SWEDISH SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES NETWORK
for Linguistics and Computer Lingustics (including Language Technology);
Department of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University:
Postal address: Department of Linguistics and Philology, Box 635, SE-751 26 Uppsala, Sweden
Visiting address: House 9,
English Park Campus,
Centre for the Humanities
Web page: http://www.lingfil.uu.se/
Contact person: Professor Anju
Saxena, phone: +46 18 471 14 57.
Personal home page.
The department has, through Anju Saxena, been involved in a major
project on ”Digitalized documentation
of Indian minority languages”, in collaboration
with the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, India (represented
by Udaya Narayana Singh). In
the Spring 2002 the project was given 110 000 SEK from SASNET as
a Planning grant. See SASNET’s list of
In November 2002 this project was given a Swedish
Research Links (Asian–Swedish research partnership programme)
grant on 540 000 SEK for three years (2003-05) by Sida and the Swedish
See the full list of South Asia related projects that were given grants.
A major part of the research project consisted of creating
an extensive web based documentation on Indian languages. A web site was constructed.
Anju Saxena also organized a panel on ”Globalization,
technological advances and minority languages in South Asia”
at the 18th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, organised
by SASNET 69 July 2004 in Lund. More
information on the panel.
Dr. Anju Saxena was co-organizer for the
Seventh Himalayan Languages Symposium, organised at Uppsala
University in September 2001. The aim of this annual symposium is to
bring together scholars working on languages and language communities
of the greater Himalayan region: North-western and north-eastern India,
Nepal, Bhutan and the Tibetan Plateau, northern Burma and Sichuan,
and Nuristan, Baltistan and the Burushaski-speaking area in the west. The
permanent secretariat for the symposium is maintained at Leiden
University in the Netherlands.
At the 12th Himalayan Languages Symposium
Kathmandu, Nepal, 26–28
November 2006, Dr. Saxena held one of the keynote speeches. More
information about the Kathmandu symposium (as a pdf-file).
Anju Saxena was one of the organizers of the 14th Himalayan Languages Symposium, held on the 21-23 August 2008 in Gothenburg.
The Keynote speaker was Scott DeLancey (University of Oregon), with a talk titled Towards a History of Verb Agreement in Tibeto-Burman.
The Himalayan Languages Symposium brought together scholars working on languages and language communities of the greater Himalayan region: north-western and north-eastern India, Nepal, Bhutan and the Tibetan Plateau, northern Burma and Sichuan, and Nuristan, Baltistan and the Burushaski-speaking area in the west.
Mrs. Saxena also co-organized the 23rd Scandinavian Conference of Linguistics, Uppsala University, 1–3 October 2008. Uppsala University hosted the conference on behalf of the Nordic Association of Linguists.
Research projects connected to
Saxena is involved in research on Tibeto-Burman linguistics, syntax,
language contact and language change. She has worked extensively on Kinnauri,
a West-Himalayish language spoken in the Himachal Pradesh region in India. She completing her M.Phil at University of Delhi in 1984, with a thesis titled ”A Study of reflexives and intensifiers in major Indo-Aryan languages”, and then defended her doctoral dissertation titled ”Finite verb morphology in Tibeto-Kinnauri” at the University of Oregon, USA, in 1992.
Her research projects at Uppsala University include:
• Spoken language syntax (1998-2003):
Abstract: The research project aims
to examine linguistic structure in Swedish and Kinnauri oral narratives
in order to further our understanding of the traits (conceptual as well
as functional) which characterize the spoken and written languages.
The project is unique in that it takes into consideration not
only one language, or languages
representing one kind of orality, but rather languages representing
both primary and secondary orality, providing both cross-linguistic
data as well both types of orality.
• The translation of oral
texts from indigenous languages (1996-99)
Abstract: The aim of this project was
to examine issues involved in translating oral narratives, address questions
dealing with cross-cultural translation, and to critically evaluate
theoretical claims made in the literature. Compiling a data corpus of
phonetically trancribed oral narratives of Kinnauri, an unwritten Tibeto-Burman
language was an important part of this project. Such collections of
narratives are crucial for evaluating claims in translation studies
and are also valuable for theoretical linguistics and cultural anthropology.
• Development of IT-based
grammar exercises (2001)
• Evaluation of multimedia
resources for the teaching of Hindi (2001)
• IT-based Collaborative Learning
Abstract: This project suggests a new
form for teaching courses in grammar in Linguistics. In the proposed
method interactive practical training and corpus-based exercises comprise
an integral part of the students learning process, giving them
the opportunity and incentive to participate more actively in their
own learning process. The Kinnauri corpus will form an integral part
of this project. The collaborative learning method that we propose here
is more widely applicable than only in grammar courses in linguistics.
Thus, in the last phase of the proejct we will apply the method in the
teaching of less-widely taught languages. This is a three-year project
which will start soon.
In August 2006 Anju Saxena and Lars
Borin, Professor of
Natural Language Processing at the Dept.
of Swedish, Göteborg University, published an
edited volume titled ”Lesser-Known
Languages of South Asia Status and Policies, Case Studies and Applications
of Information Technology” in the publication
series ”Trends in Linguistics: Studies and Monographs” (Mouton
Berlin), bringing together research on
a large number of smaller languages in South Asia. It provides basic
knowledge about the problems involved and some directions from which
solutions could be forthcoming, for helping to shape the linguistic
future of South Asia. More
In October 2007, Dr. Saxena received SEK
525 000 as a three year grant (2008-10) from the Swedish Research
Links programme (funded by Sida and the Swedish Research Council)
for an project titled ”Multimedia and GIS supported language documentation of the Himalayas with the focus on ethno-biological terms”. More information on the Swedish
Research Links grants 2007.
