Language and Linguistics





The Organizers of this Seminar have felt, and quite rightly so, that a historical review of the study of language will serve a useful purpose in a Seminar of this kind.  They have accordingly, not so rightly, entrusted the task to me.


Now, in the history of human civilization, while we find that men have wondered aloud about the fascinating magic of language, any kind of a respectable scholarly study of the subject can be traced directly or indirectly to one of the following traditions:


(1)               Ancient Classical India and its derivatives, attenuations and reinterpretations.


(2)               Ancient Greece and its derivatives in Ancient Rome and Medieval and Renaissance Europe.


            (3)             Ancient China and its derivatives in Japan and South-East Asia.


(4)        Classical Arab civilization and its derivatives in South-West Asia and  

           North –East Africa.


(5)   Modern West and its derivatives in South Asia and elsewhere which again, a can be divided into two main phases:


a.       Comparative Philology and its derivatives such as Dialectology.

b.      Modern Linguistics in a more narrow sense.


Obviously, I cannot even hope to cover this wide field. Consistently with my own competence and the probable interests of the participants of this Seminar, I have limited my task to the following:


(1)               Presenting in brief an over all framework of linguistic studies:

(2)               Presenting a sketch of the origins and development of modern linguistics in the West; and finally,

(3)               Presenting a sketch of linguistic studies in South Asia in recent times.


As another session of this Seminar is going to be devoted to Historical and Comparative Linguistics, I have therefore thought it best to leave out a consideration of the development in this field in the late 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.



            “ Every science may be said”, says William Haas (1960: 122-2), “ to have its origin in some radical complexity; in a new sense of wonder, about something always taken as obvious-a sense of wonder which asks to be transmitted into a sense of understanding.  Amid the sophisticated complications of contemn of the simple radical problems of the control.”


            What, then, is it that distinguishes linguistics from its sister disciplines which also study languages from their respective vantage points? What separates the linguistic study of language from what one may call the perilinguistic studies of language? The difference is simply this – that, while perilinguistic studies consider language simply as an extremely interesting case within some wider range of phenomena like human behaviour, social institutions, statistical populations, formal systems, cultural history, artistic media, or the like, linguistics takes up the scientific study of language for its own sake—of language as an institutionalized mode of human communication, as a way of connecting spoken and written signals and their ultimate meanings.  Perhaps I can best present this in a question and answer form.


Question:          How are spoken and written signals connected with their ultimate meanings?

  Answer:          Linguistics: The connection is mediated through linguistic symbols.  Linguistic signals of speech and writing signal but do not signify.  Linguistic symbols signify but do not signal.  An integrated linguistic act makes use of both signals and symbols in the context of situation involving a sender and at least one receiver-his addressee.


Question 1:       How does this connection succeed?  How do we succeed in understanding one another’s speech? How do we manage to say and grasp an endless succession of new sources?  What is that we ‘know’ when we are said to ‘know’ a language well enough to be able to use it?                    

 Answer 1:        Analytic Linguistics:  We choose our way through a maze that proceeds from the more general to the more specific patterns.  The patterns constitute a system of rules that enable us to think of any a one of the whole body of usable texts as a configuration of the elementary signals and symbols. A Linguistic act turns a usable text into a used one by matching it with a situation.


Question 2:       Why do we fail when we do fail to understand one another’s speech?  How does one make sense of this irrational babel of languages?

Answer 2:         Comparative linguistics:  We begin by comparing languages-more specifically, comparing rules, usable texts, and items.  Our aim is to find out either how languages come to be what they are or whether there is the same old bag of tricks that each language draws upon.   





Question2: 1            How does a language – items, rules, and all –reproduce itself from one

population of users to another population of users—especially the cultural descendents?

