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BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ AND DOWNLOAD
- A LINGUISTIC STUDY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE CURRICULUM AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL IN BANGLADESH - A COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH TO CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT by
Kamrul Hasan, Ph.D.
- COMMUNICATION VIA EYE AND FACE in Indian Contexts by
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
VIA GESTURE: A STUDY OF INDIAN CONTEXTS by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- CIEFL Occasional
Papers in Linguistics,
- Language, Thought
and Disorder - Some Classic Positions by
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- English in India:
Loyalty and Attitudes
by Annika Hohenthal
- Language In Science
by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Vocabulary Education
by B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
- A CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS OF HINDI
by V. Geethakumary, Ph.D.
- LANGUAGE OF ADVERTISEMENTS
by Sandhya Nayak, Ph.D.
- An Introduction to TESOL:
Methods of Teaching English
to Speakers of Other Languages
by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Transformation of
into Indexing Language:
Kannada - A Case Study
by B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
- How to Learn
by M.S.Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Verbal Communication
with CP Children
by Shyamala Chengappa, Ph.D.
and M.S.Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Bringing Order
to Linguistic Diversity
- Language Planning in
the British Raj by
Ranjit Singh Rangila,
M. S. Thirumalai,
and B. Mallikarjun
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Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai
LANGUAGE NEWS THIS MONTH
The Case of a Missing Preposition, etc.
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
THE CASE OF A MISSING PREPOSITION
Interesting things, (such as "dust"?), fly around every time the Indian Parliament meets. The Parliamentarians' play with words and phrases adds to their wit and wisdom, even if the pun on words may not help their constituents.
According to some newspaper reports (The Hindu, July21, 2004), Mr. P. Chidambaram, the Indian Finance Minister who has been an active Congressman right from his college days (something only a very committed person could do when Tamilnadu turned Dravidian 37 years ago!), recently tried his hand to dust off a few things. But this raised a lot of dust in the House of the People. It appears that the "Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission (RGDWM) - mentioned in his Budget speech - was not a new scheme but one introduced in 1991" under the Congress rule. Mr. Chidambaram, an alumnus of the Presidency College, Madras, and a well-known debater in his college days, simply (but, perhaps, not innocently!) declared, "All that the Government had decided was to 'remove the dust' from the scheme." The scheme was alleged to have been re-christened after Deen Dayal Upadhyaya during the previous BJP rule. This raised a lot of dust in the Parliament.
English and American dictionaries define dust to be something worthless, a state of humiliation, confusion, disturbance, and refuse ready for collection, among other meanings.
To dust off, according to the dictionaries, is to bring out or back to use again.
If only the Finance Minister chose to add the preposition and said that the Government had decided to dust off, it would have meant something else.
I think that, in Indian languages, dust does not carry such a heavy connotation. For example, we do feel it an honor to cherish the "dust" from the feet of our parents and gurus. More often "to dust off' would have only meant that a scheme that was dormant was given a new lease of life, etc., and that the scheme was deliberately and willfully delayed, etc. 'Thrown into the dust' would have meant that the scheme was not acted upon, etc. If an Indian word that carries the connotation of "stain" is used in these contexts, then such an expression would evoke very strong moral tones and implicit accusations.
The problem is that we are no more looking at things exclusively either through the Indian languages or through the English language. Our thought processes and linguistic processing have become more complex than we all realize. Our schooling and careers bring with them a hybridization process from which we are not able to escape. Meanwhile, smart Parliamentarians would never miss an opportunity to score a point or two over others, using such loopholes in our thinking process.
I wish one of our young scholars would make an analysis of such discourses in the Indian Parliament.
MORE INDIAN WORDS IN OXFORD DICTIONARY, OR ADDITIONS TO HOBSON JOBSON?
