ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Where Boundaries Bleed

The Many Subtleties of George W Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India

Colonialism and Knowledge in Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India edited by Javed Majeed, London and New York: Routledge, 2019; pp 274, £36.99.

Nation and Region in Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India edited by Javed Majeed, London and New York: Routledge, 2019; pp 238, £36.99.

The true heart of Javed Majeeds analysis of George W Griersons Linguistic Survey of India (LSI) rests in two adjacent chaptersMapping Languages and Double Names. Here, Majeed draws our attention to the vocabulary with which Grierson writes of the dialect continuum in India: dialects overflow their assumed boundaries, differences melt, lines of distinction between dialects appear blurred, boundaries bleed, linguistic zones shade into each other and each language name reveals a further swirl of names. The two chapters bring to the surface an idiom of doubt and a narrative of indefiniteness in Griersons colonial knowledge production (Nation and Region in Griersons Linguistic Survey of India, pp 5687).

Majeeds fundamental, consistent and singular contribution is to remind us that Grierson, while steadfastly participating in regimes of colonial authority and linguistic cataloguing, also allowed the LSI to be undercut by countervailing narratives at each juncture of the LSIs three-decade-long career. In doing so, his two-volume study (Colonialism and Knowledge in Griersons Linguistic Survey of India and Nation and Region in Griersons Linguistic Survey of India) is a vastly complex and nuanced analysis of Griersons conclusions on the linguistic ecology of the South Asia region. However, equally, the chapters Mapping Languages and Double Names are an example of a deeply insightful and refreshing meta-analysis, drawing attention to Griersons use of metaphor, idiom, simile, and turn of phrase. They highlight the rich possibilities of research on colonial era documents. They also alert us to the implications of an unusual weaving of disciplinary acumen that Majeeda scholar of English literature, Urdu poetry and prose, travel writing, autobiography, and postcolonial theorybrings to an analysis of the LSI. In the past, similar subjects of study have drawn the attention of anthropologists (Cohn 1997) and historians (Raman 2012).

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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