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Poetical languages: Urdu

Mapraputa Is
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There was an opinion voiced on this board that Urdu is a "poetical language", something that I did not quite understand. Are some languages more poetical than other? What makes them poetical?
Ravish sent me this link about Ghazal -- a form of poetry that has rather strict rules. "Kaafiyaa" rule is particularly interesting. Here I should note that it seems that rhyme and rhythm is more important for Russian poetry than for English. To add the last stroke to the picture, here is a quote I read in John DeFrancis' "The Chinese Language: Facts and Fantasy" book:
"Japanese has only 113 different syllables. Chinese has 1,277 tonal syllables. <...> English has more than 8,000 different syllables"
It seems that writing poetry is easier if the language has more coherent set of syllables - maybe in this sense some languages are "more poetical" than other...
Question to speakers of Urdu: I noticed that many words have "aa" letter combination. Is this one sound in Urdu or two?


Uncontrolled vocabularies
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Jim Yingst
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There was an opinion voiced on this board that Urdu is a "poetical language"
An opinion which you were happy to assert as fact a year ago, as I recall. "You know that American poetry is not even close to Italian, Russian and Urdu, don't you?" Imagine my shock to discover now you didn't actually know what you were talking about when you said that. : (OK, it was strongly suspected then too.)
[ July 03, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]

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frank davis
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
There was an opinion voiced on this board that Urdu is a "poetical language", something that I did not quite understand. Are some languages more poetical than other? What makes them poetical?
Ravish sent me this link about Ghazal -- a form of poetry that has rather strict rules. "Kaafiyaa" rule is particularly interesting. Here I should note that it seems that rhyme and rhythm is more important for Russian poetry than for English. To add the last stroke to the picture, here is a quote I read in John DeFrancis' "The Chinese Language: Facts and Fantasy" book:
"Japanese has only 113 different syllables. Chinese has 1,277 tonal syllables. <...> English has more than 8,000 different syllables"
It seems that writing poetry is easier if the language has more coherent set of syllables - maybe in this sense some languages are "more poetical" than other...
Question to speakers of Urdu: I noticed that many words have "aa" letter combination. Is this one sound in Urdu or two?


English can be the most poetic language since it is far richer than other languages and therefore affords the artist the widest variety of tools to work with. You have already mentioned the number of syllables in English is greater than many other langauges, but English also borrows from rich traditions of Latin, Greek and Germanic roots giving it an unprecedented diversity and full-bodied richness in meaning and metaphor unparelled by any other language that has ever existed.
R K Singh
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I could not learn Urdu more than Alif Bey Tey
AW regarding aa, it is pronounced as single word, like you pronounce a in department.

or the second a of this picture is equivalant to aa.


"Thanks to Indian media who has over the period of time swiped out intellectual taste from mass Indian population." - Chetan Parekh
R K Singh
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Originally posted by herb slocomb:
You have already mentioned the number of syllables in English ....

When we say syllables, is it mean slang??
slang: dictinary meaning :
1. A characteristic language of a particular group
2. Informal language consisting of words and expressions that are not considered appropriate for formal occasions; often vituperative or vulgar
Syllables:
1. A unit of spoken language larger than a phoneme
Phoneme:
1. (linguistics) one of a small set of speech sounds that are distinguished by the speakers of a particular language.
R K Singh
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I got two good links.
One tries to understand what is the problem in writing Ghazal in English.
And another is an attempt to write Ghazals in English while taking care of all minute details of Ghazal
First link is :
http://desiconnection.com/article/Visitors/
From this page:
Unfortunately, it has never fulfilled its promise in English. This may be due to the lack of awareness of its true structure, the lack of non-rhyming words in English, or the non-linear structure of the form itself.
Note: These wording are regarding Ghazal's rule. No were its trying to say that english is less poetic.
A pak[clean] approach to understand Ghazals in English. http://www.mochinet.com/Writing/CB/SeriesI-VolI-DiscoveringEnglishGhazal.pdf
Page number 5 - 8 is worth reading if you are intrested to know a new form of poetry in English.
Sara Jahan
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Originally posted by Ravish Kumar:
I could not learn Urdu more than Alif Bey Tey

I did. It is quiet interesting. I learnt it for 2 years - 7 days a week - more than 10 years back. It is quiet unique. Letters look different when they are combined with different letters. I always found writing in Urdu was like drawing - plus it goes from right to left. The fountain pen that I used for my Urdu course could not be used for English. The nib kinda becomes slanting because the pen is not held at right angle but around 75 degrees. In Urdu, there is a lot of stress on calligraphy or how beautiful your words look on paper. Also, on the correct usage of the charcters. For instance, there are about 5 characters (as far as I remember!) to denote the sound 'z'. I got so involved in that aspect that I kind of missed the poetic aspect of it - the reason why I actualy took it up.
/Sara
R K Singh
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Originally posted by Sara Jahan:
For instance, there are about 5 characters (as far as I remember!) to denote the sound 'z'.

