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Departments / Majid Majidi: The famous film director
« on: February 26, 2020, 01:46:53 PM »

This post is about Majid Majidi, the famous film director of Iran whose film " Children of Heaven" has touched me deeply during my childhood.

Departments / Subultern Linguistics by Ahmar Mahboob
« on: February 24, 2020, 05:24:17 PM »
What is subaltern linguistics?

 By Ahmar Mahboob,  Ph.D, University of Sydney, Australia. Last updated Jan 21, 2019

Subaltern linguistics is a linguistics carried out by and for a community’s self-empowerment, well-being, and prosperity. Subaltern linguistics can be carried out by anyone. And, it can be done in any language – it does not need to use or rely on English or on technical jargon. The goal of subaltern linguistics is to create economies, practices, projects, and resources that can be made and used by community members and leaders to develop and promote community beneficial socio-semiotic processes in their own language (or a language of their choice). Socio-semiotics can be broadly understood as ways in which various meaning-making resources (including, but not limited to, images, texts, colours, symbols, gestures, movement, sounds, smells, tastes, touch) relate to the lives of people.
Subaltern linguistics can be – and is often – carried out by people who do not have a training in modern linguistics.

To read my critique of modern linguistics, please visit:

There is no one way of doing subaltern linguistics.

Work in subaltern linguistics can be characterised by

1) its goals: community empowerment, well-being, and prosperity;

2) its use of five material senses: visual, oral, smell, touch, and taste [note: these five senses are presented in a particular hierarchy; I will discuss this hierarchy and its significance in a later essay]; and,

 3) its recognition of the relationship between socio-semiotic and material systems.

Our worlds can be broadly classified into two systems: material systems and socio-semiotic systems.

Material systems include physical and biological systems. Physical systems are the primary building blocks of our existence. A study of these (e.g. through physics or chemistry), and the use of these studies (e.g. through engineering) helps us to manipulate the physical world to suit our needs. Biological systems give us life. A study of these (e.g. through plant and animal sciences), and the use of these studies (e.g. through medicine) helps us to fight off diseases and live a longer and healthier life.

Physical and biological systems are not independent of each other. All biological organisms are made of physical matter; however, not all physical matter is biological (e.g. stones and rocks and water and air). Biological organisms can impact physical objects; and physical environment can impact the evolution of biological organisms. We can also use studies of the physical world and apply them to biological creatures, e.g., by using x-rays and nuclear medicine. And, we can use a study of biological creatures in working with physical objects, e.g., designing helicopters based on studying dragonflies.

However, there can be little development or application of the physical or biological sciences without our ability to form socio-semiotic systems. Socio-semiotic systems include sociological systems and semiotic systems. Sociological systems are ways in which a group organises itself. All sociological systems are biological, but not all biological systems (e.g., trees) are sociological. Semiotic systems are meaning-making systems; and all sociological systems have some form of meaning-making processes (this includes but is not limited to language). It is the socio-semiotic systems that give us our understandings of the world, including our belief systems, economic systems, ways of thinking, ways of being, and ways of doing. Socio-semiotic systems can help explain and predict the relationship that an individual or a community has with other social systems, biological organisms, and the physical world. Language plays a small, but crucial, role in creating and enabling our socio-semiotic systems.

Language is created, changed, and used by people. People use language as one way of understanding and sharing the world around us: both material world and socio-semiotic world. Language responds to and changes as people change or the things that they do with language change. Language, like the people who create language, changes all the time. To understand language, we need to understand people: what people do with language. Thus, people are at the centre of our understanding of subaltern linguistics. Not language. Language is one meaning-making resource amongst many; and people use this resource for their benefit – or, for their harm.

