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Re: [WMASTERS] Selvaa's suggestions


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Prof. Schiffman:

   Let me first thank you for your reply with some details, though
   I must admit I find some of the assertions in this reply quite

*There is a sub-discipline of sociology known as 'sociology of language'
*and people in this discipline study (as the chief architect of this
*subdiscipline, Joshua Fishman, has put it) "who speaks what, to whom,
*when, where and why?  One of the subfields of the Soc. of Lg. is the study
*of language movements, in particular purism movements, and movements to
*'control' language use, which often means only controlling the WRITTEN
*language, since the spoken language is difficult to control (without
*assigning a "language policeman" to accompany every citizen on his/her
*daily rounds, an impossible and costly task.) 

    [1] I've come across quotations from Fishman's work applying it to
        Tamil situation  in one of the articles
        published in J. Am. Oriental Society and quite possibly it was 
        one of your own articles. I'm sorry I don't remember, but it
        discussed, I think about how interpretations depend on the
        present situation and to suit a particular person or school..

    [2] I hope you'll grant that a 'movement not to control' is also a
        movement to control. I'm not saying this in a trivial sense at all.
        Influence is a better word and there are multiple influences
        on language and culture of people. Some arguing for one approach
        may have their own reasons and perceptions just as others may have.

*When control of language becomes paramount in a linguistic culture, purism
*(concern for 'purity' of the language) often becomes  a widely-touted
*goal.  This is often linked to issues of religion, so that in
*Arabic-speaking countries, the form of Arabic written in the Quran is seen
*as pure (the word of Allah) and good and ineffable etc. and cannot be
*changed.  Meanwhile, since all languages change, no matter what
*governments or purists do, millions of Arabic speakers go on using their
*spoken dialects of Arabic, (this has gone on since the 7th century) so
*that now spoken Arabic dialects are not mutually intelligible, but only
*one written form is allowed. This phenomenon is called 'diglossia' and it
*is also characteristic of many South Asian languages, but Tamil in
*particular, and many other situations in the world I could name.

     Diglossia or multiglossia exist in all languages, I think.
     English included.
     Except that the degrees may be varying and this too limited
     to the language-knowledge of the person studing this phenomena.
     I'll elaborate why I say this eventhough I'm a layman and you
     are an expert in linguistics. Feel free to correct me and I'll be
     thankful. Say I present a paper written and read in Tamil
     in a conference in Tamil Nadu about 
     diglossia in Inuit language and there are a dozen Inuit
     scholars present apart for other linguistic scholars.
     When the scholar who presents the data for the diglossia
     does not know that there are words and expressions found 
     in the speech elsewhere in the Inuit language speaking world
     (not known to the dozen 'experts') how do you evaluate the
     diglossia ( or if there are degrees of diglossia the degrees)?
     I'm not disputing the fact of diglossia or multiglossia which is
     very much present in many languages, as established by the
     scholars in the field. I'm saying this because there is lack of
     sufficient understanding of Tamil and exposure even for tamils 
     because of limited travel opportunities and very many other
     reasons. End-crimping of words and distortions are there for sure.
     Tamil being an ancient language there may be more of the 'diglossic'
     features. This is also accentuated by the diminished role
     Tamil plays in music, courts, administration, temple worship, 
     social functions like marriage, higher education,  death of traditional
     arts and crafts, ..

     I would appreciate it if you can point me to a decisive work on
     tamil diglossia. 

     (to be continued..)

*H. Schiffman
     selvaa          Sept.26, 1997
     C.R.(Selva) Selvakumar


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