I think you want to say 'za'.
Jaban Or Zaban OR Juban OR Zuban [I wish I know how to put a dot above Z, then I would have written 3-4 more versions ]
AW I think I mentioned it earlier also, I dont like when someone tries to speak Urdu but cant pronounce correctly.
It is such a delicate language ..
Rahul Roy
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Urdu Ghazal , Parveen Shakir
Rahul
[ July 03, 2003: Message edited by: Rahul Roy ]
Mapraputa Is
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Jim: An opinion which you were happy to assert as fact a year ago, as I recall. "You know that American poetry is not even close to Italian, Russian and Urdu, don't you?"
I was kidding!
i�ro�ny n., pl. i�ro�nies. 1.a. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning. b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning. c. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect. See Synonyms at wit<sup>1</sup>.

Herb: English can be the most poetic language since it is far richer than other languages
I wonder how many languages you know...
There *is* a rumor that English vocabulary is the largest, the question is whether people's active vocabulary (the words they actually use) varies from language to language. I would suspect that it's about the same.
English is "far richer"! :roll: English is morphologically very poor language. How many words are here for "cat"? In Russian, you would have "kot" (male cat) and "koshka" (female cat), plus "kotyara, kotishe, kotik" (mostly applied to male cats) "koshandra, koshan'ka, kisa, kiska" etc. for female cats. Also kisulya, kisul'ka, I'll better stop, all with slightly different meaning, mostly to convey your attitude toward this particular cat.
There is a poem that is build on playing around one suffix. -'she' that adds a notion of "big" to any word it is applied to. Not sure how all this can be translated...
Ravish: When we say syllables, is it mean slang??
It's what words are broken into.
For example, understand = un-der-stand - three syllables.
Michael Matola
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MI: How many words are here for "cat"?

cat
feline
kitten
kitty
kitty-cat
puss
pussy
pussycat
tom
tomcat
alley cat
Michael Matola
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Ravish: When we say syllables, is it mean slang??
MI: It's what words are broken into.
Other way 'round. It's what sounds group up into (for the non-teleologcically inclined).
For example, understand = un-der-stand - three syllables.
Right, sort of. "Understand" has three syllables because it has three syllabic nuclei. Let's try a definition -- a syllable is a grouping of sounds (actually "phones," but I don't want to go there) that consists of a nucleus and an optional onset (something before the nucleus) and an optional codex (something after the nucleus). Syllabic nuclei are most commonly vowels, but some languages (English, for example) also allow certain sounds (liquids and nasals) to function as nuclei (at which point they're refered to as... drumroll... "syllabic liquids" and "syllabic nasals"). Without torturing anyone with any sort of phonetic transcription, the 3 nuclei of "understand" are the intial schwa, the syllabic liquid "r," and the vowel represented by the letter "a" near the end. (If you have difficulty with the idea that an "r" can be the nucleus of a syllable, then just go with another schwa for the second syllable.) English also gets pretty fuzzy in many situations whether a given intervocalic consonant is the codex of the earlier syllable or the onset of the later syllable; some languages keep things a bit tidier.
How how you deal with "syllables" when writing seems pretty arbitrary (though conventions exist) -- about as arbitrary as the division into "words."
Rahul Roy
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Ahmed Faraz
Rahul Roy
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Urdu Poetry in the voice of Poets
For the ones who can understand Urdu but can not read urdu alphabete.

Rahul
[ July 03, 2003: Message edited by: Rahul Roy ]
John Dunn
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originally posted by Michael Matola
Right, sort of. "Understand" has three syllables because it has three syllabic nuclei. Let's try a definition -- a syllable is a grouping of sounds (actually "phones," but I don't want to go there) that consists of a nucleus and an optional onset (something before the nucleus) and an optional codex (something after the nucleus). Syllabic nuclei are most commonly vowels, but some languages (English, for example) also allow certain sounds (liquids and nasals) to function as nuclei (at which point they're refered to as... drumroll... "syllabic liquids" and "syllabic nasals"). Without torturing anyone with any sort of phonetic transcription, the 3 nuclei of "understand" are the intial schwa, the syllabic liquid "r," and the vowel represented by the letter "a" near the end. (If you have difficulty with the idea that an "r" can be the nucleus of a syllable, then just go with another schwa for the second syllable.) English also gets pretty fuzzy in many situations whether a given intervocalic consonant is the codex of the earlier syllable or the onset of the later syllable; some languages keep things a bit tidier.

This reminds of why I NEVER wrote one paper in 4 yrs of college and despised 'English' as a subject. (Sorry to all the Language hounds.)


