Language and Linguistics


Language: Linguistics: The ApplicationsAn Orientation


TALKING about talking, using language about language is about as easy as burning wood in a wooden ehūlhā.  In fact it is notoriously difficult – even for the professional.  (Ask any student of linguistics or linguistic philosophy.)  It involves a difficult exercise in self-consciousness.  So long as language is working smoothly, we do not take notice it. This is as natural as a healthy person’s reluctance to pay any medical or cosmetic attention to his body.  Even when language is not working so smoothly, it is not always easy to realize that this is the case.  We are so accustomed to take for granted the learning and the using of our native languages that it is only when we face a language we do not know or know very imperfectly, or when we are not sure who is to use which language with whom and on what occasion what we realize that language can present problems.  But realizing that a problem exists is not being equipped to understand and possibly solve that problem.  There is likely to be a haze of misconceptions which would prevent a proper understanding of the problem and lead us to wrong solutions.


            It was thought, therefore, that it would not be out of place to put together some saliencies that may serve as guidelines after the following plan:


              I         (a)        What language is not.

              I         (b)        What language is like

             II         (c)        What linguistics is not.

             II.        (d)        What linguistics is like.

            III.                   The applications of linguistic theory.



1 (a)


Language is not writing


            Language is not writing. A moment’s reflection is enough to let us see that many languages today are not being written down – not even by the linguist for the purpose of his study (but then it is of course unfair to count that as the use of writing in connection with that language); that many languages must have disappeared from this earth without any trace of writing being left behind (even as some are disappearing right under our noses); and that, whether in the life of mankind or of a single individual, language comes first and writing comes afterwards as a way of recording it through visible symbols.  While speech determines some of the very basic characteristics of writing in all its forms (its linearity, for instance), writing affects speech only marginally and infrequently (a South Indian giving a separate value to the d in judge, for instance).  And yet we frequently proceed as if we equate language with writing. Somebody is called up on to teach a language – and then he just has to begin with the alphabet.  One can speak for hours about everyday matters without anybody being the wiser as to whether one is speaking in Urdu or Hindi, and yet for most people Urdu and Hindi are totally different languages rather than different styles of using the same language – call it Hindu, if you like.  (It is interesting that the distinction is not so well established when it comes to feature films).  Even scholars make this mistake when they suggest that the continued use of one writing system for a language is a proof that it has remained unchanged.


Language is not literature


            No matter what the vague titles of university departments say, language is not literature.  Literature is only one possible use of language. Even if we interpret the term ‘literature’ liberally to include history and philosophy and mythological texts and the literature on internal combustion engines, literature is not even the staple use of language.  In a way it is as specialized and abnormal a use of language as that in drawing up a contract or sending a diplomatic note.  Even the simple or the conversational style used in literature is a special effect – as anyone who has attempted to write in one can testify.  And yet we have often fondly hoped that teaching Goldsmith’s or Dickens’s prose or Wordsworth’s or Tennyson’s verse is teaching the twentieth-century use of English.  Translating, which is a difficult art that is mastered only at the end of one’s training, used to be put smack at the beginning of one’s learning English when one was completely at the mercy of one’s mother tongue.  Our grandfather’s English was better than our children’s is today – not because the former learnt it via translation but because they learnt it via active use as a medium for studying other high school subjects.


Language is a collection of words – perhaps?


            There are people who collect words as one would collect stamps and one need not grudge them this hobby – which is great when it comes to solving crossword puzzles or to writing sonnets galore.  (After all who else would use that last word?)  Those who identify a language with their favourite dictionary always think that each word carries a language tag and that learning a new language is mastering a bilingual dictionary.  Naturally for such people it is difficult to accept that ebil or fursat (or phursat) are perfectly good Hindi words and to realize that bhagvān un kī ātmā ko shānti de is no Hindi. There are people who seriously believe that we can evolve an acceptable national language by fixing up quotas for the words from the regional languages to be absorbed in it.  One cannot even produce a nationally acceptable dinner menu on those lines!  Mughlai cuisine is something more than a collection of recipes.  Language is surely more complex than cuisine.