Answer 2:1       Historical Linguistics: The answer can be sought in three stages.  First, we seek out historical correspondences between items and rules of one language and those of another.  The correspondences represent either lines of historical descent or lines of historical cognacy or lines of historical influence that cross the others.  This is rather like the zoologist identifying animal foreleg, bird wing, and human hand in spite of functional and formal differences or the culture historian detecting Buddhist or Greek influence in a Hindu custom.  Secondly, we bring out how the descent is characterized by stability, innovation, and diffusion; how the cognacy yields a language family of divergent members (the Dravidian family for instance); and how persistent influence yields a language zone of convergent members (the Himalayan Zone for instance).  Finally, we range language families and zones on the one other hand and link these historically.  This reveals a changing network of language maintenance, language contact, and language displacement. Language seldom die because the users die out: more commonly they are displaced by competing languages, or split into divergent descendant languages, or change themselves beyond recognition.


Question2: 2     How does a text in one language reproduce itself in another?  How do items and rules match each other across languages?

  Answer2: 2     Correlative Linguistics:  We seek out functional correlations between items and rules from one language and those of another without regard to history.  We can establish translation rules in grammar and vocabulary and trans-rendition rules in phonology (between English r and i and Chinese i for instance) This will reveal language universals and language types.  we can even compare lines of descent and lines of in influence.  This will reveal universal and typical patterns of historical change.  Correlative linguistics binds language analyses and language histories into a general theory of language.


            While Western linguistic of the 18th and the 19th centuries was mainly concerned with Sub-Question 2:1, the linguistics of the 20th century is mainly concerned with tacking Sub-Question 1 and reconsidering the other sub- reconsidering the other sub-questions in the light of the answer so revealed.  It is perhaps needless to say that there need be no conflict of interest between historical linguistics and analytic linguistics. The two supplement and even complement each other. Correlative linguistics is only now coming into its own-after a lull that separates today’s inquires from the abortive speculations about universal grammars, language types, and progress in language.  This is natural, since correlative linguistics can only stand on the shoulders of the other two.





            What, then was responsible for the shift of perspective that took place in the closing years of the 19th century and the opening years of the 20th century?  This was the shift from Hermann Paul’s conception of linguistics as essentially a historical discipline to the present insistence that linguistic analysis can alone provide the corner stone of linguistics –sound history presupposes sound analysis.  What stands in between is Ferdinand de Saussure.  The Saussure who in his early study of Indo-European vowel coefficients brought off a signal triumph of the best historical methods of his day was the same Saussure who went ion to ask the disturbing question-namely what after al is the basic question that is the unique privilege of linguistics to attempt.

This is rather like a zoologist drawing a functional and deserved formal analogy between an elephant trunk and a human have in spite of differences of origin or the student of culture likening s and witchcraft in a tribal group and law and justice arrangements in a civil society as form of social control.


But then one must not exaggerate the break—after all, there is a continuity between early and late Saussure.  Historical linguistics graduate from its earlier and anecdotal stage, when consonants counted for little and vowels for nothing in etymology –hunting for isolated words, to the mature triumphs of over professionalism based on the insight that it is sound systems that change, not sounds; grammatical systems that change,  not this or that form.  It was only a logical step from the systematic nature of language change to the systematic nature of language itself.  We owe it to Saussure that he took that step and consolidated a number of stray departures made by different scholars into a whole new perspective.


Saussure came are a time when the interest had definitely shifted from the prestigious but dead classical languages to be modern languages and even their folk dialects: it had also broadened beyond the familiar Indo-European and Semitic languages to take note the bewilderingly different systems of ‘exotic’ languages like Chinese or the native unwritten languages of the Americas, Africa, and northern Asia.  The Böhtlingk who made the exciting discovery of the Paninian approach—at once rigorous and flexible—was also the Böhtlingk who applied it with success to a Siberian language.  The phoneticians with their pronunciation drills, quaint alphabets, and strange contraptions were already on the scene. Bernard Shaw’s Professor Higgins, alias Sweet the Grammarian of spoken English, was already inspiring Daniel Jones and others.  The German physicist geographer Franz Boas had migrated to America and to the ethnography of peoples and their languages language—bringing to the new discipline the same objectivity, the same refusal to speculate and wander from the goal that he had imbibed as a natural scientist.


