Language and Linguistics





            The aim of the present paper is a modest one.*


            We have all been waiting lately for the promised extension of descriptive linguistic techniques to the field of semantics.  Any such extension is going to face the following groups of problems :


1.0       Investigation or discovery, to include –


1.1       Collection of data – primarily, a corpus of messages and secondarily, previous attempts at scientific or pre-scientific description; and


1.2       Collation and analysis – primarily, breaking the code underlying the corpus and secondarily, “structural restatement” of previous descriptions.


2.0       Presentation in a form that can be tested by others.  Any of three styles may be adopted –


2.1       A set of instructions for encoding a message, that is, generating a well-formed utterance (GENERATIVE PROTOCOL).


2.2       A set of instructions for decoding a message, that is, deciding whether a given speech event is well-formed and, if so, exhibiting its structure (DIAGNOSTIC PROTOCOL, comparable to some extent to the decision procedures of logic).


2.3       A direct presentation of the code (underlying well-formed utterances and adumbrated in 2.1 and 2.2 above) in classificatory terms (DESCRIPTION OF THE SYSTEM).


3.0       Criticism or evaluation, especially with a view to choosing between alternative analyses.


            What I propose to do here is to adopt the so-called rewrite formula, a trick successfully employed in presenting grammar (and lately, phonology) as a generative protocol as defined above, and try it out in one area of the presentation of semantics – namely, translation glossing. To use Jespersen’s triad, the three modes of presentation described above may be said to proceed in the following manner :


            Generative        :           Notion              Function                       Form


            Diagnostic        :           Form                Function                       Notion


            Descriptive       :           From                Function                       Notion1


The general schema for the formula will be (read x → y as “rewrite x as y”) :


                        {From with Function}  (with “Gloss”)    


                                    {From with Function}  with “Gloss”


where “Gloss” will be either absent on the left hand side or different on the two sides. While {Form with Function} will be specified by grammatical spelling with or without limiting conditions, “Gloss” will be a translation in the metalanguage. For the purpose of this paper, we shall not attempt to show the usefulness and relevance of translation glossing beyond saying that it can find a place eventually in the diagnostic protocol.


            In all my examples, I shall use Marathi as the language whose forms are to be supplied with gloss and English as the metalanguage.  A few simple examples may be set forth :


            (1)        bhau            bhau “brother”

            (2)        lek masculine            lek masculine “son”

            (3)        culta            culta “father’s brother”

            (4)        dhak-         “who is born later than ego”


(From now on the carryover of {Form} from the left hand side will be left understood.)


            (5)        adj. + subst.             “adj. + subst.”


            Applying these instructions, we get :


            (6)        dhaka bhau             “brother who is born later than ego”

            *(7)      dhaka  lek masculine           “son who is born later than ego”


            Obviously we are in trouble, because we have failed to account for the conditioned modification of the gloss in (4) in this context.  A suitable restriction will be :


            (8)        dhak – when adj. To lek masculine, etc. → “who came to have that relationship with ego as junior to others who have the same relationship with ego”


            This will ‘take care’ not only of


(9)               dhaka lek masculine “son who came to have…ego” (i.e., “younger son”)


but also of :


            (10)      dhaki bayko          “wife who came to have … ego” (i.e. younger wife”)


            (11)      dhaki sun                “son’s wife who came…ego”


            (A moment’s thought will show that the new gloss of dhak- cannot do duty in (6).)


            so far, we have set up three kinds of rewrite formulas for translation glossing : (a) the one giving the basic notional range of a particular simple form or formal feature; (b) the one deriving the gloss of a composite form by combining the glosses of its components – for example, in (6) we have pooled together the glosses of  dhak-, bhau, and adj.+subst.; and (c) the one requiring a modification in the gloss of a simple form when it appears as a component of some larger composite form of a specified type – for example, (7) calls upon us to interpret dhak - not as “who is born later than ego” but as “who came to have that relationship with ego as junior to others who have the same relationship with ego” when it appears in the environment, for instance, to lek—— -a ahe.


            One may wonder at this point, why all this fuss, why not replace both (4) and (8) by a single formula?


            *(12)  dhak-      “younger”


This will fit (6) as well as (9), (10), (11).  We shall return to this point a little later after considering a few more examples :


            (13)  culti        “fathers’s brother’s wife”


            *(14)  dhaka culta       “father’s brother who is born later than ego”


            This does not work, so we try putting culta along with lek masculine, bayko, etc. in (8) and deriving therefrom.


