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Maithili linguistic research: state-of-the-art.


Maithili, a descendant of the Magadhi Apabhramsa, is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 an estimate (Davis 1973:316), it is spoken by approximately 21 million people in the eastern and northern regions of the Bihar State of India and the southeastern plains, known as the tarai, of Nepal. As a matter of fact, it is not easy short of a new linguistic survey of Bihar to ascertain the exact number of the speakers of Maithili in contemporary Bihar. Ever since the first Indian census for the Bengal Presidency The Bengal Presidency, known officially as the Presidency of Fort William, was a region of British India, comprising at its height modern Bangladesh, the states of West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh and  in 1872, censuses of India have tended to underreport un·der·re·port  
tr.v. un·der·re·port·ed, un·der·re·port·ing, un·der·re·ports
To report (income or crime statistics, for example) as being less than actually is the case.
 the figure lot Maithili-Maithili being erroneously viewed as a dialect of Hindi, or of a spurious language and a chimera called Bihari. For example, the 1961 census figure of less than 5 million (4,982,615) Maithili speakers in Bihar is, regrettably, grossly inaccurate vis-a-vis the figure of more than 9 million (9,389,376) estimated by Sir George Abraham Grierson Sir George Abraham Grierson (7 January 1851, Glenageary, County Dublin, Ireland - 9 March 1941, Camberley, County Dublin, Ireland, United Kingdom) was a famous British civil servant who spent much of his life in British India.  as early as 1891 (Brass 1974:64). In a guesstimate guess·ti·mate  
n. Informal
An estimate based on conjecture.

[Blend of guess and estimate.]

 of raw 1971 census figure arrived at by adding up the total population of the districts of Purnea, Saharsa, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Monghyr (half) and Santhal Pargana A pargana is a former administrative unit of the Indian Subcontinent, used primarily, but not exclusively, by the Muslim kingdoms.

Parganas were introduced by the Delhi Sultanate, and the word is of Persian origin.
 (half), G. Jha (1974:4-6) argues that around 23 million (22,998,706) people speak Maithili in Bihar. Adding up the. Nepal 1971 census figure of 1,327,242 Maithili speakers to the population of Maithili speakers of Bihar, a total of more than 24 million (24,325,948) speakers may be said to speak Maithili in India and Nepal. In a yet further survey of the 50 most-spoken languages in the world, carried out by Grimes (1996:588) and reported on the Internet, it is stated that Maithili occupies the position of the 40th most-spoken language in the world and that it is spoken by 24.3 million `first language speakers' in India and Nepal.

Demographically, Maithili is the second most widely spoken language of Nepal and the constitution of Nepal
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 recognizes it as one of the `languages of the nation' (rastriya bhasa) of Nepal. True, Maithili is not yet recognized as an official state language of Bihar; nor has it been included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India The Constitution of India lays down the framework on which Indian polity is run. The Constitution declares India to be a sovereign socialist democratic republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality, and liberty. . Maithili, however, has been recognized as an autonomous modern Indo-Aryan language of India by the Sahitya Akaderni since 1965. Today, Maithili is recognized as a distinct language and taught as such in the Indian universities of Calcutta, Patna, Bihar, Bhagalpur, Mithila and Benares, and the Tribhuvan University Tribhuvan University is the largest and the oldest university of Nepal. It is situated in Kirtipur. The university was established in 1959 as the first university of the country.  of Nepal. Maithili is also taught as a school subject in the secondary schools of India and Nepal.

Since Hindi is used as the medium of instruction in north Bihar schools, most literate Maithili speakers of Bihar are bilingual in Hindi. By the same token, the literate Maithili speakers of Nepal are bilingual in Nepali--Nepali being the medium of instruction in the schools of Nepal. Literate Maithili speakers in the Nepal tarai also tend tO be bilingual in Hindi due to constant travel across the border in india for social commerce and preponderant pre·pon·der·ant  
Having superior weight, force, importance, or influence. See Synonyms at dominant.

pre·ponder·ant·ly adv.
 use of Hindi newspapers, magazines, and films. However, the illiterate rural masses of Maithili speakers in India and Nepal are by and large monolingual mon·o·lin·gual  
Using or knowing only one language.


On the boundaries of Maithili, a number of modern Indo-Aryan languages Indo-Aryan languages
 or Indic languages

Major subgroup of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Indo-Aryan languages are spoken by more than 800 million people, principally in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
 are spoken: Bangla in the east, Bhojpuri in the west, Nepali in the north, and Magahi in the south. Within its own territory in India, Maithili has both contiguity contiguity /con·ti·gu·i·ty/ (kon?ti-gu´i-te) contact or close proximity.

The state of being contiguous.
 and contact with Santhali--a Munda language. During 14th to early 18th centuries, Maithili also came in close contact with Newari (a Tibeto-Burman language Noun 1. Tibeto-Burman language - a branch of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages spoken from Tibet to the Malay Peninsula

Sino-Tibetan, Sino-Tibetan language - the family of tonal languages spoken in eastern Asia
 spoken in the Kathmandu Valley The Kathmandu Valley, located in the Kingdom of Nepal, lies at the crossroads of ancient civilizations of Asia, and has at least 130 important monuments, including several places of pilgrimage for the Hindus and the Buddhists. ) and it, in fact, occupied a pride of place in the royal court of the Malla Kings of Nepal.

Within the boundaries of India and Nepal, Maithili is characterized by considerable internal, regional, and social, especially caste variations (Yadav 1995, 1999) -- the full extent of which has not been adequately surveyed since Grierson (1883-87). The standard of spoken Maithili is tacitly identified with the speech of the towns of Madhubani in Bihar and Rajbiraj in Nepal.

