Excerpt from “Semantic Universals …”-last

(These are some final notes on the book Semantic Universals in Indian Languages by Anvita Abbi, which includes Chapter 4 and Conclusions chapter. All previous articles in this series can be seen here.)

Soliloquy: Now, I had big time troubles with chapter 4 – so I could not take much notes as I did not understand much. But, I will still try to write down what I understood. Reg my troubles, first, the examples were unclear about the phenomenon they are supposed to explain. Second, in each language, a different sentence was taken. So, I could not see what actually is being shown through those examples. Thirdly, the language used was way too academic for me (may be I should not complain about this part at least, but may be I can, because I am not a linguist!). Finally, in general, it appeared to me that the goals of this chapter were fuzzy.
(Disclaimer: All the above opinions are mine and only mine. As a reader, I have the right to say I had trouble understanding certain things in someone’s book!)

Enter the dragon:

Idea: “Languages of the South-Asian subcontinent do make a distinction between ‘subjects’ who act, do, or perform an action from ‘subjects’ who undergo, experience, have, become or any such phenomenon which is ‘out of control’ of the subject nominal”. The ‘non-performative’ kind of actions are mostly feelings like like/dislike, hunger, pain, etc., Now, as far as I understood, this chapter is a discussion on this aspect.
(Actually, they call even “thinking” non-performative but I am still wondering why!)

“… further points out an interesting paradox that these languages describe such subjective experience (which are a kind of internalized states and experiences) from an ‘external point of view’ that is by putting the experiencing subject in oblique case and either making the experience itself the grammatical subject or, less commonly, using an impersonal (and generally deleted) grammatical subject.”

I guess this means saying: “నాకు ఆకలేస్తోంది” for “I am hungry” instead of “నేను ఆకలితో ఉన్నాను”.

There are four sections in this chapter:
1. Non experiential constructions
2. Experiential constructions
3. Semantic Typology
4. Linguistic Encoding
5. Discussions on what is dative? what is subject etc.
(With some difficulty I managed to understand the first 3 sections.)

“A nominal element can be in possession of alienable or inalienable entities .. .. many of the South Asian languages mark the possessor NP distinctly from the non-possessor or agnetive NP”

The examples here were not so clear to me, but here is what I understood after a discussion through examples, with a friend who is not a linguist but the native speaker of a different language. (We just took the sentences mentioned here and checked how they look in our respective languages to understand what the author is suggesting)

So, if I say “I have two hands”, I say: “నాకు రెండు చేతులు ఉన్నాయి”/मुझे दो हाथ है (someone might also say: “मेरे को दो हाथ है”) ; But if I say – I have two umbrellas, I say – “నా దగ్గర రెండు గొడుగులు ఉన్నాయి/मेरे पास दो छाते है; (because hands are my inalienable possession unless I meet with a horrible accident.) Although its not mentioned here, there are fuzzy cases like: “వాడికి బోలెడు డబ్బుంది” vs “వాడి దగ్గర బోలెడు డబ్బుంది”. But the point is: “All the possessive constructions are translatable by “have” in English.”


I did not understand the rest of this chapter much, at least not as much that I could write my own notes. So skipping it. I am in urgent need of a refresher course on parts of speech and basic grammar 🙂

An excerpt from the conclusion chapter of the book:

“Our investigation into the semantic structures of expressives, echo formations, word reduplication, explicators, and non agentive subjects reveal a very significant aspect about the Indian languages and its users. It is mostly those semantic constructs which pertain to perceptive and sensory abilities of a human being that materialize in structural cognates. These abilities are predetermined by specific socio-cultural environment of the speakers of the region. We can ask ourselves that why don’t we find structural resemblances without parallel resemblances in meaning? Or why we don’t we find varying or different linguistic structurations for same or similar semantemes? Why five senses of perception manifest themself in expressives? Why passivity or out of control situation is encoded by oblique marking on the subject nominal? Or why inadvertent action is manifested in the use of an explicator? Surely, these are neither chance resemblances nor genetic inheritences. These are language contact induced phenomena, which, having crossed the barriers of history and geography, have sustained in the various speech communities over a long period of time.

What is obscure till date is the process of this diffusion and convergence. But what is transparent is the fact that in a language contact situation, many of the languages change drastically. Drastic enough to surprise any historical linguist. To him they might appear as ‘sister’ languages not being able to segregate historical affinity from areal affinity. Transparency is also reflected in the typology of these languages which undergoes a change and becomes like that of adjacent languages irrespective of the genetic or typological leanings of the latter.

