LANGUAGE IN INDIA

Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 4 : 7 July 2004

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.

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APABHRAMSHA - AN INTRODUCTION
Anirban Dash, Ph.D.


1. APABHRAMSHA - A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

The word apabhramsha, is formed by adding the prefix apa in the sense of 'going away' to the root, bhramsha meaning 'to fall'. Thus, apabhramsha means 'to fall away,' that is, 'falling down'. The first reference of the term apabhramsha is found in TaaNDyaBraahmaNa[i], where it is used in its literal sense of 'falling down'.

The term apabhramsha is an example of the shift in the approach of the grammarians in dealing with variations in Sanskrit language. In literature, the word apabhramsha is used in several senses. From its original sense of 'falling down,' it came to signify an incorrect or corrupt form by the time of PataNjali. Later, from 4th century onwards, it principally denotes standardized, literally language different from Sanskrit, and desi. In Kaavyaalamkaara, Namisaadhu mentions praakrtameva apabhramsha 'apabhramsha is nothing but praakrta'[ii]. In ¤abdaarthacintaamaNi, apabhramsha is defined as ungrammatical word, crude word, language of countryside, or vulgar language. [iii]

2. PANINI AND APABHRAMSHA

PaaNini never used the term apabhramsha or apashabda in the ASTaadhyaayee. The variations, as he has described, are part of the standard language and are treated as such. PaaNini does not refer to them as sub- standard, but only as optional forms.

Deepti Tripathy, in the article "Apabhramsha in Sanskrit Grammar," (Aligarh Journal of Oriental Studies, No.3: p.81-92) mentions that, "PaaNini has used two methods of incorporating regional variations in his grammar. These two methods are:
  1. "By referring to the region in which a particular word is exclusively used;
  2. "By referring to grammarians of different region and mentioning the variations acceptable to them."

Kaatyaayana also does not use the word apabhramsha or apashabda in his Vt., but when he wrote his Vt., the PaaNinian Sanskrit had undergone considerable changes. Kaatyaayana took note of these changes, which were phonetic, morphological, and semantic in nature. These changes can be considered to be the first step towards apabhramsha.

In the PaaNinian School of grammar, the term apabhramsha is found for the first time in Mbh. of Pata˝jali. There it is used in the sense of incorrect form. Pata˝jali observes that people use several corrupt forms (apabhramsha) in the place of standard form. Thus, one word has many apabhramshas.

Thus it is said:

A single correct word has, in fact, many corrupt words arising from it. For instance, the correct word gauH has many corrupt words such as gaavi, goNi, gotaa , gopatlikaa etc.[iv]

3. PATANJALI'S USE

Here, it should be noted that, PataNjali uses the word apabhramsha side by side of apashabda. In grammatical traditions, we find that both apashabda and apabhramsha are used to denote incorrect usage. Therefore, they are synonyms (apabhramsha apashabda syaat)[v]. The difference between the two is very subtle. Both apashabda and apabhramsha are formed by adding the prefix 'apa' in the sense of going away from the roots shabda and bhramsh respectively. Apabhramsha does not have value, either positive or negative, attached to it, but apashabda is always used in a derogatory sense.[vi]

It appears that the concept of apabhramsha was already developed at the time of PataNjali. According to him, one can use the apabhramsha in day to day life but it is not allowed in sacrifice.

For PataNjali, PaaNini's language is a sacred language and any deviation from that is apabhramsha. According to him, by using a correct word one can attain glory even in the yonder world, whereas by using the corrupt forms one becomes impure.[vii]

4. BHARTRHARI ON APABHRAMSHA

Bhartrhari (5th century A.D) also portrays PaaNini's language as divine language (daivi vaak), namely, the standard ideal form, and the rest is corrupt.

Thus it is said:

daivi vaagvyatikirNeyamashaktairabhidhaatrbhiH ||
anityadarshinaam tvasmin vaade buddhiviparyayaH || BrahmakaaNDa.182 ||

According K.A.S. Iyer, "for Bhartrhari, the word apabhramsha does not stand for a particular stage in linguistic evolution as it does for modern Indian linguists for whom it represents that stage, which follows the praakrta and precedes the development of modern Indian languages."

