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Re: [WMASTERS] Re: Old Orthography, response to Kalyan

> Now let's look at Tamil - the case is completely different. The ORNL is not
> used in contemporary Tamil anywhere. 

I think this is an unfortunate misunderstanding, what I call the majority
dominant viewpoint, exemplified by the TamilNadu government calling the
shots and expecting the rest of the Tamil-speaking world to get in line.

As those of us who were at the Tamilnet 97 conference in Singapore saw,
Sri Lanka Tamils do not necessarily follow the so-called new orthography,
nor are they required by international law or whatever to do so.  I think
Tamils in India and elsewhere need to be aware of the tremendous feelings
of being jerked around that SL Tamils often feel, and the executive
decision by TN government to abandon the ORNL's may be one of them.

Fortunately because it was only a
> small change to the Tamil character set, it has become universally
> accepted. 


I also continue to take issue with George Hart's contention that the use
of ORNL's does not recover any "information", i.e. the same "information" 
is preserved, no matter how we write Tamil.  This may be true at some
trivial level, but I wonder whether something else is lost--something like
intuition, wisdom, or some other kinds of truth.  If all we're interested
in is "information", and all we're doing is information management, I'll
bow out now. 

I'm reminded of the tremendous discussions that have gone on in various
places about the replacement of old card catalogues by on-line catalogues,
and the kind of stuff that gets lost when everything is put into on-line
library catalogues.  The old card catalogues had all kinds of
"information" scribbled on them, like the classical Indic text with
commentaries, accretions of all sorts.  This stuff is now lost.  Maybe
this makes no difference to some.  

I had the following experience, however, that showed for me why the old
card catalogues should not be sent to the recycling bin.  I was doing some
research on the history of the French language, and using a 13-volume work
edited and compiled, and in part written, by Fernand Bruneau.  It was
begun before WWI and finished in 1929.  A reprint of it was published
after WWar II, and the library I was using gave the *original* publication
date as the post WW2 one.  I found this acceptable until I discovered that
Mr. Bruneau did not seem to be aware of a book written on the linguistic
history of Alsace, published in 1929.  This seemed to me to be a terrible
omission.  So I went to the card catalogue and looked up the information
there, which was the only place that told me of the earlier dates---not
the reprinted version I was using, not the on-line catalogue.  

I then tried to find a way to *introduce* this information into the
on-line catalogue, since I thought it was a misrepresentation for them to
say that the work was published later than it was.  The librarians
regarded me with ill-disguised impatience and scorn.  I was not to tamper
with their *information*.  I was to accept their misinterpretation. 
They weren't interested even in going to look at the card catalogue.  what
did *it* know?  

What I learned from this is something about the arrogance of information
management specialists.  Old-style librarians would have seized upon this
discrepancy with relish, but not the latter-day IMS's.  

The irony in all this, as I have noted before, is that I am a modernist
when it comes to Tamil; I'm not at all interested in older forms of the
language, and I even write Tamil in (gasp) phonetic form a lot of the
time.  So let's not act like the interest in retaining some traces of
older forms of the language is some fuddy-duddy bookwormish concern.
There's something more here than just "information".

Hal Schiffman

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