Keith, James Reverend
Keith, James Reverend (1784-1823) the first author to write a Bangla grammar in Bangla language. Hitherto, several Europeans wrote Bangla grammers in English. James Keith was born in England in 1784. He came to Calcutta in 1816 as a missionary belonging to the London Baptist Mission Society. Keith, along with Henry Townley, a co-missionary of London Baptist Mission Society, played important role in promoting missionary activities in Bengal. As a part of his missionary activities, Keith published two pamphlets'1. Ekjan daroyan ar ekjon mali ei ubhayer kathopakathan (Dialogue between a doorkeeper and a gardener), Baptist mission press 1818, 2. Satparamarxa (Honest Advice), Serampore 1829.
Keith was one of the members of the Agri-Horticultural Society of India, established by william carey. The full title of James Keith's Bengali Grammar was Bangabhasar Byakaran 1820 A Grammar of Bengali Language Adapted to the young in easy questions and Answers. Calcutta School Book Society published its second edition in 1825. We find in the Annual Report of the Calcutta School Book Society for 1820 that the' Society purchased 500 copies of Keith's Bangla Grammar. In that report the grammar was said to have been 'a work which appears to be useful and acceptable both to the native teachers of the Bengali language and to their pupils'. The School Book Society later brought out its new edition successively in 1825, 1839 and 1858.
Until the publication of Raja Rammuhon Roy's Gauriya Byakaran in 1833, Keith's Grammar was the only tool in the hands of the native school teachers and the pupils. The Grammar was written in the manner of questions and answers. We find in his grammar several new grammatical terms which he invented for the first time. Keith was visibly influenced by William Carey and the Sanskrit grammarian Vyopdeva. The special importance of Keith's Grammar lies in the fact that he for the first time could distinguish the differences between the 'Nasal' and 'Nasalized' sounds, which Carey failed to note. Carey's Grammar had seven cases but Keith's grammar had six, excluding possessive case. At the end of the Grammar, Keith appended a list of some rare and obscure words with their meanings as found in existing books. James Keith died in January 1823. [MA Qayyum]