Section 23 == *more help*

23.1 = Those annoying compound verbs

Compound verbs are ubiquitous in the language, which makes them all the more annoying for language learners. They're the maddening, slippery kind of idiomatic thing for which there are very few solid rules. My friend Peter Hook has written a whole linguistic book about them (The Compound Verb in Hindi), in which he showed that native speakers from different regions and speech communities disagree about which specific kinds and instances of compounding are acceptable. Compound verbs are a "growing point" of the language, around which new slang forms constantly arise and swirl-- they've been compared to "get" forms in English. How could we ever teach a foreigner all the various nuances of "get mad," "get over it," "get around it," "get with it," "get by with it," "get into it," "get it on," etc.?

There are two aspects in our understanding of them: first, we need to learn to analyze and understand them when we encounter them in speech or writing; and second, we need to learn to produce them ourselves. I'm going to offer some thoughts on each aspect. Fortunately (and not surprisingly), the first aspect is much easier to explain and master than the second.

When you encounter compound verbs, the main crucial thing to do with them is to boil them down into simple verbs that fit into the paradigms that you already know. This is done by, in effect, eliminating the middleman. Compound verbs normally have the form of a verb root (that is, the root of the important verb, the one that's actually meant) followed by an auxiliary verb that is conjugated. The way to collapse these forms is to take the conjugated form from the second, auxiliary verb, and apply it directly to the first, main verb. For example, kar diyaa collapses into kiyaa ; kar liyaa collapses into kiyaa ; aa jaa))egaa collapses into aa))egaa , bol u;The collapses into bole , etc. Once you've done this collapsing, you've captured at least 90% of the meaning of the compound verb.

But you haven't, of course, captured 100% of the meaning. What has been lost in the process of this boiling down? Transitive ( ne ) verbs are most often compounded with either lenaa or denaa . Grammar books will usually tell you that that lenaa is for actions that have an inward direction, or are done for one's own sake or at one's own volition (like eating, drinking, seeing, buying, earning), while denaa is for outward-directed actions or those done at another's behest (like smiling, saying, spitting, giving, doing a task for somebody). These nuances are not rocket science, they are pretty basic, and you can just mentally give them a little nod; sometimes in fact they are hardly there at all, and the forms are simply rather petrified.

When it comes to intransitive, non- ne verbs, which are most often compounded with jaanaa , I've never heard anybody give a compelling account of any real difference between, say, aanaa and aa jaanaa . (When pressed, people will come up with something or other, but it will usually be vague, and different native speakers will disagree.) It's worth noting that some forms of this kind have by now been so solidified that they've almost become new verbs: ho jaanaa is basically an independent verb meaning "to become." And-- no doubt for phonetic reasons-- it seems that nobody ever says vuh soyaa , everybody says vuh so gayaa .

More worthy of notice are forms compounded with auxiliary verbs other than the "least marked" Big Three (i.e., lenaa , denaa for transitive verbs , jaanaa for intransitives). Verb forms compounded with ;Daalnaa suggest suddenness and even violence. Those compounded with bai;Thnaa suggest stubbornness and determination. Those compounded with u;Thnaa suggest abruptness and perhaps unexpectedness.

Here are some odd fish-- compounded forms that are common and not entirely obvious:

chal denaa , to set out (intrans. verb with trans. compounder)

chalaa jaanaa , to go away (not the verb root, but the perfect form, which changes for gender and number)

khaa jaanaa , to eat up, to completely consume, to devour (trans. verb with intrans. compounder)

le jaanaa , to take away an object (trans. verb with intrans. compounder)

le aanaa , to bring an object (trans. verb with intrans. compounder); this usually collapses into laanaa , which is why laanaa is treated as intransitive despite its transitive meaning

ho jaanaa , to become (not just 'to be' with a few overtones)

dikhaa))ii denaa , to make itself seen, to become visible (with dikhnaa as a variant); likewise sunaa))ii denaa , to make itself heard, to become audible-- these are both treated as intransitives.

