A new survey of the Indo-Aryan languages

by Colin P. Masica
A new survey of the Indo-Aryan languages
Colin P. Masica
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Start Page: 
End Page: 
Select license: 
Select License

Reviewed work(s): The Indo-Aryan Languages by George Cardona; Dhanesh Jain

In terms of the number of languages involved as well as in the length and quality of its historical documentation, the Indo-Aryan subfamily arguably constitutes the largest subfield in Indo-European studies. It is blessed in addition with an ancient indigenous tradition of sophisticated linguistic analysis. It accordingly merits a work of this encyclopedic size and scope. The approach of this volume complements that of the Cambridge volume of the same title by this reviewer. Whereas the latter work, like other volumes in the Cambridge series, presents an overview of the field by topic, this volume is a language-by-language compendium of in-depth studies by scholars specializing in each language, a number of whom are also native speakers.
Sixteen major modern ("New") Indo-Aryan languages are thus described, plus briefer accounts of a number of minor Northwestern languages under the rubric of "Dardic." In addition, there are three chapters treating earlier stages ("Old," "Middle") of Indo-Aryan, namely Sanskrit, Asokan [= early] Prakrit and Pali, and later ["Literary"] Prakrit and Apabhramsa, as well as a chapter on writing systems (a complicated matter with at least eight scripts in contemporary use, not to mention earlier varieties) and one on sociolinguistics. All are substantial, ranging from seventeen pages on Magahi to sixty-five pages on Urdu--and seventy-seven pages on the "Dardic" languages. Some of these (e.g., on Assamese, Oriya, Maithili, Magahi, Bhojpuri, Sindhi, Konkani, and Kashmiri) are especially valuable because, until recently at least, comprehensive modern descriptions of these languages have not been available. There is also a lengthy (45 pp.) general introduction.
It is impossible for any one individual to possess the collective breadth and depth of expertise of all these specialists and native speakers; in any case, this reviewer certainly does not. Hence, there is no question of being able to critique the accuracy of all the data presented. One can only assume that, given the qualifications of the writers and the seriousness with which they have approached their task, it is generally sound. I will confine myself to pointing out those inconsistencies and typographical mistakes that have attracted my attention and escaped the editors' scrutiny--and which also may be misleading in a work of reference as this is intended to be--where unfortunately nothing short of perfection will do. There are remarkably few such errors in a work of such complexity.
The ideal of comprehensiveness was perhaps impossible to meet, and there are important lacunae in coverage. As the editors themselves point out with regret, explaining that no scholars could be found who were competent to write about them, these include the languages of Rajasthan (e.g., Marwari) and the Pahari group (e.g., Kumauni, Garhwali). Perhaps that is true, but it is not true of an important case (not least for historical-comparative purposes) that goes unmentioned, namely that of Romani, a subject to which several competent scholars now devote themselves (although to be fair, this may not have been so clear at the initiation of the project in 1997). It may be argued that the volume is already too long at 1,061 pages. Some of this is unnecessary, however: there is considerable overlap and repetition among some of the chapters. (For example, in many chapters there is the labored repetition of the principles on which Indic scripts work--that the consonants have an inherent vowel, modified by various other vowel signs, that initial vowels have independent symbols, etc.) This may have been unavoidable, but judicious pruning might have left room for some of the omitted material.
The task of the editors was an unenviable if not impossible one, for the same reasons that make that of the reviewer difficult. One therefore wonders whether, beyond a basic perusal, each author was made basically responsible for his or her own chapter, as is frequently the case in works of this kind. The editors hint at this in their Preface: "... we felt we could not impose on individual scholars our judgements of data with which they might not agree. Nor could we require that they deal with their subjects all in the same manner.... Consequently, the reader will notice considerable variation both in the scope of treatment ... and in the manner of treating and presenting them." (A major difference between this work and Grierson's monumental Linguistic Survey of India, with which it is implicitly compared, lies in the lack of a single unifying authorial hand and descriptive viewpoint such as Grierson provided.)
A reviewer may be permitted more critical latitude. There is indeed considerable variation, both in coverage and in manner and clarity of presentation, among the chapters. I will attempt to highlight some aspects of this, without being exhaustive.
