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Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai
TOWARDS SOME "STANDARD" TELUGU
V. V. B. Rama Rao, Ph.D.
1. What is "Standard"?
In matters of language and expression, the prescriptive approach never works. Language, in addition to being an essential tool for communication, is a matter of personality, personal choice, and private preference. The larger the speech community and the larger the area where a language is spoken, the more would be the variations within the language region. Sub-regional varieties and the use of registers etc., enhance the complexity of a language. There are various levels of diction, style, tropes and expressive devices.
A Standard is more an ideal than a realizable entity. But, in viewing language, usually the terms 'Acceptable' and 'Less Acceptable' are used. These cannot be done away simply by saying there is no definite way of assessing what is 'Acceptable' and what is Less Acceptable'. Language is a matter of propriety also in meaningful communication, which depends on occasions, social mores, decency etc.
2. Towards Some Standard
Though there can be no ready consensus on a Standard, but a form, though not universally accepted or approved, is always assumed. It should not smack of insensitivity or ignorance of social niceties etc. When it comes to print media, each newspaper or journal or magazine has a particular stance, thrust etc but a common minimum 'quality' needs to be maintained, basically for effective communication.
Telugu is a language being spoken by nearly eighty million people, if people elsewhere, outside this country are reckoned. There are four major regional varieties inside the country, and, from among these, there are variations in the spoken and written varieties. In the spoken varieties, there cannot be a Standard anyway because it permits of wide variations. The major ones are Telengana, Rayalaseema, and Central and North Coastal Andhra varieties.
3. The History of Telugu Language
The history of Telugu language itself is a saga of as that of the people themselves. Telingam is one of the four groups among the Proto-Dravidian (between 1500-1000 B.C.) which was spoken by twenty-one Dravidian languages. There was a legend about the group being in Dhaulagiri in the present-day Orissa State, formerly a part of Kalinga Rajya. Lingo, the son of Shiva and Parvati built a town for the groups he led of which some spoke Telingam. Russian linguistician Andronov suggests the possibility of a relation between Telingam and Telugu.
Etukoori Balarama Moorti in Andhra Samskhipta Charitra wrote that in an inscription of 250 A.D of Nagarjuna, some Telugu words were found. The Satavahanas are called Andhras in puranas. After the disintegration of the Mauryan empire, the powerful dynasty of Satavahanas ruled the region between the rivers Godavari and Krishna, from 200 B.C. to 250 A.D. Later Ikshwakus ruled over the land of the Telugus. The Ikshwakus whose official language was Prakrut also patronized Telugu. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries Telugu got firmly established not merely in inscriptions but also in literary masterpieces like Tikkana's Maha Bharatam written around 1050 A.D. Andhra, originally the name of a tribe came to be used for the language which evolved over thousands of years.' Andhra', 'Telugu' and 'Tenugu' are used as synonyms.
The word Trilinga Desam refers to the region between the three lingas (linga is symbolic of Param Shiva, Para Brahma, the Absolute eternal reality) in the places where Shiva shrines of eminence are located. Kaleshwara, Bheemeshwara and Mallikharjuna are three names, among many, of Parama Shiva. The word Telugu is derived from Trilinga. The Mallikarjuna Linga of Srisailam of Kurnool District, the Bheemeswara Linga of Daksharamam of East Godavari District and the Kaleswara Linga of Kaleswaram in Karimnagar District have together given Andhradesa it's name "Trilingadesa".
4. Nature of Language - Some Basics
- Language is primarily spoken.
- Communication is the object of speech.
- All languages are rich. No language is poor in the sense that every language has ways of communication - expressing an idea or information that has been necessary in a given culture where that language is spoken. (Whorf's hypothesis)
5. Language, Style and Standard
Language, the prime form of communication, and style are inseparable. Any expression, utterance, discourse or 'text' has to be clothed in a form or manner called style. As language and style are inseparable, 'standard', even a notional concept, has a relation to language. There is no one particular style that can be supposed to be the best even for a newspaper.
Stylistics has come to be an elaborate science as a component of Linguistics. Though our ancient aestheticians dealt with appropriateness and set up categories for literary expression, comparatively, it is only recently that stylistics has sought to be harnessed for exercises of demonstrably objective literary appreciation/evaluation, starting, among many others, from French philosophers Ferdinand de Saussure to the 'Deconstructionist' Jacques Derrida. Newspapers being the most important users of language for mass utilization show how language is practically used.
