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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Language fanaticism, Linguistic fanaticism

1.   Ethno centric and linguistic fanaticism pursued with a massive mass mania is a deadly combo and dangerous trend, even if it increases our pride in our ancestry, especially when it tries to intrude into every realm of human activity. Probably it can or may  back fire as it happened with the European religious fanaticism which was broken by the age of reason, scientific temper, trade and commerce etc a combined counter combo, which all got together, and literally threw away the religious fanatic imposition and intrusion into all realms. So much so, when thrown out the religious fanaticism lost its relevance and its fortresses turned into museums of antic value. Most of these citadels of power, pride and pomp in the past are now protected and promoted as tourist  attractions as heritage centers or monuments and in some cases where they have lost even this relevance and respect are being used as lovers’ parks or lotus-eaters joints.

2.   Resurrection, repair and remodeling can never replace the robustness of the original.

3.   ‘Madisaru mami kalaiyil kondaiyil poovaithu kolamita kalai kandu kavithai pirandhadhu’ can never bring out the essence however well or expertly it may be translated in any other language in the globe.

4.   I observe,language too evolves in contexts to name new things, to label new activities and to fulfill the need for injecting new meanings for expressing feelings and emotions hitherto unexpressed verbally etc.

5.   I feel it has more to do with the socio-cultural milieu in which the interaction or communication happens; the socio- cultural milieu in which the language got churned up during it evolutionary process and also the predominant factors that contributed to the growth of that language.

6.   Some languages have too many words and expressions for religious activities; some have similarly for philosophical concepts; some have similarly for  nature; some have similarly for  technology; some have similarly for  winter sports and snow; some have similarly for  food etc

7.   Like everything else language too is more susceptible to these factors contextual utility, socio cultural acceptability and to cater to the necessities that arise in a new environ [like words that have cropped up after the advent of cyber world]

8.   I do not think this requires an elaborate thesis to establish.

I wish you read fully these links that I have been writing in the past few days          and give a feed back in this link has reference to some other in links in it

The following links were written of course for an unwanted raging controversy in the past week in India

9.   On19th Nov.

10.      On 22nd Nov.

11. On 23rd Nov.
The factors contributing to the greatness of Sanskrit are too many to enlist but primarily         they could be classified as:-

a.    Its ancientness,

b. Its great structure,

c. Its flamboyant syntax,

d. Its enormous literature [many yet unearthed],

e. Its multiple layers of meaning- its ability to express one thing on the surface while ensconcing something esoteric for the perceptive interpreter with a profound knowledge unraveling the multiple layers of meaning as Mike Magee mentions in
[This fact I feel has not yet been fully explored especially from texts like Devi Bhagavatham]

f. Its geopolitical life- Most importantly the geopolitical influences which did a great damage to Sanskrit as excellently written by the great scholar Rajiv Malhotra  almost a decade ago in this link which I have been repeatedly posting in my facebook page 

    Some interesting links

16.       Any language survives based on its relevance at specific times and that in turn depends on too many factors which cannot be oversimplified or over generalized.

Hard work

I have read many times 'PHANTOMS IN THE BRAIN' by one of my favorite and world renowned neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran with Sandra Blakeslee in 2009/10. This is one of my cherished collections. This book is imbued with lot of case studies. I myself could a partial example with a handicapped leg which initially when I was admitted at Royapettah Hospital after accident two doctors wanted to amputate. I shall give you some links below to get a peep into the subject. But today I came across an unbelievable example of this phenomenon of Phantom Limbs. Watch the link enjoy, express your sentiments, cry out if you want but also think of those kinds of people and join any group or organization that donates or helps such people especially as International Day of People with Disability is very near on 3rd December. Handicap is a handicap though as the great linguist Steven Pinker says the term may have undergone “ the euphemism treadmill as lame, crippled, disabled, challenged” and now differently- abled etc.

