Friday, February 24, 2006

Good Manners and Language

Germans can be grumpy, unpleasant people—and it's not because of post-Nazi guilt or a diet filled with bratwurst, says one American researcher. It's because of their vowels. Hope College psychology professor David Myers says saying a vowel with an umlaut forces a speaker to turn down his mouth in a frown, and may induce the sadness associated with the facial expression. Myers added that the English sounds of "e" and "ah" naturally create smile-like expressions and may induce happiness. [Link]
Quite a few buses in Bangalore do not have a conductor. In such buses, of the two entrypoints, the one closest to the driver would only be open. As we board the bus, the driver himself would issue tickets. Soon a crowd would build up at the front, due to their inexplicable fascination to hang out near the doors. And the driver would be walled in by a human fortress around him, rendering him unable to issue tickets to the new passengers. And he can't resume driving until the tickets are given out. Besides, he also has to deal with the honking massive traffic build-up behind the bus. In such an unenviable scenario, the driver would plead with the people around him repeatedly, "Ulagada hogi! Ulagada hogi!" (Please move inside! Please!)

I cannot imagine such a scene happening in Madras for two reasons:

1. No driver would have agreed to the additional work of issuing tickets. All proletariat would have united in a strike.
2. Let's assume the drivers (by some miracle, or threat of arrest by Amma) consented. Now, if the passengers suffocated him at his seat, he would eliminate the problem by a simple technique of hurling a volley of expletives at them.

What is the cause for the Kannadiga drivers' politeness?

A friend took an autorickshaw from his home for a long ride in Bangalore, at the end of which he realised he was... without his wallet. Had this occurred in Madras, the aatokaaran would have combined with others of his ilk to perform my friend's last rites -- after collecting everything of value on his person. All the Bangalorean, on the other hand, did was to offer to collect the amount from my friend's house the next day.

Now, here I must add that there are many autorickshawmen in Bangalore who are quite as skilled at fleecing us as the famed ones of Madras are. But they do so with that good grace that makes getting fleeced a much less unpleasant experience.

What makes the Kannada-speaking autodrivers more mannered?

While a student, if Mysore Vasudevacharya (the celebrated composer and musician) committed a mistake in his lessons, his guru would upbraid him severely but referring to him throughout with the honorific Acharyare. (Harken gentle sir, may I declare thee a blundering moron?)

Now consider this.

In (colloquial) Kannada:

SingularRespectful (Plural)
Go hogu 2 syllables hogi 2 syllables
Do: madu ,, madi ,,
See: nodu ,, nodri ,,
Put: haku ,, hakri ,,

Contrast this with (colloquial) Tamil:

SingularRespectful (Plural)
Do: sei 1 syllable seyyunga 3 syllables
See: paru 2 parunga 3
Put: podu 2 podunga 3

or Hindi:



SingularRespectful (Plural)
Go: ja 1 syllable ja'iye3 syllables
Do: kar 1 keejiye 3
See: dekh 1 dekhiye 3

or even Telugu:

SingularRespectful (Plural)
Go: vellu 2 syllables vellandi3 syllables
Do: chei 2 cheyyandi 3
See:
choodu 2choodandi3

There it is, friends. Being polite and respectful is much easier on the mouth in Kannada. For every verb spoken, you are spared 1 syllable or more, compared to the other tongues. And in addition, employing the respectful plural takes the same effort needed for the casual singular: Same price, more value.

The Chief Architect of Kannada (let's call her Kannada Thayi, or KT for short), when she sat down after a hearty meal of bisi-bele-huliyanna to create the language, must have had respectfulness as one of her major design goals. And she achieved it by the simple (yet ingenious) method of making verb plurals user-friendly.

Therein lies another important lesson for all of you: If you seek to create a language that should escape degeneration with time, keep it easy on the mouth. Yes-sir, "easy on the mouth, easy on the mouth" - that's the cry. Or you will find that the resounding "Avarai azhaithukondu varungal" ("Please bring him along" - Tamil) would end up as the tepid "Adha itnu va" in the tongues of the hoi-polloi.

52 comments :

RamV said...

awesome, awesome! I dont think, I can ever hope to match the patience and thought that you put into each of your articles. Great reads, they make.

keep 'em coming, saaaar.

Swapna said...

That was quite funny.

Koothu said...

