[INDOLOGY] FYI: Spoken Sanskrit blog entry plus discussion at "Language Log"

patrick mccartney psdmccartney at gmail.com
Mon Jan 11 10:47:11 UTC 2016

Dear Jean-Luc,

After several years of wondering I finally found my way to the village of
Jhiri, Madhya Pradesh. Jhiri is one of the better known 'Sanskrit
villages'. It was during the deadly heatwave last April/May that I found
myself in the village with no running water or electricity sleeping on the
oven-like roof and bathing amongst the buffaloes. In this village I
recorded some footage and made a short film about non-śāstric spoken
Sanskrit and code-switching. Here
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy6lVABgjmg> is the link. I intend to make
more films about Jhiri. Stay tuned.

I was inspired by this rather ambiguous media report that says
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHLIy-WHDew>  ‘almost all the people
always converse in Sanskrit’. However, I can tell you that out of ~600
villagers I found only about 15-20 people who could hold a conversation in
Sanskrit in various domains. Many more were able to recite a memorised
Sanskrit sentence / salutation but were unable to hold a conversation
without prompting and/or translation. Regardless, this community of
predominantly Sondhiya Rajputs has intentions of transitioning to Sanskrit.
However, there are very interesting reasons as to why this project is
essentially failing/has failed.

The current superordinate language is Umawadi Malvi. Hindi is also spoken.
There are no first language speakers of Sanskrit in this village. We can
consider that Sanskrit in Jhiri is in a moribund state as there has been no
teaching of Sanskrit by the Samskrita Bharati teachers who were sent to the
village 10 years ago from the Bhopal office but they have not taught in the
past 5 years, even though they continue to live in the village.

The future of this language nest is in doubt. The community's elders are
slightly bemused at why the media has misrepresented them as a homogenous
group of fluent speakers. They are the first to admit this is not *yet* the
case. Still there was one particular individual who emphatically repeated
on several occasions that '*asmākaṃ grāme sarve janāḥ saṃskṛtaṃ vadanti*'.
This attitude in itself is fascinating.

Of the many things that fascinate me about spoken Sanskrit, one thing I am
interested in concerns how Sanskrit is spoken from the perspective of 2nd
language acquisition. I am especially interested in how it mixes with the
substrate (1st/2nd) languages to create what we can consider a creoloid
(like Hinglish or Singlish). From a sociological perspective the linguistic
and cultural hegemony of Sanskrit fascinates me. The purifying puristic
prism within which Sanskrit is imprisoned affects the attitudes of
aspirational Sanskrit speakers. It is also the reason for its aesthetic
charm. The people in Jhiri regularly told me '*asmākaṃ saṃskṛtam atiśuddhaṃ
bhaviṣyati'*. The main reason given for this attitude was that without
speaking Sanskrit in a 'pure' form the metaphysical benefits and
accumulation of *puṇya* would remain unobtainable. They also felt that to
be a good *deśabhaktaḥ* one ought to speak the *devabhāṣā, *which
incidentally Samskrita Bharati package as the *janabhāṣā, *while asserting
its final incarnation will be the next global lingua-franca or *viśvabhāṣā*

It is worthwhile mentioning that sociolinguists don't really think in terms
of 'grammatical errors' or 'purity' but instead see instances of imperfect
learning as signposts to understand the acquisition process itself. However,I
can understand and appreciate the position of individuals more focused on
their soteriological and patriotic aims.

While the 'pure' yet simplified register (dialect?) of Sanskrit promoted by
Samskrita Bharati is embedded in a quest for national unity and pride,
moral rectitude and a cultural renaissance with global aspirations for
India to become the *viśvaguru*; how, why and where Sanskrit is spoken
ought to be given more attention. Which is my intention.

###Shameless self promotion###

Having completed my PhD I'm now in the process of trying to find a
post-doctoral position and funding so I can return to India and conduct
extended multi-sited comparative ethnographic field work on non-shastric
communities of Sanskrit speakers across North India. I have a list of 16
potential field sites. Please contact me off list if you have any interest
in helping me with this fundamental part of the project. Here
<https://www.academia.edu/19566419/Post-doc_Research_Proposal> is a link to
a draft research proposal. I would be grateful for any constructive
feedback on how to make this project better.

Thank you ☺

All the best,

Patrick McCartney

PhD Candidate
School of Culture, History & Language
College of the Asia-Pacific
The Australian National University
Canberra, Australia, 0200

Skype - psdmccartney
Phone + Whatsapp:  +61 414 954 748

   - *https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=241756978&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
   - *https://anu-au.academia.edu/patrickmccartney





On Sun, Jan 10, 2016 at 10:06 PM, Jean-Luc Chevillard <
jean-luc.chevillard at univ-paris-diderot.fr> wrote:

> Inside that blog entry, see one statement made by David Shulman:
> // Spoken Sanskrit uses the classical morphology (the verbal system
> perhaps somewhat reduced in its range), but its syntax often follows
> whatever spoken mother tongue the speaker uses. In this, however, it is
> continuous with medieval written Sanskrit which, despite what one reads in
> various primers and other works, is actually a left-branching language
> (like all other South Asian languages in the Dravidian and Indo-Iranian
> families), unlike Vedic, which is right-branching (like Greek, Latin,
> English, German, etc.).  Also, medieval Sanskrit has the same profusion of
> modal and aspectual forms that we find in other South Asian languages,
> although these forms have largely gone unnoticed by scholars trained in the
> old Indo-European paradigms. //
> ((David Shulman, inside "http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=23412")
> That statement reminded me of earlier remarks, on INDOLOGY, concerning the
> features labeled "left-branching" and "right-branching", discussed in
> August 2015 on this list.
> See for instance Hans Henrich Hock's message, dated 18th August
> which started with:
> "Let me add a few more cents’ worth.
> The idea that Indo-Aryan, including Sanskrit, fundamentally differs from
> Dravidian in its syntactic typology, though sanctioned by a certain
> “tradition” in South Asian linguistics, is problematic on several counts.
> [...]"
> (("
> http://list.indology.info/pipermail/indology_list.indology.info/2015-August/041998.html
> "))
> I, for one, would welcome seeing more pointers towards published literature
> -- Jean-Luc Chevillard (in Paris)
> "https://univ-paris-diderot.academia.edu/JeanLucChevillard"
> "https://plus.google.com/u/0/113653379205101980081/posts/p/pub"
> "https://twitter.com/JLC1956"
> On 10/01/2016 11:59, Birgit Kellner wrote:
>> FYI: Victor Mair posted an interesting entry on Spoken Sanskrit on the
>> weblog "Language Log" (that some of you might already follow):
>> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=23412
>> It's related to a recent workshop in Jerusalem ("A Lasting Vision:
>> Dandin’s Mirror in the World of Asian Letters"), and also includes
>> reports and reflections by some of the workshop participants.
>> With best regards,
>> Birgit Kellner
>> -------
>> Prof. Dr. Birgit Kellner
>> Director
>> Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
>> Austrian Academy of Sciences
>> Apostelgasse 23
>> A-1030 Vienna / Austria
>> Phone: (+43-1) 51581 / 6420
>> Fax: (+43-1) 51581 / 6410
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