In the course of its history, Maithili has developed a number of innovations that set it apart from other neighbouring languages. For instance, Maithili has almost lost the OIA gender system. Modern Maithili has no grammatical number either. Maithili has also developed overwhelming honorificity distinctions in its pronominal pro·nom·i·nal  
1. Of, relating to, or functioning as a pronoun.

2. Resembling a pronoun, as by specifying a person, place, or thing, while functioning primarily as another part of speech.
 system as well as an uncharacteristically complex verbal agreement morphology, not shared by other Indo-Aryan languages of India and Nepal.

Phonetics phonetics (fōnĕt`ĭks, fə–), study of the sounds of languages from three basic points of view. Phonetics studies speech sounds according to their production in the vocal organs (articulatory phonetics), their physical properties  & Phonology phonology, study of the sound systems of languages. It is distinguished from phonetics, which is the study of the production, perception, and physical properties of speech sounds; phonology attempts to account for how they are combined, organized, and convey meaning  

Prior to my undertaking research work on an experimental phonetic study of the Maithili language in mid 1970's, the nature of phonetic research was epitomized in the following rather uncouth and highly impressionistic im·pres·sion·is·tic  
1. Of, relating to, or practicing impressionism.

2. Of, relating to, or predicated on impression as opposed to reason or fact: impressionistic memories of early childhood.
 accounts of phonetic facts made by Sir George Abraham Grierson and Dr. Suhhadra Jha.

Grierson (1881a: 5-6) wrote:
   The pronunciation of the vowel a [[??]] is peculiar. It is not so broad as
   in Bengali, but on the other hand it is broader than that of the neutral
   vowel in High Hindi. I know of no sound exactly equivalent to it in any
   language with which I am acquainted. The best way of describing it is by
   saying that it is halfway between the o in not and u in nut, when preceded
   by a hard guttural check, and followed by a soft labial check. It thus may
   be said to he the u of cub, rounded or the o in cob, neutralized.

Subhadra Jha (1941:436)wrote:
   Short [i] may be about 1/3 away from the Cardinal [i] towards the Cardinal
   [e], and approaches a central place ...

Grierson (1935: `Introduction', xvi-xvii) wrote:
   As a further guide to the pronunciation of Indian names and other words
   occurring in this translation, I advise readers not acquainted with
   oriental languages to produce all vowels as in Italian and all consonants
   as in English.

Subhadra Jha's 1941 paper is, to the best of my knowledge, the first synchronic study syn·chron·ic study
A study of the structure of a population at one point in time. Also called cross-sectional study.
 of the phonetics and phonology of Maithili according to the principles of modern descriptive linguistics. In that study, Jha argues for fifty-six "essential" phonemes of Maithili: to him every grapheme A displayed or printed letter of the alphabet with all of its accent marks in place. See glyph.  is a phoneme phoneme

Smallest unit of speech distinguishing one word (or word element) from another (e.g., the sound p in tap, which differentiates that word from tab and tag). The term is usually restricted to vowels and consonants, but some linguists include differences of pitch,
. Later, in his monumental work, S. Jha (1958) discusses the historical development of the Maithili sound system and provides diachronic di·a·chron·ic
Of or concerned with phenomena as they change through time.
 explanations for the synchronic syn·chron·ic  
1. Synchronous.

2. Of or relating to the study of phenomena, such as linguistic features, or of events of a particular time, without reference to their historical context.
 usage. Govind Jha (1974, 1979) also provides an insightful account of the sound system of the Maithili language.

My doctoral dissertation, entitled Maithili Phonetics and Phonology and submitted to the University of Kansas The University of Kansas (often referred to as KU or just Kansas) is an institution of higher learning in Lawrence, Kansas. The main campus resides atop Mount Oread. , USA, was completed in June 1979. It was published in the form of a book of the same title in Germany in 1984. This book is the first full-length phonetic study of Maithili; the experimental methods used in this study are mainly acoustic and fiberoptic in nature. In it, I have presented a description of Maithili sounds in a generative phonological pho·nol·o·gy  
n. pl. pho·nol·o·gies
1. The study of speech sounds in language or a language with reference to their distribution and patterning and to tacit rules governing pronunciation.

 framework gaining in invaluable insights from articulatory as well as acoustic parameters. I have argued that Maithili has 8 oral vowel phonemes and 26 consonant phonemes. All vowels can be nasalized underlyingly--thus increasing the number of vowel phonemes to 16. Only the back vowels are rounded. Length is not distinctive in Maithili -- although the Devanagari script in which Maithili is now written does provide separate graphemes for long and short vowel sounds. In this study, I have also argued that a number of sounds, i.e. [[??]], [n], [s], [s], [r], and [w] and [y] should more appropriately be described as `marginal' phonemes for a number of reasons the details of which I will spare you at the moment. Please note that these so-called `marginal' phonemes are in fact phonemes of Sanskrit and it has been customary to treat them as phonemes of various modern Indo-Aryan languages, including Maithili. For more information, the reader is referred to Ingemann & Yadav (1978) and Yadav (1976, 1979 ab, 1982, 1984 abc).

