Language and Linguistics






When one tries to understand the relation between language history and language analysis, one faces a paradox. Western linguists of the 19th century argued that one cannot make sense of language as analysed except by considering language as subjected to a historical account. “In terms of linguistic science, the only answer to the question why? is a historical statement. Why do we call an animal of the species Equus caballus horse? - because that is what our parents called it, their English-speaking ancestors before them over thousand years. … Attempts to answer the question why? In other ways – by appeals to psychology, philosophy, or abstract logic – may seem esthetically more satisfying, but are never anything better than guesses, unprovable and fruitless.” (Bloch & Trager 1942: section. 1.4.) In short, the facts revealed by language analysis are to be accounted for by the facts revealed by language history. But then Western linguists from Saussure onwards have also argued that language history any more than a language-acquiring child need to or could wait to find out about practices of the parents’ ancestors. Actually, the working out of language history depends on a prior working out of relevant language analysis. “We can study linguistic change only in comparing related languages or different historical stages of the same language.” (Bloomfield 1933: section 1.8.) Thus, the historical significance of the complicated facts of Kashmīrī phonetics cannot be understand properly unless one has already worked out the abstract phonology of modern kashmīrī and possibly of Old Kashmīrī, Shiņā, Lahndā, and other languages. To sum up the mutual relationship between language history analysis –



            (1)        Language history                    language analysis



                                      E                                               E



                        Language change                      language system


                                    D                                                       E

            Note Read                   as: depends on, and read                    as: elucidates.



            Now let us take up the name of the elucidation, first in language analysis, and then in language history.


            Language analysis elucidates language system in two directions. It takes up generalities at the levels of formation [], manifestation / /, and interpretation < > of linguistic forms. Examples follow (Note: Read the comma as: and: the semicolon as: or.)

(2)               Formation covers grammar and lexis


[Sentence-Statement-Positive [Subject-Theme-Noun, Predicate

      [Verb, Complement-Adjective] ] ]


as in: { [ snow is white [snow  is white [ is white ] ] ]

      that is, { [ snow, [is white ] ] ]


Verb [Verb-intransitive Verb –transitive]

(3)               Manifestation covers segments and prosodies


/sn   iz - hẃa′t \ \ | | / 


(4)                  Interpretation covers messages and notions


< snow is white.> message

<color-achromatic-bright>, that is, <white> notion-network

Language analysis also takes up lexical matching at the level of particularities. (Read the colon as: matched by.)


(5)               Manifestation: Formation: Interpretation

As in: / sn /: Noun-concrete-inanimate-Continuous:



/iz /: Verb be: Non-Past-Finete-3rd-singular: < stands described as >


/hẃait /: Adjective-Quality: <white>



            Language history elucidates language change, likewise, in two directions. It takes up generalities about the historical relationships between languages. (Note: Readß as : is historically traceable to.)



(6)               Formation


Modern English [Subject-Theme-Noun, Predicate-Verb-subject concord ]ß


Middle English [subject-Recipient-Noun, Predicate-Verb-nonconcord] where: Verb =dream, think, etc.


As in: I dream ß me dreams


(7)               Manifestation


Mod E әu ßou  /ō / ß ME/ o:ow / ßOld English / ā: āW as respectively


As in: / hm; snōß hom; snow ß hām; snāw/


(8)               Interpretation

Mod E <animal: meat> ß ME [native; French] respectively as in: [ox: beef], [sheep; mutton]


Language history also takes up lexical matching at the level of particularities.


(9)               Formation

Mod E dream [Verb-subject concord] ß [Verb-non concord]


(10)           Manifestation


Mod E / drī́m / ß ME /drḗm / ß OE/ dream /


(11)           Interpretation


Mod E dream <dream> ß ME <dream > ß OE <joy: noise>

Mod E hound < hunting dog> ß ME < dog >



Historical relationships are traceable at two levels: between linguistic forms or form-categories. Now let us take up the relationships at these two levels.





Historical relationships traceable between languages and language-states are of three kinds: derivation through language-states, descent through languages, influence across languages. (Read ret as reconstructed.)


(12)           Line of Deviation, as in:


Late Mod E ß early mod E


(13)           Line of Descent, as in:


Mod E ß ME ß OE ß reconstructed from OE

OE: Old High German ß rct Germanic

Germanic: Slavic; etc.ß rct Indo European


Note: Germanic, Indo-European are also names of descent-families.