5. DEFINITION OF APABHRAMSHA

Bhartrhari starts his exposition of apabhramsha with a precise definition of the term. He defines apabhramsha as a word denoting a particular meaning, but devoid of the derivation through grammatical procedure.

shabdaH samskaarahino yo gauriti prayuyukSite |
tamapabhramshamicchanti vishiSTaarthaniveshinam || BrahmakaaNDa. 175 ||

The commentary provides another definition, which is traditionally considered as statement of VyaaDi, namely, 'shabdaprakrtiH apabhramsha' (that is, the correct word is the original and it is the source of the corrupt one).

However, some modern scholars do not agree with the interpretation of vrtti. According to them, the apabhramsha is the source of the correct word. [viii]

K.A. Subhramaniyam Iyer mentions,

It is true that the word shabdaprakrtiH, if taken as tatpuruSa, that is, as shabdaanaam prakrtiH, such an interpretation is possible. But it is to be emphasized that Bhartrhari and the ancient commentators take the word only as a bahuvrihi i.e. shabdaH prakrtiH yasya saH and explain that, according to VyaaDi, it is the correct word which is the source of the corrupt one.

6. MEANING - THE PRINCIPAL GROUND FOR DECIDING STANDARD AND CORRUPT FORMS

According to Bhartrhari, the correctness or corruptness of a particular form depends upon the meaning context. The same word is corrupt in a particular sense and correct in another sense. Bhartrhari clarifies this point by giving the example of goNi, asva.[ix]

Both goNi and asva are correct forms, when used to denote other objects, that is, other than the cow and horse. GoNi and asva are incorrect (apabhramsha), when they are used to convey the meaning cow and horse respectively, but if the speaker's intention is to convey the idea of "a lot of milk" and "one who has nothing" respectively, then, both are correct because in this sense they are not the corrupt form of ashva[x] and go (cow). In Vrtti, Bhartrhari clearly mentions that, a word becomes an apabhramsha only when the speaker tries to pronounce the correct one to convey the intended meaning, but, due to incapability, he eventually utters the corrupt one.

Thus it is said:

tatra gauriti prayoktavye'shaktyaa pramaadaadibhirvaa
gaavyaadayastatprakrtayoH'pabhramshaaH prayujyante
|| vrtti on BrahmakaaNDa. 175 ||

7. DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STANDARD AND CORRUPT FORMS

Another point, which Bhartrhari makes, is that even though corrupt form (apabhramsha) conveys the same meaning as its counterpart, it cannot be considered as a synonym of it, because the apabhramsha forms are not explained by the grammar. In this regard, the only authority is the tradition of the cultured people, recorded in the science of grammar.[xi]

Further, Bhartrhari records views of different schools on the context of the ability of the corrupt forms to convey the meaning. According to the view of Naiyaayikas, an incorrect word cannot denote meaning directly. When an incorrect word is uttered, then the related correct word is recollected and that correct word alone can denote the meaning. Thus, according to this view, here the understanding of the meaning comes through the process of inference.[xii]

Sometimes the corrupt form gives a clue to know the correct one. Here, Bhartrhari gives an example of the effort of a new-born baby. Due to the deficiency in the vocal organs, the baby utters indistinct sounds, which give clues to the hearer to understand the distinct form, which is original.[xiii] (Put in this way, perhaps, modern linguistics scholars may have difficulty in accepting the viewpoint of Bhartrhari.)

There are certain circles in the society, where the use of corrupt forms is the habit of the people. Actually they are quite ignorant of the correct forms. They know only the corrupt forms through long tradition. For them the corrupt form expresses the intended meaning.[xiv]

Bhartrhari makes it clear that, when people are not cultured, if correct words are used in their presence, they would not understand the meaning; they would have doubts and those would have to be cleared with the help of the corresponding corrupt forms.[xv] A very interesting pedagogical application, indeed!

The most illuminating fact about apabhramsha presented by Bhartrhari is that these forms have been handed down uninterruptedly.[xvi]

They are used side by side with the standard forms. The only difference between these two is that the latter are generated by the great sage PaaNini, whereas the former are not.

8. TO CONCLUDE

To sum up, the derivative meaning of the apabhramsha is "falling away" or "falling down." Later on, at the time of PataNjali, it came to signify the incorrect or corrupt form. Bhartrhari uses it in this sense. The idea of apabhramsha is missing in PaaNini's ASTaadhyaayee and Kaatyaayana's Vt., where the variations are treated not as substandard but as optional forms.

