Excerpts and Comments on “Semantic Universals…”-6

(This is some notes on the Chapter 3 : Explicator Compound Verbs and Indian World View, from the book Semantic Universals in Indian Languages by Anvita Abbi. All previous articles in this series can be seen here.)

Explicator Compound Verbs (ECV), by author’s definition are those verbs which are compounds consisting two verbs V1, V2 where V2 is mostly used to modify or explicate V1, usually representing the tense, mood and aspect of V1. Examples are words like: వెళ్ళి-పోయాడు, बैठ-गया etc., There can be more than two verbs too here. Also, these explicator verbs can be multi-functional. They can indicate one action or another depending on which verb it is being used with. (I kept hyphens to show that there are two verbs there. I at least, never see them as two words by default).

So, this chapter is about such verb formations in various Indian languages, what sort of V2 combine with what sort of V1 etc., The first verb is called a polar verb/main verb/principal verb. The second one is called explicator verb/operator/vector/auxiliary/intensive auxiliary/light verb (I think the choice of one of these terms also depends on what language you are talking about).

Broadly, the kind of “meaning” conveyed in these constructions are of three types.
* Aspectual : used to indicate completion, perfectivity etc.,
e.g, చెప్పాను vs చెప్పేశాను (చెప్పి-వేశాను); मारना vs मार देना etc.,
(For those who want to be entertained – try giving some of these words to google translate and translate to English :p)

“..when the notion of perfectivity is used by varying language speakers it is variously seen to mean i) event or action seen as a whole; ii) action thoroughly or exhaustively done; c) completeley done action; iv) total achievement – in different languages. Clearly, all these belong to the same semantic field and it is this we take as significant. The various in the semantic constructs is due to different “world views”.

* Attitudinal: used to indicate the attitude like anger, respect, contempt, humility etc.,
e.g., Anger – తిని చావు; exasperation – తిని ఏడువు; (various words like: मार रखा, मार बैठा, मार डाला etc.,) There was an amazing array of examples for Malayalam – humility, contempt, respect, surprise at unexpectedness, regret or undesirability or censurality, anger or disgust or exasperation.

* Adverbial
– Adverbial (manner)
There are various fine-grained actions like – sudden/abrupt (कर बैठी/చేసేశాను); without volition (చేయాల్సివచ్చింది/करना पड़ा?..actually how about చేసిచచ్చాను?); deliberate (చేయవద్దులే?); done with difficulty (చేయగలిగాను/कर सका?); done easily (చేసేశాను/कर डाला); done casually (చేసి పారేశాను/कर छोडी?); violent (कर डाला); intensively/exhaustively done. etc.,
(Am wondering if in Telugu, the preceding modifier is necessary to get the sense although some suffixes come only with some modifier. E.g., అలవోకగా చేసేసాను and not అలవోకగా చేయగలిగాను; క్షుణ్ణంగా పరిశీలించాను but not క్షుణ్ణంగా పరిశీలించిపారేశాను. ఉన్నట్లుండి చేసేశాను but not ఉన్నట్లుండి చేయగలిగాను)

– Adverbial (non-manner)
Benefaction – self/others (చొక్కా కుట్టించుకో vs కుట్టించు/కుట్టించిపెట్టు – for someone else सिलवा लो, सिलवा दो; Irreversible (వెళ్ళిపోయాడు? as in.. दिल के टुकड़े टुकड़े करके मुस्कुराते चल दिये?); Done and got over with (ఇంక నీ పనైపోయింది/तेरा नंबर आगया?); Emphatic Definite (వెళ్ళి తీరాలి?); Anticipatory action done in advance; Introvert action; Overt

(These examples are my concoctions. I am still trying to understand the fine grained classification)

“To conclude, we may say that the explicators in South Asian Languages are drawn from similar lexical sets and are used with main verbs in the respective languages in private contrast with simple verbs, to indicate similar types or range of meanings. Inspite of such such sharing at lexico-semantic level, one can identify typical Indo Aryan explicators and typical Dravidian explicators. .. .. One can identify a typical explicator meaning of a specific language family. .. .. At the level of actual manifestations such as sound sequences or a length of a word, or a number of explicators and their individual meanings etc., it is true that the languages show differences but they are strikingly similar from the point of view of the semantic parameters involved.”

My comments: On the whole, I found the phenomenon interesting and more interesting considering that it is a special feature of certain languages around my homeland. But, the chapter seemed to have been written in a hurry. Things are abrupt. It could have been expanded a bit. Tables come in the middle of the text and run for several pages etc., But, it gives a lot of food for thought.

Also, I got a feeling that people translating from Indian languages to English would be better translators with the knowledge of these linguistic phenomenon. No, I do not have any empirical evidence to prove this. It was just a “feeling” while reading about these things that exist in say Hindi and not in English or viceversa.

Some readings that I found useful:
– I think this term ECV is something defined by the author because I could not find too many notes on it online. However, for the enthusiasts (like me), the following wiki pages might be interesting:
* Compound Verb
* Stretched Verb
* Phrasal Verb
* Serial Verb
* Verb Phrase
* Periphrasis
* Modal Verb

– “Semantic Typology of Explicator Compound Verbs in South Asian languages, Anvita Abbi and Devika Gopalakrishnan. Read online here. They seem to equate ECV with compound verbs and serial verbs. But, others seem to make distinctions. This article seemed to be more compact and well-written compared to the chapter in the book I am reading.


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