Indigenous communities throughout the world developed respectful relationships with the material world and lived in harmony with it. This was reflected in their socio-semiotic processes. For example, Indigenous people of Australia believed that earth (and rivers and mountains) are living things and deserve respect. Their languages gave human-like characteristics to animals and birds. This reflects an understanding that other living thing also have meaning-making systems and navigate their lives and the world through them. Their social, cultural and linguistic practices reflected these beliefs. And, these beliefs led them to develop a respectful relationship with their environment – and all objects and beings that were part of that environment. Readers familiar with Indigenous languages from other parts of the world will be able to quickly add to these examples: of how Indigenous languages embedded a respect for material, biological, and other socio-semiotic systems. However, these practices and ways of being were disrupted by colonisation – and have led to many of the problems that we experience in the world today.
Colonizing communities (a.k.a. exploiting communities) speak and promote language, culture and social practices that do not share this respect of the physical or biological systems. Colonizing powers belief in the superiority of humans over other creatures; and of the superiority of some human belief systems and practices over others. They believe that their own ways of doing things are “developed” because they control other parts of the world; and that others need to follow their lead to become “developed”. As a consequence of this, they create policies and practices (including education and academic disciplines) whereby other people and communities give up their own ways of being and doing to become “developed”. This leads to a devastation of Indigenous communities and local ways of being and doing.
Once on decline, “experts” from exploiting communities (and those trained in the approaches developed by the exploiting communities) go into the exploited communities to “document” the ways of these societies. This include “experts” from across social sciences, education, and humanities, including linguists.  And, while the linguists (and others) document languages (and other practices), the communities that speak these languages (and practice different beliefs) continue to suffer and gradually disappear. (To follow up on the link between colonisation and linguistics, visit:

Subaltern linguistics recognises these inherent discriminatory and subjugating practices carried out and encouraged by academics and experts from (or trained in) exploitative linguistics and other social sciences (including education).
The goal of subaltern linguistics is not to document languages or write grammars. It sees these practices as subjugating practices – practices that further weaken and marginalise communities and languages.

A deemphasis on language documentation and writing grammars in subaltern linguistics is based both on theoretical and practical concerns. In terms of theory, subaltern linguistics recognises the impossibility of writing a comprehensive grammar of any language. This is because language is a dynamic system that changes and varies all the time; one cannot capture all the language changes and variations in a single grammar of language. The most that one can hope for is to document language use in one context, by one person (or group of people), at one time. The writing and use of grammars contribute to discriminatory practices: since one set of language features is considered “standard” and others are seen as deviancies (and deficiencies).

There are at least three inter-related practical reasons for subaltern linguistics not to focus on writing linguistic descriptions or grammars. First, if the goals of subaltern linguistics and “modern linguistics” are at odds, then how can it follow the methods used by “modern linguists”? Second, if subaltern linguistics focuses on people and communities, and considers language to be a minor, albeit crucial, resource for meaning-making, then how can it focus on just language? And, third, if subaltern linguistics can be carried out by anyone in any language, then how can it be tied down with heavy theoretical and terminological knowledge that is only accessible to people who are trained in “modern linguistics”?

Having said this, subaltern linguists can do some documentation. However, this is limited in scope and is only done in order to achieve the goals of a specific project (which are about empowerment of people and communities). Subaltern linguistics documents and analyses the use of language (along with other meaning-making systems) in as far as it helps them to create economies, practices, projects, and resources that benefit their communities.

I will now give three examples of subaltern linguistics. Notice that these come from very different contexts and “modern linguistics” has little contribution to any of these.

Example 1: Sequoyah was a Cherokee (an Indigenous tribe in north America) who realised that the colonizers used writing to communicate. Cherokee, at that point was an oral language. Sequoyah set out – with no training in linguistics – to develop a writing system for his language. He first experimented with a phonemic system, but realised that it did not suit his language – and would be too difficult to teach and learn. He therefore invented a set of characters that were syllabic, not phonetic. Once he had completed his script and published it, the Cherokee script spread quickly through his community and people who had no literacy developed literacy in their language very quickly. Sequoyah’s script, which is a socio-semiotic resource, is still used today and is one reason why the Cherokee people and language have survived the onslaughts of colonization and genocide.

 Cherokee_syllabary–photo Wikimeida Commons
Sequoyah can be considered a champion of subaltern linguistics. He saw a need in his community and addressed it by creating a new writing system – a writing system that is arguable much better than the phonemic scripts used and promoted by “modern linguistics”.