The homogenized signifier-significant relationship that holds between diverse languages of India is a unique feature that reflects a nation with strong and stable multilingual community. Perhaps, it is in the interest of all of us not to have it disturbed by artificial forces like monolingualism and reduction in the domains of language use.”

I started reading Dr Peri Bhaskara Rao’s “Reduplication and Onomatopoeia in Telugu”, which on one hand is very interesting and on the other hand raises too many questions within me. Perhaps because its zooms in more into one language, which happens to be my language (with a different dialect), i am getting to notice things I did not notice while reading the chapter on same stuff in “Semantic Universals..”.

Anyway, end of story for this book. Interesting book which perhaps would have been better with some editing and proof reading.


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.

Excerpts and Comments on “Semantic Universals…”-5

(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.)

Other kinds of Lexical Reduplication:

After Echo words, it is a reduplication of a “discontinuous” type where a syllable is inserted between two reduplicated words (e.g., कम से कम, कभी न कभी, कही न कही – drop a comment if you have a good Telugu example. I can’t think of it at the moment).

Then, there is Semantic Reduplication, where related words join together to form compounds. These can be synonyms (like in పండుగా పబ్బం, धनदौलत – alright may be the Telugu example is not a compound. It perhaps is written as two seperate words!) or antonyms (like in మంచీచెడూ, उठना बैठना etc.,) or related words (అన్నపానాలు? मोल-तोल etc) – but, as per the author, “such compounts are part of language universals and do not interest us specifically for the investigation under consideration”.

Then comes “Complete Word Reduplication” (CWR) which are the constructions like – “వింటూ వింటూ నిద్రపోయాను”, बैठे बैठे सोगया etc.,)..and these are very productive ways of forming words. For a change, I would like to type in the author’s examples from Kharia language (the language spoken by the Kharia tribe near Jharkhand) instead of Hindi or Telugu…because I found them interesting.

goej’ (to die-verb) – goej’ goej’ (dead like-adjective)
no (to eat-v) – no no (right hand, used for eating-Noun)
jung (to ask-v) – jung jung dan (engagement-N)
bor (to ask-V) – bor bor lebu (beggar-N)

“reduplicated verbal adverbs of our “baithe baithe” types are universally used by all South Asian languages to indicate aspects like simultaneity, continuity, iteration, sequentiality and non precipitiveness. This is one feature which marks the South Asian languages distinct from neighbouring languages. It gives the languages of the subcontinent a group identity.”

And then, there is interesting comment on how geo-political plurals block this sort of areal diffusion (of certain linguistic structures occuring in all languages of that area irrespective of their genesis) – by taking an example of Taizang, a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in Burma border.

There is a nice table summarizing word-reduplication in Indian languages, for various parts of speech. I would put Telugu examples here:
Noun – ఇంటింటి
Pronoun- వాణ్ణి వాణ్ణి (won’t there be a comma?)
Adverb – చూసి చూసి
Adjectives – వేడివేడిగా
Verbs – –
Quantifiers – ఒకటొకటి

So, end of story for this chapter. The next chapter is on “Explicator Compound Verbs” (like – కూర్చుండిపోయాను, मारडाला etc., where there are two verbs, where the main meaning is in the first verb but the second verb is used bereft of its meaning, to convey tense, mood and aspect).

(to be continued)

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.

Excerpts and Comments on “Semantic Universals..” -3

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.


Some terminology:

* “Reduplication” is a phenomenon in which all or part of a word repeats to form another word (e.g., ఇంటింటి, घर घर etc.,). This reduplication is of two types: Lexical Reduplication and Morphological Reduplication.

Lexical Redup. is when whole words repeat themselves, as in the above example. Morphological Reduplication is when parts of words repeat and the individual parts don’t have an independent meaning (e.g., चाचा). This chapter primarily discusses different kinds of reduplication, broadly classified in to “expressives”, “echo words”, “semantic reduplication”

* Expressives: Under the umbrella of reduplication, there are certain kind of reduplicated words which are formed by repeating syllables that constitute a word instead of words itself. Now, this entire reduplicated word functions as a word. These are called “Expressives” in linguistics. (Atleast this is how I understood it).

A definition of “expressives” from the Encyclopaedia Britannica is as follows:

“Expressive language and wordplay are embodied in a special word class called “expressives.” This is a basic class of words distinct from verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in that they cannot be subjected to logical negation. They describe noises, colours, light patterns, shapes, movements, sensations, emotions, and aesthetic feelings.”

(In the article on Austro-Asiatic languages)

* Echo-words: These are words like – చలి-గిలి, టీవీ-గీవీ, इंग्लिश-विंग्लिश etc.,

* Word-reduplication : These are the ఇంటింటి, घर घर etc., kind of words.