That was a good one! Very intelligent, the Kannada Thayi might have been. But the CEO of Engish was the smartest of all. She dealt with this problem in the simplest possible manner, by just getting rid of the plural usage!!

shakri said...

Oh. Very nice article here. I had never thought of it this way. Thank you.

idanna Odi tuMba saMtOshavaayitu.

alpha said...

never thought in that way..but u do have a point.

shub said...

wow!! this is lovely! :)
may I link it on my blog?

Shruthi said...

Very interesting!! My own language, and it had not hit me, that the reason why we are polite was so simple :)

Manjunatha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Manjunatha said...

I'm obviously flattered. So here goes some Atma stuti. If you think Bangalore Kannadigas are very polite; you might consider we Mangaloreans brimming with milk of human politeness.

In Mangalore, the true blue blood Kannadigas are scarce(May be less than 10%). Majority speak Tulu, Konkani or Malayalam. As a result, Kannada spoken here has its own flavour. Our 'bookish'/learnt Kannada totally lack expletives(Tulu is the language of choice in such cases). Even the handful we have(saavu, avasthe, phaDcha are more in the league of "alas", "shucks" than the "real ones".

Eventhough Kannada is naturally polite(as you pointed out), we Mangaloreans add "dayavitttu(have mercy on me?)" as an equivalent of "please" and make it sound obsequious(a la 'could you please'?). Of course, I don't want to further bore you by talking about our melodious accent(a staple diet of comedy actors in movies) and Bangaloreans' rough accent.

Srikanth said...

Hi everybody,

Thank you all!

Ramprasad: Saar, you are very kind. :-)

Swapna: Thanks for the link!

Koothu: Methinks the English CEO realised the importance of politeness rather late in the project life-cycle. Hence, the polite usage is an inefficient hack: You need to add an entire word ("Please") or words ("Could you", "I request you", etc.). :-)

Shakri: tuMba dhanyavAdagaLu!

Alpha & Shruthi: Thank you!

Shub: Go ahead and link away. But don't forget to mail the royalty cheque!

Srikanth said...

Hi Manjunatha,

Eventhough Kannada is naturally polite(as you pointed out), we Mangaloreans add "dayavittu"...
our melodious accent...

Ah, the dialect/accent wars! ;-)

Unlike Mangalore, the only place in Bangalore that I hear "dayavittu" is the railway station - "Payanigalu dayavittu gavanisi."

In Mangalore, the true blue blood Kannadigas are scarce(May be less than 10%).
The Kannadigas seem to be outnumbered in Bangalore too - Maybe that's what gives them the 'rough' accent...

Btw, how different is the colloquial Kannada from the written one? Is the gulf as wide as in Tamil?

Anonymous said...

I have never been to B'lore. If what you said is true (the driver issuing tickets, that is) then it is clearly exploitation of the proletariats :-))

Srikanth said...

Hi Anonymous,
True, the drivers' job is a rather tough one, especially in the peak hours. Availability of a conductor would provide considerable relief.

Manjunatha said...

Btw, how different is the colloquial Kannada from the written one? Is the gulf as wide as in Tamil?

There are differences between spoken Kannada and written Kannada(Is it unique to Dravidian languages?). I suppose nobody dares to speak grammatically correct Kannada as it would sound melodramatic(To be frank, I don't think I know the correct written form of majority of Kannada words).

By the way, one of the examples haakri(=put) conceals two words inside it.
haakri = haaki + ivare ( honorific pl. of ivane --ivan == this guy; avan = that guy). However, 'ri' is the short form of either 'ivare' or 'avare'. In old days Kannaditi wives would call their husbands 'ri' or 'reeeeeee'.

Srikanth said...

By the way, one of the examples haakri(=put) conceals two words inside it.
I didn't know this... Used to wonder why hakri, nodri, etc. fell into a pattern different from madi, hogi, etc.

Guptavati said...

Loved the Mysore Vasudevachar example..

If you'd ever been to places like Coimbatore,Erode you'd notice that the autodrivers are known for their extra politeness.Also in practice in several places and regional dialects the seyyunga,pannunga is truncated to seyyung, pannung.I have observed this in one particular community..

