Vasu Renganathan, Ph.D.
Department of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104
email: email@example.com My bio (in Tamil)
Education: Ph.D. South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania, 2010.
(Title: The Language of Tirumular’s Tirumantiram,
A Medieval Śaiva Tamil Religious text)
M.A. Asian Languages and Literatures
University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 1992.
Ph.D. Linguistics, Annamalai University, India 1988.
(Title: Case system in Modern Tamil)
M.A. Linguistics, Annamalai University, India 1982
B.Sc. Chemistry, University of Madras, Tamil Nadu, India, 1979.
Languages known: a) Tamil - native speaker, b) Hindi - read/write,speak c) Telugu - read/write c) Sanskrit - read and write, d) English - native speaker fluency.
Discipline: South Asia Studies, South Asian History, Literature, Religion and Linguistics.
Specialization: Sangam literature and the indigenous cultures of the Tamils; Religious literatures of South India with special reference to history of medieval Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Historical study of development of language and literature from medieval and old Tamil to modern Tamil. ; Comparative Study of the Indigenous Tamils' Cultures to the Medieval South Indian Bhakti and development of Saivism, Vaishnavism and the role of the literature of the poet saints.
Cognate areas: Indian social history with a special reference to pre-colonial and post-colonial developments. Epigraphic studies of medieval India with a special reference to medieval Tamil inscriptions.
Other areas of teaching competence: Tamil language and literature, history of South India, medieval bhakti in India and history of India, Hinduism and Indian Philosophy.
Grants awarded for research and teaching
Department of Education, three year grant for development of a comprehensive website for Tamil language and literature. (http://www.southasia.upenn.edu/tamil) – 2001-2004.
South Asia Language Resource Center grant, co-investigator with Professor Harold Schiffman on development of English-Tamil Verb Dictionary, 2010.
South Asia Summer Language Institute grant for teaching Tamil intensively during the summers of 1990, 1991 and 1992 at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Publications and Conference Presentations:
Dissertations and Books:
(1) 2011 The language of Tirumular's "Tirumantiram", a medieval Śaiva Tamil religious text. ProQuest, UMI Dissertation Publishing.
The language of medieval Tamil demonstrates many linguistic forms that are unique to all of the bhakti literatures of the medieval period, which extends roughly from the sixth century C.E. to the thirteenth century C.E.; also it contains within it a number of grammatical features that are very common in modern Tamil, but are not found in the language of old Tamil. This presupposes that many of the linguistic features that evolved during the medieval period underlay the development of many of the new grammatical forms and lexical items as they exist in modern Tamil. In this respect, this dissertation serves two significant purposes in the field of Tamil studies: (a) it provides a detailed linguistic analysis, from a synchronic point of view, of the language of Tirumantiram, one of the twelve major Śaiva canons of the medieval period, and (b) it makes a systematic comparative study, from a diachronic point of view, of some of the verbal and nominal forms as they occur in the language of Tirumantiram, linking them to developments in the other two stages of Tamil, namely old and modern Tamil. The linguistic changes that took place between the medieval and post-medieval period, in large part, are responsible for both the simplification and enlargement of the language of modern Tamil. These linguistic changes that occurred in Tamil are discussed in detail in this dissertation with appropriate examples drawn from the language of the three stages of Tamil, namely old, medieval and modern. Download dissertation here.
(2) 1988. Case System in Modern Tamil. Dissertation submitted to the Department of Linguistics, Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, India. Download this dissertation here.
(3) 2019 Tamil Language in Context: A comprehensive approach to learning Tamil (revised edition): Department of South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania,Philadelphia. (Published with a grant from the South Asia Language Resource Center, U. of Chicago for the development of Tamil language resources).
This is a revised edition with more exercises and readings. A comprehensive text book comprising of a description of the Tamil language grammar and culture. A detailed account of many aspects of the modern Tamil culture is dealt with in this book from a pedagogical perspective. This book accompanies all of the multimedia materials that are made available through the website: http://www.southasia.upenn.edu/tamil and http://www.thetamillanguage.com. Available for purchase at: http://learn.tamilnlp.com/book/index.html. and at Amazon
(4) 2016. Computational Approaches to Tamil Linguistics, Cre-A. Chennai, India.
