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The Forked Tongue of Language Reform: Cross-reading the dynamics of the making of early modern English and nineteenth-century Hindustani

Diviya, Diviya (2018) The Forked Tongue of Language Reform: Cross-reading the dynamics of the making of early modern English and nineteenth-century Hindustani. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, Freie Universitaet, Berlin. (KAR id:72750)

Language: English

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This thesis cross-reads the dynamics of language standardisation in early modern England and colonial India by interrogating the rhetoric of reform in the two periods within a comparative framework. Specifically, it maps the presence of English early modernity in the works of British reformers of Hindustani/Hindi in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century India, and revisits congruent themes in the language of reform in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, to foreground the ways in which the rhetoric of standardisation stages and manages anxieties of national/imperial self-fashioning at two distinct yet connected moments.

To frame the comparative idiom of the British Empire, I track multivalent engagements with 'Rome' in early modern England and British India, which seek to fashion imperial character in negotiation with salutary or cautionary imperial models: Britain's Roman past; early English colonial reconnaissance; ideals of political conduct; and British political behaviour in the colony and the metropole. I then map the affinities projected between English and Hindustani in John Gilchrist's first Hindustani grammars in late eighteenth-century India, and annotate them with the contexts for William Bullokar's first grammar of English in late sixteenth-century England. Reading them as promotional works, I note the way they valorise the vernaculars hitherto neglected by traditional paradigms and involve them in fledgling visions of a progressive British Empire and a cosmopolitan English nation. Comparing the dilemmas shared by lexicographers in the two periods as they aim to make new words available to their respective target readerships and to moderate the lexical influx from inter-cultural traffic, I then trace the attitude of selective cosmopolitanism that assuages anxieties of infiltration by 'others' of foreign origin, class, or gender. Finally, I attend to the invention of literary tradition by exploring the analogies with early modern English literary culture that contour George Grierson's literary history for modern Hindi. Comparing the shapes of the tussle between literary prescriptions and practice in colonial India and early modern England, I read Hariaudh's modern Hindi epic Priyapravas and Samuel Daniel's Defense of Ryme as symmetrical assertions of poetic as well as nationalist autonomy.

My thesis approaches early modern language standardisation as a cultural problematic, and treats its discourse as an occasion for self-fashioning with respect to significant others as well as a repository of effects beyond its own moment. Motivated by a reflection on the divisive aspects of contemporary public discourse that recruit history selectively to assert insular identities for languages and its communities, it underscores that the modern standard identities of Hindi and English took inaugural shape in a comparative, chaotic, and contingent nexus of texts and events. Examining the rhetoric from early modern England and colonial India in the mirror of one another throws into relief that (a) the past had variable uses and involuntary echoes in the invention narratives of linguistic modernity; and (b) stories of standard and national modernity themselves had a transnational provenance as they were articulated through calibrated comparisons that served practical as well as political functions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Landry, Donna
Thesis advisor: Pfister, Manfred
Uncontrolled keywords: text and event, Early Modern England, Colonial South Asia, British Empire, England, India, English, Hindi, Hindustani, Language Standardisation, Cross-Reading, Comparativism, Renaissance, Early modernity, Linguistic Nationalism, Self-Fashioning
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2019 12:10 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 04:20 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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