Global Challenges, Local Solutions: Linguistic Anthropology as Narrative Device in Dhruv Bhatt’s Gujarati Novels

Authors: Bageshree Trivedi (Department of English, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India)
Devashree Trivedi (Department of Linguistics, Gujarat University, India)
Speakers: Bageshree Trivedi, Devashree Trivedi
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


This paper proposes to study three novels Samundrantike (Oceanside Blues) (1993), Tattvamasi (That Thou Art) (1998), and Akoopar (2010) by contemporary Gujarati novelist Dhruv Bhatt, centred on eco-cultural mapping of three ethnic communities of Gujarat.

All three novels set up a dichotomy between a protagonist from the modern urban milieu and a tribal landscape with ethnic cultural traditions. This dichotomy is used to establish an interaction between the global-local, the modern-traditional/ancient, the urban-rural, the “civilized”-“primitive”. In doing so, they question the assumptions underlying these purported binaries and establish an interaction between them.

This questioning often begins with the problem of translation, literally and conceptually. For example, for the unnamed protagonist of Akoopar, the problem of how to translate the spirit of Gir on the visual medium of a sketch, turns into the conceptual problem of cognizing the idea of land as human, and wildlife as human, as reflected in the linguistic usage of the local community.

Following the belief of anthropologist Franz Boas, the protagonists in all stories use language as an entry point into understanding culture. They display a keen sensitivity to and awareness of variations in the phonetics, phonology, semiotics and pragmatics of the language used by the community in question. An analysis of this variation leads to an understanding of the deep structures of cultural and philosophical traditions underlying the language, in which solutions for crucial issues from the existential crises of modern world to ecological concerns of wildlife endangerment mingle seamlessly.

The paper thus argues that these three novels use linguistic anthropology as a covert principal narrative device to map ethnic communities. Through an analysis of this literary device, the paper sets up a contrast between the principal dialect of Gujarat and the dialectal variation of each community in terms of use of kinship terms, behaviour of adjectives, semiotics of nouns, etc., based on the broad conceptual frame of linguistic relativism and linguistic functionalism.

The study of these contrasts will be further used to understand how the language varieties of these communities are structured around eco-sensitivity and the fundamental principle of interdependence of all living forms.


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Bonvillain, N. (Ed.) (2016) The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology. NY/London: Routledge.

Keywords: Linguistic Anthropology, Ecocriticism, Stylistics, Metaphor, Gujarati