But best would be to buy 'PHANTOMS IN THE BRAIN' by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee
Though there are some shortened versions in PDF on the net they miss out the important notes.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Language ,meaning and context

And the Sanskrit Language debate continues with good inputs

Dear Kalyanaramanji,

Message from Shri.S.Kalayanaramanji in brackets here [I have posited mleccha (meluhha) as the spoken version of Samskrtam, a Prakrit, Proto-Indian lingua franca of 7th millennium BCE. Later chauvinists created the dravida maaya and austro-asiatic family of languages in contradistinct categories to Proto-Indo-European, forgetting the essential semantic foundations of languages. See my Indian Lexicon available online. See Late V. Sundaram's review together with other views: us organize a forum to debate on Indian sprachbund (linguistic area).]
My response:-
I have not done detailed research work like you. So I grab every opportunity to go through any research work someone else has done and taste it as it is easier like savoring readymade noodles!

So, I have gone through both these works you have mentioned already as V. Sundaram mailed me long back and enjoyed reading them. I know it contains lot of useful and pertinent information. Of course, let us take away the hoax called Dravidian theory out of any discussion because it is waste of time and it is a good idea to engage in research as suggested by you. 

I have made it very clear that language evolution has too many complicated features and every language has too many facets that it does not allow any over simplified generalization that easily. So, the language debate will continue forever.

The factors contributing to the greatness of Sanskrit are too many to enlist but primarily they could be classified as:-

1.    Its ancientness,

2. Its great structure,

3. Its flamboyant syntax,

4. Its enormous literature [many yet unearthed],

5. Its multiple layers of meaning- its ability to express one thing on the surface while ensconcing something esoteric for the perceptive interpreter with a profound knowledge unraveling the multiple layers of meaning as Mike Magee mentions in
[This fact I feel has not yet been fully explored especially from texts like Devi Bhagavatham]

6. Its geopolitical life- Most importantly the geopolitical influences which did a great damage to Sanskrit as excellently written by the great scholar Rajiv Malhotra  almost a decade ago in this link which I have been repeatedly posting in my facebook page 

7. Its socio- cultural and religious connotations [which in the case of Sanskrit cannot be denied at all [that’s why the geopolitical damages have been intentionally inflicted on it].

I also see several other reasons for this which are all the result of some inherent  malady in our  mentality [ I mean Hindus] approach to many subjects or perhaps, almost all subjects. I can classify them as:-

1. Failure to document and preserve for posterity. 
2. We have stressed and glorified reverence over research. 
3. Exaggeration over exact reporting. 
4. Deification over delving deeper into details of real merit [a] 
5. Lack of openness in certain areas [this may sound contradictory, for, other religions are far less open comparatively]. I mention this here because we have been rather indifferent to include esoteric studies made by clairvoyants like H.P. Blavatsky especially in text like ‘The Secret Doctrine’ where she resorts to great interpretations with gay abandon unhindered by any constraints of tradition and comes out with some really great revelations.

In fact Steven Pinker and David Crystal have been doing so much research for the past four decades with all the materials available to them and still they have not been able to arrive at very clear cut categorization with linguistic justification even for one language which is of a comparatively recent origin, namely English. Steven Pinker thrashes many established rules with great logic in his latest book ‘The Sense of style’ which may unsettle the traditional grammarians because the expressive possibilities of language often rely on the rules being bent and almost all great poets, novelists have done it as getting across human thoughts, creativity, imaginations etc get a precedence over sticking to rules. It is in the nature of creative genius never to stop the flow and flamboyance by sticking to prescribed rules.

For example Shakespeare’s ingenuity in coming up with newly coined words /expressions to communicate many things have been mind boggling and they have been brought out very well in the book ‘The works of Shakespeare, revised from the best authorities: with a memoir and essay on his genius by Barry Cornwall: also annotations and remarks by many writers, illustrations from designs by K. Meadows’.

These are all because language is more a medium for expression than a tomb of rules. That’s why nowadays we come across many good ideas, opinions and suggestions emanating from many in internet and social media which may be with poor grammar or no grammar, bad punctuation or no punctuation etc.

