Rabbi, S. “The Sociolinguistics of South Asian Cosmopolitan Literature: The Dubhasa (Mixed Language Modes) of the Puthi Tradition in Muslim Bengal.” In J. Lee (Ed.) The Sociolinguistics of Global Asias (pp. 156-170). New York: Routledge.
Abstract: Scholars of language have long been interested in the widespread plurilingualism of South Asian communication. These linguistic practices provide promising grounds to understand the contradictions of nation-states and their use of standardized languages; the colonial overdetermination of the state system in South Asia has meant that the emergence of modernist conceptualizations of communication had to exist with the plurilingualism of its users. This chapter will present an analysis of language use and literacy practices as they index Asia as a global phenomenon in one geographic region, Bengal, and one community, the Bengali Muslims. I will discuss two genres of religious texts common among Bengali Muslims during the first part of the 19th century in terms of their use of global or local perspectives in their historical context. I will show that writers of puthis, verse narratives composed before the 19th century, saw languages as tools and resources to communicate Islam to the local populations. In comparison, authors of early 19th-century religious instructional texts called nasihat namas espouse a transformation of Arabic and Persian as “codes” essentially connected to Islam and the umma, and Bengali as connected to the local ethnic populations of which the Muslim audiences were also a part.