#TMOL (The Medley Of Languages, February 06, 2016):

Is babble the beginning? Are languages pure, or were they originally mixed? Was Shakespeare writing in English? Are languages negotiated like in a bazaar, & where then does the power lie? Are there areas & languages where mixing is flaunted, & some where it is not? Do you communicate in a mixed language (Hinglish?)? Does the label of language operate in a retrospective manner? What does it mean to have a first language? What does it mean to loan and borrow words? Do you pun? Do words travel more easily than syntax; why? Do scripts mix? Is it possible to legislate languages? Is the French of French Canada ‘purer’ than of France? Why aren’t other languages not completely incomprehensible? Is everything translatable? What might be the impact on languages of the disembodied global marketplace or the digital? Is it likely that the standardized language (of literature) in the future would (again) be poly-genealogical, & something that we would not recognize today? Can media or political spaces possibly be pluri-lingual? Can a totally artificial language be created? Do languages need custodians? Aapko space chahiye? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from linguistics (Prof. Probal Dasgupta, ISI, Kolkata), English literature (Prof. Jonathan Gil Harris, Ashoka University, Delhi), & translation and cultural studies (Prof. Rita Kothari, IIT Gandhinagar, Gandhinagar).

Listen in…

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

Prof. Probal Dasgupta ( linguistics) is currently at the Linguistic Research Unit (LRU) in Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata. He taught in New York, San Francisco, Barlaston (England), Melbourne, Pune and Hyderabad before joining ISI in 2006. Prof. Dasgupta did his Ph.D. at New York University (NYU) on the generative syntax of Bangla (his thesis was titled ‘Questions and Relative and Complement Clauses in a Bangla Grammar’). His research interests are syntactic theory, comparative syntax, generative phonology and morphology, the lexicon, Indo-Aryan studies (with focus on Bangla), Esperanto studies, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, the linguistics-literature interface and the linguistics-philosophy interface. He is also interested in translation studies, applied linguistics, and comparative literature. He has been a user of the constructed language Esperanto since 1967 and has been the president of the World Esperanto Association (2007 to 2013). He has been a member of the Akademio de Esperanto since 1983, its vice-president since 2001, and became an honorary member of the Linguistic Society of America in 2004. Apart from his book ‘The Otherness of English: India’s Auntie Tongue Syndrome (1993)’, he has written and translated extensively. The title of his recent book ‘Merur praarthonaa: bishuber uttor (Abhijan, 2015)’  translates as ‘The poles pray: the equator answers’. It advocates systematic anti-polarization in matters of language, taking Esperanto and the metalanguage concept as a point of departure.

Prof. Jonathan Gil Harris ( English literature) is currently the Professor of English & Dean of Academic Affairs at Ashoka University, Delhi. He is descended from long lines of migrants on both sides of his family. Proving that genes can indeed sometimes be destiny, he has himself migrated several times; from New Zealand to the UK, where he did his postgraduate education, to the US, where he taught for 23 years, and then to India, where he has been living permanently since 2013. He has long been preoccupied with the problem of the foreign and things that cross borders; diseases, commodities, traders, ideas, and Shakespeare’s stories. His earlier books including ‘Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic (1998)’, ‘Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism and Disease in Shakespeare’s England (2004)’, ‘Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare (2008)’, ‘Shakespeare and Literary Theory (2011)’, and ‘Marvellous Repossessions: The Tempest, Globalization, and the Waking Dream of Paradise (2012)’; were all academic studies of the foreign in Shakespeare and his contemporaries. He is also the editor of ‘Indography: Writing the “Indian” in Early Modern England’ (Palgrave, 2012). His latest book is ‘The First Firangis: Remarkable Stories of Healers, Heroes, Courtesans, Charlatans, and Other Foreigners Who Became Indian’ (Aleph Books, 2015). He is currently writing a new book, ‘Shakespeare Masala: How an English National Poet Became Indian’ (to be published in 2017).  Prof. Harris is also President of the Shakespeare Society of India.

Prof. Rita Kothari (translation & cultural studies) is currently at the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITG). She taught Indian Literature in English and Translation at St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad (1992-2007), and thereafter joined as a Professor in Culture and Communication at the Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad (MICA). Her research interests are Indian literature, translation studies, language & identity politics in India, cultural history of Sindh & Gujarat and Hinglish. Her questions lie at the intersection of communities, language and translation and she chooses her sites of inquiry from the regions of Sindh, Gujarat, and Kutch. She completed her M.Phil. & Ph.D. from Gujarat University. Prof. Kothari is the author of ‘Translating India: The Cultural Politics of English’, ‘The Burden of Refuge: Sindhi Hindus of Gujarat’ and ‘Memories and Movements: Borders and Communities in Banni, Kutch’. She has numerous translations to her credit which include the Dalit novel, ‘Angaliyat: The Stepchild’, ‘Unbordered Memories: Partition Stories from Sindh’ and recently, ‘Fence’, a novel based on religious segregation in Gujarat. She is the co-editor of ‘Chutnefying English: The Phenomenon of Hinglish’ and ‘Decentring Translation Studies: India and Beyond’. She has been the recipient of several awards such as the Fulbright, Bellagio Residency and Fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS, Shimla) and has been an invited speaker in nearly 30 countries.

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

#TMOL mentions: Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Kabir, Amir Khusro, George A. Grierson, & E. Annamalai, among others.