ASHOK R. KELKAR : A PROFILE
Interdisciplinary scholar in linguistics, literature, semiotics,
and other disciplines
- Ashok Ramachandra KELKAR was born at Pune, Maharashtra,
on 22 April 1929 of middle-class Marathi-speaking
parents. He was
educated in Pune (schooling; BA English honours with
Philosophy, Fergusson College, 1950; MA English with
French University, Ithaca NY, 1958; School of Letters,
Indiana University, Bloomington, Summer 1958).
- Besides Marathi, his mother-tongue, he speaks and writes
English and Hindi and reads French.
He is married, with 2 married children.
- Contact : 7, Dhananjay, 759/83 off Bhandarkar Road Lane
6, Pune-411 004. Telephone
: 491-20-5654901. No
- He taught Linguistics at Agra
(Agra University, Asst. Professor, 1958-62) and Pune
(University Reader 1962-67 and University Professor
1967-89 at Deccan College). He has supervised research at MPhil (3),
PhD (20), and post-doctoral levels and in projects besides
doing his personal work.
(Candidates came from India,
- He has participated, at state, national and international
levels, in many seminars and conferences and research
and teaching programmes.
In the course of these he has visited USA (1956-58
as a student at Cornell, Yale, Michigan, Indiana universities;
1965, 1970, 1986 as a senior scholar); Nepal (1974 Tribhuvan);
Austria (1975 Wenner-Gren Symposium on Semiotics and
Culture); Germany (1975 Applied Linguistics Congress;
Lecture at Heidelberg); England (1975 Child Language
Congress); Portugal (1986 Distance Education Colloquium);
Soviet Union (1986 and 1988 workshops on Indian Language
teaching in Soviet Union); and Canada (1987 Semiotics
international institute). He has delivered many scholarly
as well as popular lectures in India
(All India Radio, for example) and abroad.
- He has steadily refused to limit his work in teaching,
guidance, and research to any one branch of Linguistics
(phonetics, linguistic analysis, language typology,
lexicography, linguistic and stylistic analysis and
evaluation of translation, language teaching and testing,
language planning and stylistic analysis – both at the
theoretical level and in relation to specific languages
like Marathi, Hindi, English, French, Chinese, Algonquian
family, Kashmiri, Urdu among others).
Indeed, he has gone well beyond linguistics into
fields such as Library criticism, theory, and history;
Art criticism, theory, and history (especially music,
theatre, dance, design arts, cinema); Aesthetics; Philosophy
of meaning, cognition, and language; Semiotics; Communication
(as in law, audiovisual teaching, popular education);
Cultural Anthropology (as of religion, food habits,
cultural change); Sociopolitical analysis and philosophy
(as of knowledge globalization, language empowerment);
and Theory of History.
- The main overall thrusts
of his work have been the following : a general theory
of language and symbolism; problems in literature and
the arts; and examining the cultural and social matrix
in its historical dimension. He has consistently brought
theory to bear on applications and applications to bear
on theory. He
has freely drawn ideas from both the Indian and the
European traditions without either ceasing to look for
an inclusive framework or forgoing his right to plough
his lonely furrow.
- He has continued the Late Professor Suniti Kumar Chatterji’s
work of putting India on the world map of linguistics
and the Late Professor Sumitra Mangesh Katre’s work
of putting linguistics of India (life member, editor
and chief editor of their quarterly, president), Maharashtra
Sahitya Parishad (life member), the Linguistic Society
of America (life member), Nrityabharati Kathak Dance
Academy of Pune (office-bearer 1982-97), Central Institute
of English and Foreign Languages at Hyderabad, Central
Institute of Indian Languages at Mysore and its four
regional centres (founded 1969, its inception and initial
Abhyas Parishad (founded 1982, inception, editor of
its quarterly), and Rajya Marathi Vikas Samstha (founded
1992, inception and initial phase). He succeeded Professor Chatterji as India’s
representative (1980-94) on the Permanent International
Committee of Linguists and was instrumental in securing
UNESCO assistance to young Indians wishing to participate
in the International Congresses of Linguists.
- He has acted as a consultant to various institutions,
academies, government agencies, universities in India,
and Soviet Union.
- He has been an editorial adviser to Journal of Child
Language (1972-80), Yearbook of South Asian Languages
and Linguistics (1998-), Paramarsh (two philosophical
journals from Pune in Hindi and Marathi), and Anustubh
(1978-, Marathi journal of literature and the arts).
- He has been active in popularizing the scientific study
of language and the planned approach to language problems
(language policy, goals and methods of language teaching,
script and spelling reform, transliteration of Indian
scripts and putting them on printing and computing keyboards,
the medium of education, technical nomenclature and
terminology, diction on stage and in audio-media). He has been propagating the importance
of language and of specific languages (like Marathi,
Hindi, Sanskrit, Adivasi languages on the one hand and
like English, French on the other hand).