(14)           Line of Influence, as in:


Hindi ß Persian ß Arabic

as: /kāgaz ß Kāŏaz  /  ß kāŏa/

Marathi:      Telugu             Arabic


as: / kāǰī ß qāzī  ßi /


English: French: Gaelic ß Latin


English: French: German ß English: French: German


Simhala: Thai: Vietnamese ß Pali


Note: We can speak of Marathi and Telugu as Arabic influence zone; likewise there are Latin and Pali influence zones. We can speak of English, French, and German as mutual influence Western Europe Zone.


Historical relationships between linguistic forms or form categories are of three kinds and, for each kind, at three levels.


Lines of deriviation may be productive (wholesale routinization) or unproductive (piecemeal routinization). (Note: Read drf as: derived from and pdf as: productively derived from.)


(15)           Deriviation in Formation


N-action pdf V-action, as in: stop N pdf Verb (15th century)

V-action drf N, as in: ME dream V drf N (13th century): book V drf N (19th century)


V-transitive drf V-intrasitive, as in: ME fell V-tr drf fall V-intr


N pdf N-adjunct, N-nucleus, as in: dreamland pdf dream, land (19th century)


Adj < one that Vs N> drf V-tr, N-object, as in: killjoy drf kill, joy


[reduplication] : < frequency > drf reduplicand, as in: shilly-shally Adv drf shall I? (17th century): dillydally V drf dally V (18th century) probably after shilly-shally)


N-nucleus: < N-adjunct, N-nucleus > drf < N-0nucleus >, as in: paper: rickshaw drf news paper: j intrickshaw respectively (19th century)


N-noise drf noise imitated, as in: meow drf cat’s cry


(16)           Derivation in Manifestation


/Vowel-weakaccent /: < de-emphatic > drf? Vowel-strongaccent / as in: / wz / drf/ wɔʼz /, frm /drf /frɔʼm / (but not from /ɔʼn/ )


/geminate Constant /: <emphatic > drf /full-form /, as in: exam drf examination : telly (British use) drf television: transistor drf transfer resistor


/acronym /: <speed-coding > drf /full-form /, as in: tip drf TV (American use) drf television


(17)           Derivation in Interpretation


< metaphoric displacement > drf <literal sense >, as in: memory < information storage device > drf < capacity to remember >


<metonymic displacement > drf< literal sense >, as in: hand: < worker > drf < upper limb > ; H hans: <smile: become amused: become derisive > drf < laugh>


< anti-metaphoric displacement in irony > drf < literal sense >, as in: wiseacre: <one affecting to be wise > drf < soothsayer > (16th century)



< anti-metaphoric displacement in tabu- avoidance >


drf < literal sense >, as in Marathi mī- ālo


< here I leave > drf < here I come > (in avoidance of mī gelo < here I leave , possibly, this world >


< associative condensation > drf < prior to association >, as in: teacher < typically female > drf < typically male > : Indian English builder < unsavoury association > drf < without association >



Lines of descent may be abrupt or gradual in respect of substitution or transformation. (Note: Read dsf as: descended by abrupt substitution from, dgsf as: descended by gradual substitution from dtf as: descended by abrupt transformation from, dgtf as: descended by gradual transformation from.)


(18)           Descent in Formation


Dream [V-subject concord] dgsf ME {Verb-nonconcord ]


H [ N-masculine ] dsf MIA [ N-masculine: N-neuter ]


Mod E [ V, ing ] ds ME [ V, en: V, yng ]


H [ hindu, sthān ] dsf  [hindu, stān] (after [rāja, sthan])


H null dgsf ser [seer as weight: as measure] (obsolescence) dog dsbf null (innovation)

Gas dsf null (after chaos) (innovation) ā


M paņjā: <parent’s parent’s father > dsf paņtū :< offspring’s offspring’s son?, ājā: < parent’s father > by extraction


Cognitive V dtf cognizance by extraction after [ V, ance] a newt dtf ME an ewte by re-manifestation after [a, word beginning with n]


Dog: <dog > dgsb ME hound: <dog> (lexical replacement) American English black dgsf Afro-American, dgsf Negro, dgsf colored, dgsf darky, dgsf black all: <lesas offensive >


(Note how the wheel has come full circle!)