One area of variation is the attention given to syntax, varying from none at all (in the chapter on Asokan Prakrits and Pali), and less than a page in the chapters on Konkani and Magahi, to twenty-six pages in Gair's chapter on Sinhala and twenty-three pages in Koul's chapter on Kashmiri. This may be partly a function of the greater departure of the latter two languages from what may be called the pan-Indic norm, hence greater need for explanation and exemplification, whereas in the case of Magahi (and Bhojpuri), the Vermas refrain from rehearsing the familiar patterns once again, and in fact announce their intention to focus on what is less familiar (in the case of Magahi, primarily on its complex patterns of multiple verbal agreements). The Konkani chapter also discusses, disappointingly, mainly agreement phenomena, but some other syntactic information is also found under other headings, such as "Negation" and "Influence of other languages [i.e., Kannada, Portuguese] on Konkani."
The chapter by Oberlies on Asokan Prakrits and Pali has no discussion of syntax, and the chapter on Sanskrit itself, the work of one of the editors, has less than two pages on syntax (although they are a model of information-laden succinctness and may be sufficient). Perhaps Sanskritists as well as Pali scholars have already more than enough to do in spelling out for us the intricacies of morphological paradigms and morphophonemic rules. In any case the presentation in these chapters is supplemented by a useful summary (p. 231) of scholarly investigations of Sanskrit syntax in Bubenik's article on the later Prakrits, prefatory to his twelve pages of discussion of the syntax of later Middle Indo-Aryan.
To be sure, it is not always clear what should be discussed under "morphology" and what under "syntax." Logically, the forms of case-markers, non-finite verbs, etc., might be discussed under the former, and their functions under the latter, but for reasons of economy and exposition, among others, this logic is not always followed, and indeed the boundaries are not always clear, so the choice becomes somewhat arbitrary. So while, e.g., relative clauses are clearly in the province of syntax, in most of the chapters of this volume the phenomenon of so-called explicator-compound verbs (in Pandharipande's terminology, "serial" verbs) is discussed under "morphology," although combination of distinct words (= "phrasal syntax") is involved. (Dasgupta [p. 372] highlights the problem when he observes that "the number of combinations is large enough that compound verb use is at the borderline between choosing a word from the lexicon and freely constructing a syntax phrase." He discusses the compound verb phenomenon in two places, under "compounds" [p. 372] and under "syntax" [p. 377].)
On the other hand, definiteness-marking, which is at least partly suffixal in the languages concerned, is discussed under syntax for Bangla and under morphology for Asamiya. The user of this work can thus only be advised to keep looking if a particular category is not found where it might be expected: the presentations are not precisely parallel, although they seem to some extent to strive to be. On the one hand, there has developed a certain common tradition of describing Indo-Aryan languages--we are used to talking to each other about causatives, dative subjects, compound and conjunct verbs, correlative constructions, and so forth. On the other hand, there is the structuralist tradition that every language should be described in its own terms. Writers on each language are also often influenced by terminology and analysis that have become part of the tradition of description of that language (where such a tradition exists); some are simply idiosyncratic. The would-be comparativist will therefore need to look behind superficial differences of terminology and even of analysis in order to discern common patterns.
This is especially true of verbal categories such as aspect, tense, and mood. We may accordingly use them to illustrate further the variation among the presentations. Here the dominant paradigm, most clearly exemplified by Hindi-Urdu, locates "aspect" in the participial morphology, and "tense" (and sometimes "mood") in the auxiliary verb. This is the model followed, with some variation (i.e., with some wobbling between the terms "perfect" and "perfective"), in most of the chapters. (Combining these elements produces the finite verb forms, e.g., "past habitual," "present progressive," "present perfective," etc., that are traditionally but confusingly called "tenses," but more accurately--although not consistently--by Bashir "tense-aspect forms.")
This model is not followed, however, by Riccardi for Nepali or by Shackle for Panjabi; they speak only of "tenses" and refer aspect-marking to the explicator-compound verb constructions mentioned above. (Others would describe the function of these constructions as the specification of Aktionsart.) Panjabi especially, it should be pointed out, is very similar to Hindi-Urdu, but this entails the labeling of the Panjabi participles as "present" and "past" rather than "imperfective" and "perfective," and a different presentation of parallel phenomena. In Khubchandani's description of Sindhi (admittedly a rather different language where the bipartite analysis does not readily apply), aspect is barely mentioned, and again only by a brief and vague reference to the compound verb phenomenon: "Sindhi has a large number of compound verbs. These are formed by combining two, sometimes three or more verbs. The first verb of the compound is usually the main one and the remaining verbs are subsidiary, serving to modify the aspect of the main verb" (p. 648). What seems to be in question here is quite different understandings of the term "aspect." In Gair's comprehensive description of Sinhala there is no reference to aspect at all--perhaps because it is not a category relevant to this language.