Now in to detail:


* “the most significant aspect of Indian expressives is that they indicate five senses of perception of Indian speakers. Secondly, the expressives behave and function like any regular word and thus form a part of the lexicons of Indian languages.”

The author gave numerous examples of expressives that cover five senses .. and in multiple Indian languages. I would probably write one example each, in Telugu if possible or give author’s Hindi example if a Telugu one does not occur to me.

1. Acoustic noises: కావ్ కావ్ మని అరవడం, కిలకిలమని నవ్వడం, ఘల్లు ఘల్లుమని గజ్జెల చప్పుడు, टप टप etc.,
2. Sense of sight: జిగేల్ జిగేల్మని మెరవడం, चम चम.
3. Sense of touch: perhaps, వేడివేడిగా qualifies here (author’s examples were from Nepali and Methei).
4. Sense of smell: ఘుమఘుమ వాసనలు
5. Sense of taste: चिरपिरा, चटपटा (I thought of కరకరా… and realized it comes under sound and not taste)

“Another feature which makes the South Asian languages distinct from other languages is the use of expressives as manner adverbs. This use gives Indian speaker the linguistic facility in bringing out very minute and subtle distinctions in a performance of an action which may go unnoticed or unexpressed in non-Indian culture. .. It should be noted that learning these languages implies learning of these expressives as a sentence without a definite manner adverb is considered incomplete. The knowledge of expressives thus constitute an integral part of language competence.”

And there were these amazing array of walking style examples from Khasi language..where different sounds indicate different walking styles. Few examples:
don don – toddle like a child
mareh thrait thrait – to run without losing hope or vigor
kniah kniah – walking mincingly

An equivalent example in Telugu could be the laughs – కిల కిలా, పక పకా etc.,

Another interesting tidbit: “Nepali excels in expressing various types of confusion and disorderliness by expressives. At least 15 different expressives to represent disorderliness have been noticed by the author”

It was in this context that I read “పుటుక్కు జరజర…” puzzle in new light.

Another research tidbit: Emeneau (1969) showed that there were at least 39 sound-meaning correspondences of Onomatopoetic across Dravidian and Indo-Aryan languages. (Here is a nice interview with him in Telugu)

Onomatopoeia – indicates a sound-meaning correspondence. Like – కావ్ కావ్, కర కరా, భౌ భౌ, काव काव etc., In general linguists say that these formations are not dependent on the rules of the language. But in his book, also based on Emeneau’s work, the author argues that it can also be an areal feature (feature of a linguistic area).

Here is a summary of this part on expressives:
“Indian expressives manifest feelings, sensations, perceptions pertaining to five senses, manner of an action and disorderliness. All these relate to the ability of PERCEPTION of the speaker in a cultural environment. The ‘world view’ and its manifestation in expressive morphology is a typical feature of Indian linguistic area’.

(to be continued)

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

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!

Excerpt from “Semantic Universals in Indian Languages” – 1

I was fascinated by the idea of the book … Semantic Universals and hence picked it up in the library. Hopefully, I will write a few blog posts jotting down my notes and some interesting tidbits.

(The book: Semantic Universals in Indian Languages by Anvita Abbi)

While reading about expressive words, I saw the Telugu story – “puTukku jara jara Dubukku mE” in a new light, thanks to the paragraph by Prof. Peri Bhaskararao that was quoted in this book.

“There is an interesting folk puzzle in Telugu which exposes the general contention that the knowledge of expressives and their semantic correlates are considered a pre-requisite to man’s intelligence. Once a king used an expressive “puTukku jara jara Dubukku mE” as a puzzle to be solved by one of his court poets. The king apparently saw something while taking a round of his kingdom. The poet, having pondered over it for sometime, solves the mystery of the expressives in the following way:

“There was a small hut with a thatched roof. A bottlegourd creeper had spread all over the roof of the hut. The creeper bore many bottle gourds. One day one of the fruits got disconnected from the twig (producing the noise puTukku) and quickly rolled down (producing the noise jara jara). There was a goat resting underneath the edge of the roof. The bottle gourd fell on the goat (producing the sound Dubukku). When the gourd fell on the goat, the goat cried mE.”
-Peri Bhaskararao, 1977

(The book has innumerable number of typos and perhaps needed some editing. But I enjoyed reading parts of it, learnt a lot through it and closed it with a lot of questions)

The Word and the World – 6 (తాత్కాలిక విరామం)

(ఈ టపాలు ఈ పుస్తకం గురించి నేను రాసుకుంటున్న నోట్సు. ఈ సిరీస్ లో తక్కిన టపాలు ఇక్కడ.)