Or a collection of rules


            We are certainly getting warmer, but we are still away from language if we think of it as an assortment of prescriptions and proscriptions – especially proscriptions.  But then who would have dared to use the phrase do’s and don’ts if one spoke (or wrote) by the book? As for the person who does write by the book, Winston Churchill has impaled him once for all when he said, “This is the sort of English up with which I shall not put !”  It is a legitimate question to ask why do’s and don’ts find ready acceptance while the Basic English blood, body-water, and eye-water just wouldn’t do for Churchill’s ‘blood, sweat, and tears’.  A vague, essentially romantic reply that this is all a matter of the genius or the feel of a language is not very helpful.  It is simply a way of postponing an investigation – which is of course far better than doing an amateurish job of it.


I (b)


Language and a language


            Perhaps we went the wrong way about in asking the question: What is language?  English also permits us to speak of a language.  A given language is not just some general attribute of homo sapiens that distinguishes him from other species, rather it is the attribute of a specific community. A language is a body of socially learned habits shared by the members of a community – a body of habits that is susceptible to being characterized as a system of interlocking rules that a child or an adult foreigner has somehow to internalize before being accepted as a member of that speech group.  There is a world of difference between a collection of rules and a system of rules – a language is describable as a giant recipe for covering an indefinitely extensible dinner table with utterances (each different from the rest in some way) that are admissible in that language; a language is describable as a program for a computer that will have to surpass any that man has built so far.


            There is also a world of difference between a difficult art like literature in which only a few can play the passive role and fewer still the active role and a body of habits that is the common property of a community all of whose members except absolute morons and babes in arms can play the roles of senders and receivers.  Language habits permeate all our waking life at the least – and this includes even the time when we are neither listening (or reading) nor speaking (or writing).


Explaining Language to a Visitor from Mars


            Suppose we are called upon to explain what these bodies of habits found I human groups on this planet are like to a visitor from Mars (and suppose further that we have a language to talk in with this visitor!).


            The two fundamental facts about the human animal are: (a) he is not just gregarious, but social; he lives in a network of intersecting in-groups of various sorts in which he assumes varied roles, and this socialization is a part of his animal quest for a harmonious adjustment with environment; (b) he is not just imitative and inventive, but cultured, his experience and his behaviour – that is, his whole interaction with environment – are governed through socially learned habits that make for a better adjustment with environment.  And what fits him above mere face-to-face gregariousness and face-to-face imitativeness and mere trial-and-error inventiveness in his capacity to use symbols that enable him to share his experience with his fellow humans and to codify it for future reference.  Out of the symbolisms that he shares with others as a part of culture, a language system is the most basic in more ways than one: it is the most widely shared, being within reach of everybody; the most ambitious, not being confined to any segment of man’s sharable experience; the most primitive, serving as a reference point for other symbolisms; and the most closely enmeshed with the rest of his behaviour, word and deed being close bedfellows.  It is noteworthy that all the known human societies are equipped with reasonably, even exquisitely, complex language no matter how rudimentary their technology, their policy, or their belief system.


            The Martian will also note that the one-language-per-human-being-per-group formula, howsoever attractive theoretically and politically, does not always work – least of all in non-primitive societies.  What makes the formula plausible is the perfectly well-attested observation that differences of language and differences in language are a very sensitive index of differences of non-linguistic cultural patterns exhibited by different classes or neighbourhoods or generations.  The simple formula fails so often that by the side of the concept of the language group we need another concept to handle the complicated situation that characterizes an area – the concept of the language network.  South Asia, besides being a unit useful for other purposes  (say, geopolitics, culture-history, etc.), is covered by such a network.  Any geographical or historical language survey has to handle India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Ceylon together.  There is great genetic diversity – there are at least four different language families, but there are also characteristic South Asian linguistic traits that cut across the genetic diversities – the widespread tapping of Sanskrit for “higher” vocational for conveying ‘and the like’ (Hindi paise vaise for example) are only some of the links.  There may of course be sub-networks within such a network.  It is in terms of such networks rather than language groups that we can define language pride and loyalty, the sway of competing standards, the relationship between languages and literary or intellectual traditions, the total linguistic economy that determines who speaks how often with whom, on what occasions, in which linguistic code.


