Urdu Spelling Conventions 4 : The "nuun-i-Gunnah"

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by Qureshpor, Sep 24, 2012.

  1. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    The final nasal sound in Urdu is denoted by a nuun-i-Ghunnah, or the nasal nuun. In older books "maaN" and "maan" were both written as "maan" until a "gum-naam" genius came along and threw the dot from the nuun away and lo and behold we could distinguish "maaN" from "maan" without resorting to context. The medial nasal kept the dot but, when used, one finds a small nuun-i-Ghunnah on top of it.

    Once again...

    When did this nuun-i-Ghunnah first surface into Urdu's spelling conventions?

    Is it the same person responsible for this innovation or is this all (do-chashmii he, to'e for retroflexes, baRii ye and nuun-i-Ghunnah) the result of work done by a number of people?

    nuun-i-Ghunnah is used in Urdu poetry for prosodic purposes and it is not counted when one scans a verse in terms of long and short syllables. This was part and parcel of Persian poetic system too but modern Persian speaking people to be totally unaware of this!! My further question about nuun-i-ghunnah is this. Why is nuun-i-Ghunnah used in Urdu prose as well when its real purpose was for poetry?
  2. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    All these are very pertinent questions that you pose.

    If the thesis is right that nuun-e-Ghunnah was meant only for poetry then its extension onto the prose would be justified by the need to depict Ghunnahs in Urdu where, unlike Persian, this sound occurs normally in speech, not only in poetry.
  3. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Perhaps I was not as clear as I ought to have been.

    In Urdu, we have the word "jahaaN" (where) and "jahaan" (The world). The first can never be "jahaan" whereas the second, in poetry, can be "jahaaN" for metrical reasons and it will have different "vazn" compared with jahaan". If metrical constraint is to have "jahaan", then it is "jahaan" that will be written.

    In Urdu prose, we have instances where the "nuun-i-Ghunnah" is preserved in non-Indic verbs, e.g.naa-gahaaN, kah-kashaaN, giraaN-qadr, pinhaaN and many many more. I wonder what the reason for this is.
  4. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I think it is the common (vulgar) pronunciation which has been recorded in script.
  5. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    No, I don't personally think this is in any way vulgar. On the contrary, I would say that the nasalisation in Urdu poetry of Persian and Arabic words has been carried into Urdu prose, whereby the prose has a "taste" of poetry or a link with poetry.

    By the way, one sole Indic word has been nasalised in Urdu poetry and that is, believe it or not, "paan"!
  6. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    The ones with their mouths full of ''paan'' tend to nasalize more than that!:)
  7. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    QP aur marrish SaaHibaan, I've sorted something out!

    The need for nuun-Ghunnah would have been there from the start since we have it in common Indic words like kahaaN, wahaaN, yahaaN, dhuuwaaN / dhuu' aaN etc.

    Platts (1884) has دهوان धूआं dhūʼā ( = smoke) and کہان कहां kahā (= where), i.e. the ending nuun is shown as full but is meant to be pronounced as a Ghunnah, as indicated.

    Shakespear (1834 – half a century older than Platts) also has دهوان dhūwā and he also has three other spellings (دهنوان dhu / دهونوا dhuuwā / دهنوا dhuwā) where the nuun-Ghunnah also appears in the middle of the word (but with a dot – has to) , after the ‘do-chashmii he’, apart from the end when the 'alif' is not there! The nasalization is as I’ve shown in bold. This lexicon too has کہان kahā - full nuun ending in Urdu script but meant to be Ghunnah in the pronunciation guide.

    So both Platts and Shakespear have the ending nuun written as full, but the pronunciation guide shows it to be nasalized for these words.

    Perhaps we need to look at some old Urdu texts, starting from around the middle of the 19th century and earlier. Did, for example, Mir’s following lines appear with the nuun-Ghunnah at all during his time or immediately after (mid18th century till early 19th century- a difficult search):

    دیكھ تو دل كہ جاں سے اٹھتا ہے
    یہ دھواں سا كہاں سے اٹھتا ہے
    گور کس دل جلے کی ہے یہ فلک
    شعلہ اك روز یاں سے اٹھتا ہے


    The nuun-e-Ghunnah in poetry is an interesting issue. I’m wondering if there too it was understood to be present but not shown, the reader determining it himself / herself.

    Or did we initially inherit it from the Persian poetry of some of our forebears? However, since all / nearly all poetical works printed in Iran lack it but those printed in the sub-continent have it, this raises more questions. Was it ever there in Iranian Persian poetical texts in the first place anyway?

    If we go by the dates of the above lexicons then the convention seems to be that, at least officially, the nuun-Ghunnah was not being written down as a Ghunnah till after 1884. However, some texts may have started using it earlier.
  8. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    ^ Faylasoof SaaHib, I appreciate your spending valuable time on the issue of of the nuun of nasalisation (nuun-i-Gunnah). I accept fully that for Indic words we as Urdu speakers would instinctively know when to read the word as "maan" (from maan_naa) and when to read it as "maaN" (mother) even if on both occasions the dotted nuun was in use. As you have rightly indicated we would have used the nasal nuun for jahaaN, kahaaN and the like even before the terminal nuun-i-Ghunnah came into visible existence in our alphabet. These nasal words would be scanned like "maa", "jahaa" and "kahaa".