Example 2: National Road and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) is an organisation that offers roadside assistance to motorists in Australia. Recently, NRMA started a “drive nice” campaign and placed large advertisements on highways that read “Drive nice…” and then a message in a child’s writing along with drawings. An example of one such advertisement is given below:
 National Road and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) advertisement –photo provided by the author
This text uses not just language, but Tom’s handwriting and drawing to create an impact. Tom, as the advertisement states, was 6-year-old when he composed this text. This – and other advertisements in this campaign – are powerful because they draws on socio-semiotics and our understanding of how using a child’s handwriting and drawing can influence adults. This is an example of subaltern linguistics as it draws on an understanding of socio-semiotics to influence practices that can save peoples’ lives.
A subaltern linguistic, if they so choose, can review this (and other successful campaigns from around the world) and create their own resources – with an understanding of their own people and communities – to influence unsafe driving (or other) practices that are harmful to the community. A subaltern linguist will analyse these texts only to understand how they work; their goal is not to document or describe language use, but to create their own resources (for their own goals, in their own languages, and in ways that work for their communities). The resources created, which are socio-semiotic in nature, will impact the material systems: e.g., these resources may decrease the number of accidents in the area and thus improve the physical and biological environment in which people live.

Example 3: Elders and children from the Kristang community in Melaka, Malaysia, in collaboration with FLC Group, organised a Language Travels in late 2018. The goal of this Language Travels was to enhance the prestige of Kristang by creating economic opportunities that use and strengthen the community language (see Language Travels in Melaka was coordinated by the community elders, who supervised their youth to take on the role of language teachers. This project provided an income to the community, including to the children, and gave them pride in their own language.

In this subaltern linguistics project, the community developed and ran a successful project that brought an income to the community through the use of their language. The community elders and youth worked together to study their own language and developed material and methods to teach their language to Language Travelers. As a result of this first Language Travels, the Kristang community is now setting up additional programs and running them independent of FLC. This example shows how communities can create economic opportunities for themselves by using and empowering their own languages. They use socio-semiotic resources to bring material and other benefits to the people of their community.

To summarise, subaltern linguistics is a linguistics of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is inclusive and does not discriminate between people based on their language, training, education, age, gender, sexual orientation, social class, or other demographic features. Anyone who uses language (or a study of language) to empower their communities is a subaltern linguist. This can be a child, or a grandmother, or the two together. The goal of subaltern linguistics is community enhancement – done by and in terms of the members of the community. We can all participate in subaltern linguistics – to create more prosperous and harmonized societies.

Departments / Short Poems by Shamsi
« on: February 19, 2020, 10:15:30 AM »
A Storied Evening
By Shamsi Ara Huda

Lamp shades placed in corners of a newly bought flat,

Green pot plants in the finest porcelain,

Soothing instrumental music infused with imported incense,

Flowery candles floating in wood inlaid bowls,

Sky-blue curtains swaying in the wind,

Cozy cushions waiting here and there,

Fusion food ready on an elegant embroidered runner,

A storied evening ahead.

English / 10 reasons of damaging your brain
« on: December 14, 2014, 11:43:07 AM »
The 10 Best Ways to Damage Your Brain
Here’s a list of the worst things you can do for your brain…

1. Skipping Breakfast
People who do not eat breakfast are going to have a lower blood sugar level. This leads to an insufficient supply of nutrients to the brain causing brain degeneration.

2. Overeating
It causes hardening of the brain arteries, leading to a decrease in mental power.

3. Smoking
It causes multiple brain shrinkage and may lead to Alzheimer disease.

4. High Sugar Consumption
Too much sugar will interrupt the absorption of proteins and nutrients causing malnutrition and may interfere with brain development.

5. Air Pollution
The brain is the largest oxygen consumer in our body. Inhaling polluted air decreases the supply of oxygen to the brain, bringing about a decrease in brain efficiency.

6. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep allows our brain to rest. Long term deprivation from sleep will accelerate the death of brain cells.

7. Cover Your Head While Sleeping
Sleeping with the head covered, increases the concentration of carbon dioxide and decrease concentration of oxygen that may lead to brain damaging effects.

8. Working Your Brain During Illness
Working hard or studying with sickness may lead to a decrease in effectiveness of the brain as well as damage the brain.

9. Lacking In Stimulating Thoughts
Thinking is the best way to train our brain, lacking in brain stimulation thoughts may cause brain shrinkage.

