Hindi professor awarded in India

Professor Yamuta Kachru speaks with a reporter in her Nevada Street office Friday. Kachru spoke about her experience receiving an award from the president of India and her life as a professor of Hindi linguistics at the University. John Paul Goguen, The Daily Illini

By Drake Baer

Professor Yamuta Kachru recently returned from New Delhi, India, where she won the Presidential Award for the study of Hindi linguistics on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

The award, given by the President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, was presented to about 16 scholars from around the globe.

Professor Kachru said she was one of two Americans to receive the Presidential Award, which is given to “scholars who are working outside India and are contributing significantly to the teaching and research of Hindi.”

Abbas Benmamoun, head of the department of linguistics at the University of Illinois, said that “this is a well-deserved recognition of a great scholar and teacher who has made important contributions to advance the fields of Hindi linguistics and World Englishes.”

Professor Kachru has been working at the University for 40 years and says she has experienced a shift in the make-up of her students.

“I have been involved with the teaching of Hindi on this campus for over 30 years, so when I first came, it was a very small body of students, and most of them were speakers of English who had no idea of the Indian language or Indian culture.”

However, Kachru has noticed that now more Indian-American students, in addition to speakers of English, are enlisting in Indian cultural and linguistic classes.

“They have some idea (of Indian culture) because they go back and forth to India to visit grandparents,” Kachru said. “They have … some idea of Indian language, and they are trying to learn Hindi.”

Kachru is a doctor of linguistics and a professor emeritus of linguistics and Hindi.

She has published dozens of research papers and many books on Hindi.

In the late 1960’s, she organized the first international conference on Hindi linguistics.

In addition to carrying out her own research, Kachru has inspired numerous students to to pursue the study of linguistics, Benmamoun said.

“She has mentored a large number of students and supervised numerous Ph.D. dissertations,” he said.

“Over 40 scholars have carried out their research under her supervision. Many of them hold important positions in various institutions in the U.S. and abroad,” he added.

According to Benmamoun, although Kachru has retired from teaching in order to pursue greater research interests, her academic fervor has not diminished.

“Since retiring from full-time teaching, she has published a co-authored book, “World Englishes in Asian Contexts,” and is in the process of co-editing “Handbook of World Englishes” that will be published by Blackwell,” Benmamoun said.

“Professor has maintained an active and full research agenda, which is quite impressive, but certainly not surprising to those who know her,” he added.