The main contribution of Yadav 1979/1984c, however, lies in a fiberoptic and acoustic analysis of voicing and aspiration in Maithili. Research for this study was carried out at the Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut. In this study, made to investigate the temporal course and width of the glottis glottis /glot·tis/ (glot´is) pl. glot´tides   [Gr.] the vocal apparatus of the larynx, consisting of the true vocal cords and the opening between them.glot´tal

n. pl.
 during the production of four types of Maithili stops and affricates and two types of resonants occurring in various positions, the results show that the voiced-voiceless distinction correlates with the adduction-abduction gesture of the larynx larynx (lâr`ĭngks), organ of voice in mammals. Commonly known as the voice box, the larynx is a tubular chamber about 2 in. (5 cm) high, consisting of walls of cartilage bound by ligaments and membranes, and moved by muscles. . The study also suggests that glottal glot·tal
Of or relating to the glottis.

glottal (glot´
 width is the key factor for aspiration and that sounds which are produced by a combination of vibrating vibrating,
v using quivering hand motions made across the client's body for therapeutic purposes.
 vocal cords vocal cords: see larynx.
Vocal cords

The pair of elastic, fibered bands inside the human larynx. The cords are covered with a mucous membrane and pass horizontally backward from the thyroid cartilage (Adam's apple) to insert on
 and aspiration should, in tact, be called `voiced aspirated' consonants.

In 1984, Sunil Kumar Jha completed his Ph.D. thesis entitled A Study of Some Phonetic and Phonological Aspects of Maithili and submitted it to the University of Essex The University of Essex is a British plate glass university. It received its Royal Charter in 1965. The university's main campus is located at Wivenhoe Park on the outskirts of Colchester (the oldest recorded town in Britain) in the English county of Essex, less than a mile from , UK. The thesis is as yet unpublished, although parts of this scholarly study have been published in journals in India and Nepal. Sunil Kumar Jha also has an experimental bearing on his work; most of his data are kymographic ky·mo·graph  
An instrument for recording variations in pressure, as of the blood, or in tension, as of a muscle, by means of a pen or stylus that marks a rotating drum.
, spectrographic spec·tro·graph  
1. A spectroscope equipped to photograph or otherwise record spectra.

2. A spectrogram.

 and oscillographic in nature. In sum, barring a few minor issues, Jha's work is a continuation and in effect confirmation of most of my major findings reported in Yadav 1979/1984c.

In 1996, Mithilesh Mishra completed a doctoral dissertation entitled Aspects of Maithili Phonology and submitted it to the University of Illinois University of Illinois may refer to:
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (flagship campus)
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Springfield
  • University of Illinois system
It can also refer to:
, Urbana-Champaign, USA. I have not yet availed a copy of it. But all indications are that his work is a study in non-linear phonology of Maithili.

Morphology, Syntax and Semantics

The first grammar of Maithili was written by a firangi: I am of course alluding to George Abraham Grierson (1881a). The chief merit of this work lies in the fact that it accorded Maithili the position of an independent language. In 1883, Grierson's valuable paper entitled `Essays on Bihari Declension declension: see inflection.  and Conjugation' was published. In 1885, Grierson attempted a sketch of the Maithili grammar based on the texts of two songs ("taken down from the mouths of two itinerant singers in the Nepal tarai" p. 17) -- popularly known as the Git Dina Bhadrik and Git Nebarak, published in Germany. The major contribution of Grierson, however, lies in the very extensive dialectal survey of what he called "Bihari", published during 1883-1887. A consummate summary of all the major findings of Grierson was later published in Grierson (1903/1968).

The earliest Maithili grammar by a native scholar, and written in the manner of the ancient Sanskritic tradition, is that of Dinabandhu Jha. Written in Maithili, D. Jha's grammatical treatise is entitled Mithila-Bhasa-Vidyotana and was published in 1353 sala/circa 1946 A.D. The Vidyotana is written in the form of sutra Sutra: see Sanskrit literature.
 Pali sutta

In Hinduism, a brief aphoristic composition; in Buddhism, a more extended exposition of a subject and the basic form of the scripture of both Theravada and Mahayana traditions.
, followed by explanations thereof in a rather heavily Sanskritized and abstruse Maithili. The Vidyotana has a long Dhatupatha (1949-50) appended to it in the truly Paninian manner. D. Jha's 1948 paper may be described as the first morphological study of word formation in Maithili; it presents an interesting account of reduplication reduplication /re·du·pli·ca·tion/ (re?doo-pli-ka´shun)
1. a doubling back.

2. the recurrence of paroxysms of a double type.

3. duplication (3).
 in Maithili and attempts to provide a semantic explanation for all such two-word combinations.

Subhadra Jha's The Formation of the Maithili Language was published in London in 1958. It is the earliest and the most exhaustive diachronic description of Maithili to date. In it, S. Jha has undertaken to trace the history of Maithili from the Old Indo-Aryan period and has labored assiduously as·sid·u·ous  
1. Constant in application or attention; diligent: an assiduous worker who strove for perfection. See Synonyms at busy.

 to assign Sanskritic etymologies to practically all forms of Maithili. For a contrary view, emphasizing the Santhali (i.e. Munda) influences on Maithili and for limitations of S. Jha's far-fetched Sanskritic etymologies, I would simply refer you to two reviews of this classic work by De Vreese (1962) and Southworth (1961). In my 1984 paper entitled `Maithili Phonology Reconsidered', I have also argued that S. Jha's data on modern Maithili should be used with care and even caution for any serious historical as well as phonological research on Maithili (Yadav 1984b).

One of the earliest attempts to describe the morphology of the complex verbal system of Maithili was made by Govind Jha (1958). In this study G. Jha sets out to show that the presence of a multiplicity of optional forms in Maithili verb conjugations does not lead to the conclusion, arrived at by Grierson, that Maithili is probably a "partially cultivated" (1881 a: 50) language. As a matter of fact, G. Jha takes strong exception to Grierson's phrase "partially cultivated" and goes on to claim (rather than demonstrate) that "all the different forms of [the Maithili] verb have and are used in different shades of meaning" (1958:169). Ten years later, in 1968, G. Jha's Maithilika Udgama O Vikasa appeared. It is the first full-length historical account of Maithili written in Maithili, and therefore it deserves our praise and admiration. In 1974, G. Jha's Maithili Bhasa Ka Vikasa was published, which, though elaborate in detail, owes much of its information to G. Jha's 1968 study. G. Jha's Uccatara Maithili Vyakarana was published in 1979. In Yadav (1996), I have stated: "After Grierson, it is the most noteworthy contribution to the field of Maithili linguistics" (p.8). Written in Maithili as a textbook for students and teachers at the university level, this work offers fresh insights into the application of linguistic principles in the analysis of a modern Indo-Aryan language.