Bhartrhari considers standard forms as the original forms and apabharmsa as its derivative. According to him, the correctness or corruptness of a particular form depends upon the meaning context. Both correct as well as corrupt forms are capable of conveying the meaning. The only difference between these two is that the former is derived by standard grammar and therefore is meritorious, whereas the latter is not.


REFERENCES

[i] vishvaaH prtanaa abhibhUtarantara ityajagati varSiyayashcchanda aakramate'napabhramshaaya
|| TaaNDyaBraahmaNa 1.5 ||

[ii] Apabhramsha Hindi Dictionary , Dr. Naresha Kumar, p. xviii.

[iii] "ashaastra shabde , asamskrta shabde . graamyam bhaaSaayaam" Apabhramsha Hindi Dictionary , Dr. Naresha Kumar, p. xix.

[iv]ekaikasya hi shabdasya bahavo'pabhramshaaH | tadyathaa | gaurityasya shabdasya gaavi , goNi , gotaa, gopotaliketyevamaadayo'pabhramshaaH ||Mbh. 1.1 ,p.2 ||

[v] The concept of apbhramsha and apashabda in Amarakosha as described in Apabhramsha Hindi Dictionary , Dr. Naresha Kumar, p.xviii.

[vi] mleccho ha vaa eSa yadapashabdaH || Mbh . 1.1,p.2 ||

[vii] yastu prayumkte kushalo visheSe shabdaanyathaavadavyavahaarakaale so'nantamaapnoti jayam paratram vaagyogavid duSyati ca apashabdaiH || Mhb.1.1, p. 2 ||

[viii] Only VyaaDi has dared to say the statement ( shabdaprakrtiH apabhramshaH), BhaaSaatattva aur Vaakyapadiya , Satyakaama Verma, p. 13.

[ix] asvagoNyaadayaH shabdaaH saadhavo viSayaantare |
nimittabhedaatsarvatra saadhUtvam ca vyavasthitam || BrahmakaaNDa.176 ||

[x] asva iti nirdhane saadhuH | naikashaphaadilakSaNe || Mbh. Dipikaa, ABORI 43, 1962, p.11.

[xi] na shiSTairanugamyante paryaayaa iva saadhavaH |
te yataH smtishaastreNa tasmaatsaakSaadavaacakaaH || BrahmakaaNDa.178 ||

[xii] te saadhuSvanumaanena pratyayotpattihetavaH |
taadaatmyamupagamyeva shabdaathasya prakaashakaaH || BrahmakaaNDa. 177 ||

[xiii]ambvambviti yathaa baalaH shikSamaaNo' pabhaaSate |
avyaktam tadvidaam tena vyaktau bhavati nishcayaH || BrahmakaaNDa.179 ||

[xiv]evam saadhau prayoktavye yo'pabhramshaH prayujyate |
tena saadhUvyavahitaH kashcidartho'bhidhiyate || BrahmakaaNDa.180 ||

[xv] paaramparyaadapabhramshaa viguNeSvabhidhaatrSU |
prasiddhimaagataa yena teshaam saadhuravaacakaH || BrahmakaaNDa. 181 ||

[xvi] ubhayeSaamavicchedaadanyashabdavivakSayaa |
yo'nyaH prayujyate shabdo na so'rthasyaabhidhaayakaH ||BrahmakaaNDa.183 ||


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APABHRAMSHA - AN INTRODUCTION | LITERATURE, MEDIA, AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION - Andhra Experience | BHARATHI - A COMMON SCRIPT FOR ALL INDIAN LANGUAGES | PHONOLOGICAL AND MORPHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF ORIYA SPEAKERS LEARNING KANNADA | A REVIEW OF AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEXTBOOK TO TEACH ENGLISH IN INDIAN SCHOOLS - FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A NATIVE SPEAKER OF ENGLISH | A LEARNER'S INTRODUCTION TO MANDARIN CHINESE | COMMUNICATION VIA EYE AND FACE IN INDIAN CONTEXTS | STRATEGIES IN THE FORMATION OF COMPOUND NOUNS IN TAMIL | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR


Anirban Dash, Ph.D.
srianirban@yahoo.com



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