Even Shapiro's chapter on Hindi and Schmidt's chapter on Urdu differ somewhat on these points. They are, of course, describing virtually identical structures. While they both follow the dominant model described above, Schmidt (pp. 326-27), even while referring to "perfective tenses" in her description, in presenting the actual paradigms calls them "past" tenses--which conflicts with the use of "past," e.g., "habitual past" in the immediately preceding section, and in any case confuses perfectivity (which does not necessarily entail past reference) with past tense, as marked by the auxiliary. Shapiro alone in this volume, if I am not mistaken, agrees with this reviewer in viewing (p. 267) the stand-alone "perfective" (i.e., without a tense-marking auxiliary) as still a ("simple," i.e., unmarked for tense) perfective, rather than confusingly switching to a label such as "simple past" or "preterit."
Bubenik in his chapter on Prakrits and Apabhramsa helpfully puts all this in historical perspective (probably for the first time) in a section (5.3, pp. 235-37) titled "Evolution of grammatical [i.e., morphological] and lexical [i.e., compound-verb-based] aspect," and provides literary evidence that the latter type of Aktionsart-marking, so characteristic of New Indo-Aryan and foreign to Sanskrit, has already made its appearance by late Middle Indo-Aryan, as well as for the fact that construction of a system of grammatical aspect, of which there were only "traces" in Sanskrit (Cardona, "General Introduction," p. 11), was well underway.
Paying homage to a hallowed tradition of Indian linguistic description going back to Panini (5th century B.C.) and earlier, every language article devotes considerable space to phonology and morphophonemics (in some cases, rather too much to predictable allophones such as homorganic nasals). This ranges, however, from two pages for Oriya to fifteen for Sanskrit. The length of an exposition may or may not be a matter of the space required or not required by its complications.
Another area of variation lies in the system of transcription each article uses. These generally involve varying mixtures of traditional transliteration symbols (e.g., td not [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), IPA symbols ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for Siraiki implosives, but not for Sindhi implosives), and ad hoc symbols. The same low central vowel contrast is represented variously by a / a (for Hindi, Urdu, Magahi, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Kashmiri, several Dardic languages, and of course Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit), a / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (for Maithili, Panjabi, Nepali, Gujarati, Sindhi, Sinhala), and in the Eastern languages (where the second of these vowels--the so-called "inherent vowel"--takes on a back rounded quality) by a / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ~ [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for Assamese, a / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for Oriya, but again by a / a for Bangla.
Every language article is also prefaced by a helpful account (variously titled) of its demographic situation, linguistic and literary history, and dialectology.
Let us proceed now to a brief chapter-by-chapter review, noting some errors and problems as promised above, omitting what has been said already.
Chapter one, "General Introduction" (Cardona and Jain): not so much an introduction as a masterful presentation of much important ancillary material that does not find a logical place elsewhere in the book: the general sociolinguistic situation of Indo-Aryan from earliest times, with widespread multilingualism involving non-Indo-European languages; comparisons with Iranian and Nuristani; general historical development (where the section on Old Indo-Aryan gives editor Cardona an opportunity to set forth additional information that he could not fit into the already bulging chapter on Sanskrit); the question of homeland and time-horizons (where he bends over backward to give the Indian homeland theories currently popular in Hindu nationalist circles their due, but does not in the end capitulate to them). I would, however, question the statement (p. 6) that Indo-Aryan-speaking people living in areas contiguous to non-Aryan languages "have traditionally spoken [such languages], and ... [this] has had significant effect on these [i.e., Indo-Aryan] languages." While the Indo-Aryan languages in question have undoubtedly been affected by their non-Indo-Aryan neighbors, it is more likely due to the imperfect learning of Indo-Aryan languages by the speakers of non-Indo-Aryan languages, often in the process of shifting to becoming speakers of Indo-Aryan languages themselves (and whose modified grammar then spreads), than the reverse. (See Sarah Grey Thomason and Terrence Kaufman, Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics [Univ. of California Press, 1988].) E.g., do speakers of Asamiya really customarily learn Bodo, or speakers of Nepali the Tibeto-Burman languages of Nepal, or speakers of Oriya the neighboring Munda languages? Bilingualism is often lopsided in favor of a language with greater prestige. One small complaint: there are several instances (e.g., pp. 8, 19, 28) where Editor Cardona does not give a translation of long Sanskrit strings. Does he forget that many readers do not sight-read Sanskrit? More likely, it is just an oversight. (He never fails to give a gloss for a one-word or phrasal example.)