(Received the Achuta Menon Award for best inter-disciplinary book on Linguistics and Computer Science by IJDL, Trivandrum)
(5) 2018. இலக்கியப் பயணங்களும் தமிழர் வரலாறும் (Literary Journeys and Tamils' history)
Kalachuvadu Publishers, Nagercoil, Tamilnadu, India
(5) 2019. Tamil Conversation Book
This book is designed to be used with students from the fifth to the ninth grade. The conversations, spoken and written exercises that are included in this book cover widely used spoken Tamil words, custom expressions, and idiomatic forms. By carefully following the dialogues, lessons, and exercises in this book, heritage learners of Tamil can easily improve their spoken as well as written Tamil skills. This book carefully differentiates between and identifies spoken and written Tamil forms so that students can practice each of these varieties in isolation and acquire the appropriate skills. In addition, those who follow the conversations and exercises in this book can easily succeed in the Spoken Tamil test conducted by the ACTFL organization (http://www.actfl.org) as well as the Tamil tests conducted by the biliteracy organization (http://www.biliteracy.org) and Penn Language Center (https://plc.sas.upenn.edu/).
(6) 2020. இக்காலத் தொல்காப்பிய மரபு (Tolkappiyam and modern Linguistic Theories)
New Century Book House, Chennai.
(7) 2010 An English Dictionary of the Tamil Verb (Associate Editor), Department of South Asia Studies University of Pennsylvania. Chief editor: Harold F. Schiffman. Website: http://www.tamilverb.com
Articles published in Peer Reviewed edited volumes and Journals:
(1) Forthcoming. “Exploring Inter-Textuality between Medieval Tamil Inscriptions and Bhakti Literature”. In Murugaiyan, Appasamy (Ed.). Oxford: Indica et Buddhica Publishers. Pp. 29-50.
(2) 2021. "Hegemony of Religious Texts and Development of Tamil Ritual System called Thamiḻ Arccaṉai." In Tirāviṭap Poḻil: The Journal of Dravidian Studies, Vol. 1, Issue 2, April-June, 2021, Vallam, Thanjavur, India. (https://dravidapozhil.pmu.edu/). Download paper here.
(3) 2020. “Expressives in Sangam, Medieval and Modern Tamil”. In Expressives in the South Asian Linguistic Area. Eds. Badenoch Nathan and Nishaant Choksi. Brill: Leiden.
(4) 2020. "Sangam to Modern Tamil Genre: The process of grammaticalization and evolution of Modern Tamil Noun and Verb forms." IJDL:Vol. 49, No. 1 January 2020. Download paper
(5) 2019. "HERITAGE LANGUAGE ENVIRONMENT (HLE) AND IT IMPLICATIONS UPON LANGUAGE CURRICULUM: A CASE OF TAMIL HERITAGE STUDENTS AND DESIGNING A DIFFERENTIATED CURRICULUM" In Conférence internationale : Langues de l’Inde en diasporas : maintiens et transmissions: Paris, 2019. Download paper
(6) 2019. "Imagining Tamil's History from the Imageries of Sangam Poems." In Thennarasu et al. Landscapes of Linguistics and Literature (A Festschrift for Dr. L. Ramamoorthy). Thamizhaga Institute for Educational Research & Advancements, Chennai, India.(pp. 283-94) Download paper
(7) 2019. cuḻaṟci muṟai oliyaṉiyal māṟṟaṅkaḷ “Cyclic Phonology and Tamil Phonological Changes” (In Tamil) in Moḻiyiyal, Vol. 1, Series 1, 2019. Tamil Moziyiyal Sangam, Coimbatore.Download paper
(8) 2017. "Literary Elegance and Devotional Fervor in Alwar's poems. (in Tamil). Paper published in the Conference Proceedings of the International conference on Alwars, Pachaiyappa's College, Chennai, Tamilnadu. (July 24 & 25th, 2017). Download paper
(9) 2014 "Being Kṛṣṇā's Gōpi: Songs of Anṭāḷ, Ritual Practices and the Power Relations between God and Devotee in the Contemporary Tamil Nadu", In Forum for World Literature Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4. December 2014, Pp.649-674. Shangai - Wuhan - West Lafayette: Central China Normal University and Purdu University. (Journal: http://www.fwls.org/plus/view.php?aid=159, Download article).
