मेघदूत: "नीचैर्गच्छत्युपरि च दशा चक्रनेमिक्रमेण"

G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

Albert Einstein: “I am content in my later years. I have kept my good humor and take neither myself nor the next person seriously.” (To P. Moos, March 30, 1950. Einstein Archives 60-587)

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Twisted Construction, Intricate Compounds and Linguistic Hell

My 13 year old son Jaydutt Kulkarni goes to an English medium school at Pune and struggles, like most of his classmates, with Marathi language syntax- called Shuddhalekhan-“chaste writing”- in Marathi. My wife and I express horror seeing some of his bloomers. He does not make such mistakes writing English. Surprisingly, he does not make them in Hindi too. Mind you, we all speak Marathi at home and live in Marathi speaking neighbourhood.

Therefore, I wonder what the real problem is. Has it anything do with the structure and/or teaching of the language?

D D Kosambi has an interesting take ("An Introduction to the study of Indian History", Popular Prakashan, 1956-2004) on grammar of mother language of Marathi - Sanskrit.

“…The founder of Sanskrit grammar was Panini, who combined the efforts of many predecessors with his own profound observations to give us the oldest scientific grammar known anywhere in the world….Nevertheless Panini killed all preceding grammatical systems, nearly killed further development of the language…
Floridity became increasingly a characteristic of Sanskrit so that the use of twisted construction, intricate compounds, innumerable synonyms, over-exaggeration make it more and more difficult to obtain the precise meaning from a Sanskrit document…

The distinction between Sanskrit and Arabic in this respect should also be considered. Arab works on medicine, geography, mathematics, astronomy, practical sciences were precise enough to be used in their day from Oxford to Malaya. Yet Arabic too had been imposed with a new religion upon people of many different nationalities. The difference was that ‘Arab’ literati were not primarily a disdainful priest-caste. Those who wrote were not ashamed to participate in trade, warfare, and experimental science, not to write annals…”

“Intricate compounds” remind me of a scene from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” (1940). The scene is tyrant Hynkel making a long speech and his secretary typing up just a couple of words; then saying just a couple of words only for her to type furiously many paragraphs.

Vasant Sarwate’s वसंत सरवटे picture below is equally funny. The boss has started dictating a Marathi letter to his secretary and instead of airing some meaningful matter, has ended up explaining how every single letter of every single word should be written.

Is this linguistic hell? I am sure at least my son currently feels it that way!

Artist: Vasant Sarwate वसंत सरवटे (Source- “Khada Maraycha Jhala Tar….!”, Mauj Prakashan, 1963 – collection of his cartoons from 1950 - 1962)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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