Comparative linguistics

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at GMX.LI
Fri Mar 17 23:07:27 UTC 2000

Am Sat, 18 Mar 2000 schrieb Bharat Gupt:

> > Like the contributions of some other list members, this too reveals a
> > fundamental misunderstanding. The sentence *should* have read: "[The] Aryan
> > construct [may have] served not only the colonial regime [even if we do not
> > know how, and linguists are totally unaware of this, but] it still serves
> > [i.e., helps] [*to explain*] the current north-south divide [which already
> > existed for a very long time prior to the British period]."

> I am  further awed by the thunderous correction to my sentence. I am used to it.
> Like  many Indians from missionay schools, even when I was saying exactly what
> I meant, my English has been improved by tutors from the Indo-European nations.
> Prof. Zydenbos  has rushed to put words in a mouth where Saraswati fears to tread.

This is not the first time that the two of us have disagreed on how a
different wording does not constitute a mere formal or cosmetic alteration
but a fundamental difference in meaning (may I refer to line 2 of my
paragraph? "Fundamental misunderstanding", not "English language error". I
assumed this was clear. Sorry if it was not). You see, as a linguist I believe
that language is first and foremost a medium for conveying meaning, and that
this is also the intention (or should be) behind discussions and most other
verbal exchanges. If my additions to your original sentence do not convey any
new meaning to you, then I fear that your missionary school education has not
done you much good.

On the other hand, if you believe that this Canadian-born reader did not
understand your correct English correctly, then I invite you to henceforth
write to this list in Sanskrit. The list could benefit greatly if more
persons were to do that (and believe me, this is _not_ a joke. Na katha.mcit).

> But I wonder why for more than  century after establishing the  Boden chair,
> the British continued to include the Tamilians, Kannadigas, Telugus, Marathawadis
> and Malayalis under the "Madras Presidency "?  Monier Williams admonished nothing
> to the Burrah Sahibs ?

Perhaps because the area presided over by an administration in Madras had to
be called _something_? Like Mysore State was named after the city of
Mysore? Just a thought... There was also a Bombay Presidency, yet I am not
aware that, e.g., Gujaratis are therefore today referred to in northern
India as "Bombayees". So I fear I do not quite see the point of your

(By the way, could you enlighten me on when Marathwada was a part of Madras
Presidency? According to the maps I have seen, there seems to have been a lot
of Mysore and Hyderabad and Bombay Presidency between Madras Presidency and
Marathwada. But I may be wrong. Anyhow, this is a mere secondary matter.)

> Why was all Maharashtra and beyond called  "dakkhin" by Turks and Mughals ?
> Too bad , the wisdom of comparative philology and Dravidian studies never fell on
> the ears of Allauddin Khalji, Akbar or Aurangzeb.  Inshallah, we Delhi-ites would not
> have so ignorant.

So I take it that you agree that the recognition of something like South
India is not an evil colonial construct by some modern linguists, but that
it existed prior to the British period, which is what I was saying in the
first place. That's nice. Perhaps we could also think about the idea
expressed by the Sanskrit term "pa;ncadraavi.da", which is still older.

But on a very different note: both of us should watch out! Rahul Oka may take
up the issue with us... Let's hope that you know computer math, which in his
view apparently makes him as great an authority as you or I can ever
be (as for myself, I am only an amateur computer programmer, just as there
are amateur Indologists on this list. My difference with them is that I do
not bother the programming experts on their lists with my amateurism), and
that you can make sense of 'scientific journals', whatever they may be,
otherwise you may incur his ire, and who would want that? Or another
universal 'scientist' may complain that you refer to the word "dakkhin", and
that I dare write "pa;ncadraavi.da", while he says that philological data are
"mushy" stuff and thereby presumably not scientific. Should we not tremble
and hang our heads in shame and fear at seeing such astoundingly relevant
logic? :-)


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