1st Edition

Nation and Region in Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India

By Javed Majeed Copyright 2019
    238 Pages
    by Routledge India

    238 Pages
    by Routledge India

    George Abraham Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India is one of the most complete sources on South Asian languages. This book is the first detailed examination of the Survey. It shows how the Survey collaborated with Indian activists to consolidate the regional languages in India. By focusing on India as a linguistic region, it was at odds with the colonial state’s conceptualisation of the subcontinent, in which religious and caste differences were key to its understanding of Indian society. A number of the Survey’s narratives are detachable from its rigorous linguistic imperatives, and together with aspects of Grierson’s other texts, these contributed to the way in which Indian nationalists appropriated and reshaped languages, making them religiously charged ideological symbols of particular versions of the subcontinent. Thus, the Survey played an important role in the emergence of religious nationalism and language conflict in the subcontinent in the 20th century.

    This volume, like its companion volume Colonialism and Knowledge in Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India, will be a great resource for scholars and researchers of linguistics, language and literature, history, political studies, cultural studies and South Asian studies.

    Acknowledgments. Note on Transliteration. Introduction: The Survey and India’s Languages 1 Regional Assertiveness 2 Mapping Languages 3 ‘Double Names’ 4 The Politics of Grammar 5 Grierson and the Indian Nation 6 Aryanism and Semitism 7 Visceral Language and Citizenship. Conclusion: The Survey’s Legacy. Bibliography. Index


    Javed Majeed is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at King’s College London, UK, and has held appointments at SOAS, University of London, and Queen Mary University of London. He has published widely on the intellectual and literary history of modern South Asia. His previous books include Ungoverned Imaginings: James Mill’s The History of British India and Orientalism (1992), Autobiography, Travel and Postnational Identity: Gandhi, Nehru and Iqbal (2007), and Muhammad Iqbal: Islam, Aesthetics and Postcolonialism (2009).

    ‘The great achievement of Javed Majeed’s masterly pioneering study is to probe into the complex but hitherto largely un-investigated intellectual ambiguities and presuppositions inherent in Grierson’s approach to his epic undertaking. Its subtle treatment should inform all subsequent readings of the Linguistic Survey of India as an outstanding product of imperial scholarship.’

    Christopher Shackle, Emeritus Professor of the Modern Languages of South Asia, SOAS, University of London, UK

    ‘Almost a century on, the massive Linguistic Survey of India (1894–1928) remains unparalleled as a systematic description and comprehensive survey of languages in the Indian subcontinent. As Majeed shows, while Grierson was sensitive to the limits of knowledge, his authoritative classification and territorial mapping were highly consequential for state planning and language movements to come. This important and insightful book, a companion to Colonialism and Knowledge in Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India, reveals Grierson’s combination of analytical observation and attention to the spoken vernaculars and his ideas of linguistic purity and contamination and Aryan-Hindu ‘preference’ at work, a combination that makes the LSI a radical and conservative text at the same time. Languages in the LSI may have unstable borders and names, this book shows, but are territorialised as contiguous—gone are the speakers’s practical multilingual competence, the natural mixing of languages, the historical importance of Persian, the Indianness of Urdu and of English. Majeed’s book is a must read for anyone interested in languages in India.’

    Francesca Orsini, Professor of Hindi and South Asian Literature, SOAS, University of London, UK