Excerpts and Comments on “Semantic Universals…” -4

(Continued from yesterday’s post, on the same chapter. This is some notes on the Chapter 2 : Areal Typology of Expressives, Echo-formations and Word reduplication. from the book Semantic Universals in Indian Languages by Anvita Abbi. All previous articles in this series can be seen here.)

After “Expressives”, which is “Morphological Reduplication”, the next thing that was dealt with in this book was “Lexical Reduplication” or word reduplication, which is also an important areal feature that originated due to language contact.

Lexical Redup. can be partial like echo-word formations (e.g., చలీ గిలీ, खाना वाना) or complete. (perhaps అప్పుడప్పుడు?)

Echo-words: In these, the base word form is followed (చలీగిలీ) or in some cases preceded (కొట్టకొస) by an echo word. In the “followed” cases, the echo word is formed “by replacing the initial syllable of the word in question by another syllable (this syllable varies from language to language) keeping intact the canonical shape of the word. Most often, it copies the initial vowel.”
e.g, खाना वाना; इंग्लिक्ष विंग्लिश – has the first vowel copied in the echo word. But, Dravidian languages it seems don’t follow the trend. In Telugu, for example – we say: “చలీ గిలీ” but also “పువ్వూ గివ్వూ” instead of “పువ్వూ గువ్వూ”. So, the echo forming syllable is gi- or ki- in Telugu (and other Dravidian languages) while it is v+base word’s first syllable for say Hindi. The author stuck to only examples from Hindi and South Indian languages here. So, I don’t have any idea what happens in other languages like Bangla say. From a single Bangla example, I managed to understand that its -t- instead of -v- for Bangla.

Apart from this kind of echo-formations, Dravidian languages also form echo by preceding the base-word with a word formed by repeating the first syllable of the base word and adding -tta or -rra to this (e.g, పట్టపగలు, విర్రవీగు, కట్టకడపటి etc.,). There are also పొలంపుట్రా, నగానట్రా etc., (The author suggests refering to Korada Mahadeva Sastri’s and M.Selvam’s books for further reading on this topic. They are mentioned at the end of this post).

Note: “Nouns are the most echoed grammatical category. Verbs, adjectives, pronouns and personal pronouns are echoed but the frequency is much less than found in the nominal category.”

Now comes another interesting phenomenon, where two valid unrelated words from the lexicon combine to form a new compound word, in which the second word delexicalizes itself and serves as an echo word to give a connotation of “generality” or “etc.

E.g, ముళ్ళూ-గిల్లూ, tuNi-maNi from Tamil (clothes-money to mean clothes etc.,)

I was really fascinated by these echo-words when I met a linguist acquaintance during that short US trip 2,3 weeks back. He pointed out to me these kind of syllable difference between Hindi, Telugu and Tamil which I never noticed so far. After that, I accidentally found this book. Very interesting examples… (Now, this paragraph is a digression and soliloquy!)

Another interesting kind of echo-word where both the words are valid words …but combine together to give a completely different meaning is: “गाजर मूली” which is supposed to mean “insignificant”.

So, these examples raise an important question – should these echo words be defined from the meaning point of view or just from a sounding similarity point of view. The author says – the constructions like “गाजर मूली” would be considered as a compound word where the components lose their original meaning.

Now, the author also distinguishes between “semantic echoing” and “functional echoing”.

semantic echoing: When we say – “caay-vaay”, we mean, tea and other eatables that we can have with it.

functional echoing: When we say “pyaala-vyaala”, we refer to any container of a cup type.

(It seems so difficult to distinguish between these two!!! I need more practice I guess.)

This part on echo-words is concluded thus:

“It is clear that echo formations in Indian languages share their structural configuration as well as the associated semantic parameters across language families and language typologies. These structures manifest generality, casualness, nonspecificity, extremities and group identities. …”

Later in the chapter, other forms of lexical reduplication (discontinuous reduplication like-“कभी न कभी”, perhaps ఎప్పుడో ఒకప్పుడు too?; semantic reduplication like: धन दौलत; Telugu example?; complete word reduplication – చెప్పి చెప్పి విసుగొచ్చింది, बैठे बैठे सो गया etc.) are discussed. (And I summarize what I understood in the next post!)

Side comments: Actually, there is “అప్పుడప్పుడు”, which is an echo-word but is also a word combined by a different Sandhi compared to “పట్టపగలు”. There was no such topic of Sandhi in the discussion so far in this chapter. I find it interesting though!

Suggested Readings:
1. Korada Mahadeva Sastri, 1969. A Historical grammar of Telugu with special reference to Old Telugu c.2000 B.C.-A.D.1000.
2. M.Selvam, 1988, Expressives in Telugu, M.Phil Diss., JNU.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. >>”So, the echo forming syllable is gi- or ki- in Telugu (and other Dravidian languages) while it is v+base word’s first syllable for say Hindi.”

    అందుకే “ఇంగ్లీష్-వింగ్లీష్”ని తెలుగులో డబ్ చేసినప్పుడు, దాన్ని “ఇంగ్లీష్-గింగ్లీష్” అని మార్చకపోవడాన్ని నేను ఖండించాను.🙂

    “ముల్లూ-గిల్లూ” – I don’t think two valid unrelated words are combining to form a new compound word here. It is the same గి-గీ transformation that occurs. Only the transformed word happens to be another valid word in the lexicon.

    >>”but combine together to give a completely different meaning is: “गाजर मूली” which is supposed to mean “insignificant”.”

    Can you give a Telugu example for this? (I know it, just quizzing you.:-))

    >>धन दौलत; Telugu example?

    • >>ముల్లూ-గిల్లూ – I don’t think two valid unrelated words are combining to form a new compound word here
      – Yes. You are perhaps right. I thought because gillu is another word, this could serve as an example here. But, perhaps its a wrong example to give there!

      – Ha!🙂

      >>Can you give a Telugu example for this?
      – గాడిదగుడ్డు?🙂

  2. >>- గాడిదగుడ్డు?

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