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Inclusive language in India
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arvindiyer Offline
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Inclusive language in India

Appropriate vocabulary can be a useful aid in accelerating attitudinal shifts in secular humanism advocacy. In earlier discussions, we have seen how measures towards more inclusive language are more than symbolic and in the also how there's lots in a name and how renaming can be made a tool of protest.

Bad language is easier to recognize than appropriate language, and efforts to promote the right words must complement efforts to retire the undesirable ones. Coming up with humanistic and inclusive coinages demands a good deal of imagination and sensitivity, and memeing the ones already available too comes with it own set of challenges like tokenism allegations. In this thread, we can compile a lexicon of humanist vocabulary as it were, both in English and a number of Indian languages.

For starters, here are snippets from earlier exchanges.

Beyond Sexism:
(From Nirmukta Humanists)

S_C wrote:
Quote:Marathi doesn't have any word for the term 'Gender'. I guess it is the same for other Indian languages.

K_K wrote:
Quote:Isn't ling supposed to stand for gender... As in, in grammar stri-lingi, pul-lingi, napusaka-lingi stand for feminine, masculine and neutral gender respectively

A_I wrote:
Quote:In English, the terms 'sex' and 'gender' are clearly distinguished.

It might help to clearly make such a distinction in other Indian languages as well.

Creating more inclusive and respectful language is a worthwhile lexical exercise. A recent example is the inclusion of the word 'திருநங்கை'/'Thirunangai' (transwoman) into the Tamil lexicon in an effort to end linguistic marginalization of intersex individuals.திருநங்கை

S_C wrote:
Quote:Ling means Sex...its a biological term, Gender is Socially Constructed...लिंग ही एक जैवशास्त्रीय संकल्पना आहे. Gender म्हणजे पुरूषत्व, स्त्रीत्व, एखाद्या पुरूषाच्या वागण्याला बाईल्या म्हणणं इ. वागण्याच्या पद्धती...ज्या समाजाने बनवलेल्या असतात.
Friday at 11:44pm · Like · 1
Swati Vaidya You are right probably there isn't one word for Gender in Marathi. For now I can suggest लिंग-सामाजिकता or लिंगानुरूप सामाजिकता.

But still not at all close to all the things that gender conveys.

May be it is necessary to make this concept properly explained and make मराठी वाचक comfortable with this concept.
Yesterday at 12:11am · Unlike · 3
Satyajeet A. Bachhav बरोबर आहे तुमचे म्हणणे . पुढे जाऊन अशेही म्हणता याला पर्यायी एखादा नवीन क्लिष्ट शब्द निर्माण करण्या ऐवजी ''जेन्डर'' हाच शब्द मराठीत उच्चारावा किंवा वापरावा .त्यामुळे काही आपली मराठीभाषा लहान होत नाही,किंबहुना भाषेचा विकासाच होईल (मात्र समर्पक प्रतिशब्द नसल्या वेळीच हे तत्व अवलंबावे का ??) फेसबुकवरच्या मराठी भाषेच्या अभ्यासकांनी याबाबत आपल्या सर्वांना मार्गदर्शन करावे !!!

A_I wrote:
Quote:I think besides 'sex' and 'gender' there needs to be standard term for 'sexual orientation' as well in all Indian languages.

I guess the Hindi term currently in use for 'sexual orientation' is 'लैंगिकता' with 'समलैंगिकता' and 'परलैंगिकता' respectively meaning homosexuality and heterosexuality respectively.

S_C wrote:
Quote:लैंगिकता, समलैंगिकता, परलैंगिकता are also used in Marathi
Beyond Ableism:

Tamil users seem to have taken a nationwide lead when it comes to inclusive language (though I am eager to be pleasantly surprised by efforts elsewhere that surpass Tamil Nadu's ). The Tamil media, first in progressive circles and now increasingly also in the mainstream, uses the term மாற்று-திறனாளர் ('maatru thiranaaLar', almost literally, 'differently abled') avoiding any disparaging connotations. I have noticed especially that Tamil linguists have devoted a good deal of attention to issues of inclusive language over the years.

Action Items:

Please add to this thread with references on how some terms currently in use were coined and memed, instances of the use of such terms and how they were received by marginalized groups, and what terms we wish were available but aren't yet there.