The new Concise Oxford Dictionary is received in India with a warm welcome not only because it is a great tool, but also because, according to one newspaper, "the Queen's English is now being profoundly influenced by Hindi words." The report states, "Among the new Indian words that make an entry into the lexicon are `Bhagwan' (Indian God), `bhakti' (devotional worship directed to a supreme deity), `bhajan' (a devotional song), bhang (cannabis) and `adda' (informal conversation)." There are many other words such as va-va-voom (a compliment to a beautiful girl, according to the dictionary) that have found a place in the new edition.
This warms the heart of Indians, and South Asians. But there is certainly a trap! Do not ever expect that such words and phrases are understood by all the native British speakers of English. English has the tradition of accepting words from other languages, but that does not mean that every native speaker understands the meaning of such words or uses it even once in his or her life. It only shows the extent of exposure of English to a variety of cultures and non-English linguistic expressions.
Our English textbooks, already laden heavily with Indian nuances, should, in fact, be wary of such innovations, and focus on the core of Standard English. We already have set in the linguistic and cultural processes to appropriate English as our own language, and opening the sluice more widely will hamper the comprehension of Indian English by others.
THE PRESIDENT PRAYS FOR CHILDREN
Oh dear little ones! Oh dear little ones!
For you, parents had glorious dreams!
And you were all immersed in your own dreams
Yet, Agni engulfed you and all of those dreams
Taking you to Almighty's divine presence
Usually, departed old parents are buried by sons
Whereas, Kumbakonam, saw a sad scene!
Crying parents burying their little ones!!
Oh Almighty! Show Your grace on those little ones
And keep them all in Thy Holiest Presence!!
Oh Almighty! Bless those parents wilting in grief
To have the strength to bear this great loss
May Thy compassion and grace pervade all souls
And bring down the pain and wipe away the tears
Oh Almighty! Show Your grace on those little ones.
A powerful poem in Tamil to comfort all of us, and to mourn the death of innocent children in the terrible Kumbakonam tragedy, is rendered equally well in English. Since the tragedy is still fresh in our memory, the quality of translation actually plays very little role.
FLEXIBLE APPROACH TOWARD COINAGE AND USE OF TECHNICAL TERMS
A very interesting case is before the Honorable Judges of the Supreme Court. Let me very carefully write this piece, because the laws, legal conventions, and exuberant application of such provisions relating to the contempt of court in India bestow "sky-high" powers for the Judges. (The phrase "sky-high" was used by a former Speaker of Tamilnadu Legislative Assembly for the powers he enjoyed in his official position relating to disciplining people who committed some contempt of the legislature.)
The petitioner before the Supreme Court has submitted that the CSTT (the Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology, a commission constituted in order to fulfill the guidelines or directives given in the Constitution of India to develop and disseminate technical terms) "was set up to make recommendations on the proper translation of technical terms for bringing in uniformity in their usage in textbooks prescribed by the NCERT." He submitted that, "However, several anomalies have been noticed in the textbooks in this regard."
The Press Trust of India on July 19 reported that "when NCERT tried to justify the variations in the translation of technical terms, the Bench said 'in so far as technical terms are concerned, it is not a matter of discretion of one expert or the other, neither is it a matter of subjective appreciation as in the case of literature.'"
This, indeed, is a sound interpretation of the expectations we all have in regards to technical terms. However, in reality, this expectation cannot be easily fulfilled in Indian languages. The situation is still evolving in Indian languages even as these languages assume new roles in various domains. It is important to remember that even in English sometimes it is difficult to specify the exact and specific reference to some technical terms used in evolving texts.
The inaugural issue of this journal carried an article that discussed the nuances of coining technical terms, and compared the processes that are adopted in Hindi and Tamil. For example, the article argued,
... a scientist intending to express his scientific concepts through a language will be governed by many considerations, some of them linguistic and others non-linguistic. Many of the processes that the languages of western Europe had undergone in the past in making themselves fit vehicles for the expression of sciences are now being gone through by the languages of the developing nations. And yet there is a qualitative difference between the two categories. Along with the evolution of modern sciences, modern European languages also evolved and developed their distinct identities. That is, the expansion of modern sciences and the institutionalization of scientific activity went hand in hand with the development of modern European languages.