Abstract: Multimedia and GIS supported language documentation of the Himalayas with the focus on ethno-biological terms The aim of the proposed project is to establish co-operation between Uppsala University and Himachal Pradesh University to work jointly on producing digital documentation of languages of the Himalayan region in the Himachal Pradesh region in India, using modern technology – multimedia tools and GIS (Geographical Information Systems) – with a focus on ethno-biological terms, and to document their role in the socio-cultural life of this region. Just as India exhibits linguistic diversity (South Asia being the third linguistically richest area in the world), it boasts also a high degree of biodiversity (e.g. 6% of all flowering plants species in the world). The Threatened plants unit (TPU) of the WCMC has classified Western Himalaya as one of the five threatened areas in India. This is also a region where linguistic diversity is apparently very high, but very little information is available. Factors such as modern media, education policies, construction of major hydro-electrical plants, tourist industry, and general tendencies for globalization are distabilizing traditional lifestyle(s) of the indigenous communities of this area. This is apparent in the younger generation’s decreasing familiarity with local ethnobiological terms, their usages, and their role in the community. There is an urgent need to document traditional knowledge (including language) of these indigenous communities. This is the main goal of this project. The focus in language documentation in this project will be on ethnobiological terms and their relevance in the socio-cultural life of these communities. Data collection will be in the survey format. Documentation will be done by taking (i) still pictures and Latin terms for each ethno-botanical term; (ii) Video recordings of narratives, socio-cultural activities where ethno-botanical terms have special significance; (iii) An annotated narrative corpus (together with audio and video recording) comprising phonetically transcribed text, morpheme-by-morpheme translation and a free translation into English. If time permits, grammatical sketches of the languages of this region (including observations about their dialectal variation) will be produced, based on the data collected in this project. The ethnolinguistic data collection will be conducted in selected village groups of these regions. The database will then form the basis for (i) language descriptions of these languages (including questions relating to their genetic relationship, languge change and language contact), and (ii) multi-media products – an interactive CD and an interactive language map of this region – the latter using GIS. The results of this project will contribute to (i) providing a systematic database for investigating language situation of this region, (ii) our understanding of the ethno-biological features of this region, (iii) preserving this knowledge (e.g. traditional knowledge in matters of medicine, environment and natural resources) and (iv) evaluating these multimedia tools and GIS in language documentation.
• Dr. Anju Saxena is one of the Editor for Brill’s Studies in South and Southwest Asian Languages (BSSAL), a new peer-reviewed series that provides a venue for high-quality monograph-length descriptive and theoretical studies on the languages of South and Southwest Asia. In the political sense, South Asia encompasses the seven independent states Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but linguistically and culturally it also includes some adjacent areas to the east and north, notably Tibet. Southwest Asia is understood here as comprising the Iranian languagespeaking territory to the west of South Asia, i.e., the states of Afghanistan and Iran and the geocultural transnational region Kurdistan, consisting of parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. For enquiries or to submit a manuscript proposal, please contact the Series Editors: Dr. Anju Saxena or Dr. John Peterson, University of Osnabrück/University of Leipzig. The editorial board includes Prof.
Udaya Narayana Singh, previously at the Central Institute of Indian Languages in Mysore. More information about this series.
Alström has been connected to the department for some years. He is working on
a research project on ”The 20th Century Indian
agriculture as perceived in the oral literary tradition of a drought-prone
semi-desert region with a unique ancient folklore culture – an interdisciplinary
approach”. This project, dealing with Marwari folk culture
in Rajasthan, was awarded a SASNET Planning
grant in February 2005.
After establishing contacts with scientists
at the Rajasthani Shodh Sansthan Chopasni (RSSC),
a small Jodhpur research centre specializing on western Rajasthani history
and culture in the feudal age of pre-independent India, Dr. Alström
has carried out field work on the oral literary traditions in Hindi and
Marwari in the Borunda region, and in villages of the Nagaur District,
from October 2005 till March 2006.
Since the start of RSSC in 1955 the centre has published a quarterly
journal called Parampara (Tradition). The Rajasthani dictionary
publication society Upsamiti Rajasthani Shabd Kosh,
is also located in the same office building. Its editor, Dr Saddik Mohammad,
has written a Rajasthani-Hindi dictionary on words of economic and commercial
Besides the Director
of RSSC, Dr Hukam Singh Bhati, has compiled
a catalogue in Hindi of the Thikana records of the erstwhile Marwar state.
Using it as a guide Alström has now started to examine a collection of
701 handwritten records from the early 19th century up to 1950 A.D. (2007
V.S.), obtained from the Khaijarla Thikana, a Bhati jagir of the erstwhile
The material Dr. Alström collects will be put into the following
preliminary framework: 1. An overall introduction of the erstwhile Marwar
state and its agrarian population 1850-1950. 2. The relations between
agricultural tenants and their the jagirdars, the former feudal lords
of the area. 3. Farmer/merchant relations 4. Farmers/Livestock breeders
relations 5. Traditional farm production including the impact of nature.
Dr. Alström is also in close contact with the Dept. of Hindi at Jai Narain Vyas University in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
The department is headed by Professor Ram
Alström is originally a Doctor of Agronomy, he defended his doctoral
dissertation on "Weed management in
tropical agriculture with emphasis on India” at
of Ecology and Crop Production Science, Swedish University of
Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala, in 1991. Since then he has
done research work on farm life changes in Rajasthan for many years.
He has been a member of the US-based Rajasthan
Study Group, an International network of scientists conducting
research on Rajasthan issues.