21 August 1983, Calcutta, INDIA

The subject of today’s discourse is syntax. Syntax refers to a language’s grammatical and structural style. How a word, that is, noun, adjective, pronoun, indeclinable, is placed in the sentence in accordance with the rules of GRAMMAR is syntax. One interesting thing is the debate over where the word “syntax” comes from – from which language. There is no end to the differences of opinion among the various scholars. Some people say it is a Latin word, others say Greek, others say Ottoman Turkish and still others claim that it was produced by mixing Greek and Semitic.

Now the starting-point of syntax is the division into parts of speech (vibhakti). Within a sentence we get inflections, non-verb forms, word agreement, verb conjugations and so on.

In all languages the sentence is divided into two parts, the subject and the predicate.

According to the so-called rules of GRAMMAR, the first case is the nominative case, but is this conception correct?

(1) People developed this conception when they began to think of GRAMMAR as infallible and that people would have to speak accordingly, but this is not correct. GRAMMAR must be formulated according to the way people speak; that is, GRAMMAR is a systemized form of dialogue – the accepted structure for the rules and regulations of conversation.

The derivation of Vyákarańa/GRAMMAR is Vi – á – kr + anat́, that is, Vyákarańa is a process which is to be followed in order to express in a particular way. Thus GRAMMAR needs to maintain adjustment with human language.

GRAMMAR is not something that falls from heaven and which should therefore be followed blindly or considered to be infallible. Mankind’s oral language changes from age to age.

The kind of syntax which people used to follow a thousand years ago in order to express their thoughts is no longer followed today.

In other words, how can we call a GRAMMAR infallible which follows a thousand year-old language which is now dead. Moreover, it is through travel and communication that a language’s speed, along with its powers of assimilation, increases and local differences decrease. But when the means of travel are undeveloped and communication is cut off then a language cannot change quickly. In the villages and markets of east Bengal the people still speak the same language they used to speak three hundred years ago. ………………

The mountain-folk who reside in the forests and remote mountains do not speak the exact same Bengali that the people from the plains of Godda Subdivision speak. Their Bengali is nearly a thousand years old because they have been living in inaccessible mountain areas. Since they have not maintained adjustment with the speed of the modern age, their language has undergone very little alteration in these one thousand years (hánu pánŕi khámu, hánu gharke jámu [I shall drink water, I shall go home]).

However the conversation of residents of plains in that area is similar to the spoken language of Birbhum. Conversely, the spoken language of the mountain-folk of the Sahebganj and Rajmahal regions is similar to that of Godda. The Malpaharis of the Deoghar, Jamtara, Dumka and Pakur areas remain closer to the people of the plains despite living in the forests and mountains; thus their spoken language shows some modern influences.

The spoken language of the Malpaharis who live in the plains regions of eastern Rarh is similar to the spoken language of other local Bengalees. In the plains they are known as Jhalla-Mallas or Malla-Kśatriyas or Málos…………..

Now GRAMMAR has to be based on this change in language. Language does not derive its form from the rules and regulations of GRAMMAR.

It is for precisely this reason that Panini had to maintain adjustment between the Vedic and Sanskrit languages when he was composing his GRAMMAR.

Later on, however, Vopadeva composed his GRAMMAR in accordance with Laokika Sanskrit because by then the Vedic language had died out; it was as dead as a dodo.

The old GRAMMARIANS thought that the nominative case invariably uses the first case-ending.

For example, in Bengali we have Rám yácche; in English “Ram is going;” in Sanskrit Rámah gacchati; and in Hindi Rám já rahá hae. In all of the aforementioned examples it can be seen that the nominative is the first case, but does that mean that it will always be the first case? No, it will not.

In English the verbal noun, verbal adjective and gerund are used as the nominative. They are always nominative but not always the first case. In Bengali the nominative is used as the seventh case. For example –

Bhará hate shúnya bhála jadi bharte yáy

Áge hate piche bhála jadi dáke máy

Here máy is nominative, however it is not the first case but rather the seventh case. This clearly shows that the nominative does not have to be the first case.

Still it is taught today in the schools that the nominative is the first case.

Hence the GRAMMAR has to be recast.

Váp-khedáno [driven away by the father], má-táŕáno [chastised by the mother], or págal ki ná bale [what won’t a madman say], chágal ki ná kháy [what won’t a goat eat] can also be bápe khedáno, máye táŕáno or págale ki ná bale, chágale ki ná kháy.

