ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Orthography, Community and the Marathi Public Sphere

This paper examines a long-running debate over Marathi shuddhalekhan, or orthography. Efforts to standardise spelling conventions for Marathi words began in the colonial period and continued through the 1950s. In 1962, the new state of Maharashtra authorised a set of rules for public use. Critics of these revised rules persist, keeping the debate perennial in the public sphere. This paper locates these orthographic debates within colonial-era transformations in Marathi print culture and grammar, and examines the idea of the social and the popular within grammar discourse to examine how and why orthography became a persistent, and controversial issue within Marathi language reform. It explores how seemingly trivial questions at first glance of vowel signs and dots gradually emerge as part of larger ones about literacy, historicity, community and the public sphere.

I would like to acknowledge Rahul Sarwate’s critical feedback in thinking through the ideas expressed in this paper. Errors are mine alone.

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