i[...] c[...] (I thought it was banned?...)

pventhb at xs4all.nl pventhb at xs4all.nl
Tue Nov 19 10:32:04 UTC 1996

Robert Zydenbos wrote:
>Consider: a knowledge of standard modern Kannada gives one access to all the
>literature in that language since Basava (12th century). Written Tamil has
>changed little since the Na_n_nuul. (N.B.: I have not yet spoken about the
>older forms of these languages.) These two languages have the oldest
>literatures among the living languages of the subcontinent, and their
>Indological import is enormous. And I must say, with humble apologies to
>Hindi-lovers, and intending no disrespect whatsoever: Hindi comes nowhere near

Such arguments are, evidently, untenable and beside the point. The earlier
incarnations of what we try to call Hindi today: (if this is still possible
after the previous discussion) Dakkhini Hindi, Avadhi, Braj were well
established as literary media from early medieval times onwards. The
literary heritage of Urdu, in some respects, outshines much of what is
written in other Indian languages. The historical dimension and the quest
for a better understanding of Indian culture, is just as good a reason for
paying serious academic attention (and not by throwing Teach yourself Hindi
at your students) to the NIA-languages and their historical contexts. Every
scholar of medieval Hindi is aware of the need for shopping around in
adjacent area's like medieval Rajasthani, Apabhramsha and a whole range of
other tongues. No one in that field is likely to put forward a claim for
dominance, either numerically or politically, for Hindi, as it formed only
one part of the composite cultural history of Northern India. In my opinion the 

> the disproportionate attention given to Hindi in
>Western academia, 

is not the problem, but the fact that Hindi is taught as if it was a modern
European language, with much emphasis on "near native" eloquence and with
serious disregard of the history of the language and of medieval North
Indian culture. When faced with such a shallow "academic" treatment of this
field, it is no great surprise that area's that are even more remote from
the "cash-cow" curricula, like the Dravidian languages R. Zydenbos refers
to, get lost in South Asian Studies.
By continuing to treat modern Indian languages so poorly in academic
curricula, there is little chance that the perception of the linguistic
situation of India will improve much.

One question to conclude with: who are the students that take the "cash-cow"
classes in Hindi /Urdu, and what is their interest in this? Is it learning
"the modern language of India" or are they extending their Indological
curriculum? Perhaps some teachers can shed their light on this?

Thomas de Bruijn

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