In other words, there is no such rule that the nominative has to be in the first case.

There are two conditions under which the nominative becomes the seventh case.

First of all, the seventh case is used when an eternal truth or an historical truth is being explained, for example, págale ki ná bale.

Secondly, the seventh case is also used on the basis of what is important to an individual; that is, the case changes based on what way an individual expresses what they think. For example, “dádáre ballám d́áhá jáum”; dádáy balla “cád́d́i vát káiyá jáo”. Here dádáy balla is used to express just how deep the elder brother’s love is.

D́áhá here refers to the city Dhaka. The word d́háká comes from the old word d́abák. This region was given the old name D́abák in the sense of “oft-flooded land”; it’s other name was Vauṋga. The Vauṋga or D́abák of that time was composed of Mymensing District; Dhaka District; Faridpur District excepting Goyaland and Gopalganja; and the major portion of Bakharganj District.

The heart of D́abák was Daboká or D́áká. There are some people who also say D́áhá instead of D́áká. It is not true that the city’s name became “Dhaka” because Emperor Jahangir was beating the drums [d́hák] while he was fixing the city limits. First of all, the actual name of the city is D́aká, not D́háká. Furthermore, the name D́áká is much, much older than Emperor Jahangir. The drums were being beaten during the setting of the city limits during the reign of Emperor Jahangir and it was said that from today the name of the city will be Jahangir Nagar. However the common folk did not like that name. They kept the old name D́áká and still do.

The name D́hákeshvarii was given to Ramná Kálii much later.

Similarly, many Nawabs-Badshahs or so-called famous people gave the city a new name. Some of them were accepted by the public and some were not.

The city of Mymensing was given the name Násirábád (which the people did not accept); the old name of the heart of Shriibhúmi was Shriihat́t́a which was made into Shilahat́ (modern Sylhet – the people accepted it); Chittagong was given the name Islamabad (the people did not accept it); Burdwan was given the name Báŕ-e-Dewán (the people did not accept it).

The English name Burdwan comes from the name Báŕ-e-Dewán.

The ancient name Varddhamán has been in use for the last two and a half thousand years(2500 years).

It was named after the Spiritual Guru of the Jains, Varddhamán Maháviira. The city’s name before that was Ástikanagara – Attinagar in Prákrta.

Shriirámpur was given the name Frederickstown. This name as well did not survive in the end.

Hijli was given the name Madinápur. That underwent distortion and became Mediniipur.

However the Anglicized word “Midnapore” bears the stamp of Madinápura. The Miinápur locality of Navadviipa was changed into Máyápur thanks to the great Vaeshnava saints of that place.

Earlier I was saying that the nominative does not have to be the first case; that is, the relationship between case and case-ending is not a hard and fast one.

Those who think that the sentence dádáy balla is passive voice and has been put in the seventh case instead of the third case are mistaken. It is actually nominative and active voice.

Similar is the case with náreńa uktam, which means “said by a person”, that is, the word nara is third case and the word “person” [mánuśa] is also clearly third case and is definitely not active voice.

However, mánuśe bale and mánuśa bale [a person says] are both active voice. The difference between them is that mánuśe is active voice, seventh case. It is completely unjustifiable to consider mánuśe as either passive voice or third case because the meaning of mánuśe is not “by a person”.

Furthermore, the verb-endings are not the same in active voice and passive voice.

Vadati and ucyate are not the same. Similarly, if one says dádáy balle, the word dádá is understood to be seventh case, not third case. Here the verb is also clearly being used in active voice, not passive voice or impersonal voice.

In Hindi this use of the seventh case instead of the first for the nominative does not happen. However if the word ne is added to the end of the subject the first case or the nominative case becomes objectified. This happens if there is a transitive verb with the subject, but the composition remains nominative. Although it appears to be the first case it is not actually so. In other words, the case becomes related to the accusative, second case.

The Hindustani language prevalent in the markets of northern India is known as Urdu. This language gained acceptance as the language of government from the time of Shahjáhán. Since people who wore uniforms [urdi] used to speak this language its name became “Urdu” which means “camp language” or “cantonment language” – the language of a military camp.

Evidence of this is fact that many cities of northern India still have an “Urdu Bazaar”. Those who are especially intolerant of Urdu have changed the name of these bazaars nowadays to “Hindi Bazaar” out of excessive zeal. They should understand that the name “Urdu Bazaar” does not refer to any specific language but rather to a military bazaar, or a bazaar made for the convenience of people who wore uniforms [urdi].

