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#AsiaNow Speaks with Walter Hakala

Walter Hakala is Associate Professor in the Asian Studies Program and Department of English at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, and author of Negotiating Languages: Urdu, Hindi, and the Definition of Modern South Asia, published by Columbia University Press. He is the recipient of an Honorable Mention for the 2018 AAS Bernard Cohn Book Prize for a first book on South Asia. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. Negotiating Languages explores the role of lexicographers (those who compile dictionaries) in the emergence of Urdu as a language of literature and state in South Asia. Modern Standard Hindi and Urdu are unusual in that they share the same grammar and, in ordinary spoken language, a common vocabulary. I argue that dictionaries were an important means through which elites were able to articulate and, occasionally, resist, the bifurcation of this single language on the basis of script (Arabic and Devanagari), vocabulary (Perso-Arabic and Sanskrit), and, increasingly, religion (Muslim an ...

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