Re: Re(2): Weekend Thoughts! - Death of a monther Tongue

Rao Palaka (PALAKA@simon.wustl.edu)
Sun, 19 May 1996 01:07:22 -0500

Let me first thank Sri Pillalamarri for adding what I thought of saying in
my reply to PALANA, but didn't because of.. laziness.

Then, sri PALANA wrote:

> Why do we need all these currently existing dictionaries?
> Why do we need new ones?
> Are n't the present day writers already propagating/preserving
> the present day languages and their linguistic variations?

I feel the best way to keep a dialect alive is by taking it to the people --
not storing it in dictionaries. In my opinion, without writings that use a
dialect, there would be no need for dictionaries -- unless one is doing
cross-word puzzles. Making sure there are writings that use a
dialect/language, and compiling a comprehensive dictionary of that
dialect/language are two stages in the same project, namely, preserving the
dialect/language. All I tried to say was: producing literature is stage ONE
and producing dictionaries is stage TWO. If I were allocating limited
resources, I would allocate them first to stage 1 and then to stage 2.

What do I mean by "keeping a language alive"? Admittedly in a narrow sense,
two things: 1)if someone knows to use a set of vocabulary, make sure he
continues to use it. 2) if someone doesn't know the existence and usage of
a set of vocabulary, teach him the same. For the first task, there is no
need for a dictionary. We just have to keep this vocabulary in the top
layers of his memory by exposing him to usage of the vocabulary. For the
second task, I claim the right approach is: expose him to the vocabulary via
literature etc. Most of the time, he understands the vocabulary from the
context. If he doesn't, he tries to reach for a dictionary. That's when he
needs the dictionary!

> How many of these writers of a particular mAmDalIkam remeber
> or know majority of the vocabulary of the given type?

A dictionary may make them aware of the vocabulary they don't know (assuming
they are looking for it), but it doesn't give them the expertise nor the
motivation to start using it. If one wants to know how it sounds when
someone picks up a word from the dictionary and starts using it, she should
listen to the conversations in IIT hostels just before GRE :-)

> How many of us know the meanings for several thousands of words
> Sri Annamyya used in his compositions? Some of them even can not
> be found in dictionaries.

precisely what I said above. If we still want to look up these words, it is
because Annamayya used them in his compositions rather than because they
were in the dictionaries of that period.

Elsewhere, you (PALANA) mentioned that Sri Gidugu compiled a dictionary for
the Savara language. I am just curious about the current state of that
language.

regards,
- rao