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45 | Vernacular Grammars

This panel focuses on the phenomenon of “vernacular grammars,” i.e., grammars written for languages other than Sanskrit, in precolonial South Asia. We will try to define this phenomenon and trace out important patterns, connections, and developments across languages and regions.


· Andrew Ollett University of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois, United States of America)
· Victor D'Avella University of Hamburg (Hamburg, Germany)
· Naresh Keerthi Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Jerusalem, Israel)
· Sivan Arzony Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America)


· 07/27 | 13:30-15:00 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/27 | 15:30-17:00 UTC+2/CEST

Long Abstract

Grammars were written for a number of regional languages in precolonial South Asia. The many different projects that sought to bring regional languages to order have been overshadowed, at least in modern scholarship, by the tradition of Sanskrit grammar. This panel will bring together scholars working in and across traditions of “vernacular grammars” in an attempt to provide provisional answers to a number of questions about the phenomenon as a whole. How do we define “vernacular grammars”? What were the conceptual and philological resources that the authors of vernacular grammars drew upon? How were basic fundamental differences between languages accounted for? What “vertical” connections, to specific traditions of Sanskrit and Prakrit grammar, and “horizontal” connections, to other vernacular grammars, can we identify? What are the conditions — social, religious, ideological or otherwise — that enabled these grammars to be produced? Is it simply a coincidence that so many of them were produced by Jains? What were the temporal and regional parameters of vernacular grammar production? Why, for example, is the phenomenon apparently limited to regions of Southern Asia where languages related to Sanskrit, such as Hindi and Marathi, were not spoken? What does the phenomenon of “vernacular grammars” say about the phenomenon of vernacularization? This panel will mark the first attempt to study vernacular grammars in a comparative and historical perspective. We are especially interested in papers, above all co-authored papers combining multiple regions and languages, that identify and seek to explain major patterns, trends, and innovations.