There seems to be a paradox of sorts (KT Paradox)here.Please do clear this doubt.
You say KT sits and formulates the language after eating B.B.Anna.What was the name of the thing that she ate? It can't have been Bisi bele huli anna because K didn't exist.Only after K comes into existence T becomes KT and whatever-it-was-that-she-ate was named bisibelehuli anna.

Srikanth said...

Hi Gupta-vati,

Also in practice in several places and regional dialects the seyyunga,pannunga is truncated to seyyung, pannung.

This is very interesting! So in Tamil, some users have made the plurals more usable by eliminating the final syllable. This is news to me - I haven't spent much time in Coimbatore or Erode (reason: no relatives there).

There seems to be a paradox of sorts (KT Paradox)here.Please do clear this doubt.

Excellent point! As you know, the BBH has existed kal thonRi man thonRu mun - i.e., from time immemorial; and has remained popular ever since. At KT's time, however, it went by the Proto-Dravidian version of the name, sUDAna-paruppu-puLi-bath (it was one of the Great Baths of Mohenjodaro). KT later Kannadised the name (since it sounded too Tamil) when the first Cauvery dispute arose between the ancestors of Kempe Gowda and those of the Cholas. I used the modern name to prevent a fresh flare-up.

Avinash R said...

Srik,
Thank you soo much for making this blog very informative!!! Even though I am a Kannadiga, never thought aboutit!! I will definitely forward this blog to all my friends and look forward for your future BLOGS!!!

Srikanth said...

Hi Avinash,

Thank *you*!

Manjunatha said...

however, it went by the Proto-Dravidian version of the name, sUDAna-paruppu-puLi-bath

I'm not amused. You can expect a new theory on South Dravidian languages very soon.

Manjunatha said...

it was one of the Great Baths of Mohenjodaro

I think only Malayalees( and nobody else) are the original IVC people. You will agree with it if you know our obsession with taking bath twice or thrice a day.

Manjunatha said...

it was one of the Great Baths of Mohenjodaro

I think only Malayalees( and nobody else) are the original IVC people. You will agree with it if you know our obsession with taking bath twice or thrice a day.

Srikanth said...

I think only Malayalees( and nobody else) are the original IVC people.

Hullo, how could that be! All the great baths are Kannadiga:
* Kesari bath
* Kara bath
* Vangi bath
* Bisi-bele bath

I'm not amused. You can expect a new theory on South Dravidian languages very soon.
:D

Krishnan Sundararaman said...

Tumba ne chennagi bharididira. I wanted the article to go on and on. Neckst tiem please swalpa length jaasti madi.

Manjunatha said...

By the way,
sUDu = hot (Tamil)
suDu = burn (Kannada)

Which is the original meaning? I tell you it should be Kannada meaning. Why? Kempe Gowda's ancestors who fought Cholas over Kaveri came from Tamil Nadu(Kanchi is it?). That shows the proto-Dravidian language spoken in Tamil Nadu was in fact closest to Kannada, however, Malayalam influence because of MGR made it resemble Malayalam.

Manjunatha said...

"Bisi" is an interesting word. It's derived from Proto-Dravidian "vis-". However, the usage is restricted to Brahui in the North Dravidian family and Kannada and Tulu in South Dravidian family. Looks like Dravidian speakers as they moved from North-West of India to South retained that word in the regions of Karnataka. However, by the time they reached Kerala and Tamil Nadu the word was forgotten. Tamil is the closest to Proto-Dravidian. Huh... I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Srikanth said...

Hi Krishnan,
Thank you! Great to know I have a film director commenting here. :-) All the best with your projects!

Srikanth said...

Manjunatha,

Which is the original meaning?
In Tamil,
sUDu: n. burn (the injury); a. hot
suDu: v. to heat, burn

Looks like the meanings are identical in Tamil as well as Kannada.

"Bisi" is an interesting word. ... However, by the time they reached Kerala and Tamil Nadu the word was forgotten.
That was a very interesting point - Thanks for the info! The link was good too.

In Tamil, the fan (the old palm-leaf model) is called visiri. I would guess the etymology is from the fan being originally used to, well, fan the fire. So looks like there are some traces of "visi" used in connection with fire in Tamil. It seems to bear out what you say.

Btw, in Kannada, when did the P -> H and the V -> B transform happen? As in, vAzhai [Tam]: bALe [Kan] and paNDu [Tel]: hannu [Kan] or pAl(u) {Tam/Tel]: hAlu.

