Cartographic mismatches and language policy: the case of Hindi in Singapore
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
In this paper, we present Singapore’s language policy as a case of flexible responsiveness to demographic and societal shifts as a result of high migration. The particular need to accommodate the enhanced linguistic diversity among the linguistically heterogeneous Indians, previously served by Tamil, has led to the ‘semiofficial’ representation of Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Urdu in the language policy in recent years. Notwithstanding the choices, a majority of the target Indians prefer Hindi over the familial languages as the national status of Hindi in India better meets the multilingual aspirations of transmigrants with uncertain itineraries. The language choices of Indian parents indicate that language values derive from the range of mobility (e.g., translocal or transnational) that languages have promoted or are perceived to help chart in the future. Adopting the metaphor of cartographies of language used by Park (2014), we suggest that these cartographic perceptions pose a challenge to language policies. We attribute the cartographic mismatches between policy and individual goals to distinctions between language valuations. Through an analysis of school enrolment data and ethnographic interviews, we suggest that language in education decisions of transmigrant populations are mediated through valuations of languages that allow the widest radius of mobility across multiple sites rather than attachments to linguistic, ethnic, or national communities.
© 2017 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. This is the author created version of a work that has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by Language Policy, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. It incorporates referee’s comments but changes resulting from the publishing process, such as copyediting, structural formatting, may not be reflected in this document. The published version is available at: [http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10993-016-9429-8].