What, then, were the dominant features of this new perspective on language analysis and language history? One, there was a clear separation between the analysis of a given form of speech at a given place and time on the one hand and the tracing of historical relationships on the other hand.  After all, a speaker speaks in order to bee understood by his neighbors and contemporaries.  And these listeners certainly do not draw upon any knowledge of the history and the geography of that language—indeed, they may not have any such knowledge.  Al the knowledge that they need of the - regularities of that form of speech must be sought entirely within that speech.  This is the -principle of immanence demanding the intrinsic study of a language.  Later, this principle took on a rather extreme form of self-denial.  Granting that linguistic symbols and rules medicate between spoken noises and written shapes and contextual meanings in a behavioral situation, the idea was to concentrate one’s gaze o the connection to the exclusion of a consideration of meanings (as with Zellig Harris’s classic, Methods in structural linguistics) or indeed of both the ‘ substances’ (sounds and meanings) (as with the Danish one-man school, Hjelmslev’s Glossematics).


            Two, the principle of recurrent structure and function.  It was seen that there was little point in contemplating single utterances or single pieces of utterance.  Rather, we must trace how a given piece recurs in varying wholes performing certain function or functions.  And we must compare the given utterance with others that resemble it in part but also differ from it in part.  These collations reveal recurrent structures. The whole structures the parts. To take a familiar example, it is not enough to take delight in detecting, with the phonetician’s trained ear, that there are two p-sounds in English speech –an aspirated one in the item peach and an unaspirated one in the item speech. The point rather is to see that the two sounds function alike –they never compete, but rather complement.  One can drive oneself crazy in tracing the apparently multifarious uses of the English article a or the.  The pattern begins to jump to the eyes, as the French say, when one sees that there is a peach in the fridge matches there are peaches in the fridge and there is milk in the fridge (in short there is a zero indefinite article), and that the John we met yesterday and John match respectively the boy we met yesterday and the boy (there is a zero definite article too).  And so on. Even meaning, that enfant terrible of human sciences, begins to yield its secrets.  Consider the following pairs of paraphrases:


(1)               (a) I require you to read this book.

(b) I don’t permit you not to read this book.


(2)               (a) I permit you to read this book.

(b) I don’t require you not to read this book.


(3)               (a) You must read this book.

(b) You can’t not read this book.


(4)               (a) You must read this book.

(b) You needn’t not read this book.


(5)               (a) I hope it will rain.

(b) I don’t fear it won’t rain.


(6)               (a) I fear it will rain.

(b) I can’t hope it won’t rain.

            The new tools is effective at the levels of phonology, grammar, as well as            semantics.


            Last but not least, Saussure took out language from the library and placed it where it belongs –in the social traffic.  Language may be a system: it maybe, up to a point, a self—contained system: but it is also a social institution, a system that is sustained and realized in social behaviour.  It is this third principle of the social matrix of language that corrects the excesses of the principle of immanence. The recent emphasis on socio-linguistic studies is simply a reassertion of the social context coupled with an attempt to detect patterns that govern who says what to whom in what manner under what circumstances.


            This new perspective based on the principles of immanence, of functional structures, and of social relevance that launched modern linguistics on the formalist path is actually a part of a larger intellectual movement of the Western World, even as the historical linguistics of the previous century picked up the evolutionary modes of thought of the day.  In point of fact (the biologists were inspired by the linguists). Similar ideas turned up in biology, the study of languages and the study of literary history in a more or less parallel fashion.  Cf. Haas 1956-7.)


            The ordered universe of the European Enlightenment culminated in the Kantian Synthesis.  But this seemed to leave out something- raw-existence under the surface of things.  Darwin, Marx, Freud, and the “Golden Bough” anthropologists hammered away at the edifice—again and again, the tidy civilized routine was sought to be explained is terms of inner necessities of the biology of the species, of the production relations, of the biology of the family, of the primitive Psyche.  The turn of the century saw the slow building up of the next movement –a movement away from reduction, from the desire to get at the thing in itself, from large generalizations as well as meticulous detail.  It was a movement based on the supposition that, in under standing the human world, by remaining more modest we can become more ambitious.   Relations were seen to be more important than the entities.  Instead of putting all one’s eggs in one basket—evolution, economic necessity, libido, or whatever—thinkers preferred to construct tight little systems so that the toppling of one does not topple the whole lot.  What survived from the nineteenth century sense of history was the sense of the connectedness of things.  “Only connect” said E.M. Forster; this could very well be the motto of modern linguistics, modern economics, modern psychology, and so forth.


