It is a known fact that the gradual evolution of human biology involves the anatomy, physiology and functions of the body. However, recent findings of an international research organisationsuggested that distinctions in human linguistic evolution are also a result of the adaptation to local ecological conditions.
Most of our human features are found in other species as well, even if they are rudimentary in nature. But what sets us apart is our rich and productive human language. The evolution of human speech represents a quantum leap in the assembly of Eukaryote cell. A Eukaryote refers to any organism whose cells contain a nucleus and other organelles enclosed within a membrane.
A study took place to examine the relationship between sound structures with worldwide samples of human languages and climatic and ecological factors including temperature, precipitation, vegetation and geomorphology.
The results indicate a correlation between ecological factors and the ratio of resonance that are responsible for linguistic diversity. This resonating sound is produced by the uninterrupted airflow in the examined languages.
This points out that species adapt their acoustic signals to optimize sound transmission in the environment they live in. These acoustic signals finally turn into human languages.
“We find that the number of distinct sounds and the degree to which consonants cluster together in syllables correlate with mean annual precipitation, mean annual temperature, degree of tree cover and the geographic elevation of the area in which they are traditionally spoken,” Ian Maddieson, the primary researcher and adjunct professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico, was quoted as saying.
“Both the number of distinct consonants and their distribution in syllabic structures are lower where tree cover and temperature are higher,” he added.
This is why people living in areas of abundant tree cover tend to have a less consonant-heavy language as compared to people living in an environment where higher frequencies are less realistically transmitted, leading people to favour the use of low-frequency sounds, or loud sounds.
Putting this in a context of the Indian demography, it, very interestingly, clarifies the reason behind the extreme linguistic diversity in the acoustics of Indian languages.
It is striking that in this comparatively small geographical area, we have such phonetic extremes and vast linguistic diversity. For instance, Hindi and Kannada have an entirely different sound catalogue.
Even though Indian languages are majorly divided into just two language families of Indo-Aryan languages and Dravidian languages, we have phonetics changing from city to city due to the contribution of our diverse geography.
People in the Himalayan states such as Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are softer in their tone while the astringent tone is used in Punjab and Haryana. The Dravidian languages, which include Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam, are mostly limited to southern India and uses a combination of mild and unusual sounds.
These differences can very evidently be seen in the exceptionally diverse musical tones of India. Thus, we need to maintain this environmental balance which has gifted India with not only geographical diversity but also acoustic diversity.
“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard,” Sun Tzu rightly said in The Art of War.
This is exactly what India represents– an archipelago of phonetics. We have hundreds of dialects and a thousand acoustic ways to express them.
New Delhi, Apr 25, 2017: Aiming to bring a billion people online and make the web more useful for them, Google India on Tuesday unveiled new products on advancement in machine learning for Indian languages.
Google also announced that the neural machine translation is now available for nine Indian languages — Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.
“Google wants to extend internet for every Indian. We have identified gaps that bar Indians from accessing the internet. There are 400 million internet users in India and the number is expected to reach 600 million by 2020,” Rajan Anandan, Vice President, India and SouthEast Asia, Google, told reporters here.
New Delhi: A group of 132 eminent Indian academicians, including many well-known Sanskrit scholars, have expressed strong reservations regarding Columbian University Professor Sheldon Pollock, a scholar of philology presiding over the historical project of Murthy Classical library as the general editor.
The Murty Classical Library of India was established by Rohan Murthy, the son of Infosys co-founder N. R. Narayana Murthy, with an aim to publish modern English translations of classical Indian works present in various Indian languages, including Sanskrit, Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.
The Library started publishing translations in 2015 and since its inception, Professor Pollock has been serving as its ‘general editor’. Professor Pollock is known for his controversial views on Sanskrit language and Indian philosophy.
The petition contends that “While Pollock has been a well-known scholar of philology, it is also well-known that he has deep antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization. He echoes the views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express themselves.”
The signatories further state in their petition that Professor Pollock is not politically neutral and has been a “prominent signatory of several statements which are of a purely political nature and devoid of any academic merit; those statements have condemned various policies and actions of the Government of India,” including two “recent statements released by US academicians condemning the actions of the JNU authorities and the Government of India against separatist groups who are calling for the independence of Kashmir, and for India’s breakup.”
Calling the Murthy Classical Library as a “historical project”, the petitioners have stated that such a project must be “guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India. They also need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization.”
They have further appealed the Murthy duo to “invite critics of Sheldon Pollock and the approaches being followed in his project, for open and frank discussions.”
We the undersigned would like to convey our deep appreciation for your good intentions and financial commitment to establish the Murty Classical Library of India, a landmark project to translate 500 volumes of traditional Indian literature into English. We appreciate the motives of making our civilization’s great literature available to the modern youth who are educated in English, and who are unfortunately not trained in Indian languages.
However, such a historical project would have to be guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India. They also need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization.
We would like to bring to your notice the views of the mentor and Chief Editor of this program, Professor Sheldon Pollock. While Pollock has been a well-known scholar of philology, it is also well-known that he has deep antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization. He echoes the views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express themselves. He has forcefully articulated this view in his career, starting with his 1985 paper, “The Theory of Practice and the Practice of Theory in Intellectual Tradition” (Journal of the American Oriental Society). He sees all shastras as flawed because he finds them frozen in Vedic metaphysics, which he considers irrational and a source of social oppression. Even as recently as 2012, he echoed this view at a talk at Heidelberg titled, “What is South Asian Knowledge Good For?”). He said:
“Are there any decision makers, as they refer to themselves, at universities and foundations who would not agree that, in the cognitive sweepstakes of human history, Western knowledge has won and South Asian knowledge has lost? …That, accordingly, the South Asian knowledge South Asians themselves have produced can no longer be held to have any significant consequences for the future of the human species?”
