Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 6 : 8 August 2006
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.




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Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai


M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.

Caste Ranking - Three Facets to Retrieval

In this article, we identify and describe the factors that help individuals retrieve information from one another regarding their respective caste background-the factors that help individuals locate one another in a caste spectrum and thus regulate their behavior towards each other. We also identify and describe the factors that govern the choice and use of terms of address and reference by individuals based on their perception of each other's caste background. This article pursues an analysis of communication across castes within the Tamil society in Tamilnadu, India.

There are at least three facets to this retrieval process; the visual demonstrative part-paralinguistic-aiding in the retrieval process, the speech part (listening and speaking) that works as a diagnostic tool and as an identity marker, and the elicitation process. While the former two are 1an element offered subconsciously by each individual engaged in the interaction, the elicitation process is, in a sense, a deliberate act on the part of the individuals. The elicitation process involves use of language as an important tool. The identification and description of these factors would help describe a wider canvas of verbal communication processes in Tamil among members of various castes.

The description of the factors that aid retrieval of information regarding the caste background of individuals, and the choice and use of terms of address and reference are done under three categories-communication among castes viewing them as single wholes and ignoring the differences that exist between individual members of a caste, communication between individual members of different castes, and communication between individual members of the same caste.

The Labels - Lower and Higher

We use in this article two labels, namely, the lower caste and the upper caste without formally identifying the variables that go into viewing a caste as lower or upper. We do not establish or offer any formal criteria for these labels. These are relative terms and since we do not aim at either ranking the castes or identifying the processes of communication with reference to a particular caste, the terms will serve the purpose of description of any communicative context and our discussion in this article.

From the point of view of a caste, another caste may be superior or inferior to it, or of an equal status. It is also possible that a caste may have difficulty in assigning a ranking to another caste with reference to itself. This difficulty could be faced even when the castes involved have been in contact for generations in the same locality; a caste may face a similar difficulty in ranking another caste, not belonging to its locality/region, with which it has come into contact only recently. In this context, an indifferent ranking is attributed.

Caste Memory

Each individual carries his caste within him, although many may deny it. The socialization processes an individual undergoes in the Tamil society are caste-based, even though the schooling processes may regulate the exhibition of such influences. These caste-based socialization processes also inculcate in the non-schooled certain processes of adjustment and behavioral norms in interpersonal communication among members of different castes. These processes include both linguistic and nonlinguistic patterns. We argue that caste is omnipresent in all social behavior and suggest a caste memory as a factor guiding inter-personal and intra-personal relationship. This caste memory is acquired through socialization processes, both childhood and adulthood, through inter-personal contacts and experience.


M. S. Thirumalai

Communication Across Castes | The Hells Envisioned in the Divine Comedy and Bhagavtam | Telugu Parts of Speech Tagging in WSD | Practicing Literary Translation: A Symposium Round 10 | The Effectiveness of Genre-based Approach to Develop Writing Skills of Adult Learners and Its Significance for Designing a Syllabus | Structural Predictability of Malayalam Riddles | Parsing in Tamil - Present State of Art | HOME PAGE OF AUGUST 2006 ISSUE | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Bethany College of Missions
Bloomington, MN 55438
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