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Assam remembers missionary who compiled first Assamese dictionary

india Updated: Jul 20, 2012 23:03 IST
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Assam on Friday remembered the American Baptist missionary who compiled the first Assamese dictionary in 1867 and brought out the first Assamese newspaper named ‘Orunodoi’ in 1845.

Friday was Reverend Miles Bronson’s 200th birth anniversary.

Born on 20 July 1812 in New York, Bronson arrived in Assam as part of the American Baptist Mission in 1836. He first set up a school at Namsang in eastern Assam and brought out ‘A Spelling Book and Vocabulary in English, Assamese, Singpho and Naga’ in 1839 before shifting to Sivasagar to bring out ‘Orunodoi’.

“We can never forget the contributions of Bronson and his associates including Nathan Brown and Oliver Cutter to the development of Assamese language. While he arrived less than 10 years after the Brahmaputra Valley was annexed to British India, he wrote many books that helped enrich several languages of the region,’ Assam Sahitya Sabha general secretary Paramananda Rajbangshi said.

The Sabha, he added, has drawn up a year-long programme to mark Bronson’s birth bi-centenary. To be celebrated as the Year of the Dictionary, the schedule includes publication of at least two new Assamese dictionaries, a series of seminars and awareness programmes on dictionaries, setting up of three bronze busts of Bronson and generating awareness about correct use of the language on television and other social media.

Bronson wrote two books in Garo (Meghalaya) language in 1863 before the first Assamese dictionary containing 14,000 words in 1867. His team’s biggest contribution, though, was in restoring Assamese as official language and medium of instruction in Assam in1873 after it was replaced by Bengali in 1836 by the British.

“Had it not been for Bronson’s team, Assam would not have seen the birth of the first newspaper within 19 years of British occupation of the Brahmaputra valley,” said veteran journalist Profulla Chandra Borua, a compiler on journalism in Assam.

Bronson, incidentally, was the first missionary to try to evangelize the Nagas. He returned to the US in 1878 and died in Eton Rapids on November 10, 1883.