One deliverable can be a table of words a humanist would use (eg. 'differently enabled'), with columns for several Indian languages (like the ingredient lists in some recipe books)
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arvindiyer Offline
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Post: #2
Accessibility : A crucial dimension in inclusion

Beyond 'spoken language':

Accessibility is a prerequisite for inclusion into the discourse, be it academic or political. Doordarshan in the 1990s would telecast a weekly 'News Magazine for the Hearing Impaired' with sign-language presenters and to its credit since 2009, has included accessibility features in all prime-time news broadcasts. Presence of sign-language interpreters in public meetings (such as during this speech by Prof. Dawkins in this protest rally against a papal visit) is however yet to become routine in India.

The 'digital divide' is perhaps most evident when it comes to technical jargon and also routine scientific terminology like, say, 'evolution' or 'photosynthesis' which do not have familiar non-English equivalents. Here is a recent article published in the New York Times about the challenges and initiatives in retooling sign-language for science communication.
Pushing Science’s Limits in Sign Language Lexicon
Here is a 4-minute video showing a sign-language-interpreter's translation of a scientific article.

Science popularization outside of Anglophone circles could benefit from similar initiatives to coin equivalents of scientific terms that are neither outlandish nor sesquipedalian, and bring them into currency by incorporating those into popular culture.
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Kanad Kanhere Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Inclusive language in India

[Archiving a private exchange]

Quote:(i) Is it ok if elderly women refer to other women as behen/beti or should that cease as well?
(ii) Should maaji also stop? Calling a stranger maaji results from a default gender role of maternality and marital fidelity.

That sounds like a greeting like "dear". I guess that should be fine
The interesting thing to think about is the gender/sex identification in itself. Apparently we just can't talk without identifying each other's gender/sex!

Quote:(iii) Is men using bhai/beta wrt each other ok?
(iv) A related question is, Should women also stop referring to strange men as bhai/beta?

it gets complicated.. lets consider the uses in three categories

1. just a greeting.. that is just cultural thing and should be fine as long as its agreed upon by both parties
2. In connotations of "treat her well because that person is familiar". This is bad. Its kinda homophobic
3. When people use it to signal amiability. I can understand a women approaching a man as bhai or beta because of strong cultural aspects of a woman approaching a man in India

Quote:(iv) What about the ubiquitous uncle/auntie in India? Is it ageist and assume default domesticity? However, it seems to maintain optimal distance...

It has tones of ageism and in the reverse sense.. age is granted some wisdom by default in India which is not good either...

The problem is lack of good greeting words.. and a culture that obsesses over familiarity

Quote:(v) What 'reason-based alternatives' do you suggest for them?

There's some progress in workplaces. In TCS, it was required that we use first names, irrespective of seniority. It's not the case in colleges and government offices.
but first names is difficult especially when you just want to speak one sentence like "Uncle can I have some water from your bottle?"
With known people it surely should be first name basis

Quote:(vi) What about the use of '-ji' and the 'aap' pronoun? It can be useful at times...

every language has words for "official" conversation
French does. English doesn't. Korean has six levels from 'tu' to 'aap'! There are many Nirmukta members whom I address by first name in English chat, but will instinctively switch to the aap form if the conversation moves to an Indian language.

There are also interesting variations in mutual pronoun use among spouses in India. Maa gets the tu form, pitaaji the aap. Some insist it is due to more affection for the mother. that has strong patriarchal connotations for sure. Indian culture is drenched in duties and respects...

That said, there are parts/communities in TN where both parents get the 'aap' (neenga) form and household where both get tu/tum (nee)
Thats true even in Rajasthan and UP where everybody (even a 3 year old) is talked to with app

Quote:The reason I would like to move away from all this greetings is for Humanistic reasons
I don't like the idea that we should help only familiar people.. Why can't we good to strangers?
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arvindiyer Offline
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Post: #4
'Language Development and Culture among the Sherpa in Nepal', 2-min thesis

(01-01-2013 12:11 AM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote:  The problem is lack of good greeting words.. and a culture that obsesses over familiarity

When a culture obsesses over hierarchical authority and its enforcement, children may pick it up as soon as learn to talk. Here is a 2-minute Thesis offering from PhD Comics, of a thesis titled 'Language Development and Culture among the Sherpa in Nepal' by Sara Ciesielski at the University of Melbourne.

On what terms people of different ages are addressed around a child, maybe a key aspect of parenting. Speaking of hierarchical authority and language, this article maybe a useful companion read: Malcolm Gladwell on Culture, Cockpit Communication and Plane Crashes
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