In the mean time, in 1972, Indira Junghare published a paper entitled `The Perfect Aspect in Marathi, Bhojpuri and Maithili' with an aim to ascertain the genetic relationship among these languages. Her conclusion is that these three languages are indeed genetically related and belong to the Outer Group of Indo-Aryan languages as suggested by Grierson. In Nepal, linguists from the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Davis (1973) and Williams (1973) published two valuable papers on Maithili syntax and semantics, both written in the Tagmemic framework as propounded by Kenneth L. Pike. These studies, based on the field data collected in the village of Ghorghas near the town of Janakpur, make significant contributions to the analysis of Maithili clause and sentence patterns.

The first linguist to describe the syntax and semantics of the Maithili language in the transformational-generative and relational grammar framework is Udaya Narayan Singh. This he did in his Ph.D. dissertation entitled Some Aspects of Maithili Syntax: A. Transformational-Generative Approach and submitted to the University of Delhi The University of Delhi, (DU)is a university in India. Established in 1922, it is one of the premier universities of the country and is known for its high standards in teaching and research. It offers courses at the Undergraduate and Post Graduate levels in most subjects.  in 1979. The thesis is as yet unpublished. Singh has published a number of scholarly papers on aspects of Maithili language and linguistics, in particular, Singh (1980, 1986).

Ramawatar Yadav also published a number of papers on Maithili morphology, syntax and semantics. The ones that may deserve mention are: (1985, 1991 & 1998). R. Yadav wrote a paper on sociolinguistics sociolinguistics, the study of language as it affects and is affected by social relations. Sociolinguistics encompasses a broad range of concerns, including bilingualism, pidgin and creole languages, and other ways that language use is influenced by contact among  of Maithili (Yadav 1999a). R. Yadav also wrote a book-length description of Maithili (Yadav 1996). Research for this book was carried out in two phases. An initial draft of the grammar was prepared during my term as an Alexander-von-Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 1983-84 at the Department of Indology, University of Mainz, Germany. The final draft of the grammar was completed during 1989 as a Senior Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Kentucky Coordinates:  The University of Kentucky, also referred to as UK, is a public, co-educational university located in Lexington, Kentucky. , Lexington, USA and again as an AvH fellow at the Department of General and Indogermanic Linguistics, University of Kiel The University of Kiel (German Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, CAU) is a university in the city of Kiel, Germany. It was founded in 1665 as the Academia Holsatorum Chiloniensis , Germany. Very recently, I have also contributed an invited submission in the form of a chapter on Maithili in a book entitled Indo-Aryan Languages to be edited by George Cardona and D. Jain (Yadav 2001).

The first linguist to assess the implications of movement rules for the theory of Government and Binding as propounded by Noam Chomsky is Yogendra P. Yadava. This he did in his doctoral thesis entitled Movement Rules in Maithili and English: Their Implications for the Theory of Government and Binding, submitted to CIEFL CIEFL Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages , Hyderabad in 1983. His thesis is now published under the title of Issues in Maithili Syntax: A Government-Binding Approach in 1998. Prior to it, Yadava published a number of articles, in particular, Yadava (1981, 1982).

Since the publication of Dinabandhu Jha (1949-50) and Govind Jha (1958), a number of linguists have studied the phenomenon of complex verbal agreement and honorificity distinctions in Maithili in detail. Prominent among these are: Udaya Narayan Singh (1979 b, 1989), Gregory T. Stump & Ramawatar Yadav (1988), Ramawatar Yadav (1995, 1996); Balthasar Bickei, Walter Bisang, and Yogendra P. Yadav (1999), and Yogdenra P. Yadava (1996, 1999).

Mention may be made of Bal Krishan Jha's unpublished Ph.D. thesis entitled A Descriptive Study of Maithili Language in Nepal and submitted to the University of Poona in 1984, Nabin Chandra Mishra & Shivakant Thakur (1984), and Dhirendra Nath Mishra (1986).

Mention may also be made of a number of native grammarians of Mithila. Prompted by the intense desire to teach Maithili to students in schools and colleges in Mithila, native scholars of Maithili have produced a number of textbook grammars. I mention six of them here, but there may be more. These are:

1. Ramanath Jha 1955/1971 Maithili Bhasa Prakasa

2. Balgovind Jha "Vyathit" 1966/1981 Adhunika Maithili Vyakarana

3. Dayanand Jha 1976 Maithili Vyakarana evain Racana

4. Yugeshwar Jha 1979 Maithili Vyakarana aora Racana

5. Bhola Lal Das n.d. Maithili Subodha Vyakarana

6. Anand Mishra n.d. Mithilabhasaka Subodha Vyakarana

To judge the above works from the point of view of linguistic considerations would be simply unfair as these do not purport to be scholarly studies. I may just want to draw your attention to one point. In spite of Ramanath Jha's (1955/1971:19) firm assertion that there is a total absence of sandhi san·dhi  
Modification of the sound of a word or morpheme when juxtaposed with another, especially in fluent speech, as the modification of the pronunciation of don't in don't you
 rules in Maithili (".... Mithilabhasme ehi niyamaka carca nirarthaka"), all the other works cited above discuss sandhi rules in detail.

Lexicography lexicography, the applied study of the meaning, evolution, and function of the vocabulary units of a language for the purpose of compilation in book form—in short, the process of dictionary making. Early lexicography, practiced from the 7th cent. B.C.  

