Prof. (Dr.) Anvita Abbi

  • Prof. (Dr.) Anvita Abbi,
    Department of Linguistics
    Visiting Professor of Linguistics and ICCR India Chair
    Simon Fraser University
    Burnaby, BC Canada V5A 1S6

    President: Linguistic Society of India
    Hon Director of Centre for Oral and Tribal Literature
    Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, India

    Formerly Professor of Linguistics, 
    Centre for Linguistics, 
    School of Language Literature and Culture Studies, 
    Jawaharlal Nehru University 
    New Delhi 110067, India
    Email: [email protected]

    Curriculum Vitae

    Prof. Anvita Abbi, formerly at the Centre for Linguistics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, is currently a Guest Scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany. Professor Abbi’s work on tribal languages and other minority languages of South Asia has been exemplary and is widely recognized in the world. Her pioneering work on the highly endangered languages of the Andaman Islands has been received with great acclaim in India and abroad. She identified a new language family of India, namely Great Andamanese, which is genealogically different from the rest of the languages of the Andamanese tribes. This was subsequently verified by the population genetic studies.This discovery has helped in understanding the peopling of Asia and Oceania.

    Born on January 9, 1949, Prof. Abbi received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1968, and Master of Arts in Linguistics in 1970 from the University of Delhi. She received her Ph.D. degree in Linguistics in 1974 from Cornell University, USA. She taught at Cornell University and Kansas State University, USA before returning to India in 1976 when she joined Jawaharlal Nehru University. 

    She has designed and developed the discipline of Field linguistics in JNU and has trained a large number of students in grammar-writing and language documentation since 1977. Prof. Abbi has carried out first-hand field research on all six language families of India extending from the Himalayas to the Andaman Islands. Her outstanding contribution is the use of modern computational methods for preparing multilingual, multiscriptal, user-friendly talking dictionary of the present-day Great Andamanese language (2012) and unearthing unique grammatical structures of the language (2013).

    She has widely published in the areas of areal typology, language documentation, structures of tribal and minority languages, language policy and education, and analysis of ethno-linguistic aspects of language use. She has authored, co-authored and edited 18 books, in addition to over seventy articles in the areas of Linguistics published in national and international research journals. She has helped in creating interest and disseminating knowledge about Indian linguistic diversity in USA and Europe through TV interviews on BBC and CNN as well as giving lectures at major universities including London, Cambridge, Manchester, Edinburgh, Paris, Vancouver, Germany, Switzerland and Washington. She has been an acclaimed author of many award winning short stories in Hindi. She runs one of the most famous annual Hindi poetry award Bharat Bhushan Agarwal Kavita Puraskar.

    She is awarded the most prestigious Kenneth Hale Award (2015), by the Linguistic Society of America, Padma Shri (2013) by the President of India, Leverhulme Professor at SOAS, University of London (March – December 2011), Visiting Scientist position at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany (2000, 2003, and 2010), Visiting Professor at the Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Australia (2010-2011) and was nominated Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia (2001) for her pioneering contribution to the languages of India. She received the Rashtriya Lokbhasha Samman 2003 award for her contribution towards the tribal languages of India. She has served as the advisory member of several international organizations including Terralingua and UNESCO on language issues and at present, holds the position of the President of the Linguistic Society of India.