The Set-Up of the Colonial Knowledge on Sindh



The second chapter focuses on how the British approached Sindh in constructing their colonial knowledge of the province and how they came to represent it through the study of the language. The first step in the making of the colonial knowledge on Sindh was to establish that Sindhi was a distinct language and not a dialect of Punjabi or Hindi. This chapter also highlights the indigenous agents that aided the British in completing their survey of Sindh, especially the archetypal munshi (scribe). It was the munshis, Hindus and Muslims, who translated texts generally from English into Sindhi. The last step was to provide the two essential tools for learning a language: grammar and dictionary. This chapter demonstrates that the study of Sindhi played a leading role in the knowledge of Indo-Aryan languages. As a matter of fact, in his Grammar of the Sindhi Language Compared with the Sanskrit-Prakrit and Cognate Indian Vernaculars that he published in 1872, Ernst Trumpp authored the first grammar devoted to Indo-Aryan languages, which was based on the latest advances in linguistics as developed by Ferdinand de Saussure. This book had a great influence on later scholars like John Beames. Among other sources, this chapter uses unknown archives collected in the Sindh Archives, in Karachi.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for South Asian StudiesSchool for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS)/National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)ParisFrance

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