            The subsequent history of linguistics can in a way be seen as a playing out of these principles.  Boas’s work was carried on by Sapir.  Bloomfield linked up this line of development with the best in the 19th century historical perspective. Saussure’s immediate disciples unfortunately occupied themselves more with writing exegesis on Saussure than with language—more importantly, Saussure influenced Meillet in France, inspired Hjelmslev in Denmark, and the Russians Trubetzkoy, Jakobson, Shcherba, and Polivanov, the first two of whom moved to Europe and helped to found the Prague School. Britain came rather late out of  philology and into linguistics.  Firth, who led this movement, counted Saussure and Henry Sweet among his mentors.  Sapir and Bloomfield in their characteristically different styles of thinking nurtured a whole generation of American structuralists—Harris, Bloch, Hockett Trager, and Pike to name only a few. Enter Chomsky.



            Enter Chomsky and exeunt omnes? Hardly, though that’s the scenario according to some of his early disciples.  But there is no denying that Chomsky introduced something entirely new, though I must hasten to add that not all that Chomsky espoused with vigor is all that new.  To begin with the continuities, the following received a fresh emphasis from Chomsky:


(a)               The linguist begins by observing language behaviour-as yielding a variety of texts.  But he cannot stay there: he has to edit the texts of the rough edges and to extrapolate from them.  After all, language spins out an endless number of texts out of a limited number of items.  What gives an account of is not the texts but the spinning out.

(b)               What the linguist studies is not language use, not performance, not even competence, but the content, the ‘what’ of the body of intuitions that constitute the abstract system.

(c)               While every attempt should be made to seek objective evidence for the intuitions and to make one’s presentation as explicit and testable as possible, what ultimately matters is not a discovery procedure but an evaluation procedure, not a mere fit with the data but explanatory power, not a set of definitions (for there will always be primitive, undefined terms) but a meta-grammar that specifies the form that an acceptable grammar must assume.


            But that is not all.  We must credit Chomsky with some major innovations.


(a)    To begin with, he brought home to the linguists that what one says is not the only thing that matters, what one refuses to say or what one says about what one says (for instance, that A peach is in the fridge is less acceptable than There is a peach in the fridge) is as much a part of the data that supports the theory and stands explained by it.

(b)   Utterances do not signal all of their underlying structure; accents, intonations, and breaks give some clues here and there; but grammatical ambiguity and paraphrase are far more wide spread than linguists

(c)    A sentence may stand structured at amore than one level. “He wants to go is quite like “ He happens to go” at one level but more like “He wants himself to go “ or “ He stops going” at another level.  “He condescends to go” as a way station between “ He condescends to for –himself-to-go” and “He condescends to go”.

(d)   Finally, the concern for immanence, for studying a language in its own terms mustn’t blind us to the fact that, in spite of the large variety of language surfaces, and transrendition, we find the same sort of categories nouns, verbs vowels, consonants, and the like useful in describing different languages.  That languages translate each other at all is the more interesting and important fact for the linguist literary critic.  The search for language universals is once  -again on after a long period of cultivated distrust.


What is of more doubtful value is Chomsky’s further attempt to ac in terms of a psychology of innate ideas.  What is being offered as an explanation of the problematic fact suspiciously looks like its restatement.  In any case there is no reason why linguists cannot go about their business without looking over their shoulders to see whether the psychologists are following them.




            The exhilarating and the depressing fact for the South Asian linguist is that many of the concerns and excitements of modern linguistics have been anticipated in ancient India—Under vyākaraa, šikā, nyāya (especially šābdabodha), and šāhityašāstra Because we, the unworthy descendents, have shamefully neglected the continued study of this fascinating subject—we either copy the West or, worse, have kept copying ourselves.


            The great divide between ancient and modern times in this field (as in many others) as of course the coming of scholarly contact with the West.  The first such contact took the shape of the Western antiquarians seeking the help of a Hindu pandit or a learning. Muslim Maulavi in exploring the rich treasures of traditional learning. This remained (and unfortunately still remains) an unequal and therefore limited encounter.  But the antiquarian bas thus given to language studies in modern India is still with us.


