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REVIEWS147 Gernsbacher, Morton Ann. 1990. Language comprehension as structure building. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Kay, Paul, and Chad McDaniel. 1978. The linguistic significance of the meanings of basic color terms. Language 54.610-46. Lenneberg, Eric, and J. M. Roberts. 1956. The language of experience: A study in methodology. Bloomington : Indiana University. Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1974 [1915]. A course in general linguistics. Ed. by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye, tr. by Wade Baskin. Glasgow: Fontana/Collins. Linguistics Department Monash University Clayton, UIC 3168 Australia [Keitha@silas.cc.monash.edu.au] Aryans and British India. By Thomas R. Trautmann. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Pp. xiv, 260. Reviewed by Sanford Steever, New Canaan, CT Trautmann's study of British orientalism reveals how the study of language and 'race science' first reinforced each other, then parted company during the course of the nineteenth century. What readers of Language will find interesting is the role that the study of language and the development of comparative linguistics played in this chapter of South Asian colonial history. Linguistic data and arguments provided support for an ideology that bolstered British imperial policy in South Asia and lived on in popular discourse long after linguistic science had abandoned them. The discovery that Sanskrit is an Indo-European language is generally acclaimed as a milestone in the history of linguistics. When Sir William Jones announced in 1786 the genetic affinity between Sanskrit and the classical languages of Western Europe, many Western European scholars and savants believed that the world was very young, having been created in 4004 bc, as calculated by Archbishop Ussher. Received wisdom also held that all languages must come from one of three stocks, with each one named for the three sons of Noah: Ham, Shem, and Japhet. If Sanskrit was an Indo-European language, then it belonged to the same Mosaic classification as other Indo-European languages. One consequence of this relation is that those who spoke Sanskrit were held to be kin of those who spoke Greek and Latin, had kindred customs and societies, and, importantly, had the claim of kin to a common patrimony. If Sanskrit was the prodigal son of the Indo-European family, then its speakers had to be accorded the same respect and consideration as other members of the family. The flush of discovery inspired many early British Indologists and colonial administrators to feel a close kinship with the inhabitants of South Asia in this period, a feeling which T calls Indomania and describes in detail. But Sanskrit was only one of the many languages British administrators encountered in India. What was the relation of these other languages to Sanskrit and, therefore, to Indo-European? Early in the nineteenth century (1801), Colebrooke classified languages such as Tamil and Bengali , Telugu and Hindi as linguistically related because they were 'cultivated', i.e. they had established writing systems and literatures. All of the indigenous peoples of South Asia, it was thought, might thus enjoy a close relationship with their Western kinsmen. Advances on three fronts dissolved the ethnolinguistic unity that British orientalists had ascribed to the peoples of India in the early nineteenth century. Linguistic study during the first half of the nineteenth century showed that not all these languages could be related to one another. Geologists and, following them, archaeologists began to recalculate the lifespan of the world in millions, then billions of years; as the Biblical scheme of linguistic classification lapsed into desuetude, the apparent linguistic distance among the various languages and language families of India grew proportionally. One language family gave way to three (the Tibeto-Burman languages seem to have been outside the scope of this debate). Bishop Robert Caldwell (1856) 148LANGUAGE, VOLUME 75, NUMBER 1 (1999) not only established the Dravidian languages as a family distinct from Indo-European but also distinguished the Munda family of Austro-Asiatic as separate from both. Finally, by midcentury, anthropologists had disentangled language and race from each other. These advances both coincided with and reinforced the distancing of the feeling of kinship between the British and their Indian client-subjects. By midcentury British Indomania had given way to disdain. The MutinyRebellion , and the British imperial reaction to it, took...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 147-148
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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