Language as a Tool to Confine and Liberate

Johnson’s dictionary created the English language into a tool by which Macaulay could subjugate people to imperialist rule and which Ray recognized as a tool by which the Indian people could adapt and survive the same imperialist rule.

The English, including Johnson despite admitting the difficulty of containing language, it would appear were set on making everything legible to themselves in their own image in a manner that is only understandable when we consider the value placed on understanding from The Royal Society onward.

Macaulay in stating “It would be bad enough to consult their intellectual taste at the expense of their intellectual health” when referring to the decision of teaching Arabic and Sanskrit or rather English only seems to in a sense equate the Indian nation with what Johnson describes as “the most likely to continue without alteration, would be that of a nation raised a little, and but a little, above barbarity, secluded from strangers… men thus busied and unlearned.” The English have established value upon their learning and seek to advance it for the “health” of the Indian people. Macaulay states examples of the insignificance of Arabic and Sanskrit language consistently and proves the intention of the English to be one of subjugation of a people when he states the practice of funding the native people study their own language as counterproductive and dangerous to the English. He states  “It (the current education system) goes to form a nest not merely of helpless placehunters but of bigots prompted alike by passion and by interest to raise a cry against every useful scheme of education….. From the native society, left to itself, we have no difficulties to apprehend.” (24). Macaulay does not deny the power of the English to oppress the Indians but the aim to subjugate them to a single language education is a new form of violence. The Englishmen Macaulay endevours to create of the Indian people who are “interpreters” of their own culture and language to English, are a people who have little to no connection to the past that makes them who they are and subscribe to the English power structure.

Though, Macaulay and Raja are at base arguing for the same thing, expanded English language education in India and less Arabic and Sanskrit education, Raja’s reasoning is one that differs from Macaulay in that he recognizes the intellectual value of the English language without thinking to make the Indian people servile to the English. What Raja asks is that the English share with the Indian people what they have discovered in chemistry, natural philosophy, and anatomy among others “to improve it’s inhabitants” not “apprehend” them.

The standardization of language by Johnson was an endevour to make alike the English people. It was a great nationalist acomplishment though the standardization of language mixed with the hunger of the British nation to consume the world and improve it through their eyes created a new type of imperialism that robs a people of their own understanding of themselves to a degree so great that the people of the colonized country cannot find “fruitfull” the learning of their own culture because the power structure established has rendered it so.

(There is issue in the practice of stripping a people of its language and culture and rendering it “unfruitful” that would seem relevant in modern America when we look poorly upon people who do not speak English as a second language well and yet fail to in our schools guarantee preparation that would ensure competitive literacy to those students.)

-Araceli Garcia

One thought on “Language as a Tool to Confine and Liberate

  1. The main point seems to be, “Johnson’s dictionary created the English language into a tool by which Macaulay could subjugate people to imperialist rule and which Ray recognized as a tool by which the Indian people could adapt and survive the same imperialist rule.” However, I think you should elaborate more on Johnson’s role in causing such an education to be enforced.

    Extra Credit 23/25/3


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