            Admittedly, this Martian’s-eye-view of man, the language-using animal, is an extrinsic view of language.  It needs to be supplemented.


Explaining language as an unimaginative Computer


            The distinction just hinted at between the extrinsic and the intrinsic view of language can be presented in another fashion.  We have already used the expression a body of habits – which is only a first approximation of what we are heading for – a system of norms.  If we don’t make this distinction between the actualities of linguistic behaviour and habits and the norms governing the potentialities, we shall be unable to account for the distinction between a parrot’s accumulating a repertory of utterance through imitation and the child’s passing beyond that stage to making up his first own successful utterance.  A crucial difference between parrot performance and human performance is that the latter alone is grounded in a competent mastery or an internalization of a system that specifies an open-ended repertory of utterances.  One way of getting at this system is an attempt to explain in a step-by-step manner, as to an unimaginative machine, the specification of the open-ended repertory of utterances that are permissible in a given language.


            A language is then, to view it intrinsically, a system of interlocking rules that apply to certain elements that could be inventoried. This sort of thing is of course familiar ground for a logician or a mathematician or a student of Pānini.  What sort of a system is a language then?  Very broadly speaking, we can understand it in terms of the following distinctions:


(a)                between system and inventory;

(b)               between the intrinsic formal organization of an utterance and its linkage with the real world in which the speech event and its ‘meaning’ are embedded;

(c)                between the outward phonological form, the inward grammatical form, and the semantic structuring.





















            Putting the three together we can depict the anatomy of a language in some such diagram (the expression ‘some such’ is used advisedly: it serves to veil a good deal of current controversy in the field of linguistics).


            At either end – form or meaning – the linguistic system is anchored to the extrinsic realities of language which we have earlier examined.  The utterance-types that are defined by their distinct phonology, grammar, and semology are after all available to us for inspection only as performed utterance-tokens, as texts.


            It will be seen now why Leonard Bloomfield was led to argue that “The most difficult step in the study of language is the First step.  Again and again, scholarship has approached the study of language without actually entering upon it.”  (Language, New York, 1933, section 2.1)



II (a)


Linguistics is not philology


            In conservative British usage, the term philology lumps together philology proper and linguistics. But the two are quite distinct.  Philology proper (and from now on we shall dispense with the qualification ‘proper’) is the study of written documents undertaken to find out what they reveal about the text itself (to establish the text itself when there is some question about it) and to find out what they reveal about the circumstances – biographical, social, cultural, linguistic – in which the text was produced.  A philologist is then like an archaeologist – both examine and ‘restore’ the material remains of a bygone age with the thoroughness and controlled imagination of a detective or a paleontologist and reconstruct as much of that age as possible.  Indeed One division of philology, palaeography (along with epigraphy) is almost as much a part of archaeology as it is of philology.


            Of course, knowing many languages is likely to be an asset to a student of linguistics, just as knowing a little bit of linguistics is likely to be an asset to the language teacher.  But do not expect that the theoretical study of English grammar is going to make one proficient in using English and do not ask, when you next meet a student of linguistics, the question ‘How many languages do you know?’


Linguistics and prescriptive studies of language


            When a person teaches you how to speak (or write) a language that you do not know, he is a humble language teacher.  But when a person teaches you how to speak (or write) a language that you think you know, he is a language authority, a teacher’s teacher.  He is the Emily Post of pronunciation, grammar, usage, spelling.  His advice often takes the form of authoritative manuals or dictionaries.  He may invoke the practice in polite society, the sanction of literary classics or sacred texts, even rationality in support of his do’s and don’ts.


