LING/ASIAN 344: The Languages of South Asia Meeting time: Monday and Wednesday, 4:00 to 5:30 Place: 3518 Frieze Instructor: Peter Edwin Hook Phone: 763-9178 Office hour: Wednesday, 12:30 to 1:30 pm (or appt) in 3084 Frieze Bldg. In matters of language, literature and culture, the nations of South Asia are among the most diverse and complex in the modern world. In India alone more than one thousand named languages and dialects are spoken, some by tens of millions, others by as few as five households. Among these several dozen have systems of writing and traditions of literature as ancient and as highly developed as any in Europe. South Asia is a region that continually draws in outsiders. Coming as scholars, missionaries, traders or conquerors, these immigrants have brought their own languages with them. Foremost among these is Sanskrit, a vehicle for some of the world's earliest surviving works of religion, philosophy, and literature, and the first (perhaps the only) language in the world to be completely described. From Sanskrit over the past three thousand years have developed dozens of modern languages that have been deeply influenced by languages of three other major groups of settlers: Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman. The interactions among these peoples, sometimes peaceful and sometimes not, have led to the formation of a South Asian language type whose characteristics will be the focus of the first part of this course. The second part will look in more detail at several individual South Asian languages. In the third part we will examine the social and political forces that are responsible for the convergence as well as the surviving diversity in the languages of South Asia. The course will explore the languages of South Asia from a variety of points of view: a. Typological: What do the languages of South Asia have in common? What makes them as a group different from English and other European languages? b. Historical: Where do South Asian languages come from? What do they tell us about the movements of prehistorical populations? c. Cultural: What is Panini's Astadhyayi? How did it enable liturgical and scholastic languages like Sanskrit and Pali to create transnational cultural unity? How have regional languages like Tamil resisted assimilation into that unity? d. Literary: Does language structure have an effect on literary forms and mechanisms? e. Sociolinguistic: What is diglossia? How does a multilingual society work? f. Politics and planning: How are ethnic tensions expressed through the politics of language? How to build a united nation out of a multilingual and multiethnic state? What is the place of English in South Asia? In addition to some fundamental concepts of linguistics, the course will introduce students to the characteristic grammatical structures of South Asian languages by having them investigate and report on particular typological features in a descriptive grammar of a South Asian language of their choosing. Coursework will include (1) readings and lectures on the major phenomena which define South Asian languages, (2) five short reports on these phenomena as they are manifested in the languages that students adopt, (3) discussion and comparison of these individual findings in class, (4) a midterm exam, and (5) a 10 page term paper examining some linguistic or sociolinguistic phenomenon in South Asia. During the final weeks of the course students will make five to ten minute oral presentations in class of a pre-final version of their term papers. Course grade: Short reports (4 best of 6): 20% Midterm: 35% Oral presentation: 5% Course paper: 30% Attendance and participation: 10%
Provisional schedule of course activities.
Last updated on 21 January 2004.