Chapter-5: The Karaka Theory
ఈ కారక సిద్ధాంతం గురించి ఇదివరలో మా కంప్యుటేషనల్ లింగ్విస్టిక్స్ పరిచయ క్లాసుల్లో విన్నందువల్ల – అదేమిటో – నాకు అర్థమైనంతలో చెప్పే ప్రయత్నం చేస్తాను – ఒక వాక్యంలో క్రియ మూలపదం అనుకుంటే, దానితో ఇతర పదాలకి ఉండే అనుబంధాన్ని “Karaka roles” సహాయంతో నిర్వచించవచ్చు. ఇవి ఆరుంటాయి – అపాదాన, సంప్రదాన, కారణ, అధికరణ, కర్మన్, కర్త.  ఈ సిద్ధాంతం ఈ రోల్స్ ఎలా ఇస్తారు? దాన్ని వ్యాకరణానికి ఎలా ఉపయోగించుకోవచ్చు అన్నవాటి గురించి.

వీటి గురించి సాంకేతికుడి కోణంలో ఒక చర్చకి NLP-A Paninian Perspective అన్న ఈ-పుస్తకం చూడండి. ఇక పుస్తకంలో ఈ అధ్యాయానికి వచ్చేస్తే –

G.Cardona అన్న ఇండాలజిస్టు అభిప్రాయం ప్రకారం ఈ కారక సిద్ధాంతం – ‘basis to Panini’s derivational system.’

W.D.Whitney అన్న మరొక భాషావేత్త ప్రకారం ఈ సిద్ధాంతం – ‘a reflection of case form’ మాత్రమే.
-అయితే, అపాదాన-సంప్రదాన అన్నవి రెండూ ablative-dative లను పోలి ఉన్న మాట నిజమే అయినా, ఈపోలిక ఉన్నంతమాత్రాన Whitney ప్రతిపాదనను తాను అంగీకరించలేనంటారు రచయిత. (నిజానికి, మాకు కారక గురించి చెప్పినప్పుడు విచిత్రంగా ఈ కేస్ సిద్ధాంతాలకి సంబంధించిన Thematic Role అన్న అంశాన్నే ఉదాహరణలు గా తీసుకుని వివరించారు అని గుర్తు. 🙂 బహుశా బొత్తిగా వీటి గురించి పరిచయం లేని వారికి, పాశ్చాత్యుల టర్మినాలజీతో పరిచయం ఉండేవారికీ అలాగే చెప్పాలేమో! వీటి గురించి నాకు అంత గొప్ప సైద్ధాంతిక అవగాహన లేదు, ప్రాథమిక పరిజ్ఞానం తప్ప. కానీ, 1960లలో కి వచ్చేదాకా పాశ్చాత్యులు రూపొందించని ఈ సిద్ధాంతాలని మన భాషావేత్తలు ఎప్పుడో పురాతన కాలంలోనే అంత వివరంగా డాక్యుమెంట్ చేసారంటే నాకు ఆశ్చర్యంగానే ఉంది!)

“After applying the Karaka categorization rules to classify items, it becomes easy to formulate grammatical rules which introduce affixes to such items based upon such conditions. An object(karman), for example takes the -am suffix .. .. and an instrument takes the -ta affix… ”
(ఈ అంశం గురించిన సుదీర్ఘ చర్చ కూడా పైన లింక్ చేసిన – NLP-A Paninian Perspective పుస్తకంలో ఉంది.)

ఈ కారక సిద్ధాంతం గురించే, Panini కాక ఇతర భారతీయ భాషావేత్తలు కూడా వివరంగా వ్రాసారు. ప్రధానంగా భర్తృహరి మీద ఫోకస్ చేస్తూ, కారక సిద్ధాంతాన్ని అర్థమయ్యే భాషలోనే వివరించిన ఒక వ్యాసం ఇక్కడ చదవండి.

రచయిత రాసిన ఈ వాక్యాలు నాకు బాగా నచ్చాయి.
“It is well known that Panini and the Paniniyas were Sabdapramanikah, those who regard speech patterns as authority. Patanjali has said (which has often been quoted): ‘we accept the authority of the speech. What speech tells us is what we depend upon (for deciding issues)’. This, I believe, means that we should put stress on the point that grammar is not concerned with ontology (or semantics, i.e, things and events) but with what people actually say, or rather how people speak of things and events. Paninin’s Karaka categories fit in well with this point and hence we can easily account for such usages as ‘sthali pachati’, ‘the cauldron cooks’, although we know very well that the cauldron is the substrate where cooking takes place, not the agent of cooking. But philosophically, one can think of the cauldron as a contributing factor to the action of cooking and some agency may be attributed to it.”