Manjunatha said...

In Tamil, the fan (the old palm-leaf model) is called visiri. I would guess the etymology is from the fan being originally used to, well, fan the fire. So looks like there are some traces of "visi" used in connection with fire in Tamil. It seems to bear out what you say.

Sorry, you are wrong here :-). No traces of "visi" in Tamil. The root of Tamil visiri and Kannada bIsaNige are different. My argument stil stands that The ancestors of Tamils(Proto-Kannadigas) who reached the region of Tamil Nadu forgot that word.


Btw, in Kannada, when did the P -> H and the V -> B transform happen? As in, vAzhai [Tam]: bALe [Kan] and paNDu [Tel]: hannu [Kan] or pAl(u) {Tam/Tel]: hAlu.


I'm not sure when people in the region of Karnataka and Northern tip of Kerala(the variety of Malayalam spoken by my family also shows v->b transition) made those changes. I vaguely remember reading that Keshiraja Bhatta (either 15th or 16th century, forgot), who first wrote Kannada grammar introduced p->h changes in literary Kannada. But not sure.

Srikanth said...

No traces of "visi" in Tamil. The root of Tamil visiri and Kannada bIsaNige are different.

Okay! You must be right. :-)

Manjunatha said...

Wait a minuite. That link is wrong(it points to your page). Here is the correct link.

Okay! You must be right. :-)

Is it like pouring cold water on? Oops! I have to work.

Sunil said...

hehehe......very nice post.

After moving to cingara chennai for college, i started taking the bus (PTC). There, for the first time, i heard the beautiful words (ee perusu, veetula sollitu vantaya?) being addressed to an elderly gentleman trying to move in to the bus.

I had never, in my years of bus travel in ricketly, crowded Bangalore buses, ever heard such a statement.

Shook me....really.

Anonymous said...

Very observant and nice of you to come up with this post.And I agree with Manjunath that the Kannada in Mangalore (South Canara ) is more polite and pleasing to the ears.
PS: I dont mean to put too fine a point on it, but did you mean "Olagade hogi" when you wrote "ulagada hogi" ?:)
And err..its "Payanigalu dayavittu gamanisi." ..(No offence meant...!)

Srikanth said...

Hi Sunil and Anonymous,
Thank you!

Sunil: He-he... Madras Tamil was customised for brevity and is very suitable for abuse. Plain "ootla soltu vantiya" is among the gentler expressions around there!

Anonymous: Thank you for the corrections! No offense taken - I am glad you helped improve my language.

Sree said...

ha ha! very interesting post! and the comments were engrossing too!

ahem:P there seems to be some confusion on visi/bisi stuff- while 'bisi' in Kannada deosnt have a parallel in Tam, veesu(from which visiri would have come?) is similar to Kan 'beesu'(n hence beesaNige/ke)

Anonymous said...

very nice analysis you have made. if one reads haLagannaDa i.e., old kannada - it is easier to know that tamil is nearer to haLagannaDa.
i too appreciate the politeness of kannaDa drivers in comparison to mumbai conductors and drivers.

thanks for nice write up

mavinayanasa said...

very nice analysis you have made. if one reads haLagannaDa i.e., old kannada - it is easier to know that tamil is nearer to haLagannaDa.
muMbayina cAlakarige hOlisidare namma kannaDada cAlakaru bahaLa tALme hoMdiruvaru.

tuMbA cennAgi barediddIri. adakkAgi dhanyavAdagaLu

Srikanth said...

Hi Sree & Mavinayanasa,
Thank you!

Sree: You must be right about bisi/visi. Earlier comments by Manjunatha corroborate your views.

Mavinayanasa: tuMba dhanyavAdagaLu!

Vijayanand said...

Why are you not blogging nowadays?

Srikanth said...

Vijay,
Thanks for enquiring! I am on a break from blogging. Wished to concentrate on my other interests (you know what) for a while.

Anonymous said...

ok.

RamV said...

i was going to ask u the same question, but i see vijayanand has already done it. and i also see u've replied too. but my $0.02 is that once u've built up a decent reader base, it becomes ur responsibility to, at least, inform them of bloggin-breaks. Dont u think so?

Srikanth said...

Ramprasad: Saar, I agree - I'll put up a note soon.

Balaji said...

