Friday, October 4, 2019

Satchid Anandan writes

Learning Languages

I would love to learn languages,
Santali, Balochi, Catalan, Slovenian.
In all these tongues
we can say ‘love’;
we can say ‘kill’ too.

It is too late;
no time even to design a time-piece
maybe, I can design a verse-piece

Languages walk past the age of love
bent over a walker.

I too will go,
to the land where I have plenty of time
to learn languages
and then
I will kill you with love. 
Towards the Forest II, 1897/1915 by Edvard Munch.
Towards the Forest II -- Edvard Munch


  1. Santali is spoken by about 7.6 milion people in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Until the 19th century, when Europeans develooped an interest in the study of the languages of India, it had no written language. Before the 1860s anthropologists, folklorists, and missionaries applied Bengali, Odia, and Roman scripts to write Santali, but in 1925 poet Raghunath Murmu invented the 30-letter Ol Chiki (ol "writing + cemet "learning") script. The forms of the letters evoke natural shapes that reflect the names of the letters, which are words, usually the names of objects ("burning fire," "overflowing rivers changing course," etc.) or actions ("a man bending towards the ground to cut something," "a man throwing something with one hand," etc.) However, Santal people in Bangladesh still use the Bengali script.

    Balochi is a Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. The rulers were descended from a hill chieftain named Qambar, whose tribe was hired by raja Sehwa of Kalat, a Hindu princely state, to protect against marauding tribes, but after defeating them Mir Qambar Baloch deposed the raja and became the 1st autonomous vali in 1535. Ahmad Shah Durrani made Balochistan part of the Afghan Empire in 1749 but 9 years later Mir Ibrahim Khan Qambrani Baloch revolted and gained complete independence. In 1739 the rulers of Kalat took the title Begler Begi Khan, and they retained their authority until the Balochistani states amalgamated as the Baluchistan States Union (1952-1955) within the new Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
    Though Balochi was spoken in court it had no written form before the 19th century; it was conveyed by Latin until the mid-20th century, when the Persian alphabet was applied. Mir Gul Khan Naseer, a Baloch political leader who wrote poems in English, Urdu, Balochi, Brahui, and Persian, in 1951 published "Gulbang," the 1st book of poetry in the Balochi language, using the Arabic alphabet, which became the normal form, especially as standardized by Sayad Zahoor Shah.

  2. Catalan (Català) is spoken in northeastern Spain and the Principat d'Andorra, derived from the non-standard Sermo Vulgaris dialects of Latin that emerged in the 6th century (and led to the modern Romance languages such as French, Italian, Occitan, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish, and Catalan, which began to emerge in the 9th century but was not regarded as a separate language until Friedrich Christian Diez reognized it as such in 1863). Catalunya, the region where it is spoken, evolved from Gathia Launia("Land of the Goths"), a defensive barrier established by Charlemagne to defend his realm against the Muslims of Al-Andalus, and the local rulers extended their territories to the south and west. The Principat de Catalunya emerged from the Comtat de Barcelona, which was established at the beginning of the 9th century, became independent in 988, and entered into dynastic union with the kingdom of Aragon in 1137, though it retained its autonomy. Catalan became one of the major European languages in the 14th and 15th centuries; Ausiàs March was 1 of the 1st poets to use Catalan instead of the similar Occitan used by the troubadours; his wife's brother Joanot Martorell wrote the novel "Tirant lo Blanch." A República Catalana was extablished under French protection in 1641, with Louis XIII serving as count of Barcelona, but it was reincorporated into the Spanish monarchy in 1652. Louis XIV recovered part of it but, in a 1659 peace treaty with Spain, began the official suppression of the language in France, and in 1794 the Convention nationale banned Catalan, Breton, Occitan, Flemish, Alsatian, and Basque in order to promote a single official language; in a series of Decretos de Nueva Planta (1707-1716) Louis' grandson Felipe V of Spain followed the French model of centalization and suppressed the institutions, privileges, and charters of Aragon, Catalunya, Valencia, and the Balearic islands and forbade the official use of Latin and other languages except Castilian; most lingistic restrictions were lifted in the 1930s, but Francisco Franco resumed the ban that lasted until his death in 1975. Nonetheless, a Català literary revival (Renaixença) began with the 1833 publication of the "Ode to the Homeland" by Buenaventura Carlos Aribau, who wrote in Spanish, Catalan, Latin, and Italian, and has continued to the present.

  3. Slovenian (Slovenščina) is spoken by over 2 million people; Slovenščina and Slovenčina (Slovak) are the only Slavic languages that mean "Slavic." They both emerged as separate languages in the 19th century after centuries of development. In 863 St. Cyril and his brother St. Methodius created the Glagolitic alphabet based on the Slavic dialect of their native Thessaloniki; it evolved into the modern Cyrillic alphabet. Between 972-1039 the "Brižinski Spomeniki," the 1st Latin-script Slavic manuscript was composed, the oldest "Slovenian" text; the language was spoken in modern Slovenia, Carinthia, Styria, East and south Tyrol, and Austria, but by the 15th century it was replaced by German in the north, and a further Germanization process in Carnthia occurred in the late 19th century. It was primarily a peasant language, while German was the language of the elites, though the German minnesinger and poet Ulrich von Liechtenstein was greeted in Slovenian by the duke of Carinthia when he visited in 1227. The 1st printed Sloven words appeared in 1515 in Vienna in a poem about the German mercenaries who suppressed the largest-ever peasant revolt in Slovenia that year. Primož Trubar, a Lutheran preacher in Rothenburg who wrote 22 books in Slovenian and 2 in German and was the 1st to translate part of the Bible into Slovene, wrote the first 2 books in Slovene, "Catechismus" (which also contained the 1st Slovene musical manuscript in print) and "Abecedarium;" in 1555 he translated the "Gospel of Matthew" and in 1577 the entire New Testament. In 1584 another Lutheran preacher, Adam Bohorič, wrote the 1st Slovene grammar "Arcticae horulae succisivae" (Free Winter Hours), which also codified the 1st Slovene alphabet, which was supplanted in the 1840s by Ljudevit Gaj's Latin alphabet used for all Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Montenegrin works (he invented it in 1835, based on the Czech alphabet used by the heretic Jan Hus in the 15th century). In 1583 Jurij Dalmatin, yet another Lutheran minister, used the Bohorič alphabet for his "Bibilija, tu je vse svetu pismu stariga inu noviga testamenta, slovenski tolmačena skuzi Jurija Dalmatina," the 1st complete translation of the Bible into Slovenian. Josip Jurčič wrote the 1st Slovene novel, "Deseti brat" (The Tenth Brother) in 1866. In the 19th century German loan words in Slovenian were largely replaced by Serbo-Croatian and Czech words, but poet Ivan Cankar and others returned to a purer language in the early 20th century, though the war against Serbo-Croatian borrowings went back and forth until after World War II. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed in 1918 but was colloquially known as "Jugoslavija" (Land of Southern Slavs); the monarchy was deposed and the country was renamed the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia and 1945; the independent Republika Slovenija emerged in 1991.


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