ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Urdu philological constructions of North Indian sprachbunds in the 1930s.


Anantha Krishna Vipin - University of California, Los Angeles, History, Los Angeles, United States


19 – Beyond “linguistic areas” – Recent advances in the study of language contact in South Asia


 This paper examines the strategies by which two different Urdu philologists in the 1930s designated regions within North India as areas of linguistic convergence. It will first briefly examine the careers of Hafiz Mahmud Sherani and Syed Sulaiman Nadvi who, in conversation with British philology, and particularly, George Abraham Grierson’s LSI (Linguistic Survey of India, 1894-1924), contended and rethought the histories of linguistic regions. This paper will examine the different historical framing techniques used by both Sherani and Nadvi in reconstructing areas of linguistic convergence. Sherani in 1928, directly responding to Grierson’s work in the LSI completed in 1924, and to the cycle of British philology that had begun in the 1870s, designated Western Hindi, particularly, the area of Punjab as an area of linguistic convergence using Ghaznavid history as a framing device. Nadvi on the other hand used Abbasid history, maritime, trading and exploration texts in order to integrate the whole of India (particularly peninsular India stretching all the way to Madras) into an area of linguistic convergence. Their choices and strategies of creating these historical lineages of areas reflected their varying political/hermeneutic horizons, which either sought to integrate or separate cultural areas based on these understandings. This paper will conclude by looking at the various philological works that were written in response to their texts in the 19th century.