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Re: [WMASTERS] Ostrich Methodology?


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*Date: Tue, 7 Oct 1997 08:44:34 -0400 (EDT)
*From: "Harold F. Schiffman" <haroldfs@ccat.sas.upenn.edu>
*To: "C.R. Selvakumar" <selvakum@valluvar.uwaterloo.ca>, webmasters@tamil.net
*cc: tamil@tamil.net
*Subject: [WMASTERS] Ostrich Methodology?
*In-Reply-To: <199710070241.WAA07307@valluvar.uwaterloo.ca>
*Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.3.96.971007083850.21233A-100000@ccat.sas.upenn.edu>
*Reply-To: "Harold F. Schiffman" <haroldfs@ccat.sas.upenn.edu>,
*        webmasters@tamil.net
*Sorry, Selvaa:
*>Even modern linguists will agree, I hope, that not all phonems are given
*>separate  representation. If modern lignuist differ, let them.
*What is this statement supposed to mean?  Modern linguists do *NOT* agree
*that some phonemes don't need to be represented in an efficient writing
*system.  I have taught linguistics for 33 years, and I teach phonemic
*representation as being the ideal way to write a language; any contrasts
*that do not need to be represented as *predictible* by the environment.
*The voiced sounds /b, d, g, etc./ are predictible after nasals /n, m,
*etc./ in Tamil so we do not need to write them there.  They are *NOT*
*predictible in initial position, so we do need to represent them there.

       *Not* in Tamil. May I with all due respect to you and to your
       long experience in linguistics ask a simple question ? Tamils
       have in their wisdom and more than 2000 years of reflection
       had not thought that they should have words starting with J, G
       and such voiced stops. There were many ancients we tamils 
       revere for their wisdom and we value their guidance. 
       May I ask honorably, what right you have to dictate that we have to
       have initial voiced stops and that they are to be represented by
       a separate symbol. I wonder why you don't dictate English with
       your linguistic principles. Or tell the Germans they ought to
       have 'J' since even their language is known to English as
       'German'? Or to the Japanese about not calling Selvakumar as
       Serabakumar ? In English,  why we don't have
       different *separate* symbols for various initial 'a' 
       such as in 'ape', aviation, and apple, after etc. 
       Or a separate symbol for 'sh' as in shaft ( should this 
       new symbol be used for 's' in sugar too or that is slightly
       a different 'sh' ?). etc. etc. If linguists succeed in doing
       these and many many such things, tamils will pay close
       attention and they will consider what to do and
       how to do. 

       Tamil does *not* have J, G, and such voiced stops at the 
       *beginning* of a word. Tamils are aware of many sounds and
       sound sequences but they don't include all of them.
       To say they that they have is similar to saying, 'Oh
       there are many in America who speak English who have 'zha'
       in their name and so English should have a representation.
       English *has* zha and even the way americans pronounce 
       'american' has some slight similarities.. Or to say 'Oh
       English has a word 'pariah' and we should include a new
       symbol for hard 'r'. English *has* what we call in tamil
       'vallina Ra'.
*And what about the statement 
*>If modern lignuist differ, let them.
*Shall we stick our heads in the sand like ostriches?

      Well if you think all our ancient forefathers of our language
      and culture as osteriches ( as your statment seems to imply, 
      to me at least), I've to honestly agree to disagree 
      with your implication.
*Selvaa, you have criticized my contributions to this discussion as lacking
*in methodology, by which I think you mean, "not using the methodology you
*use".  What methodology is this ostrich methodology?

    Prof. Schiffman, I had oftentimes said I'm a layman and my questions
    are from a layman's perspective. If your conclusions are
    based on some involved mathematical analysis or some complicated 
    set of arguements that is highly reliable, but an untrained
    layman like me can not understand, please be kind and point out and
    I'll spend sometime to learn them. I've not even read a small part
    of your suggested webpage documents.  

    Prof. Schiffman, if you can lighten up a bit, I would share what
    I have learned so far from you, that you probably believe in pure
    mythology but not in purism of language, that you probably believe
    in an 'osterich  methodology' and you are at present quite
    curious to know what it is. Just joking  :-) Please don't take it
    seriously. I'll buy you coffee when we meet, I promise.


*H. Schiffman 



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