If there is one aspect of Maithili linguistic study which has suffered immeasurably from tremendous neglect, it is the lexicographical lex·i·cog·ra·phy  
The process or work of writing, editing, or compiling a dictionary.

[lexico(n) + -graphy.
 study of Maithili. As of today, no satisfactory Maithili-English, English-Maithili; Maithili-Hindi, Hindi-Maithili; Maithili-Nepali, Nepali-Maithili dictionary is available. The publication of Govind Jha's (1999) [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII ASCII or American Standard Code for Information Interchange, a set of codes used to represent letters, numbers, a few symbols, and control characters. Originally designed for teletype operations, it has found wide application in computers. ] A Maithili-English Dictionary is therefore a welcome addition to the scanty list of Maithili dictionaries on the bookshelf.

The first Maithili-English dictionary was published by Hoernle and Grierson (1885; 1889), while the first Maithili-Hindi-Sanskrit dictionary/word list (24 pages only) was published by a native scholar Bhava Nath Mishra (1914/1322 sala). The first well-known and complete Maithili-Maithili dictionary was published by Dinabandhu Jha (1950), followed by a two-volume complete Maithili-Maithili dictionary by Govind Jha (1992, 1993) and by another complete Maithili-Maithili dictionary compiled by Mati Nath Mishra (1998). In the mean time, Alice Davis's Maithili-Nepali-English-dictionary was published in 1984 and two fascicules of a total of 11 proposed fascicules of [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1973, 1995) have been published by Jayakanta Mishra. I have had the good fortune to review the dictionaries of Govind Jha (1992), Jayakanta Mishra (1973, 1995) and Mati Nath Mishra (1998) and these reviews have appeared in different journals in India and Nepal (Yadav 1994, 1999b, 2000).

A closer scrutiny of the dictionaries published thus far reveals that there are a number of critical issues that the lexicographers The following are lexicographers:

: Top - 0–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  • Thomas B. Albright (World kin to English)
  • Sue Atkins
  • Francis Bacon
  • Johannes Balbus
  • Katherine Barber
 of Maithili need to resolve with a modicum mod·i·cum  
n. pl. mod·i·cums or mod·i·ca
A small, moderate, or token amount: "England still expects a modicum of eccentricity in its artists" Ian Jack.
 of accuracy, and I might add, elegance. Take, for instance, the issue of head words and their relationship to other words. A commonly observable practice in lexicographical methodology is that head words usually take the form of single words, abbreviations, or affixes, while multiword units and morphologically related words are listed under the headword head·word  
1. A word, phrase, or name, usually set in boldface or other distinctive type, that serves as the heading for an entry in a dictionary, encyclopedia, or similar reference work. Also called entry word.

 -- assuming that they are closely related in meaning. Thus, for example, Govind Jha (1993: 45) represents the single word entry [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] `nose' as a headword and subsequently lists, under the head entry, a number of subentries with the use of a tilde A symbol used in Windows, starting with Windows 95, that maintains a short version of a long file or directory name for compatibility with Windows 3.1 and DOS. For example, the short version of a file named "Letter to Joe" would be LETTER~1. Then "Letter to Pat" becomes LETTER~2.  to avoid reduplication of the headword and to save space in the dictionary, e.g. [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and so on. Jayakanta Mishra (1973, 1995) on the other hand, observes the practice of overdifferentiation and chooses to compile practically all the attested forms (from the printed works of Maithili literature upto 1860 and beyond) as `separate' entries-irrespective of the morphological and/or semantic relationship that might obtain between a head entry and its subentries.

I will illustrate this point with the help of a sample verb entry [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] `to satiate' from Jayakanta Mishra (1973). On pp. 28-29, J. Mishra lists a total of 11 separate attested verb entries (i.e. [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in addition to the head entry [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. In all 11 cases, J. Mishra cross-references each of these fully inflected in·flect  
v. in·flect·ed, in·flect·ing, in·flects
1. To alter (the voice) in tone or pitch; modulate.

2. Grammar To alter (a word) by inflection.

 verb form entries repeatedly to the infinitive-headword [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and thereby not only adds to the bulk of the dictionary and renders it rather cumbersome but also misses out a significant generalization of the Maithili linguistic insight that these 11 so-called separate headwords are after all morphologically as well as semantically related to the headword [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

Indeed, the basic problem that confronts a Maithili lexicographer A person who writes dictionaries. See computer lexicographer.  is: what form should the head entry take? Put differently, should the head entry consist of verb stems/roots alone (as is the case in the dictionaries and lexicons of Hoernle & Grierson 1885, 1889 and Dinabandhu Jha 1949-50)? Or, should the head entry consist of verb infinitives (the linguist's darling) ending in --[[??]] b or eb (as is the case in the dictionaries of Dinabandhu Jha 1950, A. Davis 1984, Govind Jha 1992, 1993 and Mati Nath Mishra 1998)? Or, alternatively, should the head entry consist of fully inflected verb forms (as is the case in Jayakanta Mishra 1973, 1995)?

Another equally important issue relates to the writing of core meanings and definitions of a word and providing examples of usage thereof in a dictionary. The success of a lexicographer is measured in adroitness a·droit  
1. Dexterous; deft.

2. Skillful and adept under pressing conditions. See Synonyms at dexterous.

[French, from à droit : à, to (from Latin
 and skill with which (s)he gives the meanings of/defines a word in a dictionary. Usually, the convention is to strictly confine oneself to the use of a limited set of "defining vocabularies", consisting mainly of highly frequent words in the language. Thus, for example, The Cambridge International Dictionary of English (1995) contains approximately 100,000 words and phrases Words and Phrases®

A multivolume set of law books published by West Group containing thousands of judicial definitions of words and phrases, arranged alphabetically, from 1658 to the present.
 arranged under 50,000 headwords, but definitions are written using a controlled vocabulary of under 2,000 basic word forms.