Even some of the great spiritual and philosophical truths [expressed as an experience by enlightened souls] become a bit difficult to understand as language sometimes becomes an inadequate tool to communicate the real communion of a soul.[b]

Regarding Dr. V.S. Ramachandran's views it only from neuro anatomical perspective and presents his views and from that angle I accept his views for the simple reason he goes through a very strenuous and methodical scientific research based on many case studies and he is precise when he uses the terminologies and never delivers anything as a sort of conclusion with axiomatic certitude and he adopts the same method here too with careful observation when he says "But there were multiple exaptations with fortuitous interactions which resulted in language." Besides more importantly most of our knowledge in the subject he handles is only theoretical and half baked. Probably one may fault him as one would with Freud's psychoanalysis saying his studies were based more on examples who were all his patients and not many on normal people.

Of course
"But this by-product view is highly unlikely, as language is too complex. Exaptation -- a re-use of an existing structure -- is undoubtedly a powerful force in evolution. But in all documented cases, complex structures are used for simple purposes, and not vice versa. A type of wading bird uses its wings as a sun shade: there is no evidence of any bird using what was originally a sunshade as wings. You can use a television as a paperweight, but you can't use a paperweight as a television. The complexity of language, and the interwoven adaptations of the mouth, larynx and brain make it unlikely that language developed as an accidental by-product." [Aitchison (1996), pp.74-75.]

Besides all these I keep on insisting about context to unravel the inherent strength and utility because words and expressions in any langue primarily derive their meaning from one- the things they refer to and two -what it means to the mind of the person who uses it. For, all said and done even for ordinary words referring to things there are many abstract aspects attached.

For example when I say Dosa it may appear to refer to the edible item but it could include its appealing taste, the irresistible aroma, the many other things associated with it like the shape, size, texture, components, side dishes, it could also mean I want to eat a dosa now or feel like having a Dosa now etc.

If even a word within a language depends on so many factors or reflects too many aspects, then we can imagine the role and significance of a language or languages in life.

For example you ask any Indian what is the meaning of Rangoli or Kolam, you will come up with many answers or those born in the last decade and confined to living only in modern marble floored or granite floored apartments may just blush. But for me that is one of the best forms of learning art and producing multiple designs with manipulation of dots and lines. I cannot deny others views nor can anyone put aside my observation.

Word meanings are not static but dynamic that’s why connotations have in many cases totally erased the original denotation.

The meaning of meaning by itself is a debatable issue and meaning making sense is more contextual than anything else.

That’s why human vocabulary constantly gets expanded to express more and more feelings, emotions, new technologies, inventions, imaginations, concepts, discovery of or creation of new substances, space, time, causation etc like as Steven Pinker says, ELBONICS to refer to action of two people maneuvering for one armrest in a movie theater or SHOEBURYNESS to refer to the vague uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat which is still warm from someone else’s bottom.

a] [For example all great composers starting from Appar, to Annamacharya to Saint Tyagaraja everyone's biography has an episode where some deity appeared to their parents just the day before they were born and declaring that they would get a saint as a child, everyone of them were despised by the king or some family member and the next day the king had stomach ache and after they went and sang and pardoned the king the stomach ache vanished etc. All of them were painted as very poor  whereas what ought to have been given importance or stressed and studied in detail after putting in proper perspective that they all were normal human beings who had normal family life with children etc but they had extraordinary  genius which produced some of the unmatched, unthinkable and unrepeatable feats like the number of ragas that Saint Tyagaraja created with such subtle nuances making an unbelievable appropriate blend of stresses, pauses, intervals, vibrations etc delivering  one of the greatest  architectural designs of sound coupled with thousands of words of alliteration that too mostly on a single subject of Rama's life. It is easier to produce vast literature on many subjects. The nuances are so subtle that unless they are exact it can make a person slip into a different raga. I can only think of only one analogy that of canine sense of smell [ it is said a dog can differentiate between some 1. 2 million  different smells] so Saint Tyagaraja in way enhanced the auditory sense of human beings as whole through so many ragas. One of the greatest contribution to the world of music. Instead of studying this, we were propagating his cruel brother, his poverty etc

In fact he made the optimum utilization of the very musical language Telugu because of its excess of vowel sounds. I even use to joke to my Telugu friends on Ugadhi as 'Haapilu Newoo yearlu'.]

