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Gabriela Nik. Ilieva

Clinical Professor of South Asian Studies ; Coordinator, Hindi and Urdu Programs

Ph.D. 2000, University of Minnesota South Asian Linguistics (Dissertation: Decoding Gender in the Language of the Rig Veda)

Office Address: 

Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies 50 Washington Square South New York, NY 10012


(212) 992-9623


(212) 995-4689

Areas of Research/Interest: 

gender and pragmatics in Hindi and Sanskrit, Medieval Indian poetics, historical Indo-Aryan linguistics, foreign language pedagogy

External Affiliations:

Academic Director of the Hindi-Urdu Teacher Training Institute at NYU funded by the National Foreign Language Center, UMD (2008-) Task Force and Advisory Committee member, STARTALK, National Foreign Language Center, UMD (2009-) Executive Committee Member, Partners for Languages in the US (PLUS) (2014-) Executive Board Member, National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL) (2014-) Director of the South Asian Languages Database Project, National Heritage Language Resource Center, UCLA (2010-). President of the South Asian Language Teachers’ Association (2005-2009)


I am passionate about exploring the ways language encodes certain socio-cultural meanings. Specifically, I examine discourse structures in Hindi and Sanskrit literature that reproduce or challenge gender-based relations of power and dominance in Indian society. I also analyze the formulation of gender (self/)identity as a dynamic process through which Indian social contexts are actively constructed by applying the so-called ‘doing/ performing gender’ approach. In the field of foreign language pedagogy, my research interests are focused on differentiated pedagogical approaches to instruction and assessment of Hindi and Urdu heritage vs. foreign language learners. My translation work includes stories by Amrita Pritam, Manto, Kamleshwar, Mukktibodh, poetry by Manglesh Dabral into Bulgarian and Bulgarian poetry into Hindi. In addition, I have examined Medieval Indian poetics, namely the schools of alankaara (ornaments) and dhvani (suggested meaning) in comparison with Ancient Greek and Roman Rhetoric and some contemporary European literary theories.

I teach advanced Hindi language courses, as well as Ancient Indian Literature and Modern South Asian Literature courses. My Hindi classes are fun, because they are project- and performance-task-based. After we watch films or read stories and articles my students assume roles -- a village chief or a farmer, a NGO activist or a minister, a grandparent or a school principle, a reporter or a TV host show. They submit scripts, speeches, infomercials, opinions in written and audio or video format. We conduct debates, we argue, we defend or reject our characters’ positions. In my literature classes we read works in English translation and focus on developing understanding of the flow of ideas in the time period in which each text is contexted, how it was perceived then and what it means nowadays, what the traditional and new stylistic and rhetorical choices are, etc. Recently, my students have started to work with elementary and middle school kids from underprivileged families in Brooklyn. I also have been involved in teacher education and training, which I have been doing for more than two decades.

Selected Publications: 

“The Hymns of Apa¯la¯ and Ghos?a¯: Production of Gender Self-identity” In Papers of the 12th World Sanskrit Conference, Eds. Petteri Koskikallio & Asko Parpola. (2016) Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers

"Assessment in the Heritage Language Classroom: Towards HL proficiency standards." - in Innovative Approaches to Heritage Language Teaching: From Research to Practice. (2016) Georgetown University Press

“Hindi Heritage Learners’ Performance during OPIs: Characteristics and Pedagogical Implications” – in Heritage Language Journal, vol. 9, Number 2.2012

Glasove I Bagri ot India – Damyan Yakov, Sofia, Bulgaria. 2008. (ISBN 978-954-527-402-2)

“Project-Based Learning of Hindi: Managing the Mixed-Abilities Classroom”. South Asia Language Technology and Pedagogy, vol.1. 2008

"Gender Aspects in Parenthood and Childhood in the Rig Veda". 25 years Indology in Bulgaria. Sofia University Press. 2006

"Experiential Learning: Advanced Hindi Video Projects". Proceedings of Annual South Asian Languages Analysis Conference. 2004

"The Rig Vedic hymn as a Ritual Speech Event: 10.39 from a Pragmatic Perspective". Journal of Historical Pragmatics, Special Edition on Ritual, vol. 4, Number 2. 2003

“Common Representations of Women and Men in the Rig Veda”.South Asian Women Studies Journal, Vol.9, Number 1. 2003

“On the Origin of the Ergative”. Sagar, South Asian Research Journal, vol.4 #2. 1997

Online Materials:

Virtual Hindi

Virtual Urdu

India Uninterrupted


2015 – Citation for Community Service Excellence from the Brooklyn Borough President, New York City 2015 - Community Service Recognition from the Heampstead Town Clerk's office, Long Island. 2015 - Community Service Award from the Bronx Community Council, New York City 2008 – Program Excellence Award, University Continuing Education Association (UCEA) Mid-Atlantic Region. 2007 – Golden Dozen Teaching Award, NYU. 1997 – Anjirabai Mankar Award for Ourstanding Leadership, University of Minnesota

Updated on 03/21/2017