            The student of linguistics does not condemn him or applaud him or even compete with him: he merely studies him as a socio-cultural phenomenon that has to do with language. The rules that linguistics discovers or postulates as underlying the structure of admissible utterances serve to define what a given speech form at a given point of time is like.  The rules that prescribe this or that detail as against other alternatives, define (when they do not represent mere whims on the part of the authority) the choice of one speech form, one dialect if you like, as prestigious, refined, standard as against other available dialects.  The criterion of admissibility within a linguistic code is a linguistic fact that is true as much of the educated form of English as of the dialect of a backwoodsman from the United States or of the dialect of an American Indian tribe.  The criterion of standardness within a language network is a sociological footnote to linguistics.  Some communities may lack this distinction.  There are different dialects of Kurdish in West Asia, but there is no standard Kurdish.  Other communities may have more than one standard speech form – Hindi-Urdu speakers, for instance.  In popular thinking and even in scholarly thinking outside the field of linguistics the two criteria are conflated.




II (b)


Linguistics is a focal science


            Language is such a central fact about man that the study of language is bound to bring together several disciplines.  The philosopher and the literary critic, the scientific student of human society and human culture, the cultural historian (including the philologist), the scientific student of human behaviour (the psychologist as well as the biologist), and finally the student of formal systems have all of them a finger in the pie.


            How does the linguistic study of language stand in this vortex?  Linguistics can be thought of simply as the leading science of language, the science that studies it intrinsically as a symbolic system.  As the intrinsic study of language, linguistics has been described with some justice as the most scientific of the humanities or with even better justice the most humanistic of sciences.  Being humanistic, it respects quality more than quantity, what is uniquely human more than what is shared with other life and accepts what is distinctive of the particular along with what is shared with other expressions of language, and the mental with the physical, and the historical along with the universal.  For the remaining disciplines the study of language needs some excuse – say, that language is an example of a socially inherited body of customs or a material available for artistic manipulation.


            The first basic tool of linguistic is the technique of the structural analysis of single systems – speech forms underlying homogenous bodies of language samples (oral or written) of given times and places.  The names phonology, grammar, and semology can refer equally to the three levels of such a language system or to the study of these levels within the framework of linguistics.


            Analytic linguistics – also known as structural or descriptive or synchronic linguistics – is the cornerstone of linguistics. P¡¸ini is the earliest known analytic linguist. The focus is here not on languages or on languages in general but on a language.


Analytic Linguistics


            While phonology, grammar, semology constitute the core of he linguistic system, there are certain peripheral maters.  One is graphonomy – the study of the writing system that records utterance in visual symbols.  Graphonomy is divisible into two levels – the level of distinctive shapes as such (Calligraphy) and the level of their tie in with the core of language, typically with its phonology (Orthography). Another is paraphonology – the study of vocal gestures that accompany the main phonologically conveyed message – features like shouting, whispering, hemming and hawing, silences.  Finally, the study of habitual or preferred forms, as opposed to the merely available, which begins with frequency counts of phonological, grammatical, or graphic units.


Historical Linguistics


            The name historical linguistics may be applied to the study of language change and variation.  It covers four closely related but distinct problems with the corresponding techniques. 


            (a) The problem of diachrony: Language odes not stand still.  If we compare analytic descriptions of successive phases of a language system, we find some traits continuing unchanged, some traits being lost with or without traces, and some traits being more or less gradually replaced by others.  Symbolically:


            x’         >          x”

            x’         >          0”

            x’         >          y”


            Sometimes given the traits at stage “we can reconstruct traits at stage ‘ of which the traits at stage” are divergent developments.  This is known as internal reconstruction.


            (b) The problem of diatopy: Language varies according to geographical location or social differentiation based on class, sex, education, etc.   If we compare analytic descriptions of neighbouring speech forms, we find more-than-chance resemblances that can be explained as common inheritances or mutual influences or common borrowings from some third source.  These, especially common inheritances, lend themselves to systematic statements of correspondences.  Dialects can be studied this way.  Symbolically:


                        x”         :           x”’

                        x”         :           0”’

                                    x”         :           y”’


            (c) The problem of divergence:  Putting diachronic correspondences and diatopic correspondences due to common inheritance together, we can explicate language variation as a given language changing in different directions in different populations, first leading to different dialects which is turn may solidify into new daughter languages.  Indeed, we can reconstruct the parent language by comparing the daughter languages.  Symbolically:


                                    x”         <          x’         >          x”’






Lang”                                                   Lang”’



            Languages traceable to a single parent language are said to belong to the same language family (or sub-family, as the case may be).  Relationships between languages or between their corresponding details are called genetic relationship when a family is implied.  These may be either diachronic or diatopic.


