Hindi etc.

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at giasbg01.vsnl.net.in
Fri Nov 29 20:59:37 UTC 1996

(In reply to S. Rao)

sr> Your "very hard, totally objective historical fact" is false. I am
sr> a native Kannada speaker, and know for a fact that even
sr> compositions of the 17th century and later are not easy to grasp
sr> for me. Try reading the "hari-kathA-amrta-sAra" (18th cent.) if you

I'm afraid you have made a conflation of two things, because you have
seen the quoted and shortened text in L.M. Fosse's message and not my

The hard fact is that among the living languages of India, Kannada has
the second oldest literature, after Tamil. There is a continuous history
since the tenth century, while the first Hindi prose composition seems
to have been written in 1803. This is a significant difference.

The Virasaiva vacanas of the twelfth century are popular reading. As for
the Harikathaam.rtasaara: this is not a good example, since it is a
rather technical religious text, though I personally know people here
who read it without too much trouble (because they know those
technicalities). And of course there are odd exceptions: Mudda.na, just
a hundred years ago, wrote his novel in a quasi-tenth-century language,
and Kuvempu's ~Srii Raamaaya.nadar~sanam, which got the Jnanpith Award,
is full of deliberate archaisms, which are sometimes interesting but do
not make reading easier.

sr> There is as much literature/"history" in Hindi, but it may be in
sr> dialects other than the standard "khaDI bolii" of today. Just as
sr> much of Kannada literature is in dialects other than today's
sr> official one.

This talk about "dialects" is part of the Raa.s.trabhaa.saa propaganda
and has been done away with earlier in this thread. As e.g. S.K.
CHatterjee has already pointed out, those "dialects" are actually
different languages, just as Portuguese and Spanish, or Marathi and
Konkani are. And by no stretch of the imagination can we seriously say
that Hindi literature is as old as that of Kannada. (The actual point of
the discussion is that I am arguing that there is an unhealthy fixation
in Western academia on Hindi as "the modern language of India" [sic -
this has actually been written here], with Hindi teachers in the
Western Indological world institutionally overrepresenting that
minority language while the majority of historical and contemporary
India is ignored, irrespective of relative merits in that majority.)

Robert Zydenbos

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