            We have to wait for the first university-trained generation of Indian schools to come up and play their part in the deliberations of the Asiatic Societies of Bengal and Bombay and receive their training in the universities of Germany England, and France.  Indian antiquary was founded in Bombay in1872 as “a journal of oriental research in archaeology, epigraphy, ethnology, geography history, folklore, languages, literature, numismatics, philosophy, religion &c, “ linguistic studies –or philological studies as they were then called-were to remain so tucked away in Indology throughout the first period (1877-1919) of South Asian linguistics, which opens with the inauguration of the Wilson Philological Lecture Series at the in University of Bombay by the  Indo- Aryanist R. G. Bhandarkar, the Indian co-founder with John Beames,  A.F. Rudolf Hoernle, and Bishop Robert Caldwell of the modern study of South Asian languages.  Although there were Indian Sanskritists in the modern sense before him-Ram Mohan Roy, the father of modern Indian Enlightenment, for example, if no other-Bhandarkar was the first Indian to study modern philology.  The complexion of linguistic studies was decidedly historical; the focus was on phonology and morphology; the horizon was exclusively Indo-European, if not Indo-Iranian, if not Indo-Aryan, if not limited to Sanskrit. This state of affairs was to continue more or less unchanged in the next period also; Sukthankar (1941: 598) had good cause to animadvert on his generation which was “ so slothful-that it never occurs to any one of us to study any language outside our special, hallowed system of languages.” Hindus would have no interest ordinarily in Arabic and Persian; Muslims in Sanskrit; North Indians in Dravidian; non-Parsis in Old and missionaries and European officers; interest in languages outside South Asia, even in Greek and Latin and Tibetan and Chinese, would be minimal.


            The next period (1919-54), which may be conveniently dated from the publication of Jules Bloch’s La Formation de la langue marathe shows improvement in one important respect.   The rather wooly, vaguely romantic synthesis represented by F. Max Müller’s Lectures on the science of language (1862- 66), so pleasing to the new-found Indian national consciousness in its idolization of Sanskrit, finally lost its grip. The Junggrammatikers’ revolution finally caught up with South Asian linguistics.  Around 1919, a number of things happened.  The University of Calcutta founded a chair for comparative philology in 1913; I.J.S. Taraporewala was the first Indian to be appointed to it (in 1917).  In 1921 the University of London awarded a young Indian, Suniti Kumar Chatterji, a D. Litt.  for his work on The Origin and development of the Bengali language done  at the newly founded school of Oriental Studies.  Chatterji held the Calcutta professorship from 1922 to 1952 and put India on the international map of linguistics.  His thesis proved to be a model for many other Indian linguists to follow.  Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute was founded at Poona in 1917 and was the venue in 1919 of the first Oriental Conference.  P.D. Gune’s Introduction to comparative philology was first published in 1918 and was to be the staple English reading of generations of young Indian philologists along with A. C. Wolner’s Introduction to Prakrit (1917), Otto Jespersen’s Language (1922), Joseph Vendrèys’s Le Language (1921), English translation 1931) and I.J.S. Taraporewala’s Elements of the science of language (1931).  Jules Bloch, L.P. Tessitori, R.L. Turner in the West and Chatterji, Siddeshwar Varma, Baburam Saksena, Dhirendra Varma, L.V. Ramaswamy Aiyar in India represent next generation in South Asian linguistics.  Sir George Abraham Grierson—representing a fine tradition of administrators turned scholars—completed his monumental linguistic survey of India (1903-28) in this period with the assistance of Sten Konow. It began to show its impact—the teeming non-literary dialects of “cultivated languages” and the “ uncultivated languages” finally came into their own.  The Reverend T. Grahame Bailey and Chatterji introduced the International Phonetic Alphabet to the [philologist  (respectively in A Panjabi phonetic reader 1914; and in A Brief sketch of Bengali phonetics 1921).  Finally, we must note that the accentuating of a trend that was already present in the first period and even earlier.  The rise of modern literatures in the regional languages in the 19th century, the standardization of a  new prose medium (the ancient literatures being predominantly in  verse), the practical needs of the European officers and the  missionaries, the growing importance of the regional  languages in the school and university systems, and the growth of regional consciousness –all of these converged to make the need felt for standard grammars and dictionaries.  These were necessarily bilingual at first (grammars in English, the dictionary glossed in English); later grammars written in the respective languages and still later uni-lingual dictionaries were produced by Indians for Indians.  The grammars and the dictionaries remained on the whole innocent of linguistics of any brand till the next period.  The dates of these broadly reflect the uneven time-spread of the British conquest, of regional cultural developments, and of the weaning away from English.  (The dates of the influential text books on linguistics in the regional language may also be compared with these.