3. అసలు “కారక” అన్న దానికి సరైన నిర్వచనం ఏమిటి? అని వివిధ శాఖల మధ్య వాదోపవాదాలు జరిగాయట. వీటిల్లో రెండు ప్రధానమైన నిర్వచనాలు ఉన్నాయి – ఒకటి kriyanimitta – causal factor of an action/verb, రెండవది – Kriyanvayin -syntactically connected withaction/verb kriya” – ఇలాగే ఈ కరక గురించి వాదోపవాదాలు చాలా కాలం కొనసాగాక –

“What is Karaka? అన్న ప్రశ్నకి పదిహేను-పదహారో శతాబ్దపు నవ్య నైయాయికులు ఒక పరిష్కారం సూచించారు. రచయిత మాటల్లో –
“Bhavananda says that a Karaka, both in its principal sense and its secondary sense, is to be defined as that which is syntactically connected (anvayin) with the action verb through the intermediary of the meaning of vibhaktis (the so-called case-affixes). It is clear here that the karaka categories are intermediaries between the semantic interpretation and grammatical suffixes.
… …
Thus, Bhavananda at the end says that the correct definition would be as follows. A Karaka is what is syntactically connected with the action verb (anvita) and is endowed with any one of the six properties or powers: agenthood, objecthood, instrumentality, recipienthood, apadanatva ‘being fixed point of departure’ and locushood.”

-ఇదీ విషయం.
(ఈ వ్యాసమంతా philosophical కోణంలో సాగింది కానీ, నిజజీవితంలో, కంప్యూటర్ సైన్సు వాళ్ళు కారక సిద్ధాంతాన్ని ఎలా ఉపయోగించాలి అనుకుంటున్నారో, ఉపయోగిస్తున్నారో తెలుసుకోవాలంటే మాత్రం పైన లంకె ఇచ్చిన NLP-A Paninian Perspective మంచి స్టార్టింగ్ పాయింట్ అని నా అభిప్రాయం. Karaka Natural language processing ఇలాంటి క్వెరీలతో శోధనాయంత్రాల్లో వెదికితే, ఈమధ్య కాలంలో వచ్చిన రిసర్చి పేపర్లు గట్రా కనబడతాయి. ఇంకా మీకేవన్నా ఆసక్తికరమైన లంకెలు కనిపిస్తే – వ్యాఖ్యలలో తెలియజేయండి.)

(మళ్ళీ ఈ వ్యాసాలను సంక్రాంతి తరువాత కొనసాగిస్తాను.)

Published in: on November 25, 2012 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Word and the World – 5

(ఈ టపాలు ఈ పుస్తకం గురించి నేను రాసుకుంటున్న నోట్సు. ఈ సిరీస్ లో తక్కిన టపాలు ఇక్కడ.)

Chapter-4: Names and Things: Universals

ఒక పదానికి – అది సూచించే వస్తువు/భావానికి మధ్య గల సంబంధాల గురించిన వివిధ వాదోపవాదాల గురించి ఈ వ్యాసం.
* కాత్యాయనుడి సిద్ధాంతం ప్రకారం – things get their names on the basis of some quality or the other. అయితే, ఆ quality అన్నది నేరుగా కనిపించేదా? లేకపోతే ఆలోచనల్లో మనం చూసేదా? లేదంటే ఏదో ఒక సార్వజనీనమైనదా? – అన్నది కాత్యాయనుడు రాసిన వ్యాఖ్యానంలో స్పష్టంగా లేకపోవడంతో దిగ్నాగుడు, భర్తృహరి ఆ అంశం గురించి రెండు వేర్వేరు వాదాలు చేసారట. “On the whole, the theory can be understood as saying that names are given to spatio-temporal things on the basis of a quality which belongs to them” – అని రచయిత సారాంశం.

* నైయాయికుల మధ్య “ఒక పదానికి అర్థం అంటే ఏమిటి?” అన్న అంశం గురించి చర్చలు జరిగాయట. వీళ్ళ ప్రకారం – ఒక పదానికి మూడు “అర్థాలు” ఉంటాయి – వ్యక్తి, ఆకృతి, జాతి (అంటే – thing, form of the thing, the universal – “ఆవు” అంటే – ఒకా ఆవుని గానీ, లేదంటే దానితాలూకా imageని సూచిస్తూ – “బంగారు ఆవు” అనడం గానీ, లెదంటే, మొత్తంగా ఆవు అన్న జాతిని సూచిస్తూ – “ఆవు బొమ్మ గియ్యి” అనడం – ఈ మూడు ఉదాహరణలు ఇచ్చారు)

