#TWATW (The Word And The World , December 14, 2019):

Are words valuable things? When did you last search for a word? Is the seed of language also the seed of the world? How does art work? Is direct (unmediated) observation possible? Does language have a (biological) organ that works with other cognitive faculties? What is a ‘word’? Does it have an internal structure? Do speakers find various affixes psychologically real? Why is there such a thing as grammar? Are words beginning-less? Does grammar change more slowly than words and phrases? Why? Where do art’s boundaries lie? Does art have a ‘universal grammar’? Does the (real) world determine the grammatical nature of languages? What propels the artistic in us? What does the word Saturn represent? Is the world described by words dissimilar from the world we inhabit? How are ungrammatical sentences sometimes meaningful? What is the link between truth and language? Might truth sometimes be observer dependent? Are there features in natural languages that are tied to our very Being? Is the Tunisian ants’ world discrete? What gives gestures meaning? &, what will Martians understand if/when they land on Earth with their own language? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from Sanskrit studies (Prof. Ashok Aklujkar, The University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver), art (Jeebesh Bagchi, Raqs Media Collective, New Delhi), & linguistics (Prof. Pritha Chandra, IIT Delhi, New Delhi). Listen in…

Listen in…

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TWATW show.

Prof. Ashok Aklujkar (Sanskrit studies) is Professor Emeritus, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. His research interests are Sanskrit linguistic tradition & poetics, mythological and philosophical literature, Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, and religion. He completed a B.A. from Sir Parashuram-bhau College, University of Poona (1962), then an M.A. from University of Poona (1964), and then went to Harvard University to do his Ph.D. in 1970. Prof. Aklujkar has delivered invited lectures at multiple universities such as: Harvard, Oxford, Tübingen, Heidelberg, Gøttingen, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Rome, Kyoto, Tokyo, Seattle, Varanasi, Poona/Pune, Madras/Chennai, Mumbai, Tirupati, & Baroda. His research has been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals such as: the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Wiener Zeitschrift der Kunde Suedasiens, Indo-Iranian Journal, Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, & Adyar Library Bulletin. Prof. Aklujkar has also published multiple books & monographs, including, ‘Appā-śāstrī sāhitya-samīkṣā’ (1965), ‘Sanskrit: an Easy Introduction to an Enchanting Language’ (1992), & ‘The Theory of Nipātas (Particles) in Yāska’s Nirukta’ (1999). He has also been a Member of the Consultative Committee, International Association of Sanskrit Studies (1978-present). Prof. Aklujkar has received multiple awards & distinctions, including, D.Litt. Honoris Causa. (Rāshtrīya Sanskrit Sansthān, 2012), Vyākaraṇa-prabhākara Honor (18th International Congress of Vedānta, 2008) & the Senior Killam Fellowship (University of British Columbia, 1978-79 & 1987-88).

Jeebesh Bagchi (art) is an artist and curator in a collective of three, called Raqs Media Collective, based in New Delhi. Post- educational infrastructures of intellectual and cultural life have absorbed him through his entire working life. What engages him about these infrastructures is how they can be distributed, merged within daily routines of urban living, and be filled with possibilities of surprising exchanges and unlikely encounters. His curatorial practice with Raqs has engaged with these possibilities, where contemporary art takes a morphed role of staging milieus and meeting grounds. Artistically, the question of time after dismantling of the narrative of progress and certainty has been a core enquiry and exploration. With Raqs, Jeebesh has co-founded spaces (Sarai, Delhi), curated exhibitions (Including Shanghai Biennale, 2016, and Yokohama Triennale, forthcoming, 2020), edited books, collaborated with architects, computer programmers, writers, curators, and theatre directors. Some of Raqs’ printed projects include, ‘We Are Here, But Is It Now? (The Submarine Horizons of Contemporaneity)’, Contemporary Conditions Series (Sternberg Press. Berlin & New York, 2017), & ‘Raqs Media Collective: Twilight Language’ Whitworth Art Gallery (October 3, 2017). As part of Raqs, his works include ‘Pamphilos’, Fast Forward Festival (Athens, 2019), ‘Not Yet At Ease’, Firstsite, (14-18 Now) (Colchester, Essex, 2018), ‘Thicket’, Tate Exchange, Tate Modern (London, 2016), & ‘Luminous Will’, School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), Boston. Raqs Media Collective was also awarded the Multitude Art Prize in 2013.

Prof. Pritha Chandra (linguistics) is a Professor of Linguistics at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), New Delhi. She received a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Department of Linguistics, University of Maryland College Park, Maryland (USA). Prof. Chandra’s primary focus is on the nature and complexity of the language module, as proposed by Chomsky (1995). She has worked extensively on Universal Grammar internal operations and computations – more specifically on Agree, and critically assessed the theoretical and empirical justifications provided in its support. Her main thesis is that the conceptually necessary operation Merge alone is responsible for recursive structure generation as well as for phi-agreement relations. Her proposed model presents a computationally simpler view of the grammar machine. In more recent years, her focus has shifted to understanding the mechanisms of language variation, change and development. She draws heavily on biology, and the system sciences to explain the problems of a fully, reductionist approach to language. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such asL Journal for South Asian Languages (hosted by University of Konstanz), Taiwan Journal of Linguistics, & International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics. Prof. Chandra also researches on language policy in India. She has written on the problems of English language teaching in Muslim educational institutions or madrasas. Some of her works also question the intentions and implications of language promoting organizations.

Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.

#TWATW mentionsBhartrihari (Bhartṛhari), Van Gogh, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Alfred Tarski, Rudolf Carnap, & Rohini Devasher, among others.