Friday, November 24, 2006

"Yaha to bilakula theeka hai"

Spoken languages tend to clip off syllables for ease of pronunciation. Hindi comes to mind immediately for its propensity to drop the lagging A's. somvaar (Monday), kalpnaa (imagination), din (day). But, this can be seen in other languages too, including the south Indian ones. In Tamil, eppadi (how) becomes ep'di and saayangaalam (evening), saay'ngaalam. No Kannadiga calls his capital Bengalooru, it's just Beng'looru. And in that city, any autodriver will gladly take you to Basavan'gudi.

However, the literary (or even plain written) language does not permit this latitude. The Tamil signboard on Dor'saami Road in Madras will only say Duraisaami Saalai. In Bangalore, the common man's Dom'looru is still, on paper, Dommalooru. The integrity of the syllables is maintained in the formal language.

Except in Hindi.

The Hindi newsreader will elide the lagging A's as eagerly as the rickshaw-wallah. The student at a college canteen and the scholar declaiming on a podium would both say, "Yeh to bilkul theek hei." Why is this so?

In my opinion, it's due to the influence of the Persian- and Arabic-speakers who migrated into northern India. And it's not so much due to their language as due to their script.

The Semitic scripts all share an interesting property -- they have no vowels. Their words are represented using only consonants. Such a script is called an Abjad. The word "Hindustan" (e.g.) would be written HNDSTN.

Contrast this with the Indian scripts: We do have vowels. In addition, every consonant character possesses an implicit vowel A. क is not K, but Ka.

Now let's take the word Mehel (as in Taj Mehel) and transcribe it in an Indian script, but with an Abjad spirit:
Mehel --> MHL --> Ma-Ha-La (महल)
Or take Neher (canal):
Neher --> NHR --> Na-Ha-Ra (नहर)
Or, Matlab (meaning; not the software):
Matlab --> MTLB --> Ma-Ta-La-Ba (मतलब)
Such a practice might have started with Arabic/Persian words, and eventually caught on with all words in Hindi.

Because of the Abjad influence, the letters, when at the end of a word, lost their implicit A vowel. And elsewhere, they picked up new sounds such as the short E vowel - as in Mehel or Neher. This vowel sound was not present originally in any north Indian language.

But for other vowel sounds already available in Indian scripts (such as i, e, u) the Persian/Arabic words must have been written in the traditional Indian way - Bi-La-Ku-La (बिलकुल).

16 comments :

Ambarish said...

Contrast this with the Indian scripts: every consonant character possesses an implicit vowel A. क is not K, but Ka.

Well, this is true of all Indian scripts except perhaps Tamil. I understand that traditionally, the Tamil script was taught as comprising uyir & mei letters with only their combination being uyir-mei. If you're familiar with the TUNE controversy, this is where it stems from.

Mangaluru Manjunatha said...

every consonant character possesses an implicit vowel A. क is not K, but Ka.

So we changed from consonants without any implicit vowels to consonant with vowels.(But in Kannada there exists one letter without implicit vowel A; 'n' resembles Kannada numerial nine with an extra coil in between).

I think these vowels in Dravidian language do not follow original sounds. Consider the word for house;
In Kannada it is written as bIDu
in Tulu bUDu
and in Malayalam it is again vIDu. Interestingly, the Malayalam I speak (which does not have written form) the word is bVt where V, the vowel sound, is in between I and U. I think in Kannada the "rationlization"(my repository of technical words is obviously small) of this vowel sound was I and in Tulu(which has limited literary tradition) is U.

I think instead of corrupting written form and consequently spoken form, our past literary masters should have thought about stress of each letter in a word. I mean how about bengaLUru being pronounced;

ben-GALA-oo-RU

they could have kept the sanctity of so many words.

Anyway, my eccentric Kannada teacher during high school days made us to learn all the vyanjanas in "original form" ..ie. without the explict vowel A;

ಕ್ ಖ್ ಗ್ ಘ್
instead of;
ಕ ಖ ಗ ಘ

Pratik Pandey said...

श्रीकान्त जी, आपने बहुत ही अच्छा लेख लिखा है। अधिकांश हिन्दीभाषी इस चीज़ पर ध्यान नहीं देते हैं। हालाँकि मेरा मानना है कि अरबी/फ़ारसी मूल के शब्दों को उनके उच्चारण के अनुसार ही लिखा जाना चाहिए, जैसे कि "मतलब" को "मत्लब" लिखा जाना बेहतर रहेगा। इस बारे में आपका क्या ख़्याल है?

Srikanth said...

Ambarish,

Well, this is true of all Indian scripts except perhaps Tamil...
The Tamil script, like other Indian scripts, is indeed an Abugida (i.e., the consonant symbol has the vowel sound A). And, yes, Tamil does also have separate symbols for uyir and mei.

If you're familiar with the TUNE controversy, this is where it stems from.
I am not aware of this. Can you suggest some links?

Srikanth said...

Manjunatha,

First things first:

"Sri Ramakrishna said to Naren: '... I thought that you would be like a big banyan tree, and that thousands of people would rest in your shade. But now I see that you are seeking your own liberation.'" [Vivekananda - A Biography]

Please defer your Moksha -- We need more "Incoherent Theories"!

I think these vowels in Dravidian language do not follow original sounds. Consider the word for house;

Yes, of course, when we consider (any, not just Dravidian) spoken language, all rules and bets are off. In spoken Tamil, the following replacements occur frequently:
* short U --> short O: kuLam (tank) --> koLam.
* short I --> short E: niram (colour) --> neram.
* short U --> (I would call it) Half U. E.g., In the word "nADu", U is not pronounced fully.
... ad infinitum.