The holding, in 1954, of the first separate meeting of the Linguistic Society of India (found ed in 1928 at the 5th Indian Oriental Conference at Lahore) marks the beginning of the contemporary phase in South Asian linguistics.  The coming of independence to India in 1947 transformed the very complexion of scholarly contact between Indians and the rest of the world. The relations could grow on a more healthy footing and could be rid of inhibitions on either side.  The Westerner, for example, found a new respect for South Asian scholarship free from either condescension or well –meaning patronization.  The Indian scholar on his part feels less the need of false patriotic pride and found it easier to combine self-respect and true scholarly humility.  He is also realizing that English is not the only window on the outside world and that England, Germany, France are not the only scholarly communities in the world.  The 1953 conference of linguists and Indian educationists presided over by Sir Ralph Turner at Deccan college, Poona expressed the need for an intensive training program in India for young linguists who could then take up a fresh linguistic survey of the country based on first-hand field study.  The Language Project (1954-59) at Deccan college made this desideratum a reality thanks to a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, New York; since 1960, the Summer Schools of Linguistics have continued under other auspices.  Indian linguistics was finally ready to catch up with the Saussure—Sapir- Bloomfield revolution in linguistics.  The newly - founded Linguistics Research Group of Pakistan under the energetic stewardship of Anwar S. Dil held the First Pakistan Conference of Linguists at Lahore in 1962.  Sri Lanka is feeling the impact of the new linguistics.  The newly-founded Tribhuvan University at Kathmandu, Nepal, has provision for Indology and linguistics.  Though universities in this area have been accepting dissertations on linguistic subjects for a long time, Calcutta was still the only South Asian University centre in 1954 offering a regular course in the subject.  There are now over 15 universities that offer some course in Linguistics.  Linguistics has been put back on the map of Indian scholarship.  There is also a new practical motivation for this study—the so- called language problems of South Asia, especially the need for expanding, updating, and diversifying language - teaching facilities.  The danger of unscholarly motives like regional or national chauvinism creeping into language studies is very real but is probably not a serious threat.   A welcome feature of the present situation is that linguistics has started attracting recruits from field other than language teaching, literature, and cultural history.  In addition, there are research groups interested in language at the science institutes at Bombay and Bangalore, Kanpur and Pilani


We have along way to go, there is a whole museum of South Asian languages waiting for us to exploit.  we can begin (to adapt the words of  Goethe) by making our own what we have merely inherited –from  our own past as well as from the rest of the world.






Hass, William, 1960.  General linguistics in university studies. Universities Quarterly  (1960).  140.65.


Hockett, Charles F.  1965. Sound change.  Language 41.185-205.  Devoted in a large part to a critical historical review of modern linguistics.


Leroy, M.1967.  The Main Trends in Modern Linguistics.  Oxford: Blackwell. (Original in French 1963.)


Pedersen, Holger. 1931. Linguistic Science in the Nineteenth Century.   Cambridge, Mass:  Harvard U. P.  (Original in Danish 1924; Paperback ed. entitled :  The Discovery of  Language.)


Robins, R.H. 1950.   Ancient and Medieval Grammatical Theory in Europe. London: Bell.


Sebeok, Thomas A.  (ed) 1966.  Portraits of Linguists: A Biographical Source Book for the History of Western Linguistics 1746-1963.  2v.  Bloomington, Indian: Indian U.P.


