[INDOLOGY] A distraction from the Coronavirus

Hock, Hans Henrich hhhock at illinois.edu
Sun Apr 5 17:08:26 UTC 2020

Thanks, Madhav, for the reference to Hindi मेरी आत्मा.

I had been aware of several Sanskrit neuter words that were taken into Hindi with feminine gender (pustak(a) = kitāb (f.), vastu = čīz (f.), āyu = umra (f.)), but not any masculine.

The feminine gender for merī ātmā can be explained as modeled on the Urdu expression merī jān, just as the neuter --> feminine words above can be explained in terms of the gender of their Urdu counterparts. The importance of merī ātmā lies in the fact that it is not neuter in Sanskrit, and hence alternative explanations in terms of claiming that gender assignment of Sanskrit words in Hindi fluctuates (similar to what happened in Romance languages) become less likely.

The fact that Sanskrit words like these have been assigned feminine gender further supports the idea that a certain amount of the “Sanskritization" of Hindi consisted in simply substituting a Sanskrit form for an existing Urdu word, without adjusting the gender. Maybe this was an early phenomenon, when the first concerted effort was made to substitute Sanskrit words for Urdu ones?

Has anyone else noted similar cases of odd gender assignment of Sanskrit borrowings in Hindi? I would appreciate any additional examples that might be out there.

One more curiosum: Checking the web I find a fair amount of citations with मरा अात्मा; interestingly, they seem to be quite common in Christian Hindi texts, but there was at least once citation from an ISKON text as well. Could this be a case of hyper-Sanskritization?

At any rate, when I saw your message, I was shocked, too, at the mere existence of a collocation like मेरी आत्मा.

Stay healthy and keep being productive,

Hans Henrich

On 5 Apr2020, at 09:33, Madhav Deshpande via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:

Dear Roland,

     Your observation that many of these masculine usages for padma come from Kashmir is interesting. I have no idea of how gender works in Kashmiri and particularly in old Kashmiri.  Just looking at Hindi, the three gendered words of Sanskrit get redistributed to two genders.  While Marathi has three genders like Sanskrit, the genders of words often change in Marathi.  Words like svapna and vighna that are masculine in Sanskrit become neuter in Marathi.  The Marathi users of Sanskrit will instinctively use these words in neuter, till they are corrected by a learned pandit.  मेरी आत्मा of Hindi has always shocked me as a Marathi speaker.


Madhav M. Deshpande
Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Linguistics
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Senior Fellow, Oxford Center for Hindu Studies

[Residence: Campbell, California, USA]

On Sun, Apr 5, 2020 at 7:24 AM Roland Steiner <steiner at staff.uni-marburg.de<mailto:steiner at staff.uni-marburg.de>> wrote:

Dear Madhav,

> The norm in classical literature is to use *padma *in neuter gender, like
> other words for the lotus.

I am aware of this, but there is also evidence in non-epic and non-puranic works, for example

Kṣemendra's Darpadalana (7.30):

°śoṇaprabhārdrāv iva pādapadmau

Or, Somadeva's Kathāsaritsāgara (5.2.229):

ubhau kalaśapadmau ca śuśubhate sitāruṇau

Or, Mokṣopāya 5.65.29 (= "Yogavāsiṣṭha")

padmāv iva jaloddhṛtau

Perhaps it is no coincidence that these examples all come from texts that originated in Kashmir.

With best regards,

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