Lecture by Ellen Ambrosone, PhD Candidate, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
In the middle of the nineteenth century, Malayalis began to produce grammars as part of bhāṣāpariṣkāraṃ, or the modernization of Malayalam. Two of these grammars, Kēraḷa Kaumudi (1878) by Kovunni Nedungadi [Kōvunni Neṭuṅṅāṭi] and the Kēraḷapāṇinīyaṃ (1896) by A. R. Rajaraja Varma [E. Ār. Rājarājavarmma], grapple with how to engage with the European grammatical models produced in the first part of the nineteenth century. In this presentation I argue that their perspectives on the history of the language and their critical engagement with the grammarians that came before them occasioned a refashioning of linguistic epistemes by the end of the nineteenth century. Formerly studied and taught through the grammatical lenses of Tamil and Sanskrit, it is only when polyglot Malayali grammarians engaged with European models of grammatical analysis that Malayāḷabhāṣa came into its own.