The aim of the foregoing analysis, preliminary, rough and ready and explorative does not intend passing any value judgements.
6. Newspaper and Print Medium Language
- For dissemination of news, a form of language that is both acceptable and intelligible has to be used in the newspapers and other organs of the Print Medium.
- For conveying international news, scientific and other kinds of information, new words have to be used or loan words have to be internalized.
- In the context of 'democratization' the lay reader and even the neo-literate reader has to have access to the Print Media.
- In the context of the existence of many regional varieties, some 'Standard" has to be kept in mind though it would never appear written anywhere. This is particularly relevant in the use of a language like Telugu where there are pronounced variations.
7. Variety of Purposes
The purpose determines the form of language and expression. This is not limited to the different fields of activity alone like Films, Law Courts, Medical Practice, Business etc., In all print media these areas are relevant. The newspapers in particular are intended for the reading of the general public and as such a specialized kind of diction or register has either to be kept to a minimum to the extent of disseminating information without confusion. Easy intelligibility should be the concern of the copywriter for the newspaper.
An effort, perhaps needs to be made towards promoting the concept of some 'Standard' to give news in a language that is proper and accurate. All newspapers have some idea of the cultural level of the target reader and every news item has a particular degree of seriousness. Newspapers, every one of them, usually have some kind of a language organization strategy and a house style. The job of the copyeditor normally, among several other things, is to see that there is some kind of word discipline in the copy submitted for use.
Here is a sampling of the basic news and its phrasing in the most important of Telugu newspapers all published on the same day.
(Basic news first and its phrasing in Telugu rendering next in italics)
Women's Bill in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Defeated: The women's Bill defeated in Kashmir assembly
Telephone Tariff reduced: Hello, hello, cheaper still - The BSNL that reduced the rates
Pushkaram - Once in twelve year river festivals in the Krishna : Pushkaram Only the arrival is left : Only the coming of devotees is left : The Pushkaram celebration To-day
Transporters strike: Curtain (down) on strike; repeal of toll tax - Reduction of user charges
Farmer's suicide: Current Connection Cut - Another farmer commits suicide
Guard's death in a film actor's house: the police who threw their hands in helplessness - half a lakh for any clue to the murderer
Resignation of Vivekananda Reddy for his Lok Sabha Membership: Vivekananda's resignation
Points of interest:
The purpose of a newspaper is primarily dissemination of information and the ideal paper conveys information 'actually'. This does not exclude the possibility of comment and explanation. In the conveyance of information, the stance has to be 'neutral'. Figurative language needs to be used with caution, if at all used. Either exaggeration or understatement is not warranted. In the examples of the language of the presentation of news one finds stance, attitude and veiled comments. In the matter of the transporters' strike the use of a metaphor of curtain is more than conveyance of information. The stylistic embellishments make one wonder if there is an attempt at sensationlisation, anathema to a good reporter and the copywriter. The blue pencil normally cuts such things as flab.
Turbulence in the Northeast States: wildfire in the Northeast. The turbulence is described as wild fire. The editorial reflects a stance and being a forum for comment makes use of rhetorical and stylistic devices necessary. Lasting peace appears to be a mirage. This said, the editor lists the various factors that are causing the avoidable conflagration in a single sentence. It is competent writing passing not just information but powerfully drawing public attention to a tricky problem.
Anju in Athens Olympics, Long Jump Final: Anju who raised hopes on Long Jump had to be content with the sixth place in the finals.
Pushkaram: Salutation to Krishnaveni: Krishna Pushkarams from to-day
Electric supply for farmers disconnected: 'Take away our sacred tali', say the women on the Friday of Goddess Varalakshim Vratam (observance) rebelling against the Electricity officers
Suicide of a farmer. Another death on the electricity distribution pole: Another sacrifice of life on an electric pole.
Announcement of policy: The announcement on tom-tom kills a man
Free power: Some Clarification/warning :Free (electricity) does not mean indiscriminate use as one likes.