[b] "One of the best-known facts about mystics is that they feel that language is inadequate, or even wholly useless, as a means of communicating their experiences or their insights to others. They say that what they experience is unutterable or ineffable. They use language but then declare that the words they have used do not say what they want to say, and that all words as such are inherently incapable of doing so.

"According to the Mandukya Upanishad the unitary consciousness is 'beyond all expression'. According to Plotinus, 'the vision baffles telling.' In a passage which I shall quote more at length later, Eckhart says that 'the prophets walking in the light...sometimes were moved to...speak of things they know...thinking to teach us to know God. Whereupon they would fall dumb, becoming tongue-tied.... The mystery they found there was ineffable.'

"And modern Europeans and Americans who report having had mystical experiences feel the difficulty just as much as do the ancient or classical mystics. R. M. Bucke says that his experience was 'impossible to describe'.Tennyson says that his was 'utterly beyond words'. J. A. Symonds states that he 'was not able to describe his experience to himself' and that he 'could not find words to render it intelligible'. Arthur Koestler says of his experience that 'it was meaningful though not in verbal terms' and of his own [p.278] attempts to describe it that 'to communicate what is incommunicable by its nature one must somehow put it into words, and so one moves in a vicious circle.' Probably hundreds of similar statements could be collected from all over the world." [W T Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy, taken from here. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Links added.]

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Context and contextual priorities matter more than anything else

         Context and contextual priorities matter more than anything else.

1.    Please note that wherever I have used the word compulsion in this write up it refers ‘to externally imposed force or coercion’.

2.    I have nothing against Sanskrit nor am I insensitive to its beauty, but, we all must remember a few things that are dynamic and they develop and decide the events, characteristics, behavior patterns of human life in each age or period and also determine the importance and impact of certain things predominantly based on primarily the survival value aspect of life.

3.    In this process or for that matter in the evaluation of many things two factors that are of vital importance, which we cannot afford to ignore, one the context because life does not function in vacuous inanity nor on past templates, and two because of the context the prioritization of things in terms of its contextual utility for each individual and the society at large.

4.    The present context for the individual, the nation and the whole of humanity must prioritize, as rightly repeated and reinforced  by our Prime Minister Shri, Narendara Modi, economic development, technological advancement, empowerment of all, more scientific researches, encouraging youth to develop skill sets and contribute to these activities, create an atmosphere of peace, harmony and happiness etc and all other concomitant aspects, of course not necessarily in the order in which they have been indicated here but all of these must be prioritized over whether what language our youth must be proficient in. Once again I repeat let us not forget facts of nature, I mean evolution, as one the greatest scholar Guy Murchie in his magnum opus 'THE SEVEN MYSTERIES OF LIFE'[ ] in the Chapter on 'Human Languages' writes that," curiously enough, unlike the rest of proliferating evolution, languages and dialects seem to be getting fewer".

5.    Make in India is a great motivating slogan while ‘speak in Sanskrit’ or ‘should study Sanskrit’ will be irrelevant to the vital aspects of growth needed for every youth and the nation as whole.

6.    Homogenization is the psychological disease of the West [a] and why should we so avidly adopt a disease which is not likely to deliver any great dividends in the spheres of priority indicated above.

7.    For your information my love for Sanskrit has made me publish all these links indicated below in my blogs, years before the new found craze for Sanskrit made its landing in our educational system and unnecessarily providing more TRP for all TV channels in many languages other than Sanskrit.

8.    Let us remember one thing while all of us feel the need for unity, what unity needs is feeling for all by all .Let us remember what the great seer Bahaullah has said: “If language can help create a sense of nationalism, it can equally well help create a sense of internationalism.”   

