linguistics (was: Tamil words in English)

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at BLR.VSNL.NET.IN
Thu Feb 19 10:04:51 UTC 1998

> >I am afraid Mr. Subrahmanya is dreaming a happy dream.
> I am very happy to be able to dream along with all Indian
> archeologists. I value an archeologists evidence more than any kind
> of arbitrary linguistic speculation.

Probably this is not a subject to pursue very far, given Sri
Subrahmanya's earlier statements on linguistics -- but I have to
admit that I am curious (no offence intended to serious
archaeologists) about how he thinks broken pieces of pottery etc.
can say more than words.

(By the way: as a discipline, archaeology is hardly more resistant
against free flights of imagination than any other. Examples of
craziness can be found there too, if you only keep your eyes open
for them.)

> I (and many other Indians) personally find that Kannada and Telugu
> so similiar to
> other north-Indian languages that I refuse to believe that they
> belong to different language families until some concrete evidence
> that can be independently
> verified is offered.

"similar to other north-Indian languages"? I hope there is a typo
there. There are heaps of concrete evidence. I'll give only a few
illustrations for the lesser informed on the list, just in case
they are confused by the obscurantist statements that occasionally
are made here. Some words:

Tamil      Kannada         Sanskrit        Hindi
-----      -------         --------        -----
ira.n.tu   era.du          dvau            do
muu_n_ru   muuru          tiin
kai        kai             hasta           haatha         graama          gaaMv


Grammar: just think of the Dravidian relative participle (also
known under different terms: like 'oodida' in the Kannada 'naanu
oodida pustaka' for English "the book which I read"), which to my
knowledge does not exist in the Indo-Aryan languages.

> Even so called "Dravidian" experts acknowledge this structural
> similiarity and come up with all kinds of convoluted ideas along
> with lots of hand waving to explain it.

If you have taken the trouble to look through some of the
convoluted 'linguistic studies' written by people claiming to be
linguists who tried to 'prove' that the Dravidian languages are
descendants of Sanskrit, you will have surely understood the
socio-political ideology behind such thinking. Sorry, but for the
time being I, for one, am not convinced that "I (and many other
Indians) personally" are more highly qualified as linguists than
people (also very patriotic Indian people, mind you) who have
dedicated a good deal of their professional lives to the subject in
a disciplined manner.

> there is no sign of an invasion !!.

Who cares? Linguists don't. What matters for them is that languages
migrate and change in the course of time. So instead of an
'invasion' there was some other kind of migration: how great a
difference does it make, linguistically? (For ancient history it is
a different matter; but this does not affect the basic linguistic
issue.) The consensus that Indo-European came from outside the
sub-continent still seems to stand among the professionals. See,
e.g., J.E.M. Houben (ed.), _Ideology & Status of Sanskrit_ (Leiden,
1996), introduction; or the 1996 Ann Arbor conference on "Aryan and
Non-Aryan in India".

I'll end this message with a quote from Dominik Wujastyk, from a
message which all the list members should have seen when they
joined the list or visited the web site:


   Curiously, a scientific background in mathematics or physics seems to
   be a particularly strong reason for someone not to participate in this
   discussion group. It is a common misconception amongst scientists that
   a scientific training prepares one to talk authoritatively about the
   humanities: it doesn't.

---end quote---


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