Excerpt from “Semantic Universals…” -2

(All blog posts in this series can be accessed here.)
The Book: Semantic Universals in Indian Languages – by Anvita Abbi

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I began re-reading the book from the beginning, so that I can make some useful notes. Here are some comments by the author, from the Intro section, that establishes what this book is about by introducing the basic terminology.

“An area comprising of common linguistic features shared by various genealogically unrelated languages is known as “Linguistic Area“. We can extend the definition of linguistic area to incorporate also those languages which were originally typologically diverse but later shift to homogeneity due to contact situation. This implies that if a linguistic feature with its corresponding semanteme is found in various typologically and genetically diverse languages of a contiguous area then that particular feature is an areal universal. A bundle of such areal universals will mark a strong semantic unity among its diverse languages. Besides, wide existence and use of such features in various languages will confuse the comparative methodologist, as he has no way of isolating ‘structural cognates’ from what he calls ‘real cognates’.”

So, the book basically is about identifying some of these areal features across Indian languages belonging to different linguistic families (e.g., Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman etc.,). Here are the issues that are considered:

1. Expressives and Reduplication (e.g., words like – “జిగేల్ జిగేల్ అని మెరుస్తున్నాయి”, “टिप टिप बरसा पानी”, ఇంటింటి, చూసి చూసి, వేడి వేడిగా, పట్ట పగలు etc., (more in another post)
2. Explicator Compound verbs (ECV) (e.g., words like – చంపి పారేశాడు, मार डाला, కూర్చుండిపోయాను etc.,)
3. Dative subject constructions (No easy non-linguisty examples!)

I understood and enjoyed reading the chapters on first 2 phenomena better and the 3rd one made me realize that I should borrow a grammar of modern Telugu and understand it first. (So, borrowed “A Grammar of Modern Telugu” by Krishnamurti & Gwynn. I hope I progress!).

I hope to put in some notes for these chapters here as days pass by in this week!

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