Chapter two, "Sociolinguistics of the Indo-Aryan Languages" (Jain): this covers a range of disparate topics, including again multilingualism (albeit more extensively, with statistical and other studies), the special role of different scripts, the sociolinguistic relations of Hindi and Urdu, language in the Census, language planning, changing pronominal usage in Hindi, attitudes toward mother tongue, etc. Some idiosyncrasies of spelling and personal style might occasionally interfere with intelligibility, e.g., "the use of codes in the courts of Delhi" ("codes" = languages). It would be useful to know how much of the statistical bilingualism involves English.
Chapter three, "Writing Systems of the Indo-Aryan Languages" (Richard Salomon): a thorough survey of the Brahmi-derived contemporary scripts (that is, as used for Indo-Aryan languages) as well as of the historical development of Brahmi. Five pages are devoted to the long-defunct Kharosthi script once current in the northwest of the subcontinent, but barely one page to adaptations of the Perso-Arabic script for Indo-Aryan languages. (This supplemented by a useful section [pp. 52ff.] in Jain's chapter on the differential use of the Naskh and Nastaliq variants for Sindhi (or Pashto) and Urdu respectively.) Neither here nor in the Kashmiri chapter is there an illustration of the adaptation of the script to Kashmiri. There is also a brief section on the Roman orthography of Konkani.
In chapter four, "Sanskrit" (Cardona): Cardona seems determined to give us the benefit of everything he knows, which is quite a lot, after a lifetime devoted to the study of Sanskrit. Not only is every complex paradigm and usage laid out, but apparently every exception to every rule, every irregularity or special condition, is duly catalogued in mind-numbing detail--with attention also to differences between different stages of the language (Vedic and later). Fortunately, this has been done by a mind disciplined by the study in particular of the ancient Indian master of thoroughness and economy, the grammarian Panini. There are accordingly no wasted words; the writing is extremely dense. The result does not lend itself to easy perusal, but will repay intensive study.
Chapters five, "Asokan Prakrit and Pali" (Thomas Oberlies), and six, "Prakrits and Apabhramsa" (Vit Bubenik): also dense and detailed presentations in a philological mold, descriptive of the systems of the several linguistic stages involved but with the primary emphasis on historical changes--regular and irregular, systemic and formal--in comparison with Old Indo-Aryan (Sanskrit). These encompass phonology, morphophonemics, and morphology, and as noted above, in Bubenik's article also syntax. There is also a full discussion of the textual sources on which these analyses are based.
Chapters seven, "Hindi" (Michael Shapiro) and eight, "Urdu" (Ruth Schmidt): cannot avoid much duplication, since--although devoting a separate chapter to each of these officially recognized speech forms was no doubt politically necessary--they are essentially describing the same thing. It does give us a unique opportunity to see what two different scholars make of the same structures. The differences, however, are largely of emphasis and detail. A major one involves verbal structures: Shapiro devotes only about four pages to them, while Schmidt gives them seventeen pages, which affords room for more detailed discussion and attention to additional topics. (See also the discussion of aspect above. Schmidt provides one of the most extensive discussions of explicator-compound verbs in the volume.) The preliminaries, involving sociolinguistic dimensions and demographics, dialect and register differentiation, and literary traditions (more complex for Hindi than for Urdu), of course afford scope for largely different presentations, as do discussions of lexicon and script. Schmidt devotes six pages to a description of the Dakhani Urdu of Hyderabad, as well as about five informative pages to the differentiation of Urdu from Hindi. Here I would agree with her that foreign phonemes naturalized in educated Hindi are confined to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and do not include, as Shapiro would have it (p. 260), the typically Urdu set [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Shapiro has a useful section (pp. 277-79) outlining the historical developments that distinguish Modern Standard Hindi from its Middle Indo-Aryan and early New Indo-Aryan precursors; Schmidt has a briefer discussion (pp. 239-40) of some grammatical differences between earlier and modern Urdu.
There are some small but potentially troublesome misprints in the Shapiro chapter, such as (p. 263) the vocative plural given (in the text, although not in Table 7.3) as *-o instead of -o. Under "Suggested Reading," "*Kachru 1986" must refer to Kachru 1966. There are some misstatements of fact or questionable analyses, e.g., Aurangabad (the one in question here) is in the Deccan, not in northern India (p. 255); the nasals /n, n/ are not merely "not productive in a full range of environments"; they are hardly phonemes at all (pp. 259, 260). There is at least one no doubt unintentional mistake in Schmidt's chapter: "In ... Panjabi-influenced Urdu, the sequence long vowel (unaspirated) consonant is changed to long vowel geminate consonant [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] > [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ..." (p. 309). Obviously, she meant to say "is changed to short vowel geminate consonant."
