to left.
Very early manuscripts written on perishable materials like cloth, palm leaves or barks of birch trees no longer exist. Many of them were copied down when they began to get damaged.
Paper came to India in the 11th century. It was after the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in Europe,that printed books came into use.
Scripts used in Indian currency notes:
If you check the obverse side of an Indian currency note, you will find that besides the numerals, the denomination is also written in English and Hindi. If you look at the reverse,there is a language panel displaying 15 official languages written in their own respective scripts in alphabetical order.
To Be Continued….