Urdu-English: Vocabulary Building

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by Qureshpor, Jul 4, 2011.

  1. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    To Moderators:

    I hope this is a legitimate topic for discussion on this forum. If it is n't, please delete it.

    We all know the universal importance of the English language. Possibly, it has the most extensive vocabulary for every subject under the sun. When translating English words into Urdu, especially technical terms, we realise that it is an uphill task a lot of the times.

    1) What are the factors which make this language stand out from the rest?

    2) If we were given the Herculean task of coming up with ways to improve Urdu word-formation, what would our suggestions be?

    I have a few ideas myself but I would like everyone to participate and put forward their suggestions.
  2. souminwé Senior Member

    Vancouver, Canada
    North American English, Hindi
    I don't think that it's so much that Hindi/Urdu need improvement in their word-formation systems, but that they need to be seen as appropriate for technical terms in the minds of their users.

    English is used all over the world for science, so much so that dropping scientific Greco-Latin words into a mundane conversation is normal enough. English is really no more technical than French or Japanese - both those languages rely on native methods of word formation for all their scientific vocabulary, and it is not considered "affected speech". Though it's normal to say 紫外線 (shigaisen; "ultraviolet") and 緩衝液 (kanshoueki; "buffer solution") in Japanese, whoever says those words in pure Urdu or Hindi? Though we have great aspirations to make these languages scientific by loaning from their respective prestige languages, the fact of the matter is that English is not only the prestige language for most Hindi/Urdu speakers, but it also feels more natural and intuitive. I've read style manuals that urge businesses to be cautious of posting Hindi translations for scientific vocabulary - because no one understands them!

    As for why is this, the answer is quite simple. The situation with Hindi/Urdu is that much of its speakers go through science education in English - and because of its colonial past and the hope to immigrate, English has a strong presence. It's a social and economic problem at its very core.
    When Urdu/Hindi are all people need to learn at school to do well, you won't need English to write a paper on the Higgs-boson or whatever.

    At the current rate, it seems to me that in a hundred or so years, Hindi will be quite Sanskritised and no one will find it awkward anymore. What can you do now to help scientific vocabulary creep it way into Urdu/Hindi? Use it more! Start a blog, write to a magazine, do whatever! It's all there, just no one is using it.
    In the linguistic psychology of an English speaker, words are coined all the time by the average guy because of the large inventory he has access to, and the normality of doing so - if you ever read Japanese fiction, they do the same. Hindi/Urdu must reach this mindset before they can launch off as languages of science themselves/
  3. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Thank you, Souminwe for your thought-provoking reply. Although Urdu-Hindi have some common features of vocabulary building, they do depart when it comes to more technical terminology.

    I started this topic to see if other Forum friends could come up with such factors which have helped English language to become what it is today and how we can learn from it or incorporate any of its features. Here is my humble take.

    1) Not having a grammatical gender is helpful. However the existence of "he/she" pronouns is also useful. For those animals which do not have separate names for male/female counterparts, one can have "She-Dove", "He-Dove" for example. Similarly, for inanimate robots etc, one can employ this device. In Urdu, as has been discussed elsewhere on the forum mu'annas and muzakkar can be used as prefixes, such as "nas-faaKhtah" and "zak-faaKhtah".

    2) Most English words can be made plural by simply adding -s/es.
    dos and don'ts
    ups and downs
    comings and goings
    ifs and buts

    In Urdu, we have numerous ways of making plurals but I believe one of the most under used is the Persian suffix-haa as in riyaasat-haa-i-mutaHiddah [United States], nusKhaa-haa-i-vafaa [Notes of fidelity/love notes]. We should use this suffix whenever a plural is necessary, e.g agarhaa aur lekinhaa, uupar-haa aur niiche-haa.

    3) Adverbs are formed very regularly by adding-ly

    Let's have an equivalent in Urdu andaaz.

    beautifully = Khuubsuurat-daaz

    4) Comparison of Adjectives/Adverbs is very regular in English.

    beautiful/more beautiful/most beautiful
    beautifully/more beautifully/most beautifully

    baRaa, baRaa-tar, baRaa-tariin
    Khuubsyyrat, Khuubsuurat-tar, Khuubsuurat-tariin
    Khuubsuurat-daaz, Khuubsyyrat-daaz-tar,Khuubsyyrat-daaz-tariin

    (Note: Alexander the Great= Sikandar baRaa!
    5) The -ing participle. This is a very productive suffix and has many functions.

    e.g writing-ing paper
    fly-ing saucer

    perhaps we could have likh-an kaaGhaz
    uRan-an tashtarii

    hand-writing = haath-likh-an
    story-writing = kahaanii-likh-an

    Tolstoy's writings =Tolstoy kii likh-an-haa

    6) The -ed participle
    Hindi uses -it/-at, e.g. destroyed= khanDit
    agreed= sahmat
    We can use this and/or-shud, e.g. destroyed= tabaah-shud
    burnt= jal-shud

