George Abraham Grierson

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Sir George Abraham Grierson
Born 1851
Dublin, Ireland
Died 1941
Occupation Linguist
Known for Linguistic Survey of India

Sir George Abraham Grierson OM KCIE (7 January 1851 – 9 March 1941) was an Irish linguistic scholar and civil servant who conducted the Linguistic Survey of India (1898–1928), obtaining information on 364 languages and dialects.


He was born in Glenageary, County Dublin. His father and grandfather (George Grierson) were well-known Dublin printers and publishers.

He was educated at St. Bees School, Cumberland and Trinity College, Dublin, where he was a student of mathematics. Grierson qualified for the Indian Civil Service in 1871 with very good results. He also won prizes for Sanskrit and Hindustani in Trinity during his two probationary years spent in Dublin.[1] In India, he reached the Bengal Presidency in 1873. He was posted to Bankipore in Bihar. He would eventually become Magistrate and Collector at Patna and later, Opium Agent for Bihar. In 1898 he was appointed Superintendent of the newly formed Linguistic Survey of India and moved to England "for convenience of consulting European libraries and scholars".[2] By the time Grierson retired from the Indian Civil Service in 1903, most of the data had come in. He spent the following thirty years editing the enormous amount of material gathered.[1]

Grierson published scholarly works throughout his career: on the dialects and peasant life of Bihar, on Hindi literature, on bhakti, and on linguistics.

His contemporaries noted his lack of sympathy for Advaita Vedanta, which he regarded as "pandit religion" but noted his "warm appreciation of the monotheistic devotion of the country folk".[3]

Most of Grierson's later work deals with linguistics. In a celebratory account of his life, F.W. Thomas and R.L. Turner refer to the extensive publications of the Linguistic Survey of India as "a great Imperial museum, representing and systematically classifying the linguistic botany of India".[4]

He died in Camberley, Surrey, England.


Grierson received an honorary Doctorate of Letters (D.Litt.) from the University of Dublin in June 1902.[5]

In 1928 Grierson was appointed to the Order of Merit (OM).[6]

He was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE).

A literary award of India, Dr. George Grierson Award was named in his honor.


  • Grierson, George Abraham. Bihar Peasant Life, Being a Discursive Catalogue of the Surroundings of the People of That Province, With Many Illustrations From Photographs Taken By the Author. Prepared Under Orders of the Government of Bengal. Calcutta, The Bengali Secretariat Press, & London, Trübner & Co., (1885); Cosmo (1998) ISBN 81-7020-185-3
  • Grierson, George Abraham. Seven Grammars of the Dialects and Subdialects of the Bihari Language (1883–87) 3 vols. ISBN 81-7835-451-9
  • Grierson, Sir George Abraham (1906). The Pisaca languages of north-western India. The Royal asiatic Society, London. 
  • Grierson George Abraham, Linguistic Survey of India, 11 Vols. in 19 Parts Delhi, Low Price Publ. (2005) ISBN 81-7536-361-4
  • Grierson, George Abraham. A Dictionary of the Kashmiri Language. Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1932.
  • Grierson, George Abraham. Ishkashmi, Zebaki and Yazghulami. An Account of Three Eranian Dialects. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1920.
  • Lalla-Vakyani, Sir George Grierson and Dr. Lionel D. Barnett Litt. D., R. A. S. monograph, Vol. XVII, London 1920.
  • The Lay of Alha: A Saga of Rajput Chivalry as Sung by Minstrels of Northern India, SAMP early 20th-century Indian books project, Editor Sir George Abraham Grierson, Translated by William Waterfield, Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1923
  • ———. 1909. Gleanings from the Bhakta-Mala. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society: 607-644.
  • ———. 1910a. Gleanings from the Bhakta-Mala. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society: 269-306.
  • ———. 1910b. Gleanings from the Bhakta-Mala. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society: 87-109.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McGuire, James; Quinn, James (2009). Dictionary of Irish Biography. Volume III. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy-Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521633314. 
  2. ^ Thomas and Turner n.d., 3
  3. ^ Thomas and Turner n.d., 11
  4. ^ n.d., 18
  5. ^ "University intelligence" The Times (London). Monday, 2 June 1902. (36783), p. 9.
  6. ^ The Lost Scholars of Kashmir


  • Thomas, F.W., and R.L. Turner. 1941. George Abraham Grierson 1851-1941. London: Humphrey Milford Amen House, E.C.

External links[edit]

  1. Photos of Sir George Grierson
  2. Gramaphone recordings from Linguistic Survey of India