Maithili lexicographers tend to ignore this convention by and large and are persistently prone to usingrather "high" vocabulary to define a word. The problem is further exacerbated by an acute lack of a word-frequency-count study in Maithili. After all, to date and to the best of my knowledge, no lexicon of say 2,000 most frequent words in Maithili is available.

Finally, a word about grammar in the dictionary. More and more dictionaries today tend to reflect contemporary thinking and knowledge on aspects of grammar. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, recent development and insight into grammatical theories and descriptive tools/labels are covertly and occasionally overtly couched in the manner in which head entries and subentries are arranged and their meanings and definitions provided in a dictionary. Unfortunately, a major blemish blem·ish
A small circumscribed alteration of the skin considered to be unesthetic but insignificant.

 of a number of Maithili dictionaries (and I don't wish to name any individual lexicographer here) is that they provide highly inadequate and even inaccurate grammatical information.

As we all know, dictionary making is an extremely arduous, time-consuming, and painstaking endeavor. On top of it, there is always room for improvement-- so much so that as early as 1755 Samuel Johnson wrote:
   Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to
   escape reproach and even this negative recompense has been yet granted to
   very few.

Concluding Remarks

Maithili shares a common core vocabulary with other Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi and Nepali. As a matter of fact, over 90% of Modern Maithili vocabulary is Indo-Aryan. Modern Maithili, however, diverges from earlier Indo-Aryan in a number of ways in that a few newer traits have emerged. Modern Maithili is characterized by loss of number and gender. It has developed profusely pro·fuse  
1. Plentiful; copious.

2. Giving or given freely and abundantly; extravagant: were profuse in their compliments.
 overwhelming honorific hon·or·if·ic  
Conferring or showing respect or honor.

A title, phrase, or grammatical form conveying respect, used especially when addressing a social superior.
 distinctions; and, at the same time, it has developed a highly complex verbal agreement system. These recent developments have led modern-day linguists to conclude that Maithili is a distinct language. As early an investigator as Sir George Abraham Grierson (1881 b `Preface': v-vi) observed that:
   The native language of every Bihari ... is as different from Hindi as
   French is from Italian ... but it [Hindi] is not, never was, and never can
   be the vernacular of Bihar. History and the laws of philology alike decide
   against it, and experience has shown how Norman-French never became the
   vernacular of England.

Finally, I may want to end my presentation with a word of appeal to the scholars of Mithila. Ever since Paul Brass did his field work in the Maithili-speaking areas of Bihar (Brass 1974) and brought to the fore the sad lack of "the forging of the bonds of community necessary to the building of a common Maithili consciousness" (p. 115) and even drew our attention to the sociological and political reasons leading to the failure of the Maithili Movement vis-a-vis the Punjabi Movement and the Urdu Movement, other Western scholars have revisited the area only to harp again on the sore theme. Thus, Richard Burghart (1996) talks about "a quarrel" in the Maithili language family and reports on the Maithil Pundit's obsession with the caste exclusiveness and a micro-region called the panc kosi area. In his own words, "... it is clear that the quarrel in the family of Indo-Aryan vernacular can never be sorted out; it stems from conflicts in the heart of Maithili political culture" (p. 408). An American social worker, Claire Burkert, who runs an INGO under the rubric RUBRIC, civil law. The title or inscription of any law or statute, because the copyists formerly drew and painted the title of laws and statutes rubro colore, in red letters. Ayl. Pand. B. 1, t. 8; Diet. do Juris. h.t.  of Janakpur Women's Development Centre also talks about this preoccupation, and adding to the high caste-low caste divide a new dimension of man-woman divide, she raises a million dollar question: "Who is in charge?" (Burkert 1997).

I would like to utilize this occasion to urge the native Maithili scholars to dispassionately dis·pas·sion·ate  
Devoid of or unaffected by passion, emotion, or bias. See Synonyms at fair1.

 engage themselves in the task of scientifically analyze the sociology of Maithili speech. I would also like to exhort the scholars employed in the Maithili departments per se of various universities in Mithila to cross their fences as it were and carry out research on aspects of Maithili language and linguistics. After all, as Claire Burkert would have it, "Being Maithil is more than speaking Maithili, or chewing pan and quoting Vidyapati" (1997:251)

Colophon colophon (kŏl`əfŏn') [Gr.,=finishing stroke]. Before the use of printing in Western Europe a manuscript often ended with a statement about the author, the scribe, or the illuminator. : This is a slighly modified version of the Kameshwar Singh Memorial Lecture, delivered at Maharajadhiraj Kameshwar Singh Kalyani Foundation, Kalyani Niwas. Darbhanga, Bihar, India, on November 28, 1999.


Bickel, B. et al 1999. `Face vs Empathy: the Social Foundation of Maithili Verb Agreement', Linguistics 37:3, 481-518.

Brass, Paul R. 1974. Language, Religion and Politics in North India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press (known colloquially as CUP) is a publisher given a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1534, and one of the two privileged presses (the other being Oxford University Press). .

Burghart, Richard. 1996. The Conditions of Listening: Essays on Religion, History and Politics in South Asia, Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Burkert, Claire. 1997. `Defining Maithil Identity: Who is in Charge?'. In David Gellner et al. (eds.) Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu Kingdom: The Politics of Culture in Contemporary Nepal, Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1997, 241-273.

Das, Bhola Lal n.d. Maithli Subodha Vydkarana, Patna: Abhinab Granthagar.