10. Talking Rarely
Intellectual conversations will promote the efficiency of the brain.

English / World famous short stories
« on: December 14, 2014, 11:30:05 AM »
The Sacrificial Egg

by Chinua Achebe

JULIUS Obi sat gazing at his typewriter. The fat chief clerk, his boss, was snoring at his table. Outside, the gatekeeper in his green uniform was sleeping at his post. No customer had passed through the gate for nearly a week. There was an empty basket on the giant weighing machine. A few palm kernels lay in the dust around the machine.
Julius went to the window that overlooked the great market on the bank of the Niger. This market, like all Ibo markets, had been held on one of the four days of the week. But with the coming of the white man and the growth of Umuru into a big palm-oil port, it had become a daily market. In spite of that however, it was still busiest on its original Nkwo day, because the deity that presided over it cast her spell only on that day. It was said that she appeared in the form of an old woman in the center of the market just before cockcrow and waved her magic fan in the four directions of the earth -- in front of her, behind her, to the right, and to the left -- to draw to the market men and women from distant clans. And they came, these men and women, bringing the produce of their lands: palm oil and kernels, kola nuts, cassava, mats, baskets, and earthenware pots. And they took home many-colored cloths, smoked fish, iron pots and plates.
Others came by the great river bringing yams and fish in their canoes. Sometimes it was a big canoe with a dozen or more people in it; sometimes it was just a fisherman and his wife in a small vessel from the swiftflowing Anambara. They moored their canoe on the bank and sold their fish, after much haggling. The woman then walked up the steep banks of the river to the heart of the market to buy salt and oil and, if the sales had been good, a length of cloth. And for her children at home she bought bean cakes or akara and mai-mai, which the Igara women cooked. As evening approached, they took up their paddles and paddled away, the water shimmering in the sunset and their canoe becoming smaller and smaller in the distance until it was just a dark crescent on the water's face and two dark bodies swaying forwards and backwards in it.
Julius Obi was not a native of Umuru. He came from a bush village twenty or so miles away. But having passed his Standard Six in a mission school in 1920 he came to Umuru to work as a clerk in the offices of the Niger Company, which dealt in palm oil and kernels. The offices were situated beside the famous Umuru market, so that in his first two or three weeks Julius had to learn to work against the background of its noise. Sometimes when the chief clerk was away or asleep he walked to the window and looked down on the vast anthill activity. Most of these people were not there yesterday, he thought, and yet the market was as full. There must be many, many people in the world. Of course they say that not everyone who came to the great market was a real person. Janet's mother had said so.
"Some of the beautiful young women you see squeezing through the crowds are not real people but mammy-wota from the river," she said.
"How does one know them?" asked Julius, whose education placed him above such superstitious stuff. But he took care not to sound unbelieving. He had long learned that it was bad policy to argue with Ma on such points.
"You can always tell," she explained, "because they are beautiful with a beauty that is not of this world. You catch a glimpse of them with the tail of your eye, then they disappear in the crowd."
Julius thought about these things as he now stood at the window looking down at the empty market. Who would have believed that the great market could ever be so empty? But such was the power of Kitikpa, or smallpox.
When Umuru had been a little village, it had been swept and kept clean by its handful of inhabitants. But now it had grown into a busy, sprawling, crowded, and dirty river port. And Kitikpa came. No other disease is feared by the lbo people as much as they fear Kitikpa. It is personified as an evil deity. Its victims are not mourned lest it be offended. It put an end to the coming and going between neighbors and between villages. They said, "Kitikpa is in that village, and immediately it was cut off by its neighbors.
Julius was worried because it was almost a week since he had seen Janet, the girl he was going to marry. Ma had explained to him very gently that he should no longer come to see them "until this thing is over by the power of Jehovah." Ma was a very devout Christian, and one reason why she approved of Julius for her only daughter was that he sang in the church choir.
"You must keep to your rooms," she had said. "You never know whom you might meet on the streets. That family has got it." She pointed at the house across the road. "That is what the yellow palm frond at the doorway means. The family were all moved away today in the big government lorry."
Janet walked a short way with him, and they said good night. And they shook hands, which was very odd.
Julius did not go straight home. He went to the bank of the river and just walked up and down it. He must have been there a long time, because he was still there when the ekwe, or wooden gong, of the night spirit sounded. He immediately set out for home, half walking and half running. He had about half an hour to get home before the spirit ran its race through the town.
As Julius hurried home he stepped on something that broke with a slight liquid explosion. He stopped and peeped down at the footpath. The moon was not yet up, but there was some faint light which showed that it would not be long delayed. In this light Julius saw that he had stepped on a sacrificial egg. There were young palm fronds around it. Someone oppressed by misfortune had brought the offering to the crossroads in the dusk. And he had stepped on it and taken the sufferer's ill luck to himself. "Nonsense," he said and hurried away. But it was too late; the night spirit was already abroad. Its voice rose high and clear in the still, black air. It was a long way away, but Julius knew that distance did not apply to these beings. So he made straight for the cocoyam farm beside the road and threw himself on his belly. He had hardly done this when he heard the rattling staff of the spirit and a thundering stream of esoteric speech. He shook all over. The sounds came bearing down on him. And then he could hear the footsteps. It was as if twenty men were running together. In no time at all the sounds had passed and disappeared in the distance on the other side of the road.
As Julius stood at the window looking out on the empty market he lived through that night again. It was only a week ago, but already it seemed to be separated from the present by a vast emptiness. This emptiness deepened with the passage of time. On this side stood Julius, and on the other Ma and Janet, who were carried away by the smallpox.