(10) 2013. "Tracing the Trajectory of Linguistic changes in Tamil: Mining the corpus of Tamil Texts", IJDL, V.I.S special Volume, Kerala, India. Download PDF file
(11) 2008. “Rupa, Arupa and Rupa-Arupa: The three forms of Siva worship at the Nataraja’s temple of Chidambaram, South India and their impact on the temple architecture”, In S. Agesthialingom, V.S. Arulraj, S. Chitraputran and A. Karthikeyan (eds.). Prof. S. V.Shanmugam’s 75th birthday commemmortion volume.Download PDF File
(12) 2007 “Formalizing the knowledge of Heritage Language Learners: A Technology based approach”, Journal of the South Asia Language Pedagogy and Technolgy, December, 2007. (http://salpat.uchicago.edu/index.php/salpat/article/viewFile/30/44) - (Peer Reviewed Journal) Download article
(13) 2006 “The impact of technological advances on Tamil Language use and planning”, In Anju Saxena and Lars Borin (eds.). Lesser-Known Languages of South Asia, Mouton de Gruyter: New York. (With Professor Harold F. Schiffman)
(14) 2005 “Tamil Script Reform and Glyph Rendering Approach in Unicode: Past and Present Attempts to Simplify Tamil Writing System” (co-autor). In Peri Bhaskararao (ed.). Working Papers of International Symposium on Indic Scripts: Past and Present. (With Professor Harold F. Schiffman) ILCAA:Tokyo. (Peer Reviewed work)
(15) 1993 “Tamil Anaphor Binding in Distant Clauses” in the Proceedings of the SALA XV: Papers from the Fifteenth South Asian Language Analysis Round Table Conference, Iowa. (Peer Reviewed work)
Invited talks in conferences
2011 "Tamil Language Change during the Medieval Period: Disambiguation leading to Complexity", Invited talk at the seventh Annual Tamil Conference, University of California, Berkeley (http://tamil.berkeley.edu/past-conferences/tamil-conference-2011)
2008 “Trajectory of changes from Sangam to Modern Tamil”, Invited talk at the fourth Annual Tamil Conference, University of California, Berkeley. (http://tamil.berkeley.edu/past-conferences/tamil-conference-2008)
2011. Invited to give a plenary talk on "Tamil Speech Contexts and Performance based Instruction" in the Ninth World Tamil Teachers' conference held in Singapore, September, 2011.
2001 Invited to give a plenary talk on "development of Tamil language resources in the modern era" in the World Tamil Teachers' conference held in Singapore in the summer of 2001.
Paper presentations in conferences and seminars:
2017 Exploring the Inter-textuality between Medieval Tamil Inscriptions and Bhakti Literature (Paper presented at the International Symposium on South Indian Epigraphy and Art History, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris - Oct. 2017)
2010 “Tamil Poet Saints' Perceptions and the Śaiva Temple Architectures in Tamil Nadu”Paper presented at the 39th Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, Wisconsin.(Download Powerpoint)
2010 “Evolution of Tamil grammatical suffixes and wriing a Historical Grammar for Tamil” (In Tamil), Paper presented at the World Classical Tamil Conference, Coimbatore, India. (Download Powerpoint - Download paper)
2009. “The Process of Grammaticalization and Evolution of Modern Tamil Forms”. Paper presented at the Prof. Agesthalingom Commemoration conference, Annamalai
University, India (August 19th to 21st, 2009).
2002 Interactive Approach to Development of English-Tamil Machine Translation System on the Web”, in Proceedings of the Conference in Tamil and Internet, Foster City, San Francisco.
