The Santals of Bangladesh

| January 7, 2014

September 2009

Special Edition, September 2009, Language, Culture and Identity in Asia.

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The Santals of Bangladesh

Francesco Cavallaro# and Tania Rahman*‡

#Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
*Department of English Language and Literature, National Institute of Education, Singapore
‡Corresponding author

Francesco Cavallaro is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has worked at various Universities in Australia and he is now living and working in Singapore. His research interests are in sociolinguistics and bilingualism. He has published on language maintenance and shift, the demographics of the Italians in Australia, language attitudes in Singapore and on the use of technology in the classroom. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Sicilians in Australia: Language shift and maintenance”, published by The Italian Australian Institute. La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

Tania Rahman is studying MA in Applied Linguistics at the department of English Language and Literature at National Institute of Education, Singapore. She also holds an MA in Applied Linguistics and ELT and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the Department of English, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has worked as a lecturer at the Department of English of Dhaka City College in Dhaka. Her current research interest is revitalizing languages of ethnic minorities. Other fields of interest are Language Planning and Policy, Second Language Acquisition, Teacher Education, Needs Analysis and English Language Teaching.


The Santals, a significant community among the forty five distinctive minority groups in Bangladesh, possess a rich cultural heritage and their language, Santali, bears their unique cultural identity. Over the years voices have been raised for legal rights for the indigenous minorities of the world and for the preservation of indigenous languages. With its rich cultural heritage and history, the Santali language has a unique value for the Santals and deserves special attention for conservation. A multilingual education system with provisions for mother tongue education is a way to promote awareness for their endangered linguistic heritage and can be an effective way to enable indigenous people in Bangladesh to learn their traditional language, the national language, Bangla, along with English. This paper first gives a detailed description of the Santals and their language. Issues of linguistic rights are discussed in the context of indigenous people in Bangladesh, and suggestions are made for the process of integrated public involvement in the multilingual education process for the Santals.

Key words: Indigenous people, Language Revitalization, Language Maintenance, Language rights, Santals, Santali, Bilingual/ Multilingual Education.

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Category: 2009