I think instead of corrupting written form and consequently spoken form, our past literary masters should have thought about stress of each letter in a word.

:-) Yes, stressing syllables might have helped. But the unstressed syllables then stand a chance of getting killed. E.g., In British English, the word "laboratory" is pronounced "laBOrat'ry". Stress saves the first O, but forsakes the second.

Anyway, my eccentric Kannada teacher during high school days made us to learn all the vyanjanas in "original form" ..ie. without the explict vowel A
Oh! Then, how did your class do the group recitation of the alphabet? Did it become "iK iKh iG iGh ..."?

PS: I like alliteration in your new handle. :-)

Srikanth said...

Pratik-जी,
धन्यवाद!

मेरा मानना है कि अरबी/फ़ारसी मूल के शब्दों को उनके उच्चारण के अनुसार ही लिखा जाना चाहिए...

मैं आपकी बात मानता हूँ।

Yes, Hindi is in need of spelling reform. And I think a good beginning has been made with the expansion of the Devanagari alphabet in Unicode. For one, now we can represent the short E and O vowels. कॆ is ke (short E) while के is kE (long E). So probably "Neher" can be written नॆहॆर instead of नहर?

Mangaluru Manjunatha said...

Yes, of course, when we consider (any, not just Dravidian) spoken language, all rules and bets are off.

Okay, let me explain what I was thinking(so it can be clear to me). There was a spoken language in the beginning. Then people invented symbols to represent those spoken words. So written form is derived from spoken form. Therefore, script should represent spoken form. However, Dravidian scripts were not invented locally but derived from Sumerian/Semitic scripts. As a result many vowels (as I said in the case of bVt) are just an approximation of original sounds. Consequently, as people tried to adjust their spoken form with written form the end result is totally corrupted spoken form.

In my opinion, watering down of nasal consonants into anusvara is the major reason for some of these loss of vowels. I mean be(nga)gaLuru instead of bengaLUru would have still retained the original form.

Srikanth said...

I mean be(nga)gaLuru instead of bengaLUru would have still retained the original form.
Do you mean something like ಬೆಙ್ಗಳೂರು?

Mangaluru Manjunatha said...

Yes!

Srikanth said...

Okay... I am not sure if that would have helped because it didn't work in Tamil.

There is no anusvara in the Tamil script, so the word is written "Bengaloor" using the nasal consonant. But Tamil-speakers still use "Beng'loor" in speech.

Vijayanand said...

The Semitic scripts all share an interesting property -- they have no vowels.

Yeah... very interesting design of a script. It seems it can lead to good compression...without causing too much trouble reading. (maybe no trouble after some practice)

Vijayanand said...

Note: Irrelevant to the article

I am visting madras between dec 13 and jan 10. Lets meet if possible...can u give me ur cell.

Srikanth said...

Vijayanand,

Let's meet! Can you give me your email ID? I'll email you my cell number.

Anonymous said...

nvijayanand at gmail

ader45 said...

My kalpnaa is in monday :-)



Codeine Cough Syrup
Clonazepam vs Xanax
tips malam pertama
malam pertama
malam pertama pengantin
kisah malam pertama
cerita malam pertama
pengalaman malam pertama
cerita lucu malam pertama
madu khaula
percocet 5 325
vicodin 5 500
antique bird cages
maytag dishwasher parts
headboards for queenbeds
ge dryer parts
ge dishwasher parts
ativan vs xanax
klonopin vs xanax
lorazepam vs xanax
zoloft weight gain
phentermine results
nexium coupon
advantix for dogs

saralhindi said...

Mr.Shrikanth,

We need a Federation For Simple National Language Script,India?

In the past India has spent so much time in creating new language scripts under different rulers.Now in the internet age some languages may disappear if they are not simplified or made translatable.

As you know that Gujarati Script is a simplified version of Devnagari script without horizontal lines. In fact it's a developed Devnagari script where you write comparatively lesser times lifting the pen.

Sure,Hindi is spoken by more peoples in India but it’s not technical and very cluttered language with horizontal lines.It’s writings in newspapers look like an old Sanskrit language.If you look all Indian languages in Google Transliteration IME you will find Gujarati script very simple computer-usable language Script.Gujarati alphabet is very very easy for foreigners to learn and practice.

We all know that Devnagari is not the script of Hindi to begin with.Basically it is the script of Sanskrit,unquestionably the language of India,not any region.

Sanskrit language used horizontal lines for grammatical lengthy meaningful words.

Besides languages in a Devnagari script which Indian old or current languages or world languages use horizontal lines to make words more cluttered in appearance?Why draw lines if not needed?


As you know China has simplify it’s language to make it computer usable.Also most of European countries and other world countries use English Script for their national languages.

Think,Why most Hindi song lyrics are written in English but not in Hindi?

People don't mind learning Hindi but India needs one easy Script for all languages I think and it’s a Gujarati Script.But let the people of India decide what they want.

Please do express your opinion about this.

http://saralhindi.wordpress.com/
http://saralhindi.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/%E0%AA%AE%E0%AB%81%E0%AA%B2%E0%AA%BE%E0%AA%95%E0%AB%8D%E0%AA%B7%E0%AA%B0/

Why not add a Gujarati script converter to the site?

Thanks,