Paradigm Shift in Indian Linguistics and its Implications for Applied Disciplines

Paradigm Shift in Indian Linguistics and its Implications for Applied Disciplines

30-Oct-2017 to 01-Nov-2017
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India can be legitimately proud of its rich heritage in linguistics and language-related knowledge systems. All over the world, interdisciplinary research in language studies is spanning out in different directions, and creating remarkable networks of connections among diverse fields. However, in India we very rarely come across traditional linguists working in the interdisciplinary areas, barring in a few fields such as computational linguistics. Against this backdrop, the proposed three-day National Seminar on “Paradigm Shift in Indian Linguistics and its Implications for Applied Disciplines” is an attempt provide a common platform to the traditional grammarians, theoretical linguists, academicians in the areas of computational linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive linguistics and clinical linguistics, and also practitioners in the field of language pedagogy, in order to initiate a meaningful dialogue between them. It will not only aim at building consciousness about the urgent need to delve into Indian grammatical theories, and explain their relationship to society regarding their applicability in the broadest sense but will also seek to lay down a set of concrete procedures, as well as create experimental tools for accomplishing these ends.

            The knowledge of language and its use have been at the centre of Indian thought for centuries. The investigations in this regard have raised several issues which continue to engage the attention of the academics. The major issues are: language as a discipline, language and mind, language and reality, the relation between language and knowledge, development of language, and universal features of language. The grammarians and philologists were the standard-bearers of this great multi-cultural, literary tradition. The extent of this wide-ranging scholarship can be discerned in the texts produced not only in Sanskrit and Tamil, but also in Bangla, Oriya, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, and Gujarati. Texts in Pali and Prakrit are also valuable sources of knowledge, in need of rehabilitation. It is worth noting that traditional Indian grammars, particularly of Sanskrit and Tamil, buttressed by solid theoretical frameworks, shed light on enduring questions in ontology and epistemology. Later, when the western theories came in, naturally, they influenced the thinking of scholars, resulting in a re-conceptualization of the central tenets of the Indian Linguistic tradition.

The potential applications in the modern era, of linguistic insights of the past, could be quite significant in the cognitive, computational and clinical aspects of language. These moves could be viewed as ushering in a paradigm shift in the Indian linguistic thought, especially in the applied fields. The gulf between the knowledge base on the one hand and its potential applications on the other might have arisen because of the deliberate denigration of indigenous knowledge, masterminded by the colonial regime. In the post-independent era, the problem is manifest in a different form: while there is a positive reassessment of the values of traditional knowledge systems, the project of rehabilitation suffers from a lack of expert know-how.

In recent times, Indian grammatical theories have been successfully applied in the field of computational linguistics. This could be replicated, in principle, in other inter-disciplinary areas such as cognitive linguistics, clinical linguistics and psycholinguistics, and language pedagogy. There is visible enthusiasm among the traditional scholars of the present generation to showcase the relevance of their theories in the modern context.

The seminar will broadly address a range of issues that seem to create roadblocks in our understanding the true, contemporary significance of traditional grammars in India. It will seek to highlight the links between theory and practice in all areas of linguistics, and endeavour to bridge the gaps in the praxis of Indian linguistics. Some topics that will be addressed at the seminar include – but are not exhausted by- the following list of basic questions:

  • What are the gaps in the mastering and understanding of our rich traditional theories and their potential applications?
  • Which are the areas to be theoretically revitalized with proper interpretations?
  • Which areas of knowledge in traditional Indian theories can be best utilized in the fields of applied linguistics? What are the ways to accommodate them in the areas of cognitive, psychological, computational and clinical, pedagogical areas?
  • What are the unseen, in-depth areas in our traditional grammar that can serve as a bridge to facilitate this paradigm shift?
  • Can our traditional theories give solutions to the above-stated issues concerning knowledge of language and its utility?
  • And, finally, are we ready for the paradigm shift? If yes, what is the lack of theoretical knowledge that hinders our progress?

A limited number of participants will be invited for the seminar. We especially encourage young scholars to apply. Those interested in participating should send an abstract (500 words maximum) of the proposed paper along with their C.V. to the following Email ID:


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