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For access to the pre-circulated papers, please email Samuli Kaislaniemi.

Session 1: The language of diplomacy and exchange

The East India Company's role in the creation, exchange and diffusion of royal correspondence between Britain and Asia, 1600-1858

Richard Scott Morel (British Library Archivist, Pre-1858 India Office Records)

Possessing a monopoly on English trade in lands between the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan, the East India Company initiated and maintained diplomatic contacts with rulers throughout Asia. Consequently from the very beginnings of the Company's history the organisation was used as a medium to exchange correspondence between the British crown and various Asian rulers. Unfortunately work done on this subject is limited, existing monographs treating royal missives as stand alone objects or works of art and denigrating them as symbolic items of limited intellectual value. This is surprising as during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, rulers in Britain and Asia played a central role in the formulation and execution of foreign policy.         However it was the activities of the East India Company which enabled British and Asian rulers to establish contacts around the world for the very first time. The Company's work thus established an important first step in the globalisation of diplomacy and the development of modern international institutions such as the Foreign Office in 1782, the Colonial Office in 1794 and the India Office in 1858.

Such letters can be used by artists, historians, anthropologists, political theorists and a wide variety of other academic disciplines to shed new light on various aspects of some of the earliest interactions between Britain and Asia. As a source they have a special interest for linguists in particular in terms of the languages they use and their visual appearance. By looking at the creation of these letters and the ceremony surrounding the delivery of them in addition to their content, this paper aims to look at the following themes to show the important role the East India Company played in dispersing knowledge of languages globally.

  1. The dual role such royal letters had in establishing contacts for both the Company and the Crown with Asia.
  2. The strategies and languages used in such correspondence to try and overcome language and other communication barriers.
  3. The way knowledge of particular languages developed over time and how the Company and Crown institutionalised this for the creation of these letters.
  4. The physical appearance of the missives themselves and how this conveyed non verbal communications between the royal courts.
  5. The way these letters evolved from ones of formal introductions for trade into political and diplomatic missives.

John Woodall: Adventurer and Surgeon General
Jukka Tyrkkö (University of Helsinki)

John Woodall (1569–1643) was the first Surgeon General of the East India Company and the author of Surgion's Mate (1617), the first medical textbook written for the maritime doctor. Following a short period of time in apprenticeship in England, Woodall spent almost twenty years in Europe as a surgeon and a diplomat. After returning permanently to England in 1612, Woodall was appointed Surgeon General and embarked on a career of increasing prosperity and responsibility. He was noted by his contemporaries as much for his skills as a linguist as he was as a surgeon, and his international experience most likely played a key role in winning him the appointment that would come to change his life and secure his name in history books.

This paper examines John Woodall's medical books from the perspective of his employment with the East India Company and his well-attested knowledge of foreign languages. Given that his first book was a manual for EIC naval surgeons, I shall discuss whether, and to what extent, Woodall made specific reference to foreign countries and cultures. The master surgeon's linguistic skills will be examined most particularly through the glossary of the Surgion's Mate, a lexicographically notable text which predates the first English medical dictionary by 40 years.

Session 2: Language contact and the development of Englishes

Peter Mundy and the archaeology of Chinese Englishes
Kingsley Bolton (University of Hong Kong)

The first contact between British traders and the Chinese for which we have an extended record took place in 1637, when an expedition of four ships under the command of Captain John Weddell arrived in Macao and Canton (Guangzhou). A narrative of this encounter was recorded in the diaries of an English mercantile trader, Peter Mundy. Mundy was a factor (or licensed trader) for 'Courteen's Association', an early rival to the East India Company, and his diaries were published in edited form by Richard C. Temple in five volumes from 1907–1936. Volume III, part I, contains an account of some 160 pages on Macao and China (Temple 1919). The linguistic aspects of Peter Mundy's diary are interesting for many reasons, and Mundy's record of his stay in Macao contains a large number of Portuguese words and Indo-Chinese words filtered through Portuguese. With reference to English, Mundy's diary can be read not only of Early Modern English, but also as perhaps one of the first examples of texts inscribed with the vocabulary of a form of early Asian English, certainly in the context of China. In his diary, Mundy also describes the English of Chinese speakers in Macao at that time, thereby anticipating later accounts of the 'Chinese pidgin English' of the Canton trade of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