* ఇదే అంశాలపై పతంజలి అభిప్రాయం: “…it is neither the universal cowhood nor the individual cow nor its qualities nor its actions. He replies that the word ‘cow’ is ‘that by utterance of which there is a comprehension of the object having the dewlap, the tail, hump, the hoofs, and the horns (all taken together).'” అలాగే, పతంజలి ప్రకారం – “…four classes of words upon the distinction of their ‘occasioning ground or basis’ (nimitta): they are class names, quality names, action names and arbitrary names or proper names.”
-దీని పై పాయింటు చదువుతున్నప్పుడు మరి మామూలు పేర్ల సంగతేంటి? అనుకుంటూ ఉన్నా. పతంజలి చెప్పింది బాగుంది నాకు 🙂

* వీళ్ళు ఇలా ఉంటే – పదాలు-వాటి అర్థాలు convention వల్ల పుట్టలేదని, అవి eternal అనీ నమ్మే మీమాంసకులు నైయాయికుల మూడు-అర్థ విభాగాల వర్గీకరణను నిరాకరించారట.universal cowhood అన్నది ఒక్కటే వీళ్ళ ప్రకారం కరెక్టు. “Word meaning relationship is underived, natural, eternally established, it is only our learning of it that is acquired through some convention or other. Convention reveals the relationship, does not create it.” – అదీ సారాంశం.

* “Bhartrhari’s main of language is ofcourse, that each linguistic unit, a letter or a word or a sentence, is actually an invariant sphota (varna sphota, pada sphota, vakya sphota), i.e., an invariant, sequenceless and partless ‘whole’ entity which is only manifested by the corresponding audible noise in speech. And at the level of sphota, a linguistic unit and its meaning or the thought it supposedly conveys are one and undifferentiated.”
… ….
“Hence we can say that such a functional property characterizes each member of the cow class and only such members, and the presence of some abstract but ontologically real universal, cow hood, is not needed in order to make use of the class-name “cow” to denote cows.”

* తరువాత బౌద్ధ సంప్రదాయంలో ఉన్న apoha doctrine గురించి చర్చ, పైన చెప్పిన ఇతర భారతీయ సంప్రదాయాలతో పోలికా ఉన్నాయి.

… ఈ భాగం అంతా నాకు ఆట్టే అర్థమైందనుకోను, ఏదో మధ్యమధ్యలో కొంచెం అర్థం అయినట్లు అనిపించడం తప్ప. బహుశా మళ్ళీ చదవాలేమో!

Published in: on November 20, 2012 at 8:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Word and the World – 4

(ఈ టపాలు ఈ పుస్తకం గురించి నేను రాసుకుంటున్న నోట్సు. ఈ సిరీస్ లో తక్కిన టపాలు ఇక్కడ.)

Chapter 3: Words and their meanings

ఈ అధ్యాయంలో ఏడు ఉప విభాగాలున్నాయి. అన్నీ అరపేజీ నుండి రెండు మూడు పేజీల లోపే ఉన్నాయి కానీ, విడివిడిగా అయితే సమ్మరీ రాసుకోవడం ఈజీ అని నేనూ విడి విడిగానే ఉంచుతున్నాను.

a) Classification of Words:
యాస్కుడు పదాల ని నాలుగు విభాగాల్లోకి వర్గీకరించాడట (Parts of speech). అవి -నామ (nouns), అఖ్యాత (verbs), ఉపసర్గ (pre-verbs or prefixes), నిపాత (particles, prepositions). అయితే ఈ విధమైన వర్గీకరణకి వేద మంత్రాలని పదాలు పదాలుగా విడగొట్టి చేసే విశ్లేషణ ఆధారమట. అలా విడగొట్టడం ఒక తాత్విక వివాదానికి (Philosophical controversy) దారి తీసిందట. ఒక వర్గం – పదాలు వాక్యభాగాలే కాని స్వతంత్ర ప్రతిపత్తి కలిగినవి కావనీ, మరొక వర్గం – పదాలే primary, వాక్యం secondary అనీ అభిప్రాయ పడ్డారు. ఈ విషయమై వాదోపవాదాలు చాలా ఏళ్ళు, చాలా తీవ్రంగా కొనసాగాయట. (తర్వాతి అధ్యాయాల్లో కొంచెం వివరం తెలుస్తుంది.)

b) Categories of things:
పైన చెప్పినది parts of speech అయితే, ఇక్కడ చెప్పేది ontological categories.