Hello Srikanth,
dilettante - the opening word in your headline means an "amateur who engages in an activity without serious intentions and who pretends to have knowledge" which i feel is apt for the above theory.

Couple of things:
A search about Haridas giri swami landed me to your page.

Though i am a tamilian, i am writing this comment in a common view.

You have clearly started the blog with a prejudice that Tamilian auto drivers are harsh and then kannada bus drivers are Good-natured. I can show many examples of courteous people in chennai too and even in assam. Vice versa with rude and arrogant behaviour.

If you liked to point out Kannada language's respectful tone you could have started with your syllable example, but the way you started your blog elucidates your prejudice.

The style of kannada language for a tamilian, who cannot understand kannada would sound rude coz' of the way each kannada word ends e.g. 'madi' etc...and thats a problem of native speakers.

The point i am trying to make is, lets not be lingustic and create more divisions in our minds. Native speakers would derive meanings in lot of different ways.

Thirunelveli, Coimbatore & Chettinad tamilians (even today) address even the young children with much respect and speak politely, which i doubt if anybody does in other places. They have the best accent & manners in their style of tamil.

Comparing chennai tamil is bit out of place coz' its a well known fact that 70% of chennaities are from Andhra, Marathas etc. These were the people who came for their bread & butter and had to learn tamil for living. They well-mixed with locals and in a stage have superceded the locals with their funny tamil accents and its now onto movies too.

Moreover whats the use in respectfully speaking but disrespecting/mocking others? It does deprive the very respectfulness in their native languge. Respect in mind & heart is lot better than pretentious tongue.

Anyways I touch my heart and say that amongst the dravidian languages I like to speak kannada myself coz' of its melu-fluent nature.

Finally, the point i am trying to make is write your essays in a non-partisan manner which should be well recieved and does not create divisions in India/World.

Hope you agree with me.

Srikanth said...

Hi Balaji, thanks for your comment.

Hawkeye said...

hi srikanth,

i have replied to your comment in my blog on the ancient languages of India . it is posted here for you ref.

srikanth,

here is the link and the associated text.

When writing became known to the Tamils, the Brahmi script was adapted and modified to suit the Tamil phonetic system. That is, while the Brahmi script was borrowed, the Prakrit language was not allowed to be imposed along with it from outside. When the Jaina and Buddhist monks entered the Tamil country, they found it expedient to learn Tamil in order to carry on their missionary activities effectively.


http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2007/stories/20030411001208100

Hawkeye said...

btw on this post - auto drivers, like rajnikanth, is a poor stereo type of tamil nadu. not everybody in TN are autodrivers in madras.

its like most n.indians thinking that the be all and end all of tamil movies is rajnikanth.

i have lived in many places in tamil nadu and i actually agree with balaji, even a 6 year old is treated with respect and called 'neenga' 'vaanga' etc.

try shouting at some auto driver on madrad and try doing the same thing in banglore roads. just try this as an experiment. both categories autodrivers have no concept of rules and are the obnoxious fungus of the earth. but try this experiment.

Anonymous said...

Srikanth,

I just love your posts, and all the comments that have come in!

Commenting on what you've heard at the railway station, its "prayaaNikare dayaviTTu gamanisi.." the prayaaNa here is journey.

And am a KannaDiga, but have learnt a lot about its Dravidian roots, and the links it shares with Tamizh. As someone pointed out, haLegannaDa (Old Kannada, < 10th CAD) resembles Tamizh even stronger.. words like 'poovu', 'paalu', 'naram', were used abundantly in the Kannada literature of yore.

And I must add that the only major thing that separates Tamizh from Kannada and Telugu is its script. I'm not sure how the Brahmi script evolved into modern Tamizh, and at what point it deviated to haLegannaDa.

Srikanth said...

Anon., thanks!

Shouldn't it be "prayANigaLE" in that case? Isn't "prayANigaLu" the plural form?

Anonymous said...

Srikanth,

It is 'prayaaNikaru' (plural, 'prayaaNika' - singular).

You have 'janaru' and 'janagaLu', used synonymously - this logic doesnt seem to extend to pryanaaNikaru, though [no prayANigaLu :( ]

On the sidelines, there's a payaNiga (treveller, from payaNa, travel).

vicodin 5 500 mg dosage said...

it is all depend to the people itself not some vowel or else...


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