Davis, Alice I. 1973. `Maithili Sentences', in Austin Hale (ed.) Clause, Sentence and Discourse Patterns in Selected Languages of Nepal 1, Kathmandu: SIL See safety integrity level.

1. SIL - "SIL - A Simulation Language", N. Houbak, LNCS 426, Springer 1990.
2. SIL - SNOBOL Implementation Language. Intermediate language forming a virtual machine for the implementation of portable interpreters.
, T.U. Press, 1973, 259-319.

-- 1984. Basic Colloquial col·lo·qui·al  
1. Characteristic of or appropriate to the spoken language or to writing that seeks the effect of speech; informal.

2. Relating to conversation; conversational.
 Maithili, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

De Vrees, K. 1962 `Review of The Formation of the Maithili Language by S. Jha 1958.' Journal of the American Oriental Society The American Oriental Society was chartered under the laws of Massachusetts on September 7, 1842.  82:3, 402-406.

Grierson, George A. 1881a. An Introduction to the Maithilii Language of North Bihdr, Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal.

-- 1881b. A. Handbook to the Kaithi Character (Second. revised edition 1899), Calcutta: Thacker Spink & Co.

-- 1883. `Essays on Bihari Declension and Conjugation', Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 52:1, 119-159.

-- 1883-87. Seven Grammars of the Dialects and Subdialects of the Bihari Language, Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press.

-- 1885. (ed. & transl) `Selected Specimens of the Bihari Language', (Part 1: The Maithili Dialect: The Git Dina Bhadrik and the Git Nebarak), Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlaendischen Gesellschaft 39: 1, 617-673.

-- 1903. Linguistic Survey of India The Survey of India is India's central agency in charge of mapping and surveying. Set up in 1767 to help consolidate the territories of the British East India Company, it is the Government of India's oldest department.  5:2 (reprinted 1968), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

-- 1935. The Test of a Malt: Being the Purusha Pariksha of Vidyapati Thakkura, London' The Royal Asiatic Society The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (RAS) was, according to its Royal Charter of August 11, 1824, established to further "the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia. .

Grimes, Barbara F. (ed.) 1996. Ethnologue: Languages of the World (13th edition) Dallas, Texas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, Inc.

Hoernle, A.F.R. & Grierson, George A. 1885, 1889. A Comparative Dictionary of the Bihari Language, Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press. (only two parts published).

Ingemann, Frances & Yadav, Ramawatar. 1978. `Voiced Aspirated Consonants'. In Lance & Gulstad (eds.) 1978, 337-344.

Jha, Bal Krishna. 1984. A Descriptive Study of Maithili Language in Nepal, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Poona.

Jha, Dayanand: 1976. Maithili Vyakarana evam Racana, Patna: Gyanda Prakashan.

Jha, Dinabandhu. 1946. Mithila-Bhasa-Vidyotana (Maithili Grammar), Darbhanga: Maithili Sahitya Parishad (1353 sala). (in Maithili).

-- 1948. `Maithilime Yugma Nama', (Word Pairs in Maithili), Published Paper Presented to the Conference on Oriental Studies, Darbhanga.

-- 1949-50. Dhatupatha (Maithili Verb Roots). Darbhanga: Maithili Sahitya Parishad. (1357 sala). (in Maithili).

-- 1950. Mithila Bhasa Kosa (Maithili Dictionary), Patna: Sri Rambhajan Press. (sake 1872).

Jha, Govind. 1958. `Verb Conjugation conjugation, in genetics
conjugation, in genetics: see recombination.
conjugation, in grammar
conjugation: see inflection.
 in Maithili', Journal of the Bihar Research Society 44:3-4, 169-176.

-- 1968. Maithilika Udgama O Vikasa (Origin and Development of Maithili), Calcutta: Maithili Prakashan Samiti. (in Maithili).

-- 1974. Maithili Bhasa ka Vikasa (Development of the Maithili Language), Patna: Bihar Hindi Granth Academy. (in Hindi).

-- 1979. Uccatra Maithili Vyakarana (Higher Maithili Grammar), Patna: Maithili Academy.

-- 1992, 1993. Maithili Sabdakosa 1-2 (Maithili Dictionary), Patna: Maithili Academy.

-- 1999. Kalyani Kosa: A Maithili-English Dictionary, Darbhanga: Maharajadhiraj Kameshwar Singh Kalyani Foundation.

Jha, Ramanath. 1955/1971. Maithili Bhasa Prakasa, (Maithili Grammar), Darbhanga: Dayal Pustak Bhandar. (in Maithili).

Jha, Subhadra. 1941. `Maithili Phonetics', indian Linguistics 8:1 (reprint edition 2, 1965, 435-459).

-- 1958. The Formation of the Maithili Language, London: Luzac & Co.

Jha, Sunil K. A Study of Some Phonetic and Phonological Aspects of Maithili, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Essex.

Jha, Yogeswar. 1979. Maithili Vyakarana dora Racana (Maithili Grammar and Composition), Patna: Bharati Bhavan. (in Maithili).

Junghare, Indira Y. 1972. `The Perfect Aspect in Marathi, Bhojpuri and Maithili', Indian Linguistics 33:2, 128-134.

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Mishra, Mithilesh. 1996. Aspects of Maithili Phonology, Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Mishra, N. & Thakur, Sh. 1984. Maithili Bhasa Vijnana (Maithili Linguistics). Darbhanga: Maithili Pustak Kendra. (in Maithili).

Singh, Udaya N. 1979a. Some Aspects of Maithili Syntax: A Transformational-Generative Approach, Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Delhi.

-- 1979b. `Agreement Rule, Language Universals and Maithili', South Asian Languages Analysis l, 107-114.

-- 1980. `Relative Clause Formation in Maithili', Nepalese Linguistics 1,27-39.