2001 "A New Approach to teaching Tamil through the Web” (in Tamil), In Professor Karunakaran’s 60th Birthday commemoration volume, P. Ravi et. al (eds.), Coimbatore, India
2001 “Comprehension Skill and Development of Language Lessons for the Web”, In Proceedings of the 5th World Tamil Teachers Conference, V. R.P. Manickam (ed.), Singapore.
2001 “Development of Morphological Tagging for Tamil”, In Proceedings of the International Conference on Tamil Internet 2001, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
1997 Presented a paper on “Significance of Creation of Modern Tamil Corpora on the Web” at the First International Conference on Computerization of Tamil. National University of Singapore. May, 1997.
On Tamil Diaspora
2015 The Future of Tamil Diaspora - (Paper presented at the International Conference on Indian Languages and Diasporas - Strategies of Retention and Modes of Transmission, Oct. 29-31, 2015, Mémorial ACTe, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe). Download paper published in the proceedings of the conference
Tamil language use among the Diasporas and Efforts toward Retention using Technological Resources - (Paper presented at the Conference on Tamil Diaspora, California Tamil Academy, San Jose, California)
The Element of Beauty and use of Similes in Tamil Poetics (Paper presented at the Conference on Beauty, University of California, Berkeley, 2010) - Download paper
Tirumular’s Tirumantiram - Nuances of the Tamil Language and Thoughts on Consciousness (Paper presented at the National College, Chennai - Invited Talk)
Making of the Medieval Tamil Nadu: Trajectories of Changes in Tamil Textual Tradition from Sangam Period (Presented at the Annamalai University, Department of Linguistics - Invited Talk)
Tamil Textual Tradition: Making and Re-making of the lives of the Tamils - (Paper presented at the Department of Linguistics, Annamalai University, India - Invited Talk)
Articles in Tamil:
எள்ளி நகையாடல் - Satire and Exaggeration in Tamil Literature - Published in Sangamam - Newsletter of the Delaware Valley Tamil Association
a) Young Tamil Linguist Award (1990) awarded by Dravidian Linguistics Association, Kerala recognizing my lingusitics articles published on Tamil lexical phonology in IJDL.
b) Writer Sundara Ramasamy Award (2011) for Tamil Computing recognizing my work on Website for Teaching and Learning of Tamil hosted at the University of Pennsylvania. Awarded by the Tamil Literary Garden, Canada.
c) Best interdisciplinary (Tamil and Technology) book for Computational Approaches to Tamil Linguistics (2017) awarded by Dravidian Lainguistics Association, Kerala.
a) Served as Chair, Conference Program Committee, International Conference for Information Technology for Tamil, University of Cologne, Germany (2009), Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu (2010), Chennai (2019), Virtual conference (2020).
b) Served as Local Organizing Chair, International Conference for Information Technology for Tamil, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2011).
c) Served as member of Board of Trustees, Summer Institute of South Asian Languages, University of Chicago (2007-2010).
d) International Advisory Board member for the Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, (e-FLT), Singapore (http://e-flt.nus.edu.sg).
e) Chief editor (from its inception in 2002 to 2009) – Tamil community magazine Sangamam, Tamil Association of Greater Delaware Valley.
f) Member of the Board of Directors, American Tamil Academy, Maryland, USA
g) Member of the Advisory Committee, California Tamil Academy, Saratoga, CA, USA
h) Treasurer and Executive Committee Member, International Forum for Information Technology (INFITT).
Conducted an one day Tamil teacher training workshops for the American Tamil Academy at their schools in Houston, TX, Austin, TX, Charlston, NC, Virginia, MD, Columbus, OH, and Princeton, NJ in the year 2019 and virtually in 2020.
Conducted a ten days workshop on teaching Tamil to the Diasporas of the South African Tamils, Durban, South Africa, January 5th to 14th, 2020.
Member, International Association for Dravidian Languages, Kerala, India
Member, Association of Dravidian Linguistics, Annamalai University, India
Treasurer, International Association for Information Technology for Tamil
San Francisco, United States
Member, Association for Asian Studies, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Member, South Asian Language Teachers Association