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JOURNAL

or THE

ASIATIC SOCIETY.

—♦—

Part I.—HISTORY, LITERATURE, &c.
No. III.—1867.

On the Arabic Element in Official Hindustani.—No. 2. By
J. Beames, Esq., B. C. 8.

[Beceived 23rd July, 1866.]

"If Hindustani, adopted by us as the future general language of India, is to be a language and not a jargon, it must become so by means of its alliance with Persian, the speech which all Indian Mahometans have at their heart, and use as the feeder, or channel of other feeders, for all their abstract thought, their polities, science, and poetry."*

This extract serves as a fitting text to the subject which it is my aim to illustrate. In a former paper I gave an outline of some arguments in favour of the present Arabicized dialect of our courts, and as the little literature which the language possesses is written in the same style, the following remarks may be considered as applicable to the literary style also. In the present I propose to review the assertions of the upholders of the opposite opinion, which may briefly, and I trust fairly, be stated thus :—In writing or

* Quarterly Beview No. 234, page 517 on " VamWry's Travels in Central AtU."

speaking Hindustani, if you have two words to choose between, one Hindi or Sanskrit, and the other Persian or Arabic, it is better and less artificial to use the former; and the Arabic and Persian words already in use in Urdu are for the most part wrongly used, and are often very corrupt forms of the genuine words. There are thus two arguments: the first, a political; the second, scientific. I will examine the political or historical argument first. But I must premise that I consider the whole question as one for the student rather than the statesman. Dr. Fallon, a vigorous partizan of the Hindi school, writes, somewhat complacently, thus :* "The Urdu language needs direction; but the natives have neither taste nor learning for such a work. The task must be performed by European scholars, and the Government of the country." I would ask the author whether, in all the range of his comprehensive reading, he has ever met with an instance of a language having been created or guided by foreign scholars, or licked into shape by a Government. Is language, like law, a political creation? Does it not rather grow up in the homes of the people? Is it not hewn out of their rough untutored conceptions? Does not its value consist in its spontaneous and unconscious growth? Are not its very irregularities and errors, proofs of the want of design that attends its formation?

Or again, can a stranger guide the native mother in choosing how to talk to her child? If it be difficult for foreigners to influence a language in a country where women enjoy the same freedom as men, how much more hopeless is the task in a country like this, where the mothers of the people are inaccessible and invisible?

No, we cannot influence the speech of this people; they have formed

it for themselves; they have, before we came on the scene, chosen

Arabic and rejected Hindi. It is not true to say that they prefer

Hindi, and that we have forced on them Arabic. It is not correct to

Bay that pedantic munshis have created for the use of the European

officer a dialect unknown to the majority of the people, and the use

of which severs him from them, and gives the keys of communication

into the hands of a single class. The use of Arabic and Persian

words pervades every class. I, and many other officers, know that

» English-Hindustani Law and Commercial Dictionary by S. W. Fallon Introductory Dissertation, p. xviii. ad fin.

when we go alone and unattended into a native village, we can converse readily with the commonest people; and I have found the Arabicized style, which I, from deliberate preference, always employ, quite intelligible to the ryot aud the bunnia. This people formed their own language, and we may rest assured they will continue to develop it in that direction which they feel to be best. It is true that Hiudi is the speech of the lower classes, but how many Arabic words have invaded even the lowest Hindi, because the national feeling has adopted Arabic as a sign of cultivation. The scholar may lament that it is so, just as some scholars lament the disuse of Saxon words in English, but the lamentations of the scholar do not hinder the progress of the language.

"Hindi is more native to the soil, and lies closer to the hearts of the people than Arabic or Persian, and its use is therefore preferable to that of the last named languages." This is the political argument of the Hindi school. Dr. Fallon* puts it thus: "Hosts of Persian and Arabic words have been introduced by natives of the country (the italics are mine) who affect a foreign tongue, and make transfers in the mass out of worthless books imperfectly understood. The true vernacular is overwhelmed, thrust aside, and scornfully ignored." And again, "The vocabulary of the Indian Courts of Judicature is not absolutely without a few Hindi phrases. Still, a very large proportion of good Hindi is systematically excluded by ignorance or bad ta^te, or, worse still, from corrupt design. Words which are continually in the mouths of the people, the current speech in which men in town and country buy and sell and transact business, the mothertongue of the peasantry and indeed of the great bulk of the nation is repudiated for a foreign, high-sounding phraseology. But a people's vocabulary is not so to be set aside. The few have seldom yet succeeded in substituting their language for the language of the many. Beaten off from the courts and public offices, native Hindi still lives in the busy mart, and in the familiarities of social and domestic life. In the pithy sayings, proverbs, and national songs of the country, dwells a spirit and an iniiuence beside which the foreign and less familiar speech seems feeble and flat. These Hindi phrases have deep roots in the habits and associations of the people. They como * Dissertation pp. xii. xiii.

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