Chapter nine, "Bangla" (Probal Dasgupta): an insightful description by a native speaker linguist (who says, "I have had to draw on everything I ever learnt ..."); Dasgupta not only wrestles valiantly with the idiosyncrasies of this language in its own terms but offers helpful comparisons with other NIA languages such as Hindi-Urdu and Assamese. Proceeding on the basis of the Calcutta standard, he also takes note of Bangladeshi forms, and of the effect dialect mixing (e.g., Eastern forms, carried by refugees) is having on the current standard (based on a Southwestern dialect). He emphasizes the special role in Bangla of tatsama (= directly borrowed or coined from Sanskrit) vocabulary in the language of the educated--and the fact that this is currently in flux, because of the influx of "neo-literates from a whole range of marginal backgrounds." At times he seems close to despair: "no known rules reliably map the written a to these ... phonemic correlates and back in Bangla orthography" (p. 362), or (with regard to the vagaries of spelling caused in part by the transition from the High [= "sadhu"] to the Low [= "colit"] written standard) "the areas of systemic uncertainty are large enough to give rise to a persistent malaise" (p. 362), or (with regard to the morphophonemics of verb stems) "... details, like the contrast between the Dependent Gerund marker [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] which induce vowel raising variably and the Simple Future marker [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] which does it consistently, or like the unusual vowel harmony patterns of the V-final simple conjugation .... do not lend themselves to general statement" (p. 371). Moreover, British rule "... takes off only in the early nineteenth century ... starting a series of games for which satisfactory accounts do not yet exist" (p. 354). Bangla definiteness-marking classifier phenomena are discussed in "unusual detail" because their interaction with other syntactic and semantic features is such as to "engage a disproportionate amount of the attention of most researchers ... for the foreseeable future." One unfortunate feature is that, unlike the authors of the chapters on Oriya and Assamese, Dasgupta chooses to transcribe the inherent vowel as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] rather than as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--except when it is pronounced [o]. This makes the morphophonemic shift from [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] less transparent.
Chapter ten, "Asamiya" (G. C. Goswami and Jyotiprakash Tamuli): although much-needed light is thrown on this heretofore inadequately described language, there are some problems, first, with a few extralinguistic facts (e.g., the Ahoms were/are Tai-speakers, not Tibeto-Burman speakers [p. 304]), and second, with infelicities of expression that might leave some readers puzzled, e.g. (p. 396), "the subject and the verb agreement in number ... has become irrelevant"; (p. 424) "Infinitive -i has a wide range of functions ..." [a less confusing term would be non-finite -i]; "past conditional" does not seem to be an accurate label for the form in -il[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]t, judging by the example given and its gloss (ram-e [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] par-il-e = "Ram was able to, on making the effort" [p. 424]). There appear to be some proofreading mistakes, e.g., a reference (p. 415) to "tables 13 and 14," which do not exist, must mean Tables 10.13 and 10.14; in Tables 10.12--important for setting out the personal deictic affixes, a peculiarity of Asamiya (to be distinguished from the definiteness markers, also a more elaborate system than their Bangla equivalents, dealt with in the next section)--the second person honorific apparently should be -([epsilon])k, nor -([epsilon])r as given. Although generally Goswami-Tamuli use a phonetically transparent phonemic transcription, e.g., distinguishing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and representing the "inherent vowel" as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the graphemic sibilants as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and graphemic C, CH, J, JH as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and even etymological H as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (and the voiced aspirates as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), in the sample text on p. 412 as well as in the rendering of graphemic examples on the preceding two pages they revert to a conventional pan-Indic "transliteration," which does not convey what the symbols really stand for in their adaption to Asamiya. (In the presentation of the script [p. 414] there is no explanation of the meaning and use of the diacritical mark sometimes used to distinguish [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] from [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].) There is a very insightful discussion of the compound verb--no doubt a by-product of the fact that this was the subject of the second author's Ph.D. dissertation. However, certain other features of Asamiya deserve attention also, e.g., the "nominative" in -e, the fact that, unlike Bangla, Asamiya has second causatives, the fact that the 3rd person marker, which is described as "alternating between -e and zero depending on the transitivity status of the verb" (p. 422), appears as -e with a number of intransitives, e.g. (p. 432), xul-e 'slept', xaturil-e 'swam' (perhaps a different analysis is needed).