            (d) The problem of convergence: Diatopic correspondences, however, may be due not to divergence from a common source but to the influence of one language on another, whether the two languages in question are related or not.  This is the whole question of language contact (or dialect contact, as the case may be).  Thus the varied traits of a dialect of Hindi, that are not traceable to inheritance, may be traceable to a neighbouring dialect of Hindi or a neighbouring related language like Panjabi or an ancestral language like Sanskrit or a distantly related language like English or an unrelated language like Tamil.  Due to prolonged contact languages belonging to a single network (for example, the South Asian area) may come to share some traits cutting across genetic diversity, as we have already seen.  All of these exemplify convergence and contact relationships.  Genetic and contact relationships put together constitute historical relationships.


Language Universals and Language Typology


            Finally, the languages of the world through the ages may be compared and their resemblances and differences noted.  Leaving aside historically explicable cases – through divergence from a common source or convergence from contact – and leaving aside purely chance cases, there will be a residue of resemblances and differences. The perspective so gained may be called panchronic and pantopic perspective.


            Some traits will be common to all languages – the language universals so called.  Others will have to be thought of as parallel developments – the nursery words for father and mother for instance – or as exhibiting possible types limited by the logic of situation – an adjacent modifier can either precede or follow, the anatomy of speech organs permits just so many configurations, and so on.  Parallel developments in two languages are sometimes attributable to the fact of their recent divergence from a common source that is pregnant, so to say, with certain potentialities for changes.


            A suitable name for the establishment of such non-historical correspondences would have been ‘comparative linguistics’, on the analogy of comparative religion or comparative literature; but, unfortunately, it was preempted by the study of linguistic divergence and reconstruction [division (c) under Genetic linguistics above]. The term contrastive technique has been suggested instead.  Actually, the name translative analysis will be a better term for this search for analogies.  (Analogies, it will be remembered, are distinguished in biological comparisons between different species from homologies traceable to common heredity.) Language universals and language typologies together constitute what may be called correlative linguistics.


            The comparisons of correlative linguistics need not simply be between language traits or between languages.  They could also be between diachronic chains, diatopic landscapes, family divergences, or area convergences.


            All such comparisons of correlative linguistics ultimately feedback into analytic and historical linguistic methods and perspectives.


            General phonetics and general semantics are best regarded as a part of this third branch of linguistics, which deals with languages generally.





The Application of Linguistics


            The expression ‘applied linguistics’ is best avoided, because falsely suggests that there is a branch of linguistics of that name to be opposed to ‘pure linguistics’, with which it holds a unidirectional relationship.  Further, in applying linguistic theory to a problem, it is seldom the case that we are applying nothing but a delimited portion of linguistic theory – more commonly, the whole of linguistics, if not other closely related subjects as well, have to be brought to bear on the problem.


            What follows is a brief survey of possible applications that is not intended to be exhaustive.  They can be grouped under three headings:


(i)                  From the general to the specific and back.

(ii)                From the focal to the peripheral and back

(iii)               From the theoretical to the practical and back


From the General to the Specific and back


            The very first thing we can do with the analytic, the genetic, and the contrastive techniques is obviously to apply them to specific speech forms, to specific language families or sub-families, or to specific areas of language contact.  Linguists can be called upon to prepare grammars, dictionaries, and language surveys in space and in time.


            This is the only slender excuse for using phrases like English or Indo-European or Romance or Indian linguistics in the sense of the study of English or Indo-European or Romans or Indian languages.  Indian linguistics is linguistics first, not just a branch of Indology, and most certainly not a brand of linguistics!


            The raw material or data to which to apply the techniques of analytic, historical, or correlative linguistics may be obtained from various sources: (a) fieldwork with contemporary languages; (b) philological study of written or sound-recorded texts, typically of cultivated language varieties; (c) secondary sources consisting in recorded observations of various degrees of sophistication (sometimes the only source for archaic stages or extinct varieties, sometimes exploited for methodical restatements).