[ A talented young Nigerian who was educated in missionary and government schools, Chinua Achebe won a scholarship at the University College in Ibadan, where he took his degree in the arts. He studied broadcasting at the BBC and now divides his time between writing and his work at the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission. His novel dealing with life in an African tribe, Things Fall Apart, has recently been published by McDowell, Obolensky]

English / HAIKU
« on: June 26, 2011, 09:55:05 AM »

Haiku is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterized by three qualities:

# The essence of haiku is "cutting" (kiru). This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji or 'cutting word' between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colours the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.

# Traditional haiku consist of 17 sounds (also known as morae), in three phrases of 5, 7 and 5 on respectively. Any one of the three phrases may end with the kireji.Although haiku are often stated to have 17 syllables,this is incorrect as syllables and on are not the same.

#A kigo (seasonal reference), usually drawn from a saijiki ,an extensive but defined list of such words. The majority of kigo, but not all, are drawn from the natural world. This, combined with the origins of haiku in pre-industrial Japan, has led to the inaccurate impression that haiku are necessarily nature poems.

Modern Japanese gendai haiku are increasingly unlikely to follow the tradition of 17 on or to take nature as their subject, but the use of juxtaposition continues to be honored in both traditional haiku and gendai. There is a common, although relatively recent, perception that the images juxtaposed must be directly observed everyday objects or occurrences.

In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line while haiku in English often appear in three lines to parallel the three phrases of Japanese haiku.

Previously called hokku, haiku was given its current name by the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th century.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


English / Wall Magazine of English Department
« on: May 31, 2010, 03:41:18 PM »


                                                                                                                                                                   May 31, 2010

Hello Dear Students

Department of English is planning to bring out the Wall Magazine of summer, 2010 very soon. Interested students are invited to submit their write-ups within 30th June, 2010.You can send your write-ups through e-mail. You can also submit your hard copies to the supervisor. You are encouraged to write in both Bengali and English. Selected Bengali write-ups will be translated this time.Some of the areas of writing are given below for your convenience:
Poem,Feature,Experience,Short-Story,Book-Review,Movie Review etc.


Hope to see you soon.

Shamsi Ara Huda (
Lecturer, Department of English

Momo:                 01675641768
Hasan Shahrear: 01716560626 (
Kumrul Hasan:    01717520131(
Razon:                01914212140(         


English / English Department Baishakh Celebration 1417
« on: April 17, 2010, 02:57:08 PM »
Dear all,

We are happy to invite you in our Baishakh Celebration programme tomorrow ( on 18th April 2010,5th Baishakh 1417) .The programme will start at 12 am. and will be continued up to 4 pm.Song,dance,poetry recitation,food and fair all are there.So, don't miss it.

We will be delighted to have you in our midst.

On bahalf of
Department of English

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