Chapter eleven, "Oriya" (Tapas Ray): Ray's account of this also inadequately described and in some ways peculiar language (with, for example, its progressive aspect marker in -u-) is generally clear and of high quality. There is accordingly not much to criticize. In the script section, there is reference (pp. 446-47) to the three sibilant letters and the two letters b[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]rgy[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] j[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]nth[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] j[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] being "pronounced alike," but the reader is not told what that pronunciation is. The fact that finite complement clauses can occur in Oriya without a complementizer (although complementizers of both the preposed Aryan type and the postposed Dravidian type are available and may be used) (pp. 468-69) (ex. 3: mu~jane se asib-[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: "I know that he/she NON-HON will come") recalls Dasgupta's pronouncement (p. 389) regarding Bangla, that it "makes considerable use of looseness [in syntax]...." Apparently, as in Bangla but unlike Asamiya, there is no true second causative in Oriya.
Chapters twelve, thirteen, and fourteen, on the three "Bihari" languages Maithili, Magahi, and Bhojpuri, by Ramawatar Yadav, Sheela Verma, and Manindra K. Verma respectively, give these officially unrecognized (in India's Constitution, at any rate) languages far more attention than they are used to receiving--despite the fact that Maithili, at least, has a long literary tradition (and official status in Nepal), and that Bhojpuri occupies a wide and densely populated area and was the main original language of the early overseas colonies of Indian migrants. Hindi being the official language and medium of instruction in all the areas where these languages are spoken (except in the Maithili-speaking lowland region of Nepal), they are sometimes erroneously regarded as "dialects" of Hindi. Phonologically, they are similar to Hindi, except that like their more easterly cousins (Bangla, Asamiya, Oriya) they have lost a distinction between higher and lower high front and back vowels (i/I, u/U); Maithili has developed a more extensive set of diphthongs. (Yadav's examples also bristle with the aspirated nasal [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], especially in final position where it is an honorific marker, but he does not include this in his inventories.) Morphologically and morphosyntactically, however, they are quite different from Hindi. They share a perfective (or "past") marker {-l-} and a future marker {-b-} with Bangla, Oriya, and Asamiya, and Maithili and Magahi (although not Bhojpuri) have complex verbal agreement patterns with the object as well as the subject, nicely laid out by Yadav (pp. 490-93) and S. Verma (512-13). One need not, however, go quite as far as Africa or Central America (p. 512) to find analogous systems of simultaneous subject-object marking. They are characteristic of the non-Indo-European Munda languages of Bihar itself, and in the form of "pronominal suffixes" in a sense of northwestern Indo-Aryan as well (see below). The elaborate coding of honorificity also onto the Maithili-Magahi systems does add to their complexity, however.
Chapter fifteen, "Nepali," by Theodore Riccardi, seems to be a competent and insightful description of this important language and its historical and sociopolitical situation. There are a couple of apparent typos, e.g., *ch[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]ina[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (p. 561) in the paradigm for the negative auxiliary for what should be ch[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]ina[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (cf. p. 567, under "future," where it is again misprinted [?], under "Present perfect" as chain[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). I must express my objection to what to me is a misuse (not unique to Riccardi--Khubchandani [see below] also does this [e.g., p. 644]) of the term "infix" [e.g., pp. 560, 566, 569] for a non-final affix--i.e., an affix which is merely followed by other affixes and does not interrupt the root or the stem. (An example of a true infix would be the -n- in Sanskrit vindati 'he/she knows' interrupting the root vid-.) It would have been helpful to have had an illustration of the different use of conjunct letters in Nepali Nagari script as contrasted with Hindi, rather than just a general allusion to this (p. 563), and a labeling of person-reference in the list of verbal suffixes on p. 561.
Chapter sixteen, "Panjabi" (Christopher Shackle): Shackle chooses to disregard the Grierson construct "Lahnda" for the western dialects, and attempts to describe, in contrast to most modern accounts, not just Modern Standard Panjabi, but all the diverse NIA speech forms found between Hindi on the east and Pashto and Sindhi on the west and southwest. This complicates his task, as does the partition of the Panjabi area between India and Pakistan, the rise of Sikh nationalism, the realignment of state boundaries within India, the use of several scripts, and movements within Pakistan for the recognition of Siraiki and Hindko linguistic identities. Shackle is no doubt one of the few people competent to undertake this, however. Among the complications are the tonal system (pp. 592-94) that developed in Panjabi from the voiced aspirates and historical [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which extends from Modern Standard (= Eastern) Panjabi to some western dialects (Pothohari), but manifests itself differently in others (Hindko), and is absent altogether from Siraiki; the system of pronominal suffixes on the verb (pp. 613-15) expressing object, indirect object, and even possessive relations (cf. Maithili-Magahi above) found in all western dialects but not Standard Panjabi; and the set of glottalized consonants shared by Siraiki with Sindhi. There is incidentally no clarification in this chapter or the following one of the confusing use of the term "Siraiki" to denote both a dialect of Panjabi (or "Lahnda") and a dialect of Sindhi (= "northern Sindhi"). Do they merely occupy adjoining territories? Or are they rival claims on the same thing? (I once thought I understood this, but would prefer to have it adjudicated by those who know the situation firsthand--if they can agree!)