9.    We must all remember that language, I mean every language in general, by itself has got so many facets and functions starting from being a mere tool of communication to representation to being a fulcrum to push out thoughts to expounding philosophies to entertaining in excellent literary styles to enlightening with wisdom [incidentally wisdom has never been partial towards any language]. People and institutions interested in any particular language must do in depth study and research in bringing out the great treasures in that language to the public domain, if necessary even trough translation so that people are motivated to migrate towards learning that language. There are several magnets to attract people to learn a language but not force or compulsion to learn it. Let us remember what the great Plato has said in his ‘The Republic’, “Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”   

10. Let us all remember that the great Hindu scriptures are much admired, researched and relished primarily because a great Saint called Swami Vivekananda , a soul chosen to reveal the broad minded and open outlook of Vedas, expressed them in a language which others could understand what he initiated is a great boon to the whole of humanity. Imagine the loss to humanity if the entire gamut of great words or works of wisdom were struck in a language that people living in a particular place alone had accessibility to.

11.Let us make an unbiased approach without any unloving criticism or uncritical love towards or for any language in particular. There are multiple factors which made or make languages evolve [b]. If anyone pursuing  the study of languages will know that each language has certain predominant factor attached to it, though any language can be  or may be used to delve into any realm, and this predominant factor with which it is associated promotes the greater usage [ I mean more number of people using it for specific purpose] . When this predominant factor recedes even relatively or slightly or marginally in its impact or influence or significance or importance then along with it the usage of the language also moves away. It is just a matter of evolutionary trend that we have to accept and live with rather than getting sentimentally glued to it and fanatically push it forward which can actually hamper growth [c]   Paper and writing with a pen have not lost their role totally but the keyboard and touch screens have taken over a vast area of their usage.

12. Latin and Greek gave way to English, French, German etc in the course of evolution of human activities and the changing political milieu and because of that none of the wisdom that was in Latin or Greek language was lost.

That’s why according to expert linguist like David Crystal, “Indo-European ‘skei’ with the meaning of ‘cutting or separating one thing from the other’ has been the root for a wide range of  words starting from scythe, scissors to schism, skill, science, conscience, shit etc” But the language and its users move on without bothering too much about these issues with syntactic flexibility. [d]

13.  My blog postings on the greatness of Sanskrit

1.    Well, here I would like to quote a wonderful and worthy observation from a wonderful blog maintained by my friend Mike Magee [don’t miss to see his page] about some aspect of Sanskrit language “One of the unique but mysterious features of the Sanskrit language is how many words can be used at three separate and distinct levels of thought. Even whole verses have this remarkable feature. It is one of the factors which have made translation into other languages so difficult. The difference presupposes three groups of people. First there is the literal meaning intended for the householder or worldly man, and a guide to better thought and action. The second is the meaning on a higher level intended for the mumukshi or hungry seeker for God. Here the same words take the reader from the mundane level to the higher level, and the implications. The third is the meaning intended for the soul who has attained or is nearly ready to attain liberation”. This literally leads to both correct, crystal clear meanings and also gives room to those who pander to chaotic and callous interpretations, more so in spiritual texts, I stress spiritual texts, not religious ones, wherein there are always many esoteric intrinsic meanings which unravel only to the enlightened souls and not necessarily to a linguistic scholars or academic thinkers or even intellectual giants 

I have mentioned this in my blog link







[a] Sick obsession of the western psyche, namely, homogenization. If we glimpse through the annals of history, we can observe this and the several ways in which this has been carried out: by indoctrination, by force, by cultural invasions, by wars etc. Throughout history it has failed miserably. Be it the Roman Empire’s greed to spread its tentacles , be it the attempt to homogenize religion which failed with Spanish Inquisition, be it Nazism or Colonialism, all have failed. Once these attempts at homogenizing cultures, beliefs, political ideologies have failed, now, the West is trying it in Trade and Economy. As before, it is bound to fail. But what we must learn from history and guard ourselves against is the heavy price that humanity may have to pay for facing and overcoming these attempts emanating from a few individuals charged with fanatical obsession in terms of Religious wars, Nazism, Colonialism etc with all their destructive manifestations.
The impact of the previous obsessions were restricted to specific geographical area as they collapsed before they could successfully spread everywhere. But the manifestations of the present obsession, read Globalization of trade and economy affects the lives of everyone on the globe, either directly or otherwise, and can cause irreparable environmental damage which can even render life miserable for future generations.