            *(15)  dhaka culta        “father’s brother who came to have that relationship with ego as junior to others who have the same relationship with ego”


            This does not work either.  A similar situation obtains with culti. The results that we do desire as consistent with the facts of Marathi speech are respectively.


            (16)  dhaka culta          “father’s dhak- brother”


            (17)  dhaki culti        “father’s dhak- brother’s wife”


            (The incongruous dhak- in gloss can of course be suitably gotten rid of later by applying (6).)


            It is obvious that the rewrite formulas of type (b) and (c) (combinatory derivation and conditioned modification) cannot cope wit this.  To set up special formulas of type (a) individually for these two (and similar other) cases is a costly and possibly wasteful procedure, though I suppose we shall be forced to adopt this course in the case of recalcitrant idioms like


            (18)      (a)        buddhi         “intellect”

                        (b)        b«½                “power”

                        (c)        buddhib«½   ~   budb«½     “chess”


            (19)      culta                “…brother / sister…”  with




dhak-      “…dhak-  brother / sister…”  (with no further gloss for dhak-)


            (Here ‘etc.’ covers other items like dir “husband’s brother”, n«¸«nd “husband’s sister”.)


            This strikes me as in some way analogous to the grammatical rewrite formulas for obligatory transformation : further analysis is necessary at this point.


            Coming back to the point raised by *(12), we realize that dhak- of (19) cannot be translated by “younger” in English :


            *(20)    dhaka  culta         “younger uncle”


            “Younger uncle” in English is rather to be paraphrased “uncle who is younger than other uncles” (cf. *(15) above).


            This brings home to us an important point about the glossing metalanguage we may use in the presentation of semantics – namely, that one should not depend on detailed congruences between the object-language and the glossing metalanguage (in our case, Marathi and English respectively).  Ultimately, our primary aim here is not a ‘transfer grammar’ between Marathi and English (with both as object languages) but a description of Marathi in its own terms.  The glossing metalanguage that is to serve as our tool, therefore, is not the natural English spoken in some speech community or other but an artificial version of it.


            We have so far indicated five possible types of glossing formulas : (a) the simple, (b) the simple additive, (c) the conditional, (d) the simple suppletive, and (e) the replacive – exemplified respectively by (1), (6), (8), (18c), and (19). A few more examples may now be given to exhibit one more possibility :


            (21)      bhau                 “…brother…”  with cul«t





preceding →      “…father’s brother’s son…”  (with no further gloss for cul«t)


            Deriving from this :

            (22)      cul«t  bhau                “father’s brother’s son”

            (23)      cul«t  culta                “father’s father’s brother’s son”

            (24)      cul«t dir                    “husband’s father’s brother’s son”


            But there is a further complication :


            (25)      cul«t                 bhau                 “….brother….”   with





cul«t  preceding            “…father’s brother’s son…”


            Applying this,

            (26)      cul«t    cul«t   bhau         “father’s father’s brother’s son’s son”


            More simply, we can say that (21) is a replacive formula capable of recursive application. Another example of the recursive sub-type of type (e)  is


            (27)      bhau                 “…brother…” with mav«s





preceding             “mother’s sister’s son….”


            Applying (21) and (27) jointly and, recursively, we are in a position to supply glosses to possible forms like



            mav«s   bhau

            cul«t  mav«s   bhau

            mav«s    cul«t   bhau

            mav«s    maves   cul«t    bhau


It should perhaps be added that different but analogous formulas will be needed to explain cul«t and maves used with other kin terms than bhau, culta, dir, etc.


            I might as well pause here, since my chief aim was raising problems rather than indicating solutions.





            *  An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Autumn Seminar of Linguistics held at M.S. University of Baroda in October 1962, to whose co-participants I am indebted for comments and suggestions.


            This version was published in Indian Linguistics  24:25-30,1963.


  1. Popularly, the three may be dubbed as the speaker’s, the listener’s, and the bystander’s grammar respectively.  It must be clearly understood though that the first two are at best “official” reports of what happens in the actual traffic of language – bearing to it as much resemblance as cadaver dissection does to what the surgeon sees when he opens up the living body. Incidentally Chomsky and Halle’s rejection of the demand for explicit discovery procedures applies legitimately only to code-breaking. (1.2) (an activity undertaken by the analyst) and not to decoding (2.2) (an activity on the language-user’s part observed by the analyst). I have a suspicion that Halle at least is guilty of confusing the two.