In chapter seventeen, "Sindhi," Lachman Khubchandani provides what is perhaps the first comprehensive descriptive sketch of Sindhi since the nineteenth century. There are a couple of minor misprints (e.g., *-a, i for what should apparently be -[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], I [p. 630], *casual for "causal" [p. 648]), and sentences in need of clarification (e.g., "In Sindhi conversation often length and syllables preceding and following a syllable are stretched four to five times their normal length ..." [p. 633]). But in general we must be grateful for his not only doing a good job, but agreeing to do it at the last minute (cf. Preface, p. viii). There is a full discussion of the Sindhi adaptation of the Perso-Arabic script (and of the Nagari script), supplementing the brief account in Salomon's chapter.
Chapter eighteen, "Gujarati" (Cardona and Babu Suthar): we again have the benefit of Cardona's erudition (Gujarati was one of his early sidelines), aided by that of a native speaker. Minor misprints include the Gujarati character for given instead of the in tended (p. 668), *that for "than" (p. 689). There is also the sporadic omission of translation of examples (although glosses are given) (e.g., p. 692, ex. 1-12; p. 693, ex. 9; p. 695, ex. 5). The "agentive" mare (1st person) appears in examples but is not specifically explained. It is not clear why derivates in -vu~, -vanu~ are discussed under the heading (5.4) "perfective." The simple future (e.g., avse 'he/she will come') is not clearly distinguished from the future auxiliary used in periphrastic forms with probabilistic implications (avto h[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]se 'he is probably coming') (p. 693). The past auxiliary {h[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]t--} is misleadingly called the "imperfective" auxiliary (pp. 682-83)--no doubt because it appears to contain the imperfective marker {-t-}--although there is nothing "imperfective" about its function: cf. ex. 17, g[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]i kale r[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]mes t[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]mare tya avyo h[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]to = "Yesterday Ramesh went to your place"--and this in any case confuses the tense function of the auxiliary and the aspect function of the participle. I would question whether su~ghi jo 'take a whiff', i.e., "smell it and see"--a common locution in South Asia and beyond (e.g., Japan: kaide miru)--is a "compound verb" in the same sense as, e.g., avi ja-'come' or joi l[epsilon] 'have a look' (p. 688). The point of the long list of "invariable substantives" (Table 18.8) is not clear: is it meant to show that they can be of any gender? Is it meant to be exhaustive? It should not be taken to imply that these words cannot take plural, agentive, or locative affixes, only that they do not have oblique forms.
Chapter nineteen, "Marathi" (Rajeshwari Pandharipande), packs a wealth of complicated information into a small space. In spots one might wish for a bit more detail, e.g. (ex. 12, p. 702), an illustration of case-marked plural forms also; or an explanation of agreement markers on negative verbs (pp. 716-17). Some statements are puzzling, e.g. (p. 711), "... the verb agrees with the object in optative sentences, although the subject is unmarked--cf. (32)"--but the subject is marked (as agentive) in ex. 32 (tyane kame kana wit "He should do the jobs"). One of the few misprints is in the gloss for ex. (70)--*be for he. This presentation is unusual in that it places the phonology section at the end. There are useful and appropriate comparisons and contrasts with Hindi and especially with Dravidian. Although Pandharipande concedes (in Note 1) the separate language status of Konkani, distinguished from the regional dialect of Marathi spoken in the coastal area to the north, in places (p. 723) she still treats it as a variety of Marathi.
Chapter twenty, "Konkani" (Rocky Miranda): Miranda devotes considerable space to extralinguistic information, which is of special interest in this case. More careful editing would have been helpful. E.g., in the table of Konkani phonemes (20.1) several of the symbols are in the wrong columns. "Non-palatal sibilants alternate with palatal ones ..." (p. 740) should read "Non-palatal sibilants and affricates...." "The present and non-present endings are added to the imperfect or perfect base ..." should add "respectively" for clarification. It would be helpful to know what is meant by "gerunds," the formation but not the meaning or function of which is discussed on pp. 746-47; there are no examples that might help. (There are in fact very few examples in this chapter, only paradigms.) The postulation of three sets (long and short) of central vowel phonemes (p. 739) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is unusual and requires some evidence. Miranda has a difficult task in having to describe a language in which there is no standard dialect.
