by Dr Talat Zafar Chaudhri
Contrary to my initial intentions, this is now a “personal” blog. That is not to say that I intend to bore anyone with the details of my life! On this blog in future you’ll find stuff from my work with languages, my personal views on information science, popular science, things that interest me, and more. This is because it really hasn’t worked as a single subject blog, and as a consequence it hasn’t got updated as often as I would have liked.
I’ve also re-named the blog “The Indo-European”. This is partly a joke based on the coincidence of my linguistic interests and my ethnic origin: although my mother is English, my father was a Punjabi born in the Sindh province of British India, and brought up first there and later in Lahore in central Punjab, where he lived until after the Partition. So it’s also a tribute to him. Through him, I could be seen as a kind of archetypal Indo-European for our times!
There may be occasional blog posts in Breton, Cornish or Welsh, for which I make no apology whatsoever, but the primary language of this blog is, for the present at least, intended to be English.
One particular intention is to put more of my thoughts about minority languages into the public arena, with a particular focus on revived Cornish. As some readers may know, I did my PhD in the historical phonology of Cornish but have avoided the political recriminations of the last couple of decades. I previously did an MA, also in Aberystwyth, after a history degree in Oxford, 1995-8.
I’m a fluent speaker of both Breton and Welsh and have been active in Cymdeithas Cymru-Llydaw / Kevredigezh Kembre-Breizh. I use the Peurunvan (“zedhachek”) spelling of Breton myself, but I hope that the political overtones of Breton orthography from the past will continue to fade into history, and myself make no association between orthography and politics.
I have taught Welsh to adults through the medium of English, and Breton to adults through the media of Welsh and English. Thanks in great part to my friend Rhisiart Hincks (to whom I owe much), I have had the opportunity to teach Breton in both academic and non-academic settings.
My home is near Aberystwyth, where I live a good half of my life through the medium of Welsh. I have lived in the area since 1998, with the exception of 3 years in North East Somerset near Bath between 2008-2011. Otherwise, I keep up with my languages by using social Web services (as well as, when I have time, traditional pen and paper!)
I’ve recently been impressed with how constructive the present debate about Cornish has become since the publication of the Single Written Form (SWF), where in the old days it was an entrenched battleground for the few. This has encouraged me to re-engage with the debate about the future of the language.
While I have tended to fall back on using a modified form of Unified Cornish (UC) and personally oppose the use of a totally artificial orthography such as that created for Kernewek Kemmyn (KK), I believe that the real debate lies in the success of the reconstructions of different periods of the language and the ways in which they will be reconciled with each other in future. I have not considered that Unified Cornish Revised (UCR) and its various successors represent a significant overall improvement on UC, although I recognise that their proponents have taken the important step of trying to include people who prefer to reconstruct a form of Cornish based on Late Cornish, however inherently fraught with difficulty I believe that endeavour to be compared to the re-construction of Middle Cornish. I hope these efforts will be reconciled too, and by no means do I mean to reject their insights. The debate should now be focussed how to accommodate as many views as possible.
However, it is important to remember that these are not *purely* orthographies (unlike their Breton counterparts), since they make choices that impact upon important aspects of reconstructed historical phonology. In my view, KK has solved some important problems but introduced many more through its phonological conservatism; overall, its success has been in stimulating debate and making it accessible to the people. Those were *not* the goals it set itself, but nevertheless the eventual results have been positive, after the long period of strife that it caused. Having said that, I acknowledge its insights by incorporating some of them into my own Cornish. The legacy of KK will be long-standing.
More recently, the Single Written Form represents the kind of attempt at compromise that I think represents the future for the language. I particularly note the selfless contributions of Ben Bruch and Albert Bock, often behind the scenes. While it has a long way to go before it is ideal, in my view, it is the kind of constructive starting point that I never thought possible. I did not take part in its creation, partly because I was at the time involved in a PhD and partly because taking sides was not an option that I wanted to pursue at the time, which appeared to be the only one open to me. Now, I hope and believe, there are people involved in the debate who take a more mature view, rather than clinging to the old adversarial debate.
Any comments on this blog are my own and in no way represent the opinions of any current or former employer. This blog is written entirely in my own private time. I previously worked as a Research Officer at UKOLN, and before that as the Repository Advisor at Aberystwyth University. There are some legacy posts from 2009 connected with my work on Repositories and Current Research Information Systems, which were connected with my work, but since this blog was re-purposed as a personal blog, there is no longer any such connection. I have also imported some relevant posts from work blogs at UKOLN, which were published under Creative Commons licences (these are so marked).
The impact of Web technologies on minority languages and their linguistic and cultural communities is an area in which I take a great interest: modern communications provide very real educational and community services that simply never existed before, and have the potential to save or restore the fortunes of minority language cultures, if full advantage is taken of them.