Yaska’s contribution however lay in singling out two main (ontological) categories, a process or an action and an entity or a being or thing. L.Sarup chose to contrast these two, “bhava” and “sattva” by using the familiar terminology of “becoming” and being”

-అన్న రచయిత వాక్యాలు బహుశా మొత్తంగా ఈ విభాగానికి సారాంశం ఏమో. అయితే, సరిగ్గా అవగాహన రావడానికి నేను ఈ విభాగాన్ని మరొక్కసారైనా చదవాల్సి ఉంటుందేమో. ఇప్పటికి ఒకటికి రెండుసార్లు చదివినా, స్పష్టంగా ఒక అవగాహన కలగడంలేదు నాకు 😦

c) Primary and Non-Primary meanings of a word: Metaphor
Metaphor కు ఆంధ్రభారతి నిఘంటువులో – ఉపమ, ఉత్ప్రేక్ష, రూపక, శ్లేష – ఇలా అన్ని అర్థాలూ ఉన్నాయి. కనుక metaphor అనే రాస్తా. భారతీయ తత్వవేత్తలు (ప్రధానంగా నైయాయికులు) ఈ అంశాన్ని చర్చిస్తూ – పదానికి రెండు రకాల ‘powers’ ఉంటాయని, అందులో ఒకటి saying అయితే, ఒకటి pointing/indicating power అన్నీ అన్నారు. Metaphor లక్షణాల గురించి ఈ క్రింది వివరం ఈ విభాగం సారాంశం అని నా అభిప్రాయం.
“On analysis, the Naiyayikas identify two necessary conditions: a) the primary meaning should be a ‘misfit’ in the context; it would not go with the meanings of other words in the sentence and b) the indicated meaning (..) would have to be associated with the primary meaning in one way or the other.
ఇవి కాక మూడో పదానికి power ఉందనీ, అది suggestive power అని అలంకారశాస్త్ర పండితులు అంటారట. అయితే, ప్రధాన అర్థం, మెటఫొరికల్ అర్థం, వాక్యం కాంటెక్స్ట్ అన్నీ తెలిస్తేనే ఈ మూడో అర్థం గ్రహించగలమని, ఇది గొప్ప కవిత్వం లక్షణమనీ వీళ్ళ అభిప్రాయం. (ధ్వన్యాలోకం అన్న పుస్తకం గురించి ఇదివరలో బ్లాగ్లోకంలో ఒక చర్చ చూశా ఎప్పుడో. అది దీని గురించేననుకుంటా!)

d) Criticism of the ‘suggestive’ power
ఒక పదం “సూచించే” అర్థం దాన్ని వినేవాడి అన్వయంపై కూడా ఆధారపడుతుందనీ, పదానికే పూర్తిగా ఆ suggestive power ఉందనక్కర్లేదని భావం. పై వాదానికి ఇదొక విమర్శ అనుకుంటాను.

e) The speaker’s intention
ఒక వాక్యాన్ని పలికిన వ్యక్తి ఏ ఉద్దేశ్యంతో అన్నాడు? అన్న ఎరుక వల్ల వాక్యంలోని అయోమయాల్ని పోగొట్టవచ్చునని ఇక్కడ సారాంశం. పుస్తకంలో ఇచ్చిన ఉదాహరణ – సైంధవము అంటే – గుర్రము, ఉప్పు రెండు అర్థాలు ఉన్నాయి. అయితే, వాడిన సందర్భాన్ని బట్టి పలికిన వ్యక్తి ఉద్దేశ్యం విన్న వ్యక్తికి అర్థమవుతుందని సారాంశం.

