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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").
Prof. Schiffman, let me assure you that I understand
that terms can mean different things to different people.
I am a director of a University Centre for Materials Research
called WATMAT and there are 40 faculty members in this centre
and our members some from physics, Chemistry,
mechanical engineering, electrical
engineering, geological engineering and I understand the
'communication' problem and the need to understand precisely.
Although I'm a lay person in the science of linguistics I've
read quite a few research publications (not just about tamil)
and am familiar with some of the terminology. My point is
the arguments advanced to come to a conclusion should be
made available if questioned ( even by a lay person).
If advanced mathematics or involved reading of complex
arguments with a history of evolving ideas etc. are required to
comprehend a conclusion, they have to be pointed out. An
expert will normally be able to present his/her ideas
at different levels mainly because of his/her command of the
I want to assure you that I'm not talking about the
'corpus' ( the form of the language), but about the
reactivity, 'expandability', 'ramifiability', mutual
strengthening ability of words and sub-words etc.
It is NOT about
purity, per se, as you seem to be viewing. My layman's
theory is: when a new English word, say 'edutainment' is coined
it makes *connection* (subconsciously or otherwise) with
enterTAINMENT and EDUcation and this helps in intuitively
comprehending and internlaizing the word. The word may
gain currency or may die for many other reasons, I don't deny,
inspite of this 'connectivity' and mutual strenghtening of the
related words. On the other hand a word like parastroika
( my spelling could be wrong.. but meaning restructuring)
or 'glasnost' ( openness) will have little or no
connection for an average english speaker. Tamil
'saanROr' ('inspired scholar' ?) have so beautifully
nurtured their language and culture and all I'm trying to
point out is the wisdom of those approaches.
*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.
Please see above. Keeping the speakership is a different issue.
The point is if you keep it what is the best way of doing it.
One man's food is another man's poison or one plants ferilizer
can be a toxic to another. The options and methods have to be
carefully studied based on the past history etc..
*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
English is Tamils ally and inspiring source ( not in everything)
and it is true at present it is influencing the urban speakers
to an extent that the tamil they speak is like a creole.
There are multiple forces at work ( like technological dominance,
cultural dominance, financial power, affording greater mobility,
etc. etc.), but if the educated tamils perceive the world reality
and see how the same technology can be used to more actively and
effectively nurture their native culture ( language, music, dance
science etc..) English or for that matter any other language
of a developped country can be be constructively used to
strengthen. Temperorily it may appear like we are re losing
speakers, but careful thought and observation and insightful
leadership can make a difference.
*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'll try to read this chapter. Are the methods used to arrive at
the conclusions discussed or pointed out in the references ?
*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.
If you don't want to discuss, that is fine and I understand it.
When I discuss or argue a point I try to understand constructively.
A dialogue is, oftentimes, an excellent way of understanding
an issue, but it had to be conducted in a proper way and above all
we need time and patience.
*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
Where in Tamil Nadu ?
*when I am speaking on the telephone there, only in person). This did not
It might be that they think, possibly mistakenly,
that you'll be more comfortable in English. It might be
that they want to exhibit their english knowledge to you.
If you meet a tamil and know that person knows tamil, won't you
try to speak with him in tamil sometime ?
*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...
If you had tried in many parts of tamil nadu ( thirunelvEli, madurai,
kOvai, raamanaathapuram etc.) and different tamil communities and
your experience was exactly the same
then your observation may lend to some interesting conclusions.
The Singapore community is small (compared to Tamil Nadu or Tamil Izham)
and the dynamics can be different. We build huge planes and we know
how to fly them safely ( most of th time), but a small plane the size of
a dragonfly is very difficult, because even tiny wind currents are
too huge ( relatively speaking) and cause incredible turbulence etc.
Now after about 100 years of successful flying people are coming
up with some viable approaches having studied the problem closely.. but
still it is a challenge.
The Singapore community might be in similar circumstances. The
evolution patterns of birds and other living species are found to
evolve differently on the islands....Singaporeans, with technology,
and connectivity with world tamil population will overcome these
trends, I believe, but we'll have to wait and see.
Soon we'll have audio, video connectivity and with increased economic
aflluence of tamils, greater personal contacts and mutual influences.
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