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Re: [WMASTERS] Selvaa's suggestions


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Aside from the tone of this message (which I object to as strident and ad
hominem) I continue to be astonished by the reluctance of some people on
this list to admit to certain facts about language, and the disciplines
that evolved to deal with them, that can not simply be denounced and made
to disappear because of the personal whim (reinforced I must admit by
strong cultural conditioning) of some speakers of Tamil.

A theory of language cannot be based on one language, whether it be Tamil
or Zulu or Quechua.  It has to be based on what we see as generalizable
from all the languages humans use.  I would be surprized if there were a
theory of chemistry based on one kinase, or one alkaloid.  

The fact is that Tamil *does* have voiced consonants in initial position,
and not just in borrowed words from Sanskrit or English.  The place where
it has them, a part of the language that is wholly indigenous, is the
so-called onomatopeia expressions such as "jil-NNu" and "bus-NNu' and
dozens if not hundreds more of these, all of them expressions from Tamil
and not found as such in other languages of India (though the others have
their own versions of this).  These expressions in many ways do not fit
the patterns of "regular" Tamil words but they are still there, and if we
want to represent them (e.g. that "baDaar-NNu" is different from
"paDaar-NNu") we can't easily do this.  (Incidentally Kausalya Hart has
collected lists and lists of these interesting expressions, and has
presented papers about this at scholarly meetings.)

I am becoming quite tired of the selectivity of the scientific method
being applied on this exchange.  When people don't like assertions others
make, they demand new data, or declare the data to be "not Tamil".  I
wonder if this is done in physics and chemistry and other empirical
sciences?  Linguistics is a discipline with a recognized and established
methodology, and I would appreciate it if so-called hard-scientists in
other disciplines could face the fact that  one-note theories of language
are not doing Tamil any good.  

On Mon, 22 Sep 1997, C.R. Selvakumar wrote:

> ________________________________________________
>        Then why don't we use ? If you use it in a mere 20-30 times
>        we'll see how 'natural' it is. It is only for non-tamil words.
>        Try writing Jagannaathan or Jaanaki in the new way a few times
>        and we'll quickly grasp that it is not that terrible
> @
>      So if we don't use a few granthas that will be another nail in the
>      Southern culture, is it ?!!! I'm really surprised prof Hart.
>      Prof. Hart, the resourcefulness of the people, the econommic affluence,
>      their awareness of their culture and such things decide the
>      future of tamils. If 30% of Tamils get educated ( with reasonable
>      awareness of their rich traditions of music, dance, literature
>      and their numerous arts and sports) and take a sensible approach to
>      absorbing other sports, and nurture their native talents in
>      observing nature and developing scientific spirit etc. the 50-60
>      million tamils and similarly other southern people ( or indians)
>      will flourish. As I've said I'm not averse to a few granthas, but
>      attempts to describe the way you do really surprise me.
>      The main opposition to granthas is due to the danger of indescriminate
>      use of those in tamil and how such use undermines the development of
>      tamil. I'll post on this later. [ Aside, Prof. Hart you said
>      that people are not going to change quickly from ciikiram 
>      to viraivu in a posting. Many tamils use 'catt'unnu vaa' or
>      'curukka vaa' 'maLaar'nnu vaa' etc. and words like 'cat' has
>      given rise to 'caduthi' and they make connection with other
>      tamil words and thus nurtures our language. Whereas foreign words
>      most often get stuck like plastic in a soil and we want to minimize
>      its use not for any puritanical reasons but more for the better
>      growth potential of native language.... 

	This notion, that purism will nurture the growth of a langauge, 
is pure mythology.  Empirical study of this phenomenon (purism) shows that
in general it is counter-productive, and leads to *abandonment* of the
language in more cases than not.  

Hal Schiffman


Harold F. Schiffman				           Academic Director
Henry R. Luce Professor of Language Learning		Penn Language Center
Dept. of South Asia Regional Studies		   4th Floor, Lauder-Fischer
820 Williams Hall, Box 6305					    Box 6330
			University of Pennsylvania
			Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-5825	   		       	              (215) 898-6039
Fax:  (215) 573-2138				          Fax (215) 573-2139

Email:  haroldfs@ccat.sas.upenn			      plc@ccat.sas.upenn.edu
WWW:  http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/    http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~plc/

The Penn Language Center is a facility supporting language teaching in the
less-commonly-taught languages, as well as research in language pedagogy
and interdisciplinary language-related issues.  


lots more need to be said..
>      but I got to go now...]
>      anbudan selvaa
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