I was saying that this Urdu or Hindustani language was made into Hindi by decreasing the amount of Arabic, Farsi and Turkish words and increasing the number of words derived or borrowed from Sanskrit, and it began to be written in Nágrii script instead of Farsi script. There is a rule in Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) that the verb agrees with the subject.

The verb-endings vary according to the number, person and gender of the subject. However if ne is added to the subject then the subject becomes half-objective and as a result the verb agrees with the gender of the object, for example, Rám rot́ii kháyá. Here the verb kháyá agrees with the subject. However if ne is added it becomes Rám ne rot́ii kháyii. Since ne is attached to the subject, the verb-ending changes, because here the verb kháyii agrees with the object rot́ii. However the number of the object follows the person. For example, Rám ne ek ám kháyá [Ram ate one mango]. The plural of this is not Rám ne dash ám kháyen [Ram ate ten mangoes]. The verb-ending follows the gender of the object but not its number. The number will always be first person singular.

Recently, however, this rule is not being followed.

Nowadays the verb is made to change according to the number of the object, even in the case of a sentence with ne added.

In old Hindustani (Urdu) in such cases it would have been Rám ne ek ám kháyá; Rám ne dash ám kháyá. However now it has become Rám ne ek ám kháyá; Rám ne dash ám kháyen. It seems that this kind of grammatical disorder has cropped up as a result of the control of the Hindustani language being in the hands of those for whom it is not their mother tongue or the language spoken at home.

In old Hindustani the word ám was used for both singular and plural. No special mark was used to indicate singular or plural in Hindustani in the case of fruits or vegetables. In other words, it could be understood whether it was singular or plural by the verb-ending or by the numerical words in the sentence, for example, ek álu, do álu, tin álu [one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes], etc. Álu is a vegetable, hence it does not become áluyán in the plural.

Similarly, ám is a fruit so it will be ek ám, do ám, tin ám and so on, not ámen. One kind of ol (“elephant root” in English; arum in Latin) is called jamiinkand in Hindi. The singular is jamiinkand and the plural as well.

In Hindustani, when ne is added to the subject it no longer remains in the nominative case. It falls between the nominative and objective cases because in the radical change that occurs with the passive and impersonal voices it does not follow the rules of the nominative case but rather that of the objective, thus it can no longer be called nominative case. This kind of thing also happens to a certain extent in English.

In English the change into the verbal noun, gerund and participle is effected by adding “ing” or “ed”. In the Angika language of Bihar the word nyay is used with the nominative. This, however, is not a synonym of the Hindustani ne. It is due to the use of this nyay that the verb does not undergo any alteration.

Of course, in Angika the verb does not vary according to the gender and number of the subject. In this respect the rules of Angika resemble those of Bengali, for example, Rám kháyche; Siitá kháyche.

In Angika this nyay is called carańapúrti [filling the foot]. It is necessary in the language in order to preserve rhythmic order. For example, if we say Rám nyay karla kai, Rám nyay remains in the nominative case and the nyay is carańapúrti. In Sanskrit carańapúrti is effected by using va, ca, ha, vae, and so on.

In such cases the verb does not undergo any alteration. In Bengali as well go, ogo, lo, re, ore, he, etc. are used for the purposes of carańapúrti. They are also used as a note of address. If we translate a couplet from one of Rabindranath’s poems it becomes:

Namaya mama mastakaḿ tava carańarajastale

Mayi sarvaḿ abhimánamapi majjaya ha drkjale

[Bend my head low before your lotus feet. Let all my pride melt in the tears that fall from my eyes.]

Here ha has been used as carańapúrti. The usage of ne as seen in Hindustani is not prevalent in any other Indian language.

Now among the Indian languages, the verb forms change according to the number and gender of the subject in Málavii Prákrta, Paeshácii Prákrta and Shaorashreńii Prákrta but they do not in Mágadhii Prákrta.

In Panjabi, Marwari and Gujarati there are changes with gender and number but ne is not used as it is in Hindustani. Of course, it is true that ne is spoken in some places but that is more for the purposes of carańapúrti. There is no use of ne whatsoever in the old forms of these languages. For example in Marwari:

Sakhii re myány to linii hari mola

Koi kahe sasto koi kahe máhaunge

Lińii re tarája taola

–Rajasthani song

Here ne could have just as easily been used in place of to, and in Hindustani it is used, but not in old Marwari. In Bhojpuri the verb changes according to the gender of the subject in certain places but ne is also not used, for example, rám caltá; siitá caltiiyá.