In chapter twenty-one, "Sinhala" (James Gair), again we have the legacy of a lifetime devoted to the study of a language. It is perhaps the most clearly organized and presented of the chapters, as well as one of the most thorough--which is fortunate for us, since Sinhala may be said to have departed furthest (in all areas--phonology, morphology, and syntax) from the common NIA pattern we have otherwise been dealing with, as a result both of Dravidian influence and of innovation in its isolation. (Although Gair citing Geiger says, "the functional categories of Sinhala are [still] characteristically IA," one wonders if the category of focused / cleft sentences (pp. 797-802), with its special verb forms and changed word order, or the "complex derivational system of active, involitive, and causative verbs" might not constitute exceptions to this statement. More accurately, perhaps, these things may be "built on IA morphological material," but the functional categories are different (p. 771). I miss any reference to stress in the phonology section. Otherwise I have no complaints. I have detected only one minor misprint (p. 792, ex. 37a). It should also be noted that Gair explicitly limits this description to spoken Sinhala, excluding the literary variety. Trying to describe it as well would certainly blur the sharp focus of this description--and make it twice as long.
Chapter twenty-two, "Dardic" (Elena Bashir): the author presents shorter or longer descriptive sketches of all the languages for which any material is available, namely, Pashai, Gawarbati, Shumashti, Grangali, Dameli, Khowar, Kalasha, Tirahi, Swat-Dir Kohistani, Torwali, Wotapuri-Katarqalai, Indus Kohistani, Kanyawali, Shina, Palula, Sawi, and Brokskat. The most extensive are those on Khowar, Kalasha (on both of which she has done extensive fieldwork), and Shina. The striking thing about these isolated, largely unwritten languages is how Indo-Aryan, indeed, how obviously Indo-European, they still are in many respects.
Chapter twenty-three, "Kashmiri" (Omkar Koul): the special nature of this language presents challenges at every level. Phonologically, there is deaspiration of the inherited IA voiced aspirates, a number of additional vowels ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and vowel contrasts (e e o o), phonemic palatalization (p. 902) (although the palatalized consonants are not given in the phonemic Table [23.1]), and complex morphophonemics (pp. 904-5). Stress is noted as nondistinctive (as in most NIA languages), but its (predictable?) location is not given. Morphology is also complex, with greater residues of the old IA case system, and pronominal suffixes (mentioned on p. 910, but illustrated only briefly, with imperatives, on p. 934) on the verb in addition to split-ergative agreement patterns and additional complications in the future. (Not much is added, however, in postulating words for 'cow', 'woman', and 'daughter' as feminine "suppletive forms" for 'bull', 'man', and 'son'! [p. 906].) Table 23.6 is partly redundant, giving identical "masculine" and "feminine" forms for the 1st and 2nd persons, in all cases and numbers, where there is no gender contrast. It is not clear what is meant by "Copular Verb in the Ergative Case" (p. 923, and Table 23.26). Syntax is notoriously distinctive for its V-2 pattern (noted on pp. 898 in the introductory portion, but without much emphasis in the syntax section itself, on pp. 931, 933, 938). It is not clear what is meant (pp. 931, 933) by "expletive" forms or subjects. Explicit? Under "relative sentences" ( the form rozan vajen' glossed as 'live-inf agn' in ex. 2 "The girl who lives in Delhi is very slim" [dili manz ~ ~ kur cha z[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]vij] needs further explanation. The form rozan looks more like a present participle (p. 926) than an infinitive (p. 924). What then is the other part? Perhaps something like Hindi-Urdu-wali? (i.e., as in rahnewali). In ex. 12, p. 932, "Salim caught me" the gloss for 'me' is labeled ablative instead of nominative. These and a few other complaints aside, however, Koul does an admirable job in presenting this extremely complex material.
A convenient feature of the volume is the table of contents preceding each chapter, complemented by chapter-by-chapter indexes at the end of the volume, which present not merely the same topics in alphabetical order but many more details in addition. An especially valuable feature is the extensive specific bibliography appended to each chapter.
All things considered, this is a valuable resource. Would-be comparativists and typologists will have an easier time of it, now that it exists.
This is a review article of: The Indo-Aryan Languages. Edited by GEORGE CARDONA and DHANESH JAIN. Routledge Language Family Series, vol. 2. London: ROUTLEDGE, 2003. Pp. xix 1061, maps, figs. $200.
COPYRIGHT 2005 American Oriental Society

  • Recommend Us