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Re: [WMASTERS] Tamil Inferiority Complex (Was: Selvaa's suggestions)


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I was going to try to reply to Selvaa's criticisms of my statements, but I
can see that this is not the forum in which to do this.  I would only
repeat that the field of inquiry that is known as the "sociology of
language" is interdisciplinary and does not have *one* single methodology
that is accepted by all its practitioners, so if Selvaa or others are
looking for statistical *proof* or whatever of my contention that
linguistic purism is counterproductive to language maintenance, they will
not find it. And they will not find one methodology that meets the
standards of, say, the physical sciences.  So perhaps they can then
rest assured that they are right and I am wrong.

I will say that I used the term "language maintenance" in the way that
soc.of lg. use it, and that other definitions might come to mind. 
I use the term to mean "maintaining the linguistic community as dominant
mother-tongue speakers of the lg. in question" and not (e.g.) maintaining
the *forms* of the language (what is called the corpus in linguistics, and
thus this would be "corpus management").  I submit that the process of
keeping Tamil pure has had no effect one way or another in keeping the
Tamil speakership dominantly Tamil; we do not, e.g. see that Tamils have
become speakers of Sanskrit or of Hindi.  

What they have become, to a larger extent, as others have pointed out (and
I have written about with regard to 
Singapore) is speakers whose English competence is probably more
proficient than their Tamil competence.  This is a real shame, and not
many people realize that in all this language maintenance business,
English is really the danger.  While keeping the barn door shut to
Sanskrit and Hindi, English has come in through the cracks and the

I recommend to anyone who wishes to see what I have written to see my
chapter on Tamilnadu in my recent book, Linguistic Culture and Language
Policy, Routledge 1996.  

I will not use this form to *argue* with people who haven't read what I
have spent many years thinking about; it is easier to argue with an email
message, but I don't have time to formulate this kind of reply very well. 

I leave with one parting question.  Why is it that despite the 34 years
that I have spent studying Tamil, when I go to Tamilnadu and try to speak
in Tamil, most people reply to my Tamil with English? (This doesn't happen
when I am speaking on the telephone there, only in person).  This did not
happen to me even *once* in Singpore--when I spoke Tamil to a stranger, I
received an answer in Tamil (and Singapore is where Tamil is in the most
danger from shift to English). Just wondering...

H. Schiffman


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