Searle, John.  1972.  Chomsky’s revolution in linguistics.  The New York Review of Books 18 : 12. 16-24 (29-vi-1972).  Comment, Lakoff, George,  idem (8.II.1973).


Sebeok, Thomas A. (ed) 1966.   Current Trends in Linguistics. 13v. The Hague:  Mouton.  Includes: Vol. 5  Linguistics in South  Asia (1969).


Sukthankar, V.S. 1941.  The Position of linguistics studies in India.   Proceedings of the 10th All India Oriental Conference (1941). pp. 593-609.  Delivered 1940.  Rptd.  Bharathiya vidya 2.23-35 (1942);  Sukthankar memorial edition 2. 386-99 (Bombay: Karnatak, 1945). 


Watermann, John T.1963.  Perspectives in Linguistics:  An Account of the Background of Modern Linguistics.  Chicago:  U. of Chicago P.


Hass, William.  1956-7.  Of living things.  German life and letters 10.62-70, 85-96, 251-7 (Oct, Jan, July).  Speaks of Goethe’s botany, Schlegel’s linguistics history, and Hordovs literary history in the context of Lamarck and Darwin.










Ashok R. Kelkar


Contributor 1                                                                          Mr. Ayodhya Prasad Pradhan


I have three points I Would like Dr. Kelkar to expand on:


1.                  Why should Chinese be called an exotic language?

2.                  What is the phenomenon behind the shift from a propositioned to a postpositional system?

3.                  What does Dr. Kelkar have to say about the psychology of language change?


             Speaker’s Reply


                     i.                        ‘Exotic’ is not a word I would use to describe Chinese (as can be seen from the inverted commas used in my paper).  It is simply an expression taken from Western scholars at the time of their first research on Chinese.  Although these scholars were familiar with Indo European Semitic and languages Chinese presented features which were totally new in various ways and which therefore sounded strange and unfamiliar at that time.  I was merely showing the widening of horizons the Western linguists experienced at that point.

                   ii.                        In my paper I have made it clear that historical relation-ships enable us to group languages in two ways: into language families and language zones, e.g. the Himalayan zone, or more –widely, the South Asian zone,  Older languages in this zone, such as Sanskrit, has prepositional system there was option (vikalpa).  Unlike such language as Sanskrit, Dravidian languages are purely postpositional languages and this must have spread to other languages in the area.

                  iii.                         The psychology of language is very important but we know.  Little about it, so at this stage our approach has to be very cautious.  We can only say’ Here is an interesting fact ‘or’ There is an interesting shift’ etc. but there is no ready answer as yet. 



Contributor 2                                                                          Mr. Anand Dev Batta



            What is the difference between the dying of a language and a displacement or split?


Speaker’s Reply


            If you look at my paper carefully you will see I am not making any difference.  Languages seldom die because the speakers die out.  There have been cases where whole tribes die out and this is still a cultural and biological mystery.  It is very rare, death of a language in the literal sense of the term. More commonly languages are displaced by competing languages.  For example, as was mentioned yesterday, the process of certain  tribal languages disappearing can be seen in Nepal.  These languages are disappearing, not because the tribal are disappearing but because they are shifting from their languages to Nepali.  For instance, when they migrate from one area in Nepal top another or when they migrate to another country they tend to adopt Nepali in the first case or another language in the second and forget their own language.  This ‘ language forgetting’ is what I cal language displacement.


            The second possibility is that a language may split into divergent descendents.  An example of this is Latin, which does not survive as such today the though different changed forms of Latin survive.  In France, Spain and Italy Latin changed differently to give rise to French, Spanish and Italian.  As the French linguist Gaston Paris said ‘ Nous parlons latin’.


            The third case is that a language may change beyond recognition, for example the old English which King Alfred spoke and English today.  The language of the old texts is hardly recognized as English and scholars for a long time referred to it as Anglo-Saxon




This was presented at an international Seminar on problems and perspectives in Linguistic Studies at Kathmandu, November 1974, and published in Seminar papers in linguistics, Institute of Nepal and Asian studies, Tribhuvan Universities Kathmandu, 1976, p 21-34, discussion, p 35-6.