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Orthography development of Girmit Hindustani. The case of Fiji Hindi

Shameem, Nikhat and Gounder, Farzana and Khan-Janif, Jennifer (2022) Orthography development of Girmit Hindustani. The case of Fiji Hindi. Directions : Journal of Educational Studies, 36 (1). pp. 99-115. ISSN 1011-5B46

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Fiji Hindi (FH), a Girmit Hindustani (GH) developed and became widely used on the plantations in Fiji by the labourers (Girmityà) who were shipped from colonial India (1879-1916) during indenture (Girmit). Girmit is a period in history with which the descendants of the labourers around the diaspora identify. It stems from the word ‘agreement’ to represent the contracts that were signed prior to departure from Calcutta by their forefathers and mothers to a range of countries where cheap labour was needed by colonizers. Between 1834 and 1916 nearly 1.2 million Girmityà were taken to more than 17 countries (Lal, 2012). This meant that the languages and dialects the Girmityà spoke merged with local languages. By the time their children were born, their GH was informally standardised and was their first language. The proposal for a Universal GH orthography for all the languages formed during Girmit, has presented Fiji Hindi with the opportunity for standardisation and alignment to other GHs. The proposal developed by the Universal Girmit Hindustani Committee, made up of writers, linguists, ethnographers, and activists in the wider Girmit diaspora, sets out a draft orthography for potential adaptation to all Girmit Hindustanis. While the current links of Fiji Indians to their language and culture is irrefutable, any standardised orthography for literary purposes and documentation has never been adopted by the community. This conceptual paper addresses the issues in adapting an orthography and a script for a pre-literate language like Fiji Hindi. The first consultation around the orthography was fortuitous, the orthography team received a grant from UNESCO New Zealand, to trial and discuss the proposed orthography with a group of Fiji Indians who have emigrated from Fiji and now live in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Although ideally, the first trial of the orthography should be in the country of origin of a language, receiving the UNESCO grant and having access to a group of Fiji Indian volunteers in Auckland gave the team a unique opportunity for its first trial. The preliminary trial of this script showed that the ‘Universal Roman Code for Girmit Hindustani’ can be adapted to FH with minimal changes, so long as the examples used are contextualised to the Fiji Indian context. This paper presents the suggested orthography for Fiji Hindi. More trials and consultations are needed with stakeholders and Fiji Indian communities in Fiji and in the diaspora to ascertain specific usage, enable revisions and allow adoption of the Fiji Hindi orthography.

Item Type: Journal Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education (SPACE)
Depositing User: Nikhat Shameem
Date Deposited: 25 May 2023 04:06
Last Modified: 25 May 2023 04:06

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