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Orientalism's Baby, Linguistics' Maybe: A Banglish Grammar Book, Part I

"Languages don't die. They are grammatized to death." - Gayatri Spivak. . . This is certainly not a shining example of rigorous scholarship. Rather, I have been thinking about the proliferation of the passive voice in South Asian languages, most specifically Bengali, and in contrast- the favoring of active constructions in American English. And had some questions. First- ungrounded questions: are languages representations of culture apart from the what must be the standardization and (pseudo)scientification of grammatical knowledge? Is it valid to read the skeleton of a language as a text just as much as the texts the skeleton produces? Perhaps this is the very start of the field of linguistics, the origin story of its titanic heroes of the imperial university. I wonder, is it possible to read philological knowledge as cultural knowledge without slipping into the racialized-linguistic legacy of misread Darwinism that still haunts the social sciences today? How necessary to question with history always in mind. There is no subjunctive form in Bangla, but in English translation, we substitute the subjunctive mood for an approximation of the sense. But, is a regret without the subjunctive to express it, the same regret? Can one regret in Bangla as one regrets in English- "if I only x, y would be so. . . not what y is." In Bangla with (HOWOAA) verb formulations- we see the autonomous subject, the very foundation of 'Western'(all the scare of the scare-quotes intended) understandings of self, become objectivized, the 'to be', the 'asmi', the 'as' of Indo-European roots- subtracted. The Bangla subject is subjected to the world, while the American standard subject asserts its agency in its 'asmi', it's being, it's 'am'. What is the cultural significance in the inversion of 'I think, therefore I am" to "Thought happened, therefore I". More constructions and thoughts coming in Part II. Even though I'm sure somebody has already written the monograph. - Sarita

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