    Now turning to Persian and Arabic words , e.g jahaan, shaan, if the metre requires, one can not count the final n and pronounce it as a nasal. I am of the belief that this was the case during Classical Persian period but as they never invented nuun-i-ghunnah, in modern times the prosody/vazn problem is solved by Persian speakers by shortening the vowel in their recitation.

    jahaan >> jahan
    shaan >> shan

    The fact that the nasal nuun (N) is not counted is borne out in the following two examples that I have come across.

    chuuN tuu juzv-i-'aalam-ii pas ai mahiiN
    kull raa bar vasf-i-Khud biinii Ghavii


    miTThaa mevah baKhsh ajehaa qudrat dii ghat shiiriiN
    jo khaave rog us daa jaave duur hove dilgiirii

    (Saif-ul-Mulook, MiyaaN Muhammad BaKhsh)

    These two examples point to two things:

    i) This kind of rhyme is permissible
    ii) The "N" is not taken into account for vazn.

    Another good example is the following:-

    baa uu dilam ba mihr-o-mu'addat yagaana buud
    siimurGh-i-'ishq raa dil-i-man aashiyaana buud
    dar lauH Khvaandah am ki yake la'natii shavad
    buudam gumaaN ba har kas va bar xud gumaa[N] nabuud


    Professor Finn Thiesen states in his "A Manual of Classical Persian Prosody" 1982
    Otto Harrassowitz Wiesbaden p 41) when he is tabulating his reasons for the presence of nuun-i-Ghunnah in Classical Persian poetry.

    a) The fact that the prosodists do not reckon the "nuun". Had "nuun" been pronounced as a distinct consonant and the preceding vowel been shortened--as in present day recitation-- we should have expected the prosodists to reckon the "nuun" and instead not to reckon the
    preceding alif, vaa'o, ye.

    b) Words like "ziiraa" (because) where the "nuun" has disappeared. Classical Persian for "az iin raa". ( Here, Thiesen is implying that az iin raa >>>> az iiN raa >>> ziiraa)

    c) Turkish loanwords where "n" has disappeared, e.g. "jomerd" "generous" corresponding to javaan-mard "generous youth". Classical Persian "javaaN-mard" and "juvaaN-mard". The latter must be the source of the Turkish word.

    d) Indo-Persian* pronunciation which preserves the nasalised vowels.

    e) Most important of all, the numerous Persian loan words in Urdu and Hindi which have
    nasalised vowels. Thus "maaNdaa" tired from Persian "maandah". It is important to notice that there is nothing in the phonetic system of Hindi to prevent a form like "maandaa". "He acknowledges" is always "maantaa hai", never "maaNtaa hai; thorn is always "kaaNTaa" ever "kaanTaa". Hence, when the Indians pronounce "maaNdaa", not "maandaa", the reason for this must be sought in Persian itself.

    Thiesen goes onto say (page 50) "Persian does not admit of triple consonant clusters, and even if the poetry of Moulavi is known to be "sangiin" (heavy), it is not probable that he should have produced verses with such clusters. Examples of the above type are therefore very strong evidence for nuun being realised as supra segmental nasalisation in the position between long vowel and consonant, since with that pronunciation the question of triple consonant clusters no longer arises. The Classical Persian pronunciation of "pinhaanst" must therefore have been "pinhaaNst".

    Another Classical Persian scholar, Professor Wheeler.M.Thackston in his"A Millenium of Classical Persian Poetry" has this to say about this issue of nasalisation. "Syllable-final n preceded by a long vowel is generally not reckoned in scansion. Formerly this must have resulted in nasalisation of the vowel; but it is not done in reciting Persian poetry in Iran today, although the practice is general in the Indian subcontinent....".

    Who are the "prosodists" which Thiesen has in mind? Here is a link to Professor L.P. Elwall-Sutton's "Persian Meters".

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...dir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=persian prosody&f=false

    Pages 1-4 are the most relevant to our topic. Along with other authors, he mentions the following:

    1) Shamsu_ddiin Muhammad bin Qais Raazii
    (al-mu'jam fi ma'aayiri ash'aari_l'ajam...written in 1217)

    2) Nasiiru_ddiin Tuusii
    ( mi'yaaru_lash'aar 1251)

    3) Saifii (of BuKhara)


    4) Abdu_rraHmaan Jaamii (Note: This is the famous poet Jami)


    The author says that his resume is based on all these sources. On page 4, he goes onto mention the letters which are of no phonetic value and I quote:

    A) Letter that are always omitted

    1) Silent v after Kh

    2) n after a long vowel (aa, ii, uu) (Ghunna)...

    An objective observer looking at the evidence presented above will most certainly come with the verdict that nuun-i-Ghunnah was indeed part of the Classical Persian poetry. How the modern Persian/Dari speakers recite the masters may be open to debate. If the "n" is pronounced fully by them along with the preceding long vowel where we would nasalise the vowel, then one or two question come to mind. Does the shi'r still remain in meter? If yes, if they are not shortening the vowel, then what other device are they employing to keep it in meter?

    But, in this thread, I was wondering why in Urdu we use nuun-i-Ghunnah in Persian/Arabic words when prosodic considerations are no longer in existence.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  9. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    Faylasoof SaaHib, thank you for your research and contribution towards solving this mystery. I'll be looking into the sources around that date.
  10. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Here is an example from Mirza Shauq Lakhnavii's "bahaar-i-3ishq".

    ko'ii martaa hai kyuuN? balaa jaane
    ham bahuu-beTiyaaN yih kyaa jaaneN

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