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Academic Paper

Title: Scripting a New Identity: The battle for Devanagari in India
Author: Rizwan Ahmad
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Qatar University
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Hindi
Abstract: This study investigates the discursive construction of Hindu identity in the late nineteenth century in North India. Analyzing historical data from a language ideological debate, I show that the construction of the Hindi language and script as perfect and the Urdu language and script as defective were part of the construction of Hindu identity. The metalinguistic debate on Hindi and Urdu often transgressed from linguistic into sociocultural realms by establishing links between language, ethics, morality, and authenticity. The Urdu language and script were argued to be foreign, fraudulent, and prejudiced, in contrast to the Hindi language and script, which were projected as indigenous, honest, and impartial. Drawing on a language ideological theoretical framework (Irvine and Gal, 2000), I show the actual workings of the semiotic processes of iconization, fractal recursivity, and erasure in this language debate. I also demonstrate/L/that a major outcome of this debate was that Hindi and Urdu began to index Hindu and Muslim identity, respectively.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Journal of Pragmatics

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