Reduction of phone tariff: Rain of boons on users by BSNL reduction of 33% on STD Calls and 60% on Cell calls Hutch reduces local call to 99 p. Mobile call only for 1.69p
Transporters Strike: The Lorry strike comes to an end in the state. Repeal of toll tax. Reduction of user charges, implementation of octroi repeal, the lorry owners announced the calling off of the strike.
Investigation into the gallantry awards: veiled investigation by the Centre of the bravery medals
Viveka's resignation: Vivek's resignation to Loksabha
Points of interest:
In the news about unauthorized power connections the writer tries to win the sympathy of the readers by employing stylistic devices. Harnessing socio-religious and gender-accentuated sentiment and rhetorical devices may appear to be efforts at playing to the gallery. Telephone company 'showering boons' is odd if looked at prosaically. Words like 'aaraa' are more appropriate in the case of individuals but a government need not resort to this though the investigation may be a little guarded and subtle. It is relevant to observe that certain words like "mudupu' for 'lancham' (bribe) and 'daakhala' (proof) are widely used by all newspapers. Some leaders are also referred to in either 'familiar' or 'derogatory' terms. A suicide is referred to as 'baliddaanam' (supreme sacrifice).
Field of Social welfare: A Fresh Look
The piece is laudatory to begin with. The last sentence is telling. A rough and ready rendering would read somewhat like this: 'If the Government makes it possible for the parents (of the underprivileged classes) to continue their children's education without having to stop it midway, it would be going a step forward in the path of promoting social welfare.' It reads like a good piece of literary composition, driving home certain sociological truths.
Farmers' Suicide: Shock of irregular connections .. two farmers committed suicide … one climbing up a power supply pole and holding the power line - another for fear of having his connection cut
Vivekanada's resignation Vivekananda's resignation!
The Passage of clouds (rain expectation in the state): O cloud! Stop a little, wouldn't you? The migrating clouds - this is second summer for the State - Cyclones in the Pacific the reason - "Cloud, cloud! Why don't you stop?" "There are cyclones in the Pacific!" is the reply. Is it a joke? No, it's true: The cyclones in China are the cause for untimely hot sun in Andhra Pradesh. What's the reason behind this dichotomy?
Officers asked to opt for compulsory retirement get jobs: Are they of our own district? "If yes, oh, Yes!" by YS. Offices again for the tainted brave
Reduction of Telephone tariff: STD Hai, Hai, Now! - Local Call cheaper - cell charges cut to half - reduction for landlines too - BSNL's reply to competitors.
Krishna Pushkarams: Effulgence of pushkaram glories from today in the Krishna river banks.
PM's hundred days in office: In a hundred days, so many headaches!
The use of language in the conveyance of news is usually matter of fact. But here it is loaded with tropes and expressive devices presented in a catchy format.
Points of interest
The news item about the reinstatement of suspended officers is more conversational and takes recourse to the use of neologism 'akramarkulu' a humorous twist of the word vikramark as a descriptive word. This is also a slur on the people in power. This may be viewed as 'motivated'. Rhetorical devices such as rhyming are used in the item related to Prakash Karat.
Hasty approval of Finance Bill
The subject is the unruly scenes, unrestrained and the 'unparliamentary' behaviour of the members in the highest of the nation's policy-making body. Telugu idiom is used to bring out the horror of the situation. The write-up is deservedly impassioned and the language is skilfully used to 'inform' readers. The central point is that it is not just one party that is culpable but all sitting both on the treasury and opposition benches. Words of daily use like ' dondu ku donde' (something like saying that both equally bad vying with each other to be more so). It drives the reader to conclude, as Johnson said in some kind of disgust, there is little to choose between a louse and a flea. The conclusion is emphatic saying 'neither is a close-washed pearl - both are cuts from the same length of cloth.' The editor's pen frankly and fearlessly indicts the behaviour of people's representatives. It is worth noting that important bills were passed without discussion.
Pushkarams : Mother Krishna calls - the ebullience of activity begins today - coastal districts, Telengana and Rayala'seema' districts ready to host
Vivekanda's resignation: Vivekananda's resignation -
Farmers' deaths: Two more dead of "current' -Villagers say true - officers deny - one climbing a pole in the field- one lest the irregular connection is removed.
