, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 635-668
Date: 20 Nov 2012

Defining the Other: An Intellectual History of Sanskrit Lexicons and Grammars of Persian

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From the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries, Indian intellectuals produced numerous Sanskrit–Persian bilingual lexicons and Sanskrit grammatical accounts of Persian. However, these language analyses have been largely unexplored in modern scholarship. Select works have occasionally been noticed, but the majority of such texts languish unpublished. Furthermore, these works remain untheorized as a sustained, in-depth response on the part of India’s traditional elite to tremendous political and cultural changes. These bilingual grammars and lexicons are one of the few direct, written ways that Sanskrit intellectuals attempted to make sense of Indo-Persian culture in premodern and early modern India. Here I provide the most comprehensive account to date of the texts that constitute this analytical tradition according to three major categories: general lexicons, full grammars, and specialized glossaries. I further draw out the insights offered by these materials into how early modern thinkers used language analysis to try to understand the growth of Persian on the subcontinent.