One source of ambiguity: kar deletion: Since the kar construction consists of the verb root followed by kar , and since the kar is oftan colloquially deleted, confusion is occasionally possible. Usually a little scrutiny will clear it up: for example, in a particular context dekh liyaa will make sense either as 'saw' (in a compound verb form), or as 'having seen, took' (in a kar deletion form); similarly, aa gayaa will be either 'came' or 'having come, went'. In most such cases, the compound verb form is very much the more likely possibility. But there are still cases when kar deletion is what's going on.

A swamp of confusion that there's no need to fall into: Intransitive verbs compounded with jaanaa are sometimes confused (by amateurs only) with passives. For example, khul jaanaa is the most common, 'least marked' compound form of khulnaa , 'to become open' (with no agent indicated). Thus its meaning is basically the same as that of khulnaa itself: 'to become open' (with no agent indicated). The transitive counterpart of khulnaa is kholnaa , 'to open [something]' (an action that an agent performs on something else), The passive form of kholnaa is kholaa jaanaa , 'to be opened' (by an agent). (For more on transitives, intransitives, and passives, see Section 20.) Sometimes beginners confuse khul jaanaa with kholaa jaanaa , and even produce hybrids like khol jaanaa (which if it means anything at all, is a short form of khol kar jaanaa , and thus means 'having opened, to go').

In case you're rolling your eyes at such nit-picking subtleties, remember that someday you might want to do more than just buy papayas in the bazaar-- you might want to read serious literature, in which such distinctions MATTER. Without a good analytical command of grammar, you'll never get anywhere at all in the world of the classical ghazal. (But even with a good analytical command of grammar, you're always on slightly shifty ground: for an example see M{1781,1}.)

23.2 = The modals and other odd fish

The modal verbs -- saknaa : The modal verbs are usually presented as a group of three: saknaa , chuknaa , and paanaa . They all use the verb root of the main verb. They're really pretty easy, and everybody basically gets them right away. The first two of the modals are more straightforward, because they're always intransitive, and cannot be used as independent verbs. (On transitive and intransitive verbs see 20.1.) Thus jaa saknaa ,"to be able to go," can readily be conjugated as an intransitive verb in all possible forms; but since ability tends to be a state that persists over time, the progressive tenses are not found ( la;Rkii jaa sak rahii hai would sound very odd). A verb like saknaa is not just a cute thing for extra emphasis, like chuknaa , but a form that we badly need, since there's no other (convenient) way in the language to express capacity or active power (compare shaktii , the feminine principle of energy).

The modal verbs -- chuknaa : Similarly, jaa chuknaa , "to have already gone," can be conjugated intransitively with any other main verb as well. But in its case the semantic limits are even tighter: it suggests a one-shot action, so that not only la;Rkaa jaa chuk rahaa hai but also la;Rkaa jaa chuktaa thaa would be truly bizarre. Basically, for semantic reasons it should be used with perfect forms, or sometimes with the future. How does la;Rkaa jaa chukaa hai , "the boy has already gone," differ from the standard present perfect la;Rkaa gayaa hai , "the boy has gone"? Really, only in emphasis, just like the counterpart English forms.

The modal verbs -- paanaa : The third modal verb, paanaa , is potentially more confusing, because paanaa in its own right is a transitive verb meaning "to find." That normal sense must be kept entirely out of the picture: as a modal verb paanaa is intransitive, and jaa paanaa means more or less "to manage to go," with a sense of effort, of difficulties overcome. Thus it's often used when apologizing for failing to do something ( afsos hai kih la;Rkaa nahii;N jaa paa))ii , "It's a pity that the girl didn't manage to go"). By comparison, saknaa has a kind of either-or sense: you either can do something, or you can't; but paanaa provides a sense of struggle against obstacles.

