Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities
2007—2008 Forum on Origins
South Asia Studies
Origins and Identities: Historicizing Historical Linguistic Ideology
India possesses a remarkably long formal tradition of language analysis, dating to at least the fourth century BCE. Yet little attention has been paid to the mechanisms through which language ideologies in India were transformed under colonial rule while simultaneously made to appear unchanging. The new ideologies of language that emerged during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries relied centrally on data found in India for the discovery of the Indo-European and Dravidian language families and for the birth of historical and comparative linguistics. But they also had dramatic implications for popular conceptualizations and representations of language within India. This project traces the impact of these new understandings of the origins and genealogies of languages and of the etymologies of words on conceptions of identity and community in contemporary South Asia.