Teaching and Doing Phonology in India
K.G.Vijayakrishnan (The EFL University, Hyderabad)
The presentation highlights the following issues:
- The context of linguistics in higher education in India
- the teaching is specifically geared to producing PhDs/MPhils
(which are necessary qualifications for university/college teachers)
and not creating an environment for ongoing linguistic research (as
publications/conferences are not evaluated critically for promotion)
- Critical thinking/creativity is not highly valued as the only
requirement is to get a degree and get on with one's career. Hence
the average thesis 'applies' a given theory, more or less
critically, to a body of data usually restricted to one's mother
- Therefore, teaching linguistics becomes uncritical 'content'
teaching in the Indian context.
- The context of phonology in India
- Unlike syntax, the study of sound patterns is still grounded in
the Behaviouristic paradigm in India. Even senior 'linguists'
dismiss phonetics (and phonology) as physical science(s).
- Since the context of teaching phonology is mostly seen as
subservient to the teaching of spoken English, phenomena tend to get
- Research work tends to be a rehash of known phenomena in
repeatedly researched languages or highly simplistic, even
descriptively inadequate analyses of lesser known languages e.g.,
the analyses of Bodo, Mathili stress etc.
- Teaching materials for phonology
Though the teaching of phonology has been organized around 'problems',
using random problems create a major stumbling block for the
understanding of the phonology of a language as an organic system
with an internal logic. It would be desirable to create a cluster of
related problems in the same language which will unfold the
phonology of a language. A project worth undertaking would be to
create a phonology problem book which is oriented as below:
- a series of problems in a language establishing i), the
inventory, ii) variants, iii) processes, iv) types of
morphology-phonology interaction, v)dialectal variation
- Such problems could be created for a diverse group of languages
so that the book can be used for different student groups
- Linguistics as part of General Education
The structure of language can be taught in a fairly a-theoretical
- illustrate the miracle of language structure
- sensitize students to variation and develop a relativistic approach to language matters
- (at higher levels of research), such an approach will induce researchers to raise interesting questions outside the purview of any specific theory e.g., the question of the functional unity of processes which induce laxing in Assamese.