f) Ambiguity and Contexual factors
ఇలా ఒకే పదానికి నానార్థాలు ఉన్న సందర్భాల్లో ఏది సరైన అర్థం అన్నది ఎలా నిర్థారిస్తామో – కొన్ని నియమాలు చేశాడట భర్తృహరి. అవి –
* Word association, dissociation: ఒక పదాన్ని దాని వాక్యంలో చుట్టు పక్కల ఉన్న పదాలతో కలిపి చూస్తే విడిపోయే తరహా అయోమయం.
* Mutual Association: rama and lakshmana అంటే శ్రీరాముడు కానీ బలరాముడు అవ్వడు కదా! 😉 ఇదీ పైన చెప్పిన association, dissociation లాగానే అనిపించింది నాకు. కానీ, ఇక్కడ ప్రస్తావన ఈ తరహా compound words (multi word expressions) గురించి మాత్రమే.
* Hostility or opposition: ఇది నాకంతగా అర్థం కాళేదు కాణీ,ఈ నాలుగూ కూడా వివిధ రకాల associations అని రచయిత రాయడం తో కొంచెం రిలేట్ చేసుకున్నా..
* Purpose : స్థాను అంటే శివుడు, స్థంబం అన్న రెండర్థాలు ఉన్నా worship sthanu అన్నప్పుడు శివపూజ అనే అర్థం చేసుకుంటాము కదా! అన్నది ఉదాహరణ. అయితే, ఇదీ నాకు association-dissociation లాగానే అనిపించింది.
* Context or Situation: తింటున్నప్పుడు “సైంధవాన్ని తీసుకురా” అంటే అది ఉప్పు అనే అర్థం చేసుకూంటాము కదా! అదే ఇది.
* Indicatory Sign: పై ఉదాహరణలో లా అదే వాక్యంలో కాకపోయినా, దాని ముందు అదే context లో వాడిన పదాలని బట్టి ప్రస్తుత వాక్య సందర్భం అర్థం చేసుకుని పదార్థంలోని అయోమయం పోగొట్టుకోవచ్చు.
* Proximity with Another word : నాకైతే ఇది అసోసియేషన్ అనే అనిపించింది (ఉదాహరణను బట్టి).
ఇలాగే, Capacity, Propriety, Place, Time, Gender, Accent ఇత్యాది వివరాలను బట్టి పదార్థాల మధ్య అయోమయాన్ని క్లారిఫై చేసుకోవచ్చు అని భర్తృహరి సూచనలు. వీటిని contexual, grammatical factors అని ఒక వర్గీకరణ చేయవచ్చని. contexual అంటే ప్రధానంగా association ఆధారితమైనవని రచయిత ఈ మొత్తాన్నీ సమ్మరైజ్ చేశారు. ఆధునిక శాస్త్రీయ భావజాలంలో ఈ తరహా పరిశోధనలని Word sense disambiguation అంటారు. Natural Language Processing రంగంలోని పరిష్కృతం కాని సమస్యల్లో (open problems) ఇదీ ఒకటి.

g) The word object relation: is it conventional? or eternal?
ఇదివరలో ఇదే చర్చ – ప్లాటో, అరిస్టాటిల్ కాలంలో జరిగినట్లు చదివాను (గత పుస్తకంలో). అయితే, అక్కడితో పోలిస్తే, ఇక్కడ పొందుపరచిన సంక్షిప్త సమాచారం కూడా విస్తారంగానే అనిపించింది. పదానికి-పదార్థానికి మధ్య ఉన్న సంబంధం గురించి గ్రీకుల లాగానే భారతీయ పండితుల్లో కూడా రెండు వర్గాలు ఉండేవి – న్యాయ, వైశేషిక వర్గాలు ఈ సంబంధం convention అని అభిప్రాయపడితే మీమాంసకులు, వైయాకరణులు ఈ సంబంధం eternal అని అభిప్రాయపడ్డారట. అయితే, ఈ సంబంధం eternal అనడానికి పాణిని వాడిన వాదం గురించి చెబుతూ – “People are seen to be using words to convey meanings, but they do not make an effort to manufacture words” అన్నాడని రచయిత అభిప్రాయపడ్డారు. అక్కడే నాకో సందేహం మొదలైంది – మనం పదాలు సృష్టించడం, అవి జనాల నోళ్ళలో నానడం అంతర్జాతీయంగా జరుగుతోంది కదా! అని. అయితే, ఇదే మూసలో, ఈ eternal సంబంధం సమర్థిస్తూ సాగిన వాదదనలు చదువుతూంటే మాత్రం గతంలో ప్లాటో వాదాలు చదివినప్పటితో పోలిస్తే, ఇక్కడ చాలా లోతైన చర్చలు జరిగినట్లు అనిపించింది. అధ్యాయం చివ్వర్లో రచయిత conclusion సబబుగా అనిపించింది నాకు –

“It seems that both theories contain some grains of truth. If we believe in conventionalism, then, in an extreme interpretation, language becomes entirely dependent on the whims of the language user. … .The introduction of God as the first creator of convention was meant to avoid such absurd consequences. The Eternalist has also made one important point regarding the givenness of the language and the word-object connection. Within a given linguistic community, the connection C cannot be easily tampered with. The debate between the Eternalist and the conventionalist may well reveal the point that there is some justification for accepting a theory like sphota theory of language, according to which the word and its linguistic meaning both remain undistinguished in the mind of the competent speaker as well as the competent hearer.”

-గొప్ప వ్యాసం. ఇవన్నీ నాబోటి non philosopher, non linguist మామూలు మనుషులకి అర్థమయ్యే భాషలో చెప్పడం సామాన్య విషయం కాదు!

Published in: on November 15, 2012 at 11:55 am  Comments (5)  
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