[b] Every language has evolved imbued with beauty and utility with marvelous manipulations to make meanings conveyable and meaningful communication.
Language in my opinion has been the most important tool in the growth and development of human evolution in all aspects.
However, it still remains a great puzzle with many of its interesting nuances well explained by great scholars, linguists,scientists, attempted to be studied by many psychologists and neurologists but awaiting a very convincing scientific explanation in terms of evolutionary biology or perhaps it could as Dr.V.S. Ramachandran himself says somewhere, "I’m arguing that what happened is more like your jaw bones: there are different adaptations which evolved for different purposes. For example, bones of the ear that evolved for amplifying sound were exapted from reptilian jaw bones used for chewing. There is a fortuitous emergence of different sets of neurosystems that evolved for completely unrelated reasons—and the equally fortuitous interactions between them resulted in early language, which then became an elaborate system. So, it’s not wrong to say that there was natural selection. But there were multiple exaptations with fortuitous interactions which resulted in language.".

[c] On 29th May,2014 Times of India newspaper carried a central page article titled  ‘HAPPY TO BE UNHAPPY’ BY Suman Chattopadhyay how insisting and enforcing for some decades Bengali medium has caused economic and cultural disadvantage for the Bengali youth.

[d] As per the great linguistic scholar Steven Pinker in his wonderful book one of the trio logy ‘THE STUFF OF THOUGHT-LANGUAGE AS A WINDOW INTO THE HUMAN NATURE’ writes “language itself is not a single system but a contraption with many components…….syntax itself encompasses several mechanisms, which are tapped to different extents by different languages……one of the key phenomenon of syntax is the way that sentences are built around their verbs. The phenomenon goes by many technical names [including subcategorization, diathesis, predicate argument structure, valence, adicity [roots thus mark points of interface between the language faculty and the wider cognitive makeup of a person], arity [the number of arguments that a function can take] , case structure, and theta-role assignment], but I’ll refer to it using traditional term verb constructions.”

He also goes on to write , “For example, pour, fill and load are all ways of moving something somewhere, and they all have the same cast of characters: a mover, some contents that move, and a container that is the goal of the movement. Yet pourallows only the content -locative [pour water], fill allows only the container –locative [fill the glass], and load goes both ways [load the hay, load the wagon]”

J.Krishnamurthy very clearly puts this across “force, compulsion, determination, a compulsive urge to bring about the change will not bring about a change at all; it brings about only greater disorder - which is obvious to anybody who has observed.

Osho puts it, “Compulsion is sure to provoke resistance from the mind contrary to your expectation. Your inhibitions become invitation and your taboos attraction.

Mahatma Gandhi  says, “ Force, violence, pressure or compulsion with a view to conformity are both uncivilized and undemocratic”.

The dominance and disuse of any language or even certain expression and words within a language undergo various mutations. As with life, with language also many changes happen some rational and logical and some just happen and which defies all logic as the great linguist David Crystal used to say both the words impedeand expede were introduced during the same period, as well as disabuse and disadorn , but in each of these pairs only the first word stayed in the language for no logical or linguistic reasons.
Every language is an art and science of very vast dimension carrying within it several years of civilization with all its splendor, the experiences of many souls, expressions of many lives and as such each language is a vast store house of both art and science. In short each language on earth is a divine tool or probably the best medium to express our thoughts and experiences. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Language Controversy over removal of German as a third language - from a former language teacher

Language Controversy from a former language teacher.

1. I love all languages more than any other subject.

2. As a polyglot I know each language has its own beauty, lovable literature, lovely linguistics and large lexicon of words. I can speak and read in some five languages and also teach three European languages.  In fact I have taught French to thousands of students, German to some, I have set question papers for testing English language skills for some prestigious MBA institutes, studied Latin and Greek  too while doing my studies in International Theosophy , I did my entire schooling in my mother tongue Tamil, university  rank holder in Sanskrit in college and of course I have some qualifications in  Hindi from Prachar sabha due to which  I have a smattering knowledge of Hindi without which one cannot survive in India.

3. However, I am appalled by our indifference to the plight of students who are the main stake holders involved in learning and also the fact why we have never bothered to calculate the  man hours and  money we Indians spend imparting  language skills to the children of India?

