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The Indo-Aryan Languages.

This impressive book surveys a wide subject-matter pertaining to the history and interrelationships of the various Indo-Aryan languages and to the linguistic character of many of them as seen at the present time. It ranges through a century and more of scholarship and investigation. Such a book is necessarily very complicated, and Dr. Masica is to be congratulated on assembling and organizing so much material, much of it little known, with the clarity and accuracy he has done and in maintaining the identifiable perspective of a single scholar on it. This is a great merit of the book. Masica concentrates on the modern languages and deals with Sanskrit and MIA languages as background to the modern field. His interweaving of descriptive and historical subject-matter in the nine chapters that make up the bulk of the book appears, given this viewpoint, as careful planning. The topics discussed in these chapters are: the modern languages and dialects (general); the historical development of Indo-Aryan; features of the NIA lexicon; NIA descriptive phonology (helpfully placed after the preceding item); writing systems (the position of this item underlining the primacy of speech in language); historical phonology (its subject matter depending on what precedes); nominal and verbal "forms and categories"; and syntax. There is ancillary material of 120 pages, comprising a descriptive inventory of the NIA languages and dialects; a discussion of the main subclassifications of the languages as made from Hoernle's time (1880) to the present; notes to the chapters; a very extensive and usefully arranged bibliography; an index allowing reference to topics discussed for each language, and a general index.

Various topics of general interest, such as the connections between language and dialect, the changing functions of the larger languages and their relationships of contact and competition with English and with one another, are well treated in the opening chapters. The exposition is eminently readable despite the great amount of factual material introduced. Problematical matters are generally carefully assessed. The later chapters on phonology, morphology, and syntax are more technical and (that on syntax especially) more abstruse, since dealing with widely differing and sometimes rapidly changing styles of analysis of the same data. These chapters are likely to remain largely the preserve of language specialists. A study of their carefully assembled materials and of Masica's comments on the issues they raise will greatly aid future research in many topics, especially in those involving material in several languages.

The discussion of the Hindi-Urdu relationship is representative of many in chapters 1-6 in quality and interest. The leading aspects of the topic (external history, linguistic history, institutional status, etc.) are treated with good judgment and with emphasis on the essential point that a distinction must be made between the sociocultural function of a language and its linguistic character. Masica seems to overestimate the extent to which a "standard" form of the speech of Delhi resembling the later "Khari boli" will have existed in the Mughal and pre-Mughal centuries; and, by contrast, he underestimates the importance of Brajbhasa as providing a 'standard' during most of this period. The existence of this standard and of Sanskritized writing in Khari boli in the 18th century makes the conjecture unnecessary that modern standard Hindi could be no more than "Urdu ... relexified with Sanskrit tatsamas," and illustrates that the rise of the modern standard in the 19th century was a natural development from pre-existing beginnings, even if one dependent on the new conditions. As to the identity of Hindi and Urdu as separate languages or separate styles of one language, the contemporary usage of Hindi poetry and also of some prose are reminders that it is still quite possible, in India, to see the two as making up a bi-partite entity.

The chapter on lexicon contains a good analytical discussion of the processes of word-borrowing in NIA. Major stages in the lexical development of the literary languages are distinguished and the borrowing processes described. The hybrid nature of modern word-stocks is rightly stressed. The long-standing motivation to employ Sanskritic loanwords and coinages as a means of lexical expression of modern cultural identity might have been mentioned, given its immense power. Masica gives a perspective on this question, however, when he contrasts the views of Hoernle, Grierson and others about tatsama loanwords with those of Chatterji, who understood the need for their use in the changed conditions and to whom he gives the last word on the matter. One hesitates to ask for more detail in a book that abounds in interesting detail, but some of the formative processes discussed could have been helpfully illustrated, e.g., by H. paristhiti 'circumstance', durdarsan 'television' (calques), bijanu 'spore' or mahaul 'atmosphere' (Arabic ma, haul). Masica brings out well the fact that many modern coinages based on Sanskrit elements are unlikely to gain ready acceptance because their component parts are little or no more familiar than those of the rival English words. This long-standing situation is, of course, exacerbated by the difficulty phonetic form of many of the coinages.

Major topics discussed in the later chapters include the place of aspect in verbal systems, the structure of ergative subsystems in several languages, and the nature of subject and object constructions. The complex links between morphology and syntax in these constructions have been variously interpreted. There can be little doubt that Masica is correct in seeing aspect, with Lienhard, as marked within verbalized participial systems found in NIA (H. dekha, dekhta hai) rather than in compound verb systems (H. dekh lena). Most recent studies have taken the contrary view. Yet a common construction such as that found in Hindi conditional sentences, where a perfective verb can be used to mark a completed but future time event, illustrates that aspect is, in Hindi, marked within the participle (agar usse mulaqat hui to mujhe bataie 'if you meet him please let me know'). The functioning of Hindi imperfective participles without time auxiliary as "contrafactives" of two different kinds points to the same conclusion, as does the usual non-occurrence of time auxiliaries in the Hindi general present when negatived (vah vaham nahim jata 'he doesn't go there'). Masica explains the latter usage differently, if with some hesitation. In a system having a strongly aspectual base and a subordinate mode of time marking it is naturally appropriate, other things being equal, not to mark a "non-occurring action" for time. It is not clear why extension of the aspectual system from the original (OIA) past participial usage need have proceeded via an imperfective past rather than via an imperfective present, a form inherently liable to wider use. Early Avadhi has dekhata acha from no later than the 13th century. Chatterji (in Uktivyaktiprakarana) interprets this as a continuous form.

Masica's analysis of ergative constructions is valuable both for itself and, not less, because it assembles many variant types of the construction, allowing a good basis for further comparative work. An interesting convergence between recent and traditional approaches to this construction comes into view when the positionally determined indefinite object in Hindi (mere beto ne yah film dekhi 'my sons saw this film') is seen as sharing a major property of positionally determined subjects (that of controlling concord). Masica's analysis demonstrates the justification for both approaches to this far-evolved descendant of a common OIA construction. Some early Hindi usage (e.g., Brajbhasa hama krsna pathae 'Krsna sent us') shows a different situation. It is not clear, however, how far stylistic emphasis may have modified word position in such examples (from verse), and in others in prose. An occasional construction of early Avadhi showing perfective transitive participles suffixed for number (saba paeum 'I have received everything') is to be classed with one or another of Masica's ergative sub-types. The marginal Hindi (Panjabi-influenced) type showing extension (and hence deverbalization) of the participle by hua to stress the result of actions (usne ise frij mem rakha hua hai 'he/she has it in the fridge') is a further illustration of mixed construction.

This very fine book will be much used and will not easily be replaced as a guide to the structure, modes of functioning, evolving interrelationships, and unresolved complexities of its varied subject-matter.
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Author:McGregor, R.S.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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