On Some Slaves’ Names from St Helena, South Atlantic, 1676-1724
Laura Wright (University of Cambridge)

[NB – original title: "The Language of St Helena, South Atlantic, c.1676–1720"]

In this paper I shall present some linguistic data taken from the Court Records of the East India Company island of St Helena, the St Helena Consultations, c.1676–1720. I intend to do the following:

1) Provide a brief overview of the syntax and morphology found in these Consultations, which are a repository of the speech of multiple early islanders (albeit filtered through the Court Recorders). As I have published on this topic I shall not go into detail here, but remark that a) the white planters, soldiers and sailors used the non-standard Southern English dialect of the day, and that b) the blacks (as they are called in the Consultations) are reported as speaking similarly, with the exception of a small amount of Pidgin English.

2) Consider a brief list of "East India Company" words – that is, vocabulary associated with the island and which either originated there or elsewhere in the East India Company-dominated world. Unlike elsewhere where types of borrowing occurred from indigenous languages (cf Kaislaniemi (2009)), compounding of two relatively common English words to create a neologism seems to have been productive – there being no indigenous language to borrow from.

3) Consider the names of the East India Company's and the planters' slaves. A classification will be attempted.

The Development of Anglo-Indian Loan Vocabulary
Shazia Sadaf (University of Peshawar)

Anglo-Indian loan vocabulary is reflective of a slow evolutionary process spanning more than two centuries of linguistic exchange between two very diverse cultures. The speech of the British population at different stages of their contact with India is of interest because it was modified by the changing political and social circumstances. The move from the commercial interests of the East India Company to the Imperialism of the Raj affected the use and treatment of these loan-words. A broad survey of these changes requires a linguistic distinction to be made between the periods of the 'East Indiamen', the 'Nabobs', the 'Company Administrators', the 'Box Wallahs' and the 'Sahibs'. Although the most active loan period was during the East India Company's rule, the last period was one of a self-imposed isolation of the British ruling class, when the gulf between the rulers and the native population was the widest. The British were a minority intent on preserving their identity, which was the essential ingredient to their right to rule. As a result the Anglo-Indian community became a tight-knit, artificial social group. Against this background, Anglo-Indian words took on added shades of meaning, reflective of the attitude of the 'Sahibs'. Fewer new words were borrowed in the nineteenth century than in the earlier times, but the existing loan words became distinctly condensed codes of experience of the ruling community.

This paper aims to explore the early period of the loan vocabulary, and its contribution to the later development of a distinct Anglo Indian fossil-variety of English.

Session 3: Learning, teaching, and documenting Asian languages

Teaching Language and Applied Cultural Know-How: Frederik de Houtman's Spraeck ende woordboek between VOC and EIC
Isabella Matauschek (J. Kepler University, Linz)

Frederik de Houtman's Spraeck ende woordboek, a Dutch Malay phrasebook/dictionary, offers an interesting glimpse at early European trading and cultural encounters seen from a Dutch perspective. Houtman's work was quickly translated into Latin by the German scholar and translator, Gotthard Arthus, and via the Latin translation, into English. In my paper I propose to take a look into the translation history of Houtman's woordboek focusing on the English version. The English translation by Augustine Spalding, Company employee in Bantam, was dedicated to Sir Thomas Smith, governor of the East India Company. With this translation it is possible to probe an aspect of the complex web of relationships between the Dutch (VOC) and the English East India Company during the formative years of their inception. These relations oscillated between translation/borrowing and espionage as well as open conflict.

What makes the Spraeck ende woordboek into such a valuable source is that it not only teaches language but explicitly imparts applied cultural know-how: The question of how to trade and negotiate successfully was of paramount consequence to European merchants upon entering the lucrative trade with insular Southeast Asia. Portuguese served as a first point of reference for those Europeans following in the wake of those ships sailing in the name of Portugal's Crown. It soon became evident that trade was greatly impaired without knowledge of the regional lingua franca, Malay. Though linguistic skills were undoubtedly important, what proved even more crucial to success was knowledge about how to establish contact with relevant actors, which merchandise was sought after, as well as common practises employed in trade.