He proposed in a submission to the Education
Commission (1957-58) the 10+2+3 scheme of education.
- As a student he received the Hughlings Prize in English
(University of Mumbai, 1948), Rockefeller Foundation
Fellowship (Linguistics, 1955-56 in India, 1956-58 in
USA), Lily Foundation Fellowship (Literature study,
1958 in USA).
- As a scholar he has been CIIL Senior Fellow (1975-76),
UGC National Fellow(1976-78) and Emeritus Fellow (1989-91),
and ICSSR Senior Fellow (1985-87).
He has been invited to deliver Banikanta Kakati
and Birinchi Kumar Barua memorial lectures at Guwahati
(January and June 1990 respectively), Suniti Kumar Chatterji
memorial lectures at Kolkata (1995, Asiatic Society),
and Radhanath Rath memorial lecture at Bhubaneshwar
(2001). He also delivered N.G. Nandapurkar memorial
lectures at Aurangabad
(1976) in Marathi.
- His books have received many awards. The quarterly ‘Bhasa ani jivan’ of which
he has been founder-editor has received the Maharashtra
Foundation of New York’s award (1995).
- Public recognition has been slow in coming to him –
in part because of the neglect of languages and humanities
in India and in part because of his thought steadily
keeping a whole generation ahead of his times and his
refusal to acquiesce in current intellectual fashions,
popular pre preconceptions, and power management.
- But his peers have always found in him an engaging teacher,
a penetrating thinker combining depth with breadth of
vision, and an intellectual of generosity and integrity. A volume with contributions from India
and abroad was dedicated to him (‘Language and text
: Studies in honour of Ashok R. Kelkar’, Kalinga, Delhi
1992), which includes a 20-page bibliography updated
to June 1991, hopelessly outdated now.
- He was honoured in 2002 with a Padmashri by the Government
- He has kept up, right from his student years, a steady
flow of papers and articles (over 150 by now), entries
in encyclopaedias and the like, reviews, forewords,
and editorial comment, and interviews, and interventions
in print. And of course books. His contributions have appeared in Marathi,
English, and Hindi, some of which have been translated
into Kannada, Bangla, Gondi, French, Konkani, Oriya
and Gujarati. The outlets have been at state, national
and international levels.
- Many of his writings enjoyed an earlier life as speeches.
Perhaps this accounts for the capacity of his
Marathi, English, and Hindi prose to establish a direct
rapport with the reader, not allowing his scholarship
or originality to stand in the way.
- As a labour of love, he has been making translations
of stories, poems, articles, reviews before he came
to theorize about translating activity.
The languages involved are : Marathi to English,
English o Marathi, French to Marathi, Marathi to Hindi,
English translations from German, Polish, Spanish, Telugu,
Malayalam, Russian to Marathi.
A list of book-length publications follows :
The Phonology and morphology of Marathi, Cornell University
PhD dissertation of 1958 (University Microfilms, Ann Arbor,
Studies in Hindi-Urdu I Introduction and word phonology,
Deccan College (for CASL), Pune 1968.
Marāthi bhāsechā ārthik samsār,
Marathwada Sahitya Parishad, Aurangabad, 1977. (On how
Marathi manages its meaning or, in language pollution,
fails to do so).
Prāchin bhāratiya sāhityamimāmsā
: EK ākalan, Pune 1979; Hindi translation 1994, Gujarati
translation 2000; also Kannada extract extract (in Sākṣī
1981). (An interpretation
of traditional Sanskrit poetics).
Prolegomena to an understanding of semiosis and culture,
CIIL, Mysore 1980. (A
theoretical framework in about 90 sūtras with auto-commentary
for understanding the processes of sign and symbol and
their relation to cultural processes.
Vaichariki: Bhāsā āni bhāsāvyavahār,
Majestic, Mumbai, 1983. (A collection of semi-technical and popular
articles in Marathi.)
Phonemic and morphemic frequency count in Oriya, CIIL,
Mysore 1994. (Awaiting a variety of applications.)
Bhedavilopan : Ek ākalan, Sarva-dharma-adhyayan-kendra
of Prajna Pathashala, Wai, Maharashtra 1995. (A novel
understanding of mystical experience and mystical way
of life and their significance.) (A Hindi version is forthcoming).
Madhyamā : Bhāsa āni bhāsāvyavahār,
Mehta, Pune, 1996. (A sequel to item 6)
Language in a semiotic perspective : The Architecture
of a Marathi sentence, Shubhada – Saraswat, Pune, 1997
(In a way, a sequel to items 1 and 5)
Kaviteche adhyāpan, Godavari, Aurangabad 2000 (On
the why and how of teaching poetry in school and college).
Triveṇī : Bhāṣā,
sāhitya, saṁskriti, Alekh, Delhi, 2004 (A
collection of articles in Hindi).