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Languages and Nations

The Dravidian Proof in Colonial Madras

Thomas R. Trautmann

Publication Year: 2006

British rule of India brought together two very different traditions of scholarship about language, whose conjuncture led to several intellectual breakthroughs of lasting value. Two of these were especially important: the conceptualization of the Indo-European language family by Sir William Jones at Calcutta in 1786—proposing that Sanskrit is related to Persian and languages of Europe—and the conceptualization of the Dravidian language family of South India by F.W. Ellis at Madras in 1816—the "Dravidian proof," showing that the languages of South India are related to one another but are not derived from Sanskrit. These concepts are valid still today, centuries later. This book continues the examination Thomas R. Trautmann began in Aryans and British India (1997). While the previous book focused on Calcutta and Jones, the current volume examines these developments from the vantage of Madras, focusing on Ellis, Collector of Madras, and the Indian scholars with whom he worked at the College of Fort St. George, making use of the rich colonial record. Trautmann concludes by showing how elements of the Indian analysis of language have been folded into historical linguistics and continue in the present as unseen but nevertheless living elements of the modern.

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xv

Some years ago I began to investigate the way in which languages and nations are twinned in European thought such that the historical relations among languages become signs of the historical relations among nations—ethnology by means of linguistics, so to say. This idea was applied...

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1. Explosion in the Grammar Factory

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pp. 1-41

In the European thought of the eighteenth century, languages and nations were understood to be parallel, in that the histories of both were viewed as governed by genealogical relations and linked; therefore, the genealogical relations among languages could serve to extend the reach of historical...

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2. Pânini and Tolkāppiyar

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pp. 42-72

Could it have been a coincidence that the European languages-and-nations project, which was carried to every corner of the globe by the worldwide spread of European power, was especially fruitful in British India? I believe that it was not a coincidence, but rather that India’s own...

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3. Ellis and His Circle

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pp. 73-115

Having examined the structure of the European and Indian inputs into the British-Indian conjuncture, we turn now to the Dravidian proof. In this chapter I introduce the leading personnel associated with the emergence of the Dravidian conception; in the next, I will analyze the College...

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4. The College

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pp. 116-150

Having met the leading personnel involved in producing the new knowledge about South India, we must now examine the College of Fort St. George, which was the main locus for this process. This chapter is not a history of the College as such (though such a history is very much to be...

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5. The Dravidian Proof

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pp. 151-185

We come now to the Dravidian proof itself, its argument, and the related argument of A. D. Campbell in the introduction to his Telugu grammar. But before doing so we need to contextualize the Dravidian proof’s appearance by considering the public course that was designed as the centerpiece...

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6. Legacies

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pp. 186-211

Ellis was involved in generating a whole array of new understandings of South Indian history and culture concerning such matters as law, land, literature, religion, and caste. Some of these were highly consequential, especially his work on land tenure, which included writing, with Sankaraiah...

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7. Conclusions

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pp. 212-230

Having completed our analysis of the Dravidian proof, the conditions of its emergence, and its effects in India, we return to the larger phenomenon of the languages-and-nations project in relation to India and the Indian tradition of language analysis. I begin by reprising the analysis of...

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Appendix A. The Legend of the Cow-Pox

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pp. 231-241

Ellis first wrote this curious text, “The Legend of the Cow-Pox,” in Tamil and then translated it into English. It was meant to aid in the promotion of the new vaccination for smallpox, a project on which the colonial government had embarked in a big way shortly after the vaccine’s discovery...

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Appendix B. The Dravidian Proof

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pp. 243-275

I reproduce here the text of the Dravidian proof, that is, the “Note to the introduction” by F.W. Ellis printed in A. D. Campbell’s A grammar of the Teloogoo language (1816). This text is also referred to as the “Dissertation on Telugu,” one of a set of projected dissertations on the South


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pp. 277-298


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pp. 299-304

Production Notes

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pp. 305-322

E-ISBN-13: 9780520931909
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520244559

Page Count: 321
Publication Year: 2006