Language and trade: The East India Company and early English scholarship on Malay
Anna Winterbottom (Queen Mary, University of London) and Samuli Kaislaniemi (University of Helsinki)

The establishment of the East India Company in 1600 led to increasing contact between England and maritime Asia and the Indian Ocean. One result was the compilation and publication of works in England which sought to describe or teach Asian languages. From the start, the East India Company followed a hiring policy favouring those with linguistic skill and experience. Accordingly, the Company had a vested interest in Asian language manuals – as did those seeking employment in the Company, for such works could function as recommendations.

In this paper, we will consider the role of Company-internal and -external information gathering in the creation of these works, and explore the interaction between merchants, seamen, missionaries, scholars and the East India Company in the creation of these language guides. We will look at the evolution of the relationships between the East India Company and the authors of works on Asian languages during the long seventeenth century. We will investigate the development of simple early wordlists into proper bilingual dictionaries and grammars. We will ask how this shift mirrors the development of a more permanent European presence in Asia, coupled with the growing European interest in Asian language and culture that formed the basis for the 'Orientalist' scholarship of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And we will see what shifting trends in research into Asian languages can tell us about the goals of the East India Company and its alliance with scholarship.

Voices Marginalised in the History of Hindi
Aishwarj Kumar (University of Cambridge)

Focussing on 'Hindi' and its development as a modern Indian language, this paper examines its expansion in the region of Bihar, part of the Bengal Presidency, in the period between 1850 and 1900. Thus it looks beyond the United Provinces, hitherto the prime focus of attention in most scholarly studies of 'Hindi'. On the one hand a consideration of the growth of modern 'Hindi' in Bihar allows us to move away from an overwhelming concern with the movements that unfolded in the nineteenth century in the United Provinces related to languages ('Hindi' verses Urdu) and scripts (Devanagari verses Nastaliq). On the other, it opens up the opportunity to reflect upon how this development was distinct from that in places in North India outside Bihar. It is noteworthy that the 'Hindi'-Urdu conflict was far less consequential in Bihar than it was in the United Provinces. Instead the question of the existence of the local speeches (the so- called 'bolis') was of greater significance to the development of 'Hindi' in the former than in the latter.

This paper seeks to connect the study of the encounter between the so- called local Bihari bolis and the developing form of a hegemonising 'Hindi' language on the one hand with that of on the other, the theoretical debate centring on the question of the role colonial officials played from within mainstream imperialist politics in the destiny of Indian languages in the nineteenth century. A prime focus of attention in this paper is Sir George Abraham Grierson, a British colonial official whose robust support for the local speeches of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh was rooted in a perspective different from that of other contemporary colonial officials. The question as to why despite his support which was backed by strong arguments based on linguistics, Grierson was unable to convince either his fellow colonial officials or the Indian intelligentsia of the merits of the case for adopting the Bihari bolis at least in the regions where they were spoken, finds a prominent place in this paper. By examining Grierson's attempts at collecting evidence and materials in support of his theory of the existence of an independent 'Bihari' language group comprising Bhojpuri, Magahi and Maithili, this paper highlights some of the aspects that made the literary and cultural         traditions of what came to form the independent state of Bihar in 1947 unique to it. It demonstrates how despite the avowed support for a standardised 'Hindi' by the government and intelligentsia of Bihar, the continuing popularity throughout the nineteenth century of Bihari cultural traditions amongst the general populace of this region added a dimension to the story of the development of 'Hindi' as a modern Indian language that was distinctive to the Bihar region but not to other parts of United Provinces. By focussing upon this dimension, this paper draws attention to the part played in the history of 'Hindi' by agents whose voices were marginalised and later ignored or suppressed in canonical accounts of the development of this modern Indian language.

(Last updated 29.5.2010)