Therefore, we are dismayed that Pollock has been appointed the Chief Editor and mentor of the entire program.
In his recent book, “The Battle for Sanskrit”, Shri Rajiv Malhotra has articulated that many of the writings of Pollock are deeply flawed and misrepresent our cultural heritage.
Furthermore, Pollock does not claim to be politically neutral. In recent years, Pollock has been a prominent signatory of several statements which are of a purely political nature and devoid of any academic merit; those statements have condemned various policies and actions of the Government of India. He has shown utter indifference and disrespect for democratic values and even the international norms of non-interference in the internal functioning of constitutional representative institutions in other countries.
In addition, we now find that Pollock is a prominent signatory of two recent statements released by US academicians condemning the actions of the JNU authorities and the Government of India against separatist groups who are calling for the independence of Kashmir, and for India’s breakup.
“काश्मीर की आजादी तक जंग रहेगी, भारत की बरबादी तक जंग रहेगी, भारत तेरे टुकडे होङ्गे,
इनशा अल्लाह इनशा अल्लाह”.
“The fight will continue till Kashmir is freed; The fight will continue till India is destroyed; O India, you are going to get shattered by the will of Allah.”
Beside these slogans, the disgruntled youth also went on to condemn the highest court of India by way of hoarding posters and banners describing the action of court as “judicial killing” of a terrorist.
To add fuel to the fire, Pollock by way of signing petitions has demanded that the Government of India should end its “authoritative menace”. However, we do not find him petitioning against his own USA government’s authoritative policies within its borders and around the world.
Thus, it is crystal clear that Pollock has shown disrespect for the unity and integrity of India. We submit that such an individual cannot be considered objective and neutral enough to be in charge of your historic translation project.
We petition you to reconstitute the editorial group of your project with the following ideals in mind:
There must be a fair representation of the lineages and traditional groups that teach and practice the traditions described in the texts being translated. This would ensure that the sentiments and understanding of the millions of Indians who practice these traditions are not violated.
The project must be part of the “Make in India” ethos and not outsourced wholesale to American Ivy Leagues. Just as your visionary role in Infosys showed the world that Indians can be the top producers of IT, so also we urge you to champion the development of Swadeshi Indology. This would entail developing an entire ecosystem of India-based research, translations, journals and conferences. These would be run by leading Indian academicians as well as traditional practitioners.
There must be a written set of standards and policies for the entire project, pertaining to the translation methodologies, historical assumptions and philosophical interpretations that would be used consistently in all volumes.
How will certain Sanskrit words that are non-translatable be treated?
What will be the posture adopted towards the “Foreign Aryan Theory” and other such controversial theories including chronologies?
What will be assumed concerning the links between ancient texts and present-day social and political problems?
Will the theoretical methods developed in Europe in the context of the history of ancient Europe, be used to interpret Indian texts, or will there first be open discussions with Indians on the use of Indian systems of interpretations?
We urge you to invite critics of Sheldon Pollock and the approaches being followed in his project, for open and frank discussions. We are convinced that this would lead to a dramatic improvement in your project and also avoid any adverse outcome.
Scholars and Intellectuals
Prof. K. Ramasubramanian, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay.
Prof. Ramesh C. Bhardwaj , Professor and Head, Department of Sanskrit, Delhi University
Dr. Kapil Kapoor , Former Pro Vice Chancellor, JNU, New Delhi.
Dr. Girish Nath Jha, Professor of Computational Linguistics and Chairperson, Special Center for Sanskrit Studies, JNU, New Delhi. Professor & Concurrent Faculty, Center for Linguistics, School of Language Literature & Culture Studies, JNU, New Delhi.
Prof. V. Kutumba Sastry, President, International Association of Sanskrit Studies, Former Vice Chancellor, Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi
Dr. C. Upender Rao, Professor and Chairperson, Special centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU, New Delhi.
Prof. Madhu Kishwar, Senior Fellow, CSDS, New Delhi
Prof. R. Vaidyanathan, IIM Bangalore, Finance & Control UTI Chair Professor
Shri N. Gopalaswami, Former Chief Election Commisioner of India, Head of the HRD ministry’s committee on Sanskrit Promotion, Chairman, Kalakshetra, Chennai
Prof. Ramesh Kumar Pandey, Vice Chancellor, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi.
Toronto: Kids who can speak in two or more languages have a better command on routine functioning, reveals a study.
According to researchers, bilingual children are better than monolinguals at a certain type of mental control, and those children with more practice switching between languages have even greater skills.
“This switching becomes more frequent as children grow older and as their vocabulary size increases,” said senior author of the study, Diane Poulin-Dubois from Concordia University in Montreal, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
“Therefore, the superior performance on these conflict tasks appears to be due to bilinguals’ strengthened cognitive flexibility and selective attention abilities as they have increased experience in switching across languages in expressive vocabulary,” Dubois added.
“For the most part, there was no difference between the bilingual and monolingual toddlers,” Poulin-Dubois stated.
It was not surprising to the researchers that the bilingual children performed significantly better on the conflict inhibition tasks than did their monolingual counterparts, the study found. (IANS)