When I entered the temple, there were at least ten people, despite it being a rainy Monday evening. I believe all were of Indian or Sri Lankan heritage. This suggests it is an important cultural hub. There wasn’t much use of language in the temple, as silence is expected. Therefore most of my information about language use came from my interview.

In the social sphere of the temple, a variety of languages appear to be used based on what is convenient and mutually understandable for those in that particular interaction, with people using their native languages and code-switching at times, following Jørgensen’s multilingualism norm. The speech community is quite multilingual. While there is a slight divide between the North and South Indians, particularly for Hindi and Punjabi speakers, the temple does act as a meeting point where religious similarities are more evident than differences, perhaps lessening the status-fuelled reduction of certain languages that may otherwise occur.

Official communications tend to be in English as this is the most universally understandable option. As soon as I arrived at the temple, someone let me know where to leave my shoes. His use of English suggests it is a kind of default language, at least for those that appear to be outsiders to the temple. Additional languages may be present but generally only when there is a certain cultural facet to the communication – for instance, they were more present on the festival notice than the rules.

As Spolsky states, language use within the religious domain has an additional element of divine communication, and Hinduism tends to use Sanskrit for this purpose. However, in contrast to his finding that modern Hinduism was in general amenable to the translation of sacred texts and communication, I found that within this temple all texts and services were performed only in Sanskrit, which Smriti suggested was important to connect with the religious aspect. This could be related to the temple’s secondary role as a cultural centre, as the officials likely wish to promote the culture and religion in tandem. As Herman Tull states, Sanskrit tends to be learnt as a scholarly second language. Given this information, and the fact that its sole role within this environment is in religious rites and texts, I would suggest that the Hindu religious domain makes a large contribution to the survival of Sanskrit (perhaps in conjunction with the literary domain).

 

Jenny Browne

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