So, I feel in any  policy decision involving language studies we must prioritize these things:-

1. What is the practical utility of a particular language to a particular individual i.e. the relevance of learning any other language [other than one's mother tongue which invariably all of us or at least most of us may know to speak a little and understand a  bit and the language prevalent in the place/region where we are living because that too becomes inevitable for survival] . For example if one is a businessman doing business with China it would be useful he learns Chinese; if one wants to become a  temple priest then it makes sense that such a person learns Sanskrit properly; if one wants to become a play back singer in Bollywood it would be better that such a person learns Hindi properly; if one wants to pursue higher studies and research in Genetics or Astrophysics in USA then they better learn English.

2. There are some people born with an innate urge to learn a foreign language, relish its linguistics and literary value and master it . They must be given an opportunity to do so.

3. Linguistic fanaticism, political ideology driven frenzy [even if it promotes fervent nationalism], media driven manipulations etc must never burden the students unnecessarily. Let us not forget facts of nature, I mean evolution, as one the greatest  scholar Guy Murchie  in his magnum opus 'THE SEVEN MYSTERIES OF LIFE' [] in the Chapter on 'Human Languages' writes that," curiously enough,unlike the rest of proliferating evolution,languages and dialects seem to be getting fewer".

4. While the whole world is busy teaching its children science, technology and skill sets necessary for the individual's enhanced survival and contribution to socio- economic welfare and for this reason, rightly so, most of the present generation of youngsters hardly pay any importance to language as a subject of study but evaluate it only as a mere tool for communication [ with a big full stop] . They  are not even interested in using words fully, leave alone perfect sentences, that more communication is through SMS, abbreviated terms like LOL,DINK etc

5. Is it not the trend in the past few decades that even the print media  too hides or pushes inside narrative or descriptive articles if any and gives priority only to reports on all issues with opinions by pseudo judge-all multifaceted stars of the media houses who dote out twisted and biased reports with their two predominant facets one half baked knowledge and two full blown ignorance.

6. Whatever be the legality or other issues involved in this recent decision we must give a thought to the main stake holders of the issues here , namely the students who are midway through their academic year.

7.  There are many leading linguists who have made in depth studies in various aspects of language based on multiple factors of language, its impact, influence etc. I can go on endlessly spicing up with thousands of quotes for and against the significance of language learning in general. However, I thought I would quote some relevant observations by at least one or two great authorities in linguistics Steven Pinker  in his book 'The Stuff of Thought-Language as a window into Human Nature'  in the chapter 'Fifty Thousand Innate Concepts' writes,"One reason that the language we speak can't be too central in our mental functioning is that we had to learn it in the first place.....Language is only usable with the support of huge infrastructure of abstract mental computation...Radical Pragmatics, spells trouble for Linguistic Determinism, because it shows that thoughts must be much finer- grained than words".

8. Suggest you also read



Monday, November 10, 2014

Will Durant on India

“Nearly every kind of manufacture or product known to the civilised world—nearly every kind of creation of man’s brain and hand, existing anywhere, and prized either for its utility or beauty—had long, long been produced in India. India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or than any other in Asia. Her textile goods—the fine products of her looms, in cotton, wool, linen and silk—were famous over the civilised world; so were her exquisite jewellery and her precious stones cut in every lovely form; so were her pottery, porcelains, ceramics of every kind, quality, colour and beautiful shape; so were her fine works in metal—iron, steel, silver and gold. She had great architecture, equal in beauty to any in the world. She had great engineering works. She had great merchants, great businessmen, great bankers and financiers. Not only was she the greatest ship-building nation, but she had great commerce and trade by land and sea which extended to all known civilised countries. Such was the India which the British found when they came.”

That’s a quotation from a little-known but ought-to-be-widely-known book written 84 years ago: ' The Case for India '  by Will Durant (of the 11-volume The Story of Civilisation fame). 

“Made in India” was the natural slogan of the past. 

Today we have to plead to “make in India”. 

What explains the wholesale collapse? 

Will Durant put the blame squarely on British exploitation of India? 