    7) Agent and Instrument/appliance

    cook/cooker= pak-vaal or pak-aarii(pakaane vaalaa)/pak-aalat
    Another agent suffix is -ist as in pacifist, communist

    8) cook-able/cook-worthy = pakaa-paziir/pakaa-jog
    break-able/fragile =TuuT-paziir

    9) English has a a number of fixed patterns for verbal noun formation where the endings are -ment, -ation, -ery etc where as Urdu-Hindi verbal noun formation seems to be rather haphazard. There is a need to go through all the patterns and see which can be made productive. Just take a look at lagnaa.

    lagaa'o, lagaavaT, lagan, lagaan, laag, lagii, lagaa'ii.

    The verb "to act" provides the following, act, actor, acting, activity, action.

    Do we have any from piinaa apart from pyaas? [English: To drink >> a drink].
    Here are some more from other verbs.

    khaanaa, gaanaa, honii, karnii, honhaar, milan, mel, melaa, milaavaT, puujaa, pujaarii, uThak, uThaan, baiThak, khilaaRii, aa'ii, baRhotii, kaTotii, chaRhaa'o/chaRhaa'ii, lagaan, uRaan, lekhaa, lekh, likhaa'ii, likhaavaT, lekhan, dikhaavaa, pahnaavaa, bastii, baseraa, bichhonaa

    10) Noun>Noun e.g relation >relationship, globe>globule

    Noun>Adjective, e.g thunder>thunderous, horror>horrific/horrifying, beast>beastly, beauty>beautiful

    Adjective>Noun, e.g. local>locality, Brief>brevity, neat>neatness, prolific>proliferation

    Adjective>Verb, e.g. local>localise

    11) Verb formation by addition of suffixes such as -ise, -ate, -fy, -en as in liquidise, liquidate, liquify, codify, whiten, broaden etc.

    12) If Urdu did not have the –ii ending to form nouns and adjectives, I don’t know where we would be! It must be the most over used suffix around. We can’t seem to get away from making nouns into adjectives where in English two or more juxtaposed nouns can live quite happily together without the defining noun (adjunct) being converted into an adjective.

    e.g book worm = kitaabii kiiRaa . Why can’t we leave it as “kitaab kiiRaa”?

    Here is a good example of (mainly) nouns juxtaposed without any intrusion from prepositions.
    Pakistan, India, Bangladesh Collaboration Programme Strategic Framework Agreement!

    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  4. tonyspeed Senior Member

    English & Creole - Jamaica
    If you want to look at how English came to have a large technical vocabulary, you are discussing in the wrong forum. This is about history and not about the intrinsic properties of a language. England's colonial history have made it somewhat of a world-wide lingua franca. You may choose to disagree but I am sure historians won't that we are still living in a period of Anglo-American empire. As such, technological innovations either came primarily out of the Anglo-American sphere of influence or were summarily translated into English.

    English is not superior for word formation or anything else of the like. For example you give the illustration of the "regularity" for big/bigger/biggest, but then you subsequently show an exception in beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful. Why wasn't it beautifuler, beautifulest? Let's look at another exception: good/better/best - why wasn't this good/gooder/goodest?

    If you want to look a language that is the pinnacle of regularity, you should look at my own mother tongue, jamaican creole. Plurals are formed not by adding es or s, or remembering random exceptions like sheep and focus (focii)
    sing plural
    dog - dog-dem
    rat - rat dem
    sheep - sheep-dem
    man - man-dem
    But its prestige is about the same level as a mongrel kutta in the eyes of the English-adoring aristocrats.

    Now I also put forth a theory that Hindi-Urdu has just as many useful tools as English, if not more!
    gandii paanii peenewala

    laayak / yogya
    pyaar ke laayak
    taareef paane ke laayak

    pyar ke kaabil

    pyar se dekh raha hooN
    tezii se bhaag rahe haiN

    tabaah kiye hue imaarat
    likhe hue khat
    bhaagta hua aadmii
    and so on and so forth...

    The only thing that made English acquire such a technical vocab is its position as a prestige language of world empire. Absolutely nothing else. Hindi and Urdu could similarly have acquired such a technical vocab, but once again we are stuck in the mire of English prestige thinking as souminwe ji mentioned.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  5. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
  6. Sheikh_14 Senior Member

    English- United Kingdom, Urdu, Punjabi
    Just a quick question for Qureshpoo Saahib which is that is there any precedent to support his vaal suffix vision as an alternative for wala besides brevity as noted in Post 3.
  7. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    koT-vaal is one example where a "koT" is a fort or a castle.
  8. Sheikh_14 Senior Member

    English- United Kingdom, Urdu, Punjabi
    I see and would that mean person of the castle?

Share This Page