The speakers of the languages of the developing nations are confronted with the already well-developed sciences and well-developed expression systems for these sciences in European languages. Their problem is to choose between the acceptance or the adoption of one or another modern European language as the main medium of expression for their scientific pursuits, and the replacement of these languages with their own. Many nations seem to prefer the latter course of action, some with definite programs while some others undertake programs half-heartedly because of conflicting pressures. Policy decisions and their implication are further complicated because of the internal linguistic composition of a nation. The problem of technical terms is not merely a problem of coining terms that fully match or reflect the concepts they are primarily intended to represent (M. S. Thirumalai, Technical Terms in Hindi and Tamil: Contrast in Trends, Language in India, March 2001).
It appears to me as a student of linguistics that the issues relating to the coinage, use, and currency of technical terms are much deeper than what the petitioner brought before the Honorable Judges. We certainly need to distinguish between shoddy textbook preparation and genuine difficulties that crop up when a writer begins to express scientific and other concepts in a cogent manner in Indian languages. Comprehensibility and readability of the texts demand some control over technical terms. There are many other issues as well. Read another interesting document in a book published in Language in India, LANGUAGE IN SCIENCE.
THE DOMINANT LANGUAGE OF THE STATE AND THE LINGUISTIC MINORITIES
In a very important judgment, the Supreme Court of India declared that "it is not possible to accept the proposition that people living in a particular State could not be asked to study the regional language," Deccan Herald reported recently. This is a victory of sorts for the State governments. According to the newspaper, the Supreme Court ruled, "If a government decides to make its state language a compulsory subject in school syllabi, it is not violating the fundamental right of a minority community to establish and administer schools." A Gujarati school in Maharashtra went to the Supreme Court that the Maharashtra Government's "imposition of Marathi as a subject on the syllabi violated the fundamental right of the minority community to set up and administer a school of their choice."
By delivering this important judgment, this three-judge bench has once again reiterated the Court's position and expounded further its doctrine based on the balance of administrative convenience of the states as the sufficient ground for the insistence on the teaching of the dominant language of a state as a compulsory subject for all students within that state.
The bench declared the decision of the Maharashtra Government reasonable, and "said the Maharashtra government took the decision in the larger interest of the state because official and common business is done in Marathi in the State."
On the question of fundamental rights of minority groups, the bench said: "It is difficult to read Article 29 and 30 in such a way that it contains a negative right to exclude the learning of regional languages.
"Ipso facto it is not possible to accept the proposition that the people living in a particular state cannot be asked to study the regional language, Justice Babu said, adding that learning different languages would definitely bridge cultural barriers and contribute positively to the cultural integration of the country.
"Observing that it is appropriate for the linguistic minority in a state to learn the regional language, the court said its reluctance to learn the regional language will lead to its alienation from the mainstream, resulting in linguistic fragmentation within the state - anathema to national integration.
"In our view the policy decision of the Maharashtra government is in the paramount interest of students who are living in the state and also in the larger interest of the country," the bench said, adding that this policy will not destroy the minority character of the Gujarati community living in Maharashtra."
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A BRIEF SURVEY OF HEBBAR TAMIL'S VERB MORPHOLOGY | SOCIAL ASPECTS OF MOODS IN MALAYALAM | INDIANIZATION OF ENGLISH MEDIA IN INDIA : AN OVERVIEW | I WANT TO LEARN TIBETAN | LEARNING KANNADA BY STUDENTS WHOSE MOTHER TONGUE IS KANNADA - SOME PROBLEMS | LANGUAGE NEWS THIS MONTH - The Case of a Missing Preposition, etc. | AN EXPLORATION INTO LINGUISTIC MAJORITY-MINORITY RELATIONS IN INDIA | A LINGUISTIC STUDY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE CURRICULUM AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL IN BANGLADESH - A COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH TO CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Bethany College of Missions
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite C
Bloomington, MN 55438, USA
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