Separating the English from the British, he says, 

“The English are the best gentlemen on earth, the British are the worst of all imperialists.” 

His book marshals evidence to show how extensive was the destruction wrought by the imperialist Britain.

Durant has a way of digging out nuggets of information from extensive research and presenting them with a suddenness that surprises the reader. 

Casually as it were, he tells us that there were 7,000 opium shops in India operated by the British government, that two to four hundred thousand acres of India’s soil were given away to the growing of opium. 

On Gandhi: 

“In his first year in England, he read 80 books on Christianity.”

His account of the levels of poverty that prevailed in India is perhaps the most disturbing. 

While Britain stole enough wealth from India to make the Industrial Revolution possible, the percentage of taxes as related to the gross produce was more in India than in any other country. 

Famine became a feature of Indian life. 

As many as 15 million people died in the famines of 1877, 1889, 1897 and 1900. 
(A bigger one was to come after Durant’s visit when the British took away all the foodgrains they could get from India as supplies to World War II.)

There is a doomsday echo to Durant’s words: 

“The British ownership of India has been a calamity and a crime. This is quite unlike the Mohammedan domination: those invaders came to stay; what they took in taxes and tribute they spent in India, developing its industries and resources, adorning its literature and art... (Under British rule) I saw a people—one-fifth of the human race—suffering poverty and oppression bitterer than any to be found elsewhere on the earth. I was horrified. I had not thought it possible that any government could allow its subjects to sink to such misery”. 

That last point seems applicable to successive governments after Independence as well. 

The misery of vast sections of people in the slums, on the banks of polluted water bodies, in unplanned urban beehives ever waiting for catastrophes would horrify Durant if he were to visit us again.

An oddity in the narrative provides an ironic link to today’s ultra-nationalists who say that all Indians are Hindus. 

They are, of course, in a geographic sense—as inheritors of the Sindhu (Indus) valley civilisation. 

The word has since become wholly religious, as distinct from geographical, so much so that Durant sounds outdated or eccentric when he talks of Hindu industries vs British industries, there being not one Hindu on the Railway Board of those days, third-class passengers in trains being Hindus and Gandhi being the leader of 320 million Hindus. 

Narendra Modi would never claim to be, or want to be, the leader of 1.2 billion Hindus. 

He wants to be the leader of 1.2 billion Indians. 

Which underlines why the two words are not interchangeable.


" The Case for India "

Will Durant

" As early as 1783 Edmund Burke predicted that the annual drain of Indian resources to England without equivalent return would eventually destroy India. 

From Plassey to Waterloo, fifty-seven years, the drain of India's wealth to England is computed by Brooke Adams at 2.5 to 5 Billion Dollars. 

He adds, what Macaulay suggested long ago, that it was the stolen wealth from India which supplied England with the free capital for the development of mechanical inventions, and so made possible the Industrial Revolution.

In 1901 Dutt estimated that one half of the net revenues of India flowed annually out of the country, never to return.

In 1906 Mr. Hyndman reckoned the drain at
$ 40,000,00 a year.

A.J. Walson valued it at one-tenth of the total annual production of India.

Montgomery Martin, estimating the drain at
$15,000,00 a year in 1838, calculated that that these annual sums, retained and gathering interest in India, would amount in half century to $40,000,000,000.

Though it may seem merely spectacular to juggle such figures, it is highly probable that the total wealth drained from India since 1757, if it all had been left and invested in India, would now amount, at a low interest, to$400,000,000,000.

Allow for money reinvested in India, and a sum remains easily equivalent to the difference between the poorest and the richest Nations of the world.

The same high rate of taxation which had bled India to perhaps a mortal weakness, might have done her no permanent injury if the wealth so taken had all been returned into the economy and circulation of the country; but bodily withdrawn from her as so much of it was, it has acted like a long continued transfusion of vital blood.

" So great an economic drain out of the resources of the land ", says Dutt, " would impoverish the most prosperous countries on earth; it has reduced India to a land of famines more frequent, more widespread and more fatal, than any known before in the history of India, or of the world ".   (pp- 29,30)