None of these three modal verbs can be used reflexively, with itself; nor can they be used with each other. (Perhaps you're a normal person and you would never even think of trying out sak saknaa or the like, but when I was learning the language I was constantly fooling around with it in my head, trying to push every construction to its limits in order to understand it better.)

The "always" construction: One of the oddest of the verbal odd fish is one that I call the "always" construction. That's not a very informative name, but as far as I can tell it really has no other, and I can't think of a better one. In it the main verb, the one you really want to use, is in the masculine singular perfect. (The only exception: it's not gayaa karnaa as one would expect, but jaayaa karnaa .) The main verb remains in the masculine singular perfect, no matter what. The rest of the verbal action is done by karnaa , which in this construction is treated, most counter-intuitively, as an intransitive (that is, non- ne ) verb. The sense is one of constant performance, not just habitual or continuing.. Thus the construction is often used for injunctions: tum iskuul jaayaa karo , apnii kitabe;N pa;Rhaa karo , and the like.

23.3 = A newly evolving verb form

A while back I noticed that my Pakistani students were unselfconsciously using a new verb form, one that didn't officially exist in the language. It appeared when they were narrating the plots of films or stories. They would say, jis vaqt salmah baa;G me;N pa;Rh rahii hotii hai , meaning 'While Salmah is reading in the garden'; or jab ma;hmuud ghar se aa rahaa hotaa hai , to us ko parvez dekh rahaa hotaa hai , meaning 'When Mahmud is coming out of the house, then Parvez is watching him'. Of course, officially the same job could be done by the ordinary progressive, pa;Rh rahii hai and so on.. But the linguists have taught us that you basically can't prescribe usage, you can really only describe it. Who can stand in the path of the language steamroller and not get steamrolled into a pancake? Plainly this new tense, not recognized in any grammar book, is taking hold.

So at the Madison conference a few years ago, after a linguistics panel I asked a group of Urdu ahl-e zabaan about this construction. All of them recognized it, some matter-of-factly (these were mostly Pakistanis) and some grudgingly or with a bit of annoyance. But nobody had any special observations to make about it, and nobody had ever studied it or apparently paid even the smallest attention to it. I'm not a linguist, but I do want to point it out, so maybe the next generation of linguists can take notice. It certainly dates from no later than the mid-1990's, and possibly goes back a good bit further.

My friend Peter Hook, a linguist, reports that most of the instances he has found on the internet are "habitual progressives," such that "the speaker is presenting a habitual or generic picture in which an element of the situation is ongoing, with respect to other elements, which may be why the verb- rahaa hotaa construction often finds a home in a jab clause. In this general function the construction has a number of tense and modal options including past, presumptive, subjunctive, etc. The 'plot recitation' use must have emerged from this more general construction. Perhaps we should think of plot elements as being always present in the mind of the speaker and outside of the normal flow of time? For isn't the construction usually used to establish the setting or present some ancillary action?" (Aug. 2008). I'm hoping he'll do more of a study of this interesting new member of the evolving Hindi-Urdu verb family.

I just noticed an example of it in shi((r-e shor-angez by S. R. Faruqi, v.2, 193/1: aur "zabaan-e qaal" us sha;x.s yaa shay kii guftguu hai jis kaa ham mushaahadah kar rahe hote hai;N . So it occurred to me to ask him about it. He replied (Sept. 2013) that it is a variant form of karte hote hai;N ; both these forms are 'entirely correct', but kar rahe hote hai;N sounds phonetically better to him, so he uses it more often. 'When some task would be right now in progress, and some other thing would come up that has to be attended to, then it becomes necessary to use these forms.' He provides examples:

bijlii usii vaqt chalii jaatii hai jab mai;N ko))ii .zaruurii chiiz likh rahaa hotaa huu;N _

bachche us vaqt khaanaa maa;Ngte hai;N jab mai;N kaalij kaa kaam kar rahii hotii huu;N _

These examples don't particularly correspond to his usage in the SSA example; but then, they don't contradict it either.



== on to Section 24 == Urdu script index page == fwp's main page ==