H tebil: mez dgsf mez, dgsf null


H dāvā: < claim > dsf Skt sādhya: < claim, legal or of any other kind>


(19)           Descent in Manifestation


Mod E /drī́m / dgtf ME/drḗm /


H bāndhna: Persian bandan: German binden dgtf rct IE


H ha¶¶ā  : M tha¶¶ā : < jest > dgtf rct NIA


Brunch dtf breakfast; lunch by extraction


Latin quinque: <five> dgsf rct pinque (after quattor: <four >)


(20)           Descent in interpretation


hound: < hunting dog > dgsf ME  <dog >


ME dream: <dream > dgsf OE < joy: noise >


Skt guru: < preceptor effecting transfer of imaginative cognition > ācārya : < instructor effecting transfer of reasoned cognition > dgsf guru: ācārya both: < teacher of ritual > (Middle Ages) (lexical differentiation)


Skt surā; madya; madirā; madhu; vāruņi all: < liquor > dgsf < beer; wine; wine; mead; rum > respectively (Midlle Ages) (lexical conflation)


M šodh : < search > dsf Skt < purifying >


Skt s¤´ga : < search > dsf < horn > (comparable to English horny < sexually excited or exitable >)

Lines of influence may be from Other-language to Own-language (borrowing) or from Own-language to Other-language (interference). (Note: Read bda as: borrowed after, ifa as: influenced after.)


(21)           Influence in Formation


N [N. Adjective] bda French [ N, A ], as in: secretary general in place of general secretary [A,N ]


H  ¶ebil bda E / tḗbil / : table: < table as piece of furniture >


H mez bda Portugese mesa: table


H dava bda Persian, bda Arabic / dā ‘wā / : <claim >


Leaf cigarette bda H < bīrī >


M / itihās / : Telugu / caritramu / bda E < history >


H / varg-sa´gharâ / pdf varg, sa´gharâ bda E < class struggle >


M / khāū / : < tidbit > bda nursery speech / khāū / : < tidbit >


H / sanskriti / bda Bangla  šar´skriti bda Marathi bda E  < culture > 


 Indian English foreign-returned ifa B bilat-phera


NIA [ N-plural ]: < honoured status > bda Dravidian (or ifa Dravidian)


(22)      Influence in Manifestation


M sunīt : <sonnet > pdf su, nī, t bda E / sɔʹnit /: <sonnet > 


H  ebil: M ¶ebl bda E / tḗbil /: < table >


H kāgaz bda Persian kāŏaz


M kāgad bda Arabic kāŏad


(23)      Influence in interpretation


Non-violence bda Skt [ahisā ]: < non-violence >


H Varg: M varga both: < social class > bda E [class ] :


M buddhibhed: < undesirable shift in attitude > bda Skt after Bhagavadgītā 3 : 26





An etymological statement is, as we have seen at 09, 10, 11). Language history at the level of particularities, matching formation for formation, manifestation for manifestation, interpretation for interpretation traced through lines of derivation, descent, or influence as the case may be. Examples follow.



(22)           Mod E ß ME ß OE



/ drī́m ß drḗm ß dream / manifestation


: [N ß N ß N] formation


: < dream ß dream ß joy; noise > interpretation


compactly presentable as:


/drī́m / :[ N ]: < dream ? dgtf ME / drḗm /, dgtf OE


/drém/ : < joy : noise >


(23)           NIA ß MIA ß OIA


/pān ß paņņa ß parņa / manifestation


: [N ß Nß Nß] formation


: leaf ß leaf ß leaf > interpretation


compactly presentable as :


/ pān / : [N] : <leaf > dgtf MIA / paņņa /, dgtf OIA / parņa /


where : NIA / pān / is compact presentation of H / pān /, etc.


(24)           H / ebil / : [N ] : < table as piece of furniture >


Bda E / tḗbil / : [ N] : < table as piece of furniture, etc. >


In addition, we need notations like ‘null’, ‘probably’, ‘ultimately’ (thus, H pān ult dgtf Skty parņa: H kāgaz ult bda Arabic kāŏa), ‘unknown’ (thus, Skt šmašāna etym. Unknown) along with various modes of motivationb (such as, extraction, emphatic, de-emphatic, metaphor, anti-metaphor, irony), including ‘after’.







Bloch, Bernard: Trager, George L. 1942.  Outline of linguistic analysis. Beltimore.

                MD: At Waverly Press by linguistic society of America. (deeply influenced by Bloomfield.)


Bloomfield. Leonard. 1933. Language. New York: Holt.





This is based on a seminar lecture delivered on 28. 11. 1995 at the Dept. of Linguistics, University of Calcutta. Published in Bulletin of the department of Linguistics University of Calcutta no. 12.1996. Rptd in: Vidyopansanaa: Studied in honour of Harivallabh C. Bhagani. P.J. Mistry, Bharati Modi. Mumbai: Image, 1999