From the Focal to the Peripheral and back


            So far we are still within the field of linguistics – the intrinsic study of language.  This field has naturally close ties with the other language disciplines.  The phrase ‘history of English’, is thus made to cover both the intrinsic history of the language (the Great Vowel Shift, the loss of inflections, and all that), and the extrinsic history of the language (the battle with French for supremacy, the rise of standard English, and all that).  The principal language disciplines other than linguistics proper may be called perilinguistic disciplines; they are the following:


(a)        The biology of language (biolinguistics) includes not only the anatomical and physiological (including neurological) foundations of speaking and hearing but the place of the speech event in human ecology, the development of the individual (human ontogeny), and human evolution (human phylogeny).

(b)        The psychology (including social psychology) of language learning, maintenance, and loss (psycho-linguistics) is closely related to the preceding; language pathology also falls here largely.  The psychology of language use covers the psychology of recognition, production, and reproduction by way of repetition, recall, learning transfer, and translation; and relates learning, use, etc. to non-linguistic behaviour.

(c)        The ethnology of language (ethnolinguistics) studies man’s linguistic customs (e.g., those relating to naming children, joking, greeting, swearing, abusing and insulting), relates them to language as studied intrinsically and to non-linguistic customs, and finally places languages in relation to the larger problems of the science of culture – as, assimilation by the individual of the culture of his in-group or of some other group (enculturation and acculturation respectively), tradition and innovation, cultural relativism and ethnocentrism, and cultural evolution and cultural planning. Among linguistic customs, one had better include the technology of writing (whether penned, painted, graven, stamped, printed, or whatever).  The study of naming customs is called onomastics covering personal names, group names, place names, animal names, and so forth.

(d)        The sociology of language (sociolinguistics) is basically an elaboration of the fable of Aesop on language as the great binder and divisor of people: it is the study of man’s roles in relation to language, of language networks, of co-variation between language traits and social roles, and of the part played by language in various social processes (such as, the carrying out of social action, the rise, maintenance, and dissolution of groups, and the recruitment of an individual into a group, including his socialization within the in-groups). The sociology of language use covers the linguistics aspect of (social phenomena line) small-group interaction, conformity and subversion, hierarchy and social distance, loyalty and prejudiced.

(e)        The culture-history of language is of course an important division of the culture-history of man.  Philology as a culture-history technique and the extrinsic histories of individual languages have already been commented upon.  Even the intrinsic study of languages may serve to illuminate the history of the movements of people, the diffusion of cultures, and earlier stages of culture – this culture-history technique is sometimes the rather fanciful name of ‘linguistic paleontology’.


The foregoing are different extrinsic approaches to language.  A given phenomenon like plurilingualism may be studied by adopting any of various approaches.  (This is the reason for preferring the terms ‘biology of language’ etc., to the terms ‘biolinguistics’ etc. Besides, ‘ethnolinguistics’ suggests a false analogy with ‘ethnobotany’ for folk botany and similarly formed terms.  Of course folk linguistics of the kind discussed in section I(a) above is a perfectly legitimate subject of study for the folklorist!)


The ‘and back’ in the heading of this section should serve to remind us at this point that the results of the intrinsic and extrinsic study of language, languages, and language texts may themselves have a bearing on the neighbouring fields of culture-history, sociology, etc.  Language-based techniques like philology, content analysis of texts, chronology of language divergence and convergence, and so forth may thus provide evidence for movements of peoples and culture traits, the sociology of status, stereotyping, unconscious drives, and so on.


            On a some-what different footing are the following disciplines:


(a)  The aesthetics of language (stylistics) is the link between linguistics, literary criticism, and the extrinsic study of the literary culture of a community (the ethnology of literature).


(b)  The philosophy of ordinary language is the link between linguistics, logic, and philosophy.


         Language can also be studied as a special case of some more general phenomenon:


            (a)  Language as a formal system (formal linguistics) with properties amenable to the techniques of symbolic logic and mathematics.