-- 1989. `How to Honor Someone in Maithili', International Journal of the Sociology of Language Sociology of language focuses on the language's effect on the society. It is closely related to the field of sociolinguistics, which focuses on the effect of the society on the language.  75, 87-107.

-- et al. 1986. `Classification of Polar Verbs in Selected South Asian Languages', in Bb. Krishnamurthi (ed.) 1986 South Asian Languages: Structure, Covergence and Diglossia diglossia

Coexistence of two varieties of the same language in a speech community, with each variety being more or less standardized and occupying a distinct sociolinguistic niche.
, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 244-269.

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"Vyathit", Balgovind Jha. 1966/1981. Adhunika Maihili Vyakarana o Racana (Modern Maithili Grammar and Composition), Darbhanga: Maithili Prakashan. (in Maithili).

Williams, Jennifer. 1973. `Clause Patterns in Maithili', in R.L. Trail (ed.) Patterns in Clause, Sentence and Discourse in Selected Languages of India “Indian languages” redirects here. For languages of Native Americans, see Indigenous languages of the Americas.
The languages of India primarily belong to two major linguistic families, Indo-European (whose branch Indo-Aryan is spoken by about 74% of the population)
 and Nepal 2, Kathmandu: SIL, TU Press, 345-457.

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-- 1979a. `The Influence of Aspiration on Vowel Duration in Mathili', South Asian Languages Analysis 1, 157-165.

-- 1979b. Maithili Phonetics and Phonology, Doctoral Dissertation, University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA.

-- 1982. `Acoustic Characteristics of Vowel Nasalization na·sal·ize  
tr. & intr.v. na·sal·ized, na·sal·iz·ing, na·sal·iz·es
To make nasal or produce nasal sounds.

 in Maithili', Indian Linguistics 43:1-2, 1-8.

-- 1984a. `Voicing and Aspiration in Maithili: A Fiberoptic and Acoustic Study', Indian Linguistics 45:1-4, 1-30.

-- 1984b. `Maithili Phonology Reconsidered', Studien Zur Indologie und Iranistik 10, 155-168.

-- 1984c. Maithili Phonetics and Phonology, Mainz (Germany): Selden und Tamm.

-- 1985. `Causativization in Maithili: A Preliminary Enquiry', SAIS Sais
 Arabic Sa al-Hajar

Ancient Egyptian city. Located in the delta on the Canopic, or Rosetta, branch of the Nile River, it was from prehistoric times the site of the chief shrine of Neith, goddess of war and the loom.
 Arbeitsberichte (Kiel, Germany) 8,201-221.

-- 1991. `Clitic clit·ic  
An unstressed word, typically a function word, that is incapable of standing on its own and attaches in pronunciation to a stressed word, with which it forms a single accentual unit.
 Vs Affix affix v. 1) to attach something to real estate in a permanent way, including planting trees and shrubs, constructing a building, or adding to existing improvements. : Maithili e and o', Contributions to Nepalese Studies 18:2 123-132.

-- 1994. `Govinda Jhaka Maithili Sabdakosa Padhala Santa, (On Reading Govind Jha's Maithili Dictionary), Mithila Vani (Janakpur) 1:3, 9-14. (in Maithili).

-- 1995. `Saya bahume gappasappa kona kari: Mahendra Malangiyaka natakaka sandarbhame', (How to Talk to your Wife/Husband in Maithili: with Reference to Mahendra Malangiya's Plays), Sayapatri (Royal Nepal Academy) 1:2, 131-142. (in Maithili).

-- 1996. A Reference Grammar of Maithili, Berlin & New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: Mouton mouton

lamb pelt made to resemble seal or beaver.
 de gruyter.

-- 1998. `Markers of (In)Definiteness in Maithili', Contributions to Nepalese Studies 25: 1, 1-14.

-- 1999a. `Maithilika bhasika vaividhya: aupabhasika o manaka svarupa', (Linguistic Variations in Maithili: Standard and Dialectal Forms), jijnasa (Ranti, Madhubani) 4:6, 73-89.

-- 1999b. `Review of Brhat Maithili Sabdakosa (Comprehensive Maithili Dictionary) 1-2 by Jayakanta Mishra 1973, 1995', Journal of Nepalese Studies 3:1, 129-137.

-- 2000. `Review of Maithili Sabda Kalpadruma (Maithili Dictionary) by Mati Nath Mishra 1998', Bharati Mandana: 7, 110-115. (in Maithili).

-- 2001. `Maithili', in George Cardona & Dhanesh Jain (eds.) Indo-Aryan Languages, London: Curzon Press. Forthcoming.

Yadava, Yogendra P. 1981. `Question Movement in Maithili and Binding Conditions', Indian Linguistics 42:1-4, 1-9.

-- 1982. `Maithili Sentences: A Transformational Analysis', Indian Linguistics 43: 3-4, 7-28.

-- 1983. Movement Rules in Maithili and English: Their Implications for the Theory of Government and Binding, Ph.D. Thesis, CIEFL, Hyderabad.

-- 1996. `Verb Agreement in Maithili', Journal of Nepalese Studies 1, 109-121.

-- 1998. Issues in Maithili Syntax: A Government-Binding Approach, Munchen: Lincom Europa.

-- 1999. `The Complexity of Maithili Verb Agreement', The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics, 139-152.
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mario righi
mario righi (Member): I am in upset with ennemies of languages 8/24/2008 4:41 PM
This is a very good article, OK
but a language like Bhojpuri and another like Maithili, etc
need a minimum wordlist just for having an idea, it is possible that nobody think to produce this.
the best way to make a people desappear is cancel their language
thank you
mario righi

 Reader Opinion




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Author:Yadav, Ramawatar
Publication:Contributions to Nepalese Studies
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Geographic Code:9NEPA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
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