Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 2 : 6 September 2002

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

Ph.D. Dissertation

A Contrastive Analysis of Hindi and Malayalam

V. Geethakumary, Ph.D.

V. Geethakumary 2002. Ph.D. in Linguistics, Awarded by the University of Kerala, 1997. Guide: Dr.G.K.Panikkar. Click HOME PAGE of Language in India for the current issue articles. Click BACK ISSUES for previous issues.



In the preceding chapters of this study, the structures of Malayalam and Hindi have been compared at phonological, morphological and syntactic levels. The similarities, partial similarities and differences between the two languages in different structural aspects have been closely identified and listed immediately after the individual descriptions of each structural aspects. The analysis reveals are similar in both the languages. Dissimilar items should be learnt carefully with proper attention.

Problems of Malayalam speaker while learning Hindi language:
Of the Hindi vowels/ I;, i, e:, u, u:, o:/ will be easy for a Malayalam speaker to learn because these sounds are found in Malayalam also. But the partially similar vowels will confuse the learner and the learner may pronounce it like the one which is already presenting Malayalam. Therefore the central unrounded vowel of Hindi / > / which is with higher tongue height may be pronounced with lower tongue height as that of Malayalam.

Malayalam speakers tend to pronounce [a] with [e] after voiced stops and after [r]. Thus Hindi [bal] becomes [bel] and [rakt] becomes [rekt] for Malayalam speakers.

In Malayalam vowel there is no complex diphthongs. The dipthongal alphabets /ai/ and /au/ of Malayalam writing system arenot phonemic. These are usually replaced by the continuants y or v. In Hindi these sounds are symbolized by using the symbol /:/ and />:/. Thus a Malayalam speaker may find it difficult to distinguish the vowel clusters and dipthongs in Hindi, and they may pronounce them wrongly.

The sub-phonemic length is not indicated in Malayalam transcription. In Hindi three degrees of phonetic duration - extra short, short and half-long are taken care of in the allophonic level since they have a major role in determining the vowel quality. But in Malayalam there are only two degrees of length short and long. In this area also a Malayalam speaker should be careful in learning these occurrences carefully.

Another problem while learning Hindi by a Malayalam speaker is the nasalization of vowels which is not common in Malayalam. In Malayalam the vowels which will come after a nasal consonant may show a little nasalized quality. But in Hindi there are two types of nasalisation of vowels one allophonic and the other phonemic. The allophonic nasalization which is automatic is not marked in writing. Native speaker cannot find any difficulty for this unmarked nasalized vowel pronunciations but a Malayalam speaker who may not be familiar with nasalized vowels will find it difficult. For Hindi word final nasalised vowels will find it difficult. For Hindi word final nasalised vowels there is a tend for Malayalam speakers to pronounce it as -m ending. That is, Hindi 'yahã:' will be pronounced as 'yaha:m' by Malayalee speakers.

The voiced versus voiceless stop distinction in the intervocalic position may be difficult for a Malayalam speaker learning Hindi. Malayalam speakers usually pronounce voiceless stops in the intervocalic position as voiced stops. That is, the word [kita:b] in Hindi may be pronounced as [kIda:b] by Malayalam speakers.

In the consonants of Hindi the voiced aspirated stops, which are absent even in the standard pronunciation of Malayalam, will be difficult for a Malayalam speaker to pronounce. Usually they are being pronounced with voiceless aspiration by a Malayalam speaker.
Hindi voiceless stops after nasals may be pronounced as voiced stops by Malayalam speakers.

The voiced alveolar fricative /z/ of Hindi may be pronounced as voiceless fricative /s/ by Malayalam speakers.

Gender distinction in Hindi language may be very difficult for a Malayalam speaker. In Hindi gender is purely a grammatical category, except for animate nouns. In Hindi all nouns will come under masculine or feminine gender, whether it is animate or inanimate noun. Thus the learner should carefully learn the gender of each noun separately.

The adjectives in Hindi undergo change according to the number and gender of the noun followed, which is absent in Malayalam.

In Hindi imperatives there are different markers for the verbs of second person singular, plural and honorific subjects. Here also the Malayalam speaker may find difficulty because these forms are absent in Malayalam.

Verbal conjugations in Hindi is extremely complicated when compared with Malayalam. Hindi verbs are generally conjugated by adding required tense markers along with PNG markers. Malayalam verbs have only tense markers and do not have pronominal terminations. Thus Malayalam speaker will find it difficult to learn the verbal conjugations in Hindi.

In Hindi sentences the verb will be in agreement with the subject in number and gender. A Malayalam speaker learning Hindi language should be careful in this aspect also.

Problems of Hindi speaker while learning Malayalam language :
Of the vowels of Malayalam the central unrounded vowel phoneme / > / of Malayalam make some difficulty for Hindi speaker because this sound which occur in the word final position has no equivalent in Hindi. The vowel phonemes /u:/ and /u/ of Malayalam are more rounded than that of Hindi vowels.
The short /e/ and /o/ of Malayalam may be pronounced by Hindi speakers as long.
The retroflex stops of Malayalam are pronounced with more retroflexion than that of Hindi sounds. The pronunciation of the Malayalam alveolar voiceless stop /R/ may be difficult for Hindi speakers because of the absence of this sound in Hindi.
The Malayalam dental voiced nasal /n/ also has no equivalence in Hindi and Hindi speaker may find it difficult to distinguish this sound from alveolar nasal.
The pronunciation of the sounds /L/ and / l / will be difficult for a Hindi speaker because these sounds have no equivalent forms in Hindi.
More attention may be required by Hindi speakers for the pronunciation of geminated nasal pronunciation of dental -nn-, retroflex -NN-, palatal - ññ-, velar - nn-
The gender in Malayalam is a semantic-cum-grammatical category. Neuter gender is used to denote inanimate things in Malayalam.
The singular plural distinction for reflexive pronoun in Malayalam ta:n 'self' (sg.) tannaL 'self' (pl.) is also new for Hindi speakers. The existence of double plural marker in pronouns and also the distinction such as inclusive exclusive for first person plural forms are also found only in Malayalam.
Indirect imperative forms are found only in Malayalam. The formation of negative imperatives is also different from that of Hindi. Thus these forms of Malayalam may be difficult for a Hindi speaker.
The verbal participles in Malayalam also have different forms than that of Hindi. In Malayalam there are V.P1 ., and V.P2. With different markers. The Negative forms of V.P. in Malayalam also have different structures. In Malayalam negative suffixes are directly added to the verb stem. The participle markers are also added directly to the verb stem only in Malayalam. These structural differences between the two languages will be difficult for a learner.
The formation of reflexive verb is found only in Malayalam. The addition of the verb 'koLLum" to the verbal participle will give reflexive meaning. In Hindi there is no equivalent form.
In Malayalam different moods and aspects are obtained mostly by the addition of suffixes to the verb stem, whereas in Hindi separate verb or verbal sequences are added to the verb in most cases. Here also a Hindi speaker will have to give more attention to learn these forms of Malayalam.

The structural similarities and differences brought out through this study it is hoped will contribute to cross linguistic research leading to typological studies as well as for the endeavor of identifying commoners among Indian languages.


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