Ne is the objectivated counterpart of the subject. If ne is used, the subject gets so bound up with the predicate that it becomes difficult to separate them. If the object is feminine many people use karii in the case of the verbal root kr in a sentence with ne. For example, myán ne mulákát karii.

Actually in the case of a masculine word where kiyá or kiyá hae is used then kii or kii hae is used when it is feminine – not karii. The general rule is that if ne is used in the nominative case, feminine gender then the verb form that is used will remain the same in the objective case.

In other words, here myán ne mulákát kii is correct and proper. I do not find any logic to support the use of myán ne mulákát karii, hence there is no alternative but to consider it incorrect.

In Sanskrit the nominative case is closely linked to the first case and the verb-endings are based on the first case; it remains unaffected by the seventh. However in Sanskrit lat’, lot’, laun, vidhliun [present, imperative, past, conditional], etc. differ from one another in regards to time.

If the modern prefix sma is added then the time changes to past tense. This is indeed considered to be change of time in the case however this does not indicate change in the sentence or the case-ending. Similarly, if a visarga-ending ta is used instead of using the fifth case then it follows the system of the ablative fifth case.

(2) But here also there is no change in the case or the sentence, as everybody knows.

Most languages have fixed rules for adding case-endings and verb-endings.

However in Sanskrit, and occasionally in some Latin-derived languages, there is no such rule.

In Sanskrit the change in the word form is based on the vowel ending. The words nara and dadhi do not follow the same forms because they end in different vowels; the change in gender is also based on this. It is, of course, for this reason that it requires some perseverance to remember the innumerable word forms that occur in Sanskrit due to vowel-endings and gender differences.

One can point this out as a deficiency in Sanskrit though I certainly would not because it is neither odd nor surprising for this kind of thing to be present in a language recognized for its facility.

Learning the word form for nara does not help one to translate dádáke dáo because the word form dádá is not like the word form nara.

In the case of Sanskrit this extra expenditure in effort cannot be avoided.

In my book Basic Sanskrit I also did not meddle with the word forms but in another way I moulded masculine words ending in a after the declension of nara by using numerical suffixes like dvaya, traya, gańa, samúha, etc.

Take, for example, the singular bálakah gacchati and the dual bálakao gacchatah – instead of writing these forms we can write bálakadvayah gacchati. This is an easy means of learning popular Sanskrit without compromising the fundamental framework of the Sanskrit language.

In this way one only needs to learn ti, si, mi, that is, the verb-endings only change according to person, not according to number. Even if the word endings are not directly simplified, by using the suffixes ending in a one is saved from having to learn different word endings.

It would be quite good if students first become skilled in reading, writing and speaking Sanskrit by learning Basic Sanskrit through Roman script before going on to learn advanced Sanskrit or literary Sanskrit.

On one hand it would be easier for the students, and on the other the use of Sanskrit would become more widespread.

Anyhow I was talking about the use of the seventh case in Bengali. When the nominative remains in the seventh case in Bengali then it becomes similar to káládhikarańa, ádhárádhikarańa and bhávádhikarańa [the locatives of time, base and idea].

Because of this I have said that the GRAMMAR will have to be recast. When the society, economy and everything else have to be newly ordered, then why not the GRAMMAR as well! If the new cannot be newly accepted then with the passage of time it becomes useless; it becomes outdated [támádi].

The word támádi that I have just used is a Farsi word. There are a great number of these kinds of Farsi words in Bengali. Some are present in unaltered form and some have become somewhat altered. Earlier I said that ná-válig is a Farsi word. After undergoing alteration it became nábálak. Nábálak is not a Sanskrit word, nor is it Farsi. Sábálak, and so on have been made in the same way as nábálak. The Farsi word ná-válig means “young, minor”.

The word prasráva [urine], which is used in Bengali, does not exist in Sanskrit.

The Sanskrit scholars fashioned it out of the Farsi word pesh-áb. The Farsi word pesh means “to put in front”. “One who puts” is called peshkár, that is, “one who does pesh”. The Farsi word áb means “water”. Farsi is a Vedic descendant. In Vedic the word ap means “water”. In Farsi the Vedic ap has become áb. Thus the Farsi word pesháb means “to put water in front”. The Sanskrit pandits refined the word and made it prasráva. They wanted to show that the word was derived pra – srav + ghaiṋ = prasráva. The word anushiilana, for example, is not a Sanskrit word; it is native Bengali. However an effort was made to show that it was derived anu – shiil +anat́.

