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Indian History Carnival–61: Linguistics, Sernigi, Babur, Ramanujam, Thirumalapuram

Ramanujan (centre) with other scientists at Trinity College

Ramanujan (centre) with other scientists at Trinity College

  1. Is English a Scandinavian or a West Germanic language? There is a debate going on this topic and it boils down to the question: do languages which are in close contact with each other borrow just words or do they borrow grammar as well.? Sally Thomason mentions an example from India

    Probably the most famous case of all is Kupwar, a village in India in the border area between Indic languages in the north and Dravidian languages in the south. Morphosyntactic diffusion has been multidirectional in Kupwar, but the most extensive changes have affected the Kupwar variety of the Indic language Urdu, which has borrowed from the Dravidian language Kannada and from Marathi, the other Indic language spoken in the village. The changes include adoption of an inclusive/exclusive `we’ distinction, subject-verb agreement rules in four different constructions, word order features, and about a dozen other features (details can be found in the 1971 Gumperz & Wilson article). Another striking case was reported by Andrei Malchukov in 2002: the Tungusic language Evenki has borrowed a volitional mood suffix and an entire set of personal endings from the Turkic language Yakut. It’s worth noting that word order is the most frequently borrowed type of syntactic feature — a relevant point because two of Faarlund’s examples of Scandinavian structure in English are word order features.

  2. Girolamo Sernigi was responsible for financing many Portuguese voyages to India and also for making Calicut popular in Europe. Maddy has a post about what Sernigi wrote about Calicut

    So much for Sernigi’s letters. The full texts of those can be found online, in the first reference. What became of Sernigi? If you recall, the entry of the Florentine associations with the Portuguese broke the Venetian control of the spice trade. In fact most ships had their representatives in the ships that travelled to the Indies. Their notes of the trade and the locales as we saw from the example above provided much insight to the benign culture and conditions in Malabar, to the people of Europe and encouraged their forced entry into Malabar. According to Moacyr Scares Pereira, the first nau to return to Lisbon, Nossa Senhora Anunciada, belonged to D. Alvaro de Braganca and his associates, Italian merchants Bartolomeo Marchioni, Girolamo Sernigi and possibly Antonio Salvago. So had it not been for people like Sernigi, Gama might never have landed in Calicut.

  3. Is this the oldest surviving Mughal document? The Mughal Indian blog at the British Library has a farman of Babur dating to 1527 CE

    Very few original documents survive from Babur’s reign; S.A.I. Tirmizi (see below) lists only four. This one is particularly interesting. The early date suggests that under Mughal rule a new grant was required to confirm Jalāl al-Dīn in a post which he had probably already held under the Lodhi Sultans of Delhi. The use of the administrative unit parganah, a term fora collection of villages which had been in official use in India from the 14th century, demonstrates the Mughals’ continued use of an existing administrative structure. However, the grant itself is called a suyurghāl, a Mongol term for a hereditary grant. Other new terms used are mutavajjihāt and māl u jihāt, both names of taxes found in documents of the Turkman and Timurid dynasties which ruled much of Iran during the 15th century.

  4. The 125th birthday of Srinivasa Ramanujam was on Dec 22, 2012. drisyadrisya writes about the media coverage

    And what about the visual and the print media ? I haven’t yet come across anything significant from them either. In fact, perhaps today, this piece got an extensive space in daily mail UK and so far I haven’t seen the Indian media pick it up except for a much shortened version in “Hindu Business Line” Go through the two, and tell me, what major difference do you notice in the treatment of the subject ? True to its ‘tradition’ which is has ever made its name a misnomer the “Hindu” Business Line has completed ignored the Hindu aspect. One might say that the UK mirror was meant for an audience not-so-familiar with Ramanujam, and the HBL being an Indian publication, did not want to repeat the well known ? .. well well well … well known ? Quoting from the mirror “Ramanujan, a devout Hindu, thought these patterns were revealed to him by the goddess Namagiri” . I just wanted to pause at that statement and give it some thought … Could there have been any motive for Ramanujam to lie ? Not one that I can think off .. after all why would one give credit to someone else , even if it be a Goddess.. One potential argument that could stand logic (though not necessarily true unless proven to be so) is from Hardy – “Ramanujan’s religiousness had been romanticised by Westerners and overstated by Indian biographers”

  5. A famous legend in Kerala is that of Peumthachan, a master sculptor who kills his talented and capable son due to jealousy. Vijay finds a similar story in Thirumalapuram

    The master sculptor who was excavating the north cave had a talented son who would bring his ‘coffee’ from home every day. He would then observe his father work the stone and would go around the hill and replicate the same moves on the stone there. He took care to match the strokes with those of his father’s hammer, so that his father’s hammer strikes would mask his own. He continued in this fashion when one day, the father suddenly stopped mid stroke and heard the sound of the hammer on chisel. He immediately set off to find the source and came across a boy stooped over a stone. But since he was turned away from him, he couldn’t recognize him but seeing the work he realized that someone was copying his design. Enraged he stuck the lad on his head with his hammer and slew him on the spot. Only then he realized that it was his own son but it was too late!

If you have any links for the History Carnival, please leave a comment or send an e-mail to varnam.blog @gmail. The next carnival will be up on Feb 15th.

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