Lorry strike: lorries would ply - lorry stroke withdrawn in the State - to continues in other places
Fifty percent reduction in user charges - repeal of toll tax and octroi - YS's assurance on parking places - 'We haven't called off' - Transport Association.
Telephone tariff: 60% reduction on BSNL charges
Strength of BC Hostels raised: 28,000 new seats in BC Hostels
Points of interest
The use of language in this item is not matter of fact. While the caption is colloquial, the write-up is clothed in ornate literary style .The justification, if any is necessary, is the sublimity and seriousness of the occasion of twelve yearly river festivals called pushkarams.
The news item reporting deaths of farmers is presented with contrasts buttressed with telling pictures and visibly catchy dichotomy in the stands of the public and the officers.
The conveyance of other items is matter of fact as those relating to an M.P's resignation, telephone tariff and the schedule of the next cabinet meet.
Over enthusiasm of TRANSCO
The edit comes down heavily in the 'over-enthusiasm', more-loyal-than-the-King-type, of the officers of the Power Department. The piece reads like an exciting and well-crafter narrative. Telugu proverbs and expressive devices are tellingly used to drive home he injustice meted out even to those people who are law-abiding. Ours is a welfare state and the editorial reminds the powers that be that the human factor behind the 'pilferage' should not be ignored totally.
8. Summing-up - Findings
In news reporting the shift to the spoken style is evident. While this is not totally undesirable, a line has to drawn between what is acceptable and what is not really acceptable. Taking sides openly is not a very acceptable thing in reporting and the language needs to be free from over-statements and understatements. Coloured, opinionated, loaded statements need to be restructured to reflect objectivity and impartiality.
The level-gap between the language of the edits and new items is very wide. English idiom is used in Telugu as when one says 'the curtain is downed' to say something ended. Use of peculiar words is evident in using 'mudupulu' for bribes; 'daakhalaa' for proof or evidence, 'paavulu kadipindi' to sat made efforts etc. 'Matalabu' is used not merely to convey significance or meaning, it is also used to subtly suggest mischief. Words like 'cheeivaatlu', words of castigation roughly need to be used with enough justification. These may be matters if opinion. But the objective is to show the trend lest language styles move far away even from the never well defined 'standard'.
The language of the edits is almost the standard journalistic Telugu. The edit is meant to have a stance, an individual attitude and a message or guidance to people in a bid to form knowledgeable opinion. The edit writer has all the literary-linguistic devices before him and using them to put across an idea with elan and gusto is well within his domain. But it is not so in reporting and conveying news as news which need to be unornamented, plain and matter if fact.
News items can be easily distinguished by applying the three 'A's: Appropriateness, Actuality and Acceptability. Edits can be easily examined by applying the four 'c's: reader-centred, writer-centred, context-centred or fact-centred.
The striking gap between the two may be owing to the wide variety of the equipment and skills of the generally not well-paid-reporters and desk hands on one side and the very limited but well-equipped and surely respected and decently-paid edit writers.
9. The Role of the Print Media in setting a 'Standard'
The daily newspaper is the most popular and widely read in the particular language of that region. The various kinds of journals and periodicals too can contribute their mite to perfecting a 'Standard' by adherence to their own house style for all items appearing in their respective publications. When the use of an acceptable language is insisted the scribes would have to stick to it. If laxity is shown and substandard or uneducated varieties are allowed to infiltrate the sanctity of good language norms would be lost. To stay popular and gain circulation, papers need not play to the gallery and resort to the use of unacceptable varieties of language.
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ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF LANGUAGE PLANNING IN MALAYSIA - Looking Ahead to the Future | THE BIG THREE: CHINESE, ENGLISH, AND SPANISH | CONCEPT OF TIME | FIFTY YEARS OF LANGUAGE PLANNING FOR MODERN HINDI - The Official Language of India | DEWAN BAHASA DAN PUSTAKA, Institute of Language and Literature Malaysia - A Brief Overview | TOWARDS SOME "STANDARD" TELUGU | UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF LINGUISTIC RIGHTS | TRADITION, MODERNITY, AND IMPACT OF GLOBALIZATION - WHITHER WILL TAMIL GO? | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
V. V. B.Rama Rao, Ph.D.
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