The word prasráva was presented in the exact same way. Actually prasráva is not a Sanskrit word, thus it will not work in Sanskrit. The educated communities of north India do not use the word prasráva; they say laghushaḿká. In Sanskrit the word mútratyága can and should be used, not prasráva. The word prasravańa that is used in Sanskrit means “fountain”. It is not related to the word prasráva.

Other names for water in the Vaedic language are jalaḿ, kambalaḿ, jiivanaḿ, pániiyaḿ, niiraḿ, toyaḿ, udakam, and so on. Water is a common word. It can be potable or non-potable, but the word pániiyam refers only to drinking water. The word pánii is used in all Hindi-speaking areas. Just as drain water is called dren ká pánii, similarly rain water is also called pánii. But they are not all drinkable. Only potable water or water that can be drunk should be called pánii because the word pánii comes from the Sanskrit word pániiyam. The word ápa is derived from the word ap. Ápa means “action”. Since all sorts of actions are performed with the help of ap, or water, one name for action is ápa.

“Five” in Farsi is painj. The region where there are five rivers is called painj + áb = paiṋjáb. The land lying between the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers, which was called Brahmávartta or Brahmarśi in ancient times and Shúrasena or the kingdom of Mathura in medieval times, is called do-áb in Farsi. The word paiṋjáb is not actually a proper noun since it means “a grouping of five rivers”. Thus there is the custom of writing “The” before the name in English.

In northern India the Ganges is called Gauṋgájii and through alteration this became “Ganges” in English.

The common Bengali word palte is Farsi. The Farsi word palitá became palte in spoken Bengali. The part which is added to an oil lamp and lit, the wick, is called palte. However if it burns at the top of the lamp it is called salitá or salte. Salte is a native Bengali word.

What we refer to by the Bengali word gelás is called a “tumbler” in English. When a tumbler is made out of glass then it is called a “glass tumbler”. This has become simply gelás in Bengali. Thus the English “glass” is not the same as gelás. If we say ek gelás jal áno in Bengali, its English translation will be “fetch me a tumbler of water”, not a “glass of water”. “Glass of water” was not used in old English. In modern English the word “glass” is used for “tumbler”, however in the beginning the word “glass” only referred to the material.

There is a difference in meaning between the English words “bring” and “fetch”. When we say to someone who is far away jal áno then we use the word “bring”. But if someone is nearby and we ask them to go to where the water is and bring it then the word “fetch” is used. Often the meaning of these two words is confused in India. Students hardly learn to use the word “fetch” at all, thus I would request their teachers to pay some attention to this.

In English the word “double” is used for the Bengali word dviguńa. In Angika and Magahii the word dábl means “something large in size”. It comes from the English word “double”.

At any rate, there are numerous examples of this kind of alteration in all Indian languages. The English word “recruitment” has become raungrut́ in Panjabi. The military word “general” has given rise to the many Járnál Singhs that you come across in Panjabi. Another word used in the military, “surrender”, has become sáláńd́ár in Panjabi. The Japanese d́ekci and riksha have become decki [cooking pot] and riksá or riská in many people’s mouths through alteration. In the spoken language of southeast Bengal láph deoyá has become phál deoyá.

There is one more thing to keep in mind in this regard. In English the suffix “er” is used where Sanskrit uses the suffix d́a, for example, the English “do-er”, “go-er”, “se-er”, and so on. In Sanskrit the suffix d́a is added to the verbal root trae to make tra (trae + d́a = tra). On the other hand, if the suffix shatr is added to the verbal root gae it makes gáyat. Hence gáyat + tra = gáyattra, and if the feminine iip is added it forms gáyattrii. Gáyattrii should be spelled by conjuncting ra to the second ta because one ta belongs to gáyat and the other belongs to tra. However many people spell gáyattrii with a single ta. Similarly put + tra = puttra. One ta belongs to put and the other to tra. Thus puttra is also spelled with two “ta’s”.

The Bengali word jalpaná [idle talk] does not actually mean what it is used to mean. Speaking out the secrets of one’s heart and mind is called jalpaná in Sanskrit. The meaning of the word has undergone alteration in Bengali.