Urdu-Hindi: Vowel disappearance from middle syllables

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by Qureshpor, Jul 15, 2011.

  1. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    While using the word "naazniin", an Iranian friend once corrected my pronunciation and said it was "naazaniin! I of course thought he was talking nonsense. However, I later found out that in Persian at least the pronunciation of this word is as he had said.

    As well as Naazaniin there are many more such words where a vowel is "gobbled up"! Here are a few examples.



    Qaasimii>>> Qaasmii





    * These are considered quite correct in Urdu.

    Does anyone have any logical explanation for this phenomenon or is it just plane laziness on the part of speakers?

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 11, 2014
  2. souminwé Senior Member

    Vancouver, Canada
    North American English, Hindi
    It's a part of Hindi/Urdu phonology. The schwa is generally in an unstressed syllable, and the schwa is a slight sound as well; thus it is naturally pre-disposed to deletion.


    dhaRakna (धड़कना) - dha-Rak-na
    This is consistent with Hindi phonotactics. All though the first syllable /dha/, is light and ends with a schwa, it cannot be deleted as dhRakna* would violate Hindi phonotactics. /Rak/ ends with a consonant, and is a heavy syllable (and in this case also stressed). Schwa deletion will also not occur in the environment of a heavy syllable (usually consonant final).

    dhaRkan (धड़कन) - dha-Ra-kan
    dhaRakan*, when said quickly, is difficult to say, and will probably be heard as dhaRkan anyway. Unstressed vowels are quickly lost, and that is what happens here. Notice also that the syllable division is now /Ra/, not /Rak/, meaning it has become a light syllable. dhaRkan is two heavy syllables.

    Same deal with lapaT and lapTeM. The rule is when schwa occurs between a consonant final and consonant initial syllable, it is deleted.
    In other words: VCaCV = VCCV.
    (As you noted, it also occurs to a limited extent with other short vowels, like /i/. However, note the Hindi word gatividhi. This is never reduced to gatvidhi*.)

    I think of it as Hindi/Urdu's version of the vowel reduction in English or Russian. I suppose it would have been seen as "laziness" a few hundred years ago, but it's a mandatory part of the sound system now.
  3. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Thank you for your detailed reply. So, are you suggesting that "dhaRaknaa">> "dhaRkan" is the same as "naazaniin" >> "naazniin" and other examples in my first post? I presume your suggestion is that this rule applies equally to Indic and non-Indic words?
  4. souminwé Senior Member

    Vancouver, Canada
    North American English, Hindi
    I would say it applies to most non-Indic words.
    As far as Perso-Arabic words are concerned, Hindi/Urdu has integrated them into its phonetic, grammatic etc. norms (and likely re-shaped its norms to some extent), and continues to do so ("naazaniin" -> "naazniin" is testament to that).

    English and Neo-Sanskrit words, on the other hand, generally don't undergo these processes, except perhaps in uncareful or uneducated speech. Though, I doubt that will always be the case as common loans are Indicised.
  5. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)
    We have been stumbling on this issue again and again, e.g. arbii/arabii for Arabic, plural oblique of varas - varasoN/varsoN, aafriiN/aaf(a/i)riiN, etc. I think we can simply refer to this thread in future whenever such an issue/question comes up again. :)

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