Translation 42. Learner’s Guide to Hindi Prefixes and word formation. Introduction

The full 20-page study, with 800 examples (and a fuller Introduction), is available here.
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Hindi word formation is a wide and complex lexical and morphological field. The following two studies will cover some aspects of word formation of special interest and potential benefit for learners of Hindi as a Second Language. They are offered in Draft form, in the hope that those more knowledgeable will send me their corrections and suggestions in order to make this amateur compilation more accurate and useful for myself and for fellow intermediate students of Hindi.
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After four years of study, I remain deeply engaged in a time- and energy-sapping struggle with this fascinating but quite difficult foreign language. Some of my previous language-learning strategies have proved very useful in keeping me on a slowly productive learning curve but the extreme foreignness of Hindi script, vocabulary, morphology and grammar has presented a formidable linguistic Himalayan range to scale and here I am, still exploring the foothills. All these Handy Hindi Hints articles are therefore basically for my own benefit, but the considerable work involved makes the results potentially worth sharing with others on the same long trek.

One of the special difficulties for speakers of English (and many other languages) is that Hindi vocabulary does not offer any of the usual convenient and comforting ‘toeholds’ or mnemonics which are available to us in our attempts to speed up comprehension of the foreign languages we are most likely to learn: the European Romance Languages. A large quantity of words passed down from Latin are still easily and instantly comprehensible to us in these languages.

This applies most particularly to those words and word families containing familiar prefixes and suffixes, like con-, dis-, mis-, pre-, pro-, un- etc.
and
-ate, -ary, -ful, -ive, -ous, -sion, -tion, etc.

As a simple example of the practical value of this shared knowledge, take the word constitution with its prefix, con- and suffix, -tion. In many countries of Europe, and beyond, the corresponding term is instantly identified (especially in its written form):
constitution (French), constitución, costituzione, constituição, constitució and constituție, etc. Equal similarities apply to most other words containing the affixes con- and -tion and, indeed, to many other cognate Latin (and other) prefixes and suffixes.

This is a valuable learning advantage that the second language learner probably takes for granted while wrestling with the many very real problems of the foreign language.

In learning Hindi, however, NONE of these basic similarities exist and as a consequence, most native Hindi words have to be individually committed to memory. This is such a huge task that the only way to make satisfactory progress is to find shortcuts.

One obvious strategy is to systematise one’s lexical acquisitions by studying the morphology of Hindi word formation in order to build up an appreciation of Hindi word families by memorising common prefixes, suffixes and other frequently used word-compounding elements like those I shall be introducing in this academically unorthodox but (I hope) learner-friendly study.

This article and the following one will deal with detailed analyses of these two types of word formation in Hindi.

1. Words which consist of the addition of a particle (prefix) or an existing word to an existing word or ‘word base’ to form semantically related words.

2. Other selected word formations which consist of a suffix, or compounding word or element appended to an existing word. These words and compounds will be the subject of my next article.

Acknowledgements
(See Reference List for publishing details.)

In my study of the lexicon of written and spoken media Hindi, I have been especially aided by the authors of two excellent bilingual romanised dictionaries:

Hardev Bahri, Rajjpal Advanced Learner’s Hindi-English Dictionary, 2 vols., Delhi, Rajpal Publishing, 2011. (In Vol. 2, there are Appendices on Prefixes (upsarg) on pp. 1767-1771 and on Suffixes (pratyay) on pp. 1772-1778.)

Allied’s Hindi-English Dictionary, edited by Henk Wagenaar and Sangeeta S. Parikh
(New Delhi, Allied Publishers, 1996.)

For some months I have also had the luxury of referring to the bilingual Hindi and English Thesaurus by Arvind Kumar (both the online version and the printed one) and in the last three months, I have also benefitted from the recent research and romanised renderings offered in Dr. Badrinaath Kapoor’s Advanced Hindi-English Dictionary (New Delhi, Prabhaat Prakaashan, 2007).

Of the Hindi grammars I have consulted, the most thorough treatment of prefixes and suffixes is in Professor Yamuna Kachru’s magisterial study, Hindi (John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 2006, Chapter 8, ‘Word Formation’, pp 111-129. This very densely packed chapter also deals with other characteristic forms of lexical compounding in Hindi which learners need to know.

Also invaluable in my initial Hindi studies and as a constant reference point was R.S.McGregor’s enduring classic analysis, Outline of Hindi Grammar, OUP, 3rd. ed., 1995. His treatment of word formation affixes (pp 207-215) is a useful starting point on these topics.

I am also grateful to my tutor, Indramohan Singh, for timely answers to a series of last-minute queries.

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Selected Hindi Prefixes and Other Initial Compounding Elements

Classification
(Definitions in inverted commas are from Yamuna Kachru.)

1. Negatives, antonyms, opposition

a-, “not, without”
an-, ana-, “not, without”
ap-
bad-
be-
duh- : + dur-, dush- “bad, difficult”
gair
ku-, “bad, deficient”
laa-
naa-
ni-
nih-, nir-, nis-, nish-, “without”
par- other
prati- 1. against
vi-. 1. “different, opposite”
[vi-2, : See’Section 5.]

2. Positive

su-, good
sat-, sad-, true
dharm (COMPOUND)

3. Number, quantity, size

alp (COMPOUND), small
adh-, and ardh-, half
bahu- ( C ) multi-, poly-
ek-, one
du- (do-), two-
dvi-, two, twin
tri-, three-

4. References to place, position, order and time (similar to some English prepositions and prefixes)

(The brief introductory glosses in inverted commas given below are from Professor Yamuna Kachru, pp. 112- 113 and 124-125.)

aa-, “to, toward, up to”
abhi-, “toward, intensity”
adhi-, “additional, above”
[adho-, lower]
aNtah, aNtar, “inter”
anu-, “after”
ap-. “away, off, down”
ati-, “excessive”
av-, “away, diminution”
door-, far, distant
[nav-, new(ly), neo-]

pari-, “around, whole”
[poorv-, (time): former, previous
(place): east(ern)]
pra-, 1. before, pre-, forward
[pra-, 2. excellent. supreme. See Section 5.]
[punah and punar-, [re-]

up(a)-, up(i)-, “subordinate”
ut, ud-, un-, “upward”
[sah-, with, co-]
[baa-, containing, with]
saN-, with, together
[san- / sam-, same, equal]

5. Intensity or degree

[poorn-, full(y)]
pra- 2. “forward, excess”
[vi- 2. completely]
[saarv-, sarv-, all-]

6. Similar COMPOUND elements indicating scale, rank and intensity

madhya-, ( C), medium, middle-
madhyam, ( C), medium
mukhya- . chief, main
raaj-, royal
vishva ( C), universal, world

7. Personal

aatma- ( C), self-
sva(a)-, self, own
praan- ( C), life-
yog ( C), combination, joining, yoga
mano-, mental, psycho-

8. Selected productive compounding words

8.1 Elements

agni ( C), fire
bhoo, ( C) and bhoomi ( C), land, soil
jal ( C ), water
vaayu ( C) air

8.2 People

jan ( C ), people
lok ( C), people
jeev ( C), & jeevan ( C)
jaat ( C) & jaati ( C)
arth, ( C), money; meaning
raashtra, (C ) nation

8.3 Action Compounds

kaarya ( C), work, action
kriyaa ( C) action
krit-, done

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All these are examined and illustrated in detail as a vocabulary-building exercise on my Hindi web page. Approximately 800 examples and translations are given as well as glosses for the ‘base word’ to which the prefix or other element is added.

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