            (b)  Language as a ‘population’ with statistical properties (statistical linguistics) has also come to be recognized as a field of study.


            Computer-based techniques, whether computer-oriented or merely computer-aided, can be applied to these two as well as to other branches and applications.  Such computer-based studies in language and texts do not add up to a substantive field of study, however, to be called computational linguistics or mechano-linguistics – names which are best avoided.


From the theoretical to the Practical and back


            So far we are still in the theoretical domain and away from ‘language problems’ as they confront a language teacher, a practical politician, and so forth.  Has linguistic theory any direct or indirect applications in this practical domain?  Here it is best to admit that linguistic theory has to be liberally interpreted to include the insights of linguistics proper as well as those of the peripheral studies surveyed above.  It is idle to talk about language teaching unless we have some understanding of language as a system of norms as well as of the process of language learning.


            The usual considerations that pertain to any application of science in general and of the human sciences in particular to the value-laden practical world also apply to the application of linguistic theory to practical problems and need not be raked up here.


            The possible fields of practical application can be grouped at two levels: (a) the level of policy-making; (b) the level of technique.


            Policy decisions about language imply that language is susceptible to conscious planning.  Conscious planning may be opposed to evolving tradition and evolution through heredity as the latest of the three modes of evolution in the broadest sense of that term – the introduction of innovating patterns for better adaptation and their effective transmission.  Considering that language itself is an important instrument of evolving tradition, there is a prima facie case for making it one of the earlier guinea pigs for evolution through planning!  The types of decisions involved may be illustrated by the following problems: Should the language of literature (or law or science or philosophy) be necessarily removed from causal speech of the educated and of the uneducated?  Should the world community fall back upon a natural language (like Basic English), or an artificial language (like Esperanto)?  Who should learn which language for what purposes and by what arrangements?  Which language should be a medium for teaching which subjects?  What part should language play in education as a whole?  Should the rhetoric of public and academic debate go in for the ‘hard-sell’ or the ‘soft sell’?


            The very word ‘technique’ has connotations of the improvement of technology through the utilization of scientific insights and may be opposed to the word ‘art’ in this context.  Nobody has suggested, to my knowledge, that linguistics can offer useful advice to a poet at his job of writing poems or even translating poems.  But linguistics can offer useful advice to a scientist wishing to streamline the terminology in his field or to transcode an existing terminology to a new language as in discussing chemistry in Hindi).  The application of linguistic theory to language teaching can be manifold: there is the problem of reducing unwritten languages to writing for the spread of literacy and smoothening the passage to literacy in the standard language; the problem of foreign language teaching and the quite different problem of native language teaching; the problem of speech correction and remedial teaching of various sorts; the problem of teaching the deaf-mutes and the blind.  The teaching of any language, native or foreign, should be adapted to the subsequent use of that language (for example, as a medium of higher stages in education).  Personal or class-room or broadcast teaching testing, preparation of curricular, texts and other teaching and testing aids can benefit from consulting with the linguistic in defining goals and anticipating results and in determining input, processing, and output conditions and procedures.  Finally, the scientific study of language and specific languages will always have a bearing on the designing of new alphabets and artificial languages, orthographic reform, the designing and teaching of Braille or short-hand or telecommunication codes, the designing of typewriting and type-setting keyboards, the establishment of conventions for geographical names and other proper names for the use of cartographers, librarians, and others.  Even designing of transmission channels ca benefit from inputs from the linguist.  The construction of a typewriter whose input will be the spoken word and that of the mechanical translator are dreams still largely unrealized.  In the mean time linguistics, especially the translative technique for comparing languages, can greatly clarify the problems of the human translator.


            The scope of the practical application of linguistic insights need not be narrowed down to foreign language teaching.




            This was offered as a background paper at an interdisciplinary Seminar on Language and Society in India at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, October 1967, and published in the proceedings, Language and Society in India… Transactions…8.  Shimla: The Institute, 1969, p.76-88.  Excerpts from it were published in Language Sciences (Bloomington, IND) No. 4:11-3,1969.