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Jim Yingst
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[Also sprach Mapraputa]: English is "far richer"! English is morphologically very poor language. How many words are here for "cat"?
Aside from the options Michael Matola offered, we've also got these things called "adjectives" which might occasionally be useful to you if you require additional specificity.
[ July 03, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
John Dunn
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[verbal] i�ro�ny n., pl. i�ro�nies. 1.a. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning. b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning. c. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect. See Synonyms at wit<sup>1</sup>.
Such a wonderful, wonderful word!!!
dramatic irony
n.

The dramatic effect achieved by leading an audience to understand an incongruity between a situation and the accompanying speeches, while the characters in the play remain unaware of the incongruity.
Pretty Woman (as Cinderella)
socratic irony
n
: admission of your own ignorance and willingness to learn while exposing someone's inconsistencies by close questioning
See PMS link
Uncle Tom's Cabin - to a ~degree~. Harriot Beecher Stowe was quite successful in informing common folks about the folly of slavery by painting such a real-life story of their lives and feelings. 'Uncle Tom' has also been compared to Jesus Christ, so there is also a level of structural irony.
Structural irony
occurs when a double level of meaning is continued throughout a work by means of some inherent feature such as a hero, narrator, or persona who is either naive or fallible (a participant in the story whose judgment is impaired by prejudice, personal interests or limited knowledge).
Gulliver's Travels The Sixth Sense
Irony can also be stable or unstable
In stable irony there is a constant perspective from which to perceive the underlying meaning; whereas in unstable irony there is no perspective that is not itself undercut ironically.
[stable -> Pretty Woman]
[very unstable -> The Sixth Sense]
Jim Yingst
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Nice ironic use of adjectives there, John.
Michael Matola
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I'm rather fond of post-irony, myself.
(By the way, that should have been "coda" in the above, not "codex.")
John Dunn
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Nice ironic use of adjectives there, John.
I'd so love to take credit for the full ironic exchange but actually we'll have to file this one under the following category:
Coincidence
n 1: an event that might have been arranged although it was really accidental
[syn: happenstance] 2: the quality of occupying the same position or area in space; "he waited for the coincidence of the target and the cross hairs" 3: the temporal property of two things happening at the same time; "the interval determining the coincidence gate is adjustable" [syn: concurrence, conjunction, co-occurrence]
It took so long to make my reply, that JY had come along and replied about adjectives. The specifics of irony are quite complex and I didn't want my reply to get shot down by one of the Literature majors! My reply just so happened to fit in, ever so nicely. It was, to say the least, rather Divine
Truth be told, I just genuinely enjoy the use and concept of irony - especially when used as satire. It's like polymorphism in the world of literature. I saw Map's post and wanted to share my love of irony.
----------------
How amazing to tell two stories at the same time and score on both!! Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels as a moral satireagainst the man's vices, English Royalty and it was also enjoyed as a children's story along with Robinson Crusoe, another book about human behavior and Alice in Wonderland., a story written by a Mathematician, about his colleague's daughter. Hey, does everyone know that Gulliver's Travel's is where we get the term 'Yahoo'? (Gulliver's Travels was later banned for its controversies.)
IMHO, Satire is a real poetic artform in literature. How wonderful to laugh at the folly of those you are not allowed to laugh at, in a way that allows them to enjoy it OR better yet not even realize the ridicule, when everyone else does!
Mapraputa Is
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Jim: Aside from the options Michael Matola offered, we've also got these things called "adjectives" which might occasionally be useful to you if you require additional specificity.
Oh. Now I am starting to comprehend how English is far richer than other languages. In English you can use adjectives -- this is indeed unparelled by any other language that has ever existed.
People, you totally missed my point. But this is my fault. When I said "English is morphologically very poor language" I knew what I mean, but my thoughts aren't transparent for other. I did not mean that English lacks expressiveness, you can express the same idea in any language (unless there are some particular lacunas, but this is rare). The difference is in what methods are used, and here is the difference, sorry for tautology. I should probably stress the word "morphological"...
Here I would like to remind that the topic under investigation is whether there is such thing as "poetical" and "unpoetical" languages and if so, what features contribute to nature of poesy.
"English is morphologically poor language" (Ok, I removed "very" ) is another way of saying that English is an analytical language, as Michael Matola pointed out in one of previous threads. As such, it has to rely on extensive vocabulary to convey shades of meaning that in another language could be expressed by a system of suffixes or word order.
Does this difference matter for an art of poetry? I believe, it does. I even thoughtfully provided an example of a Russian poem that contributed to my intuition, because it was build around one suffix, that was added to a large set of nouns. This system of orthogonal suffixes which can be added to virtually any word and slightly modify its meaning, is one of most enjoyable morphological features of Russian.
Let's go back to our cats.
In my example, all words had the same stem. The phenomenon I wanted to point out was a high degree of word modifiability. I doubt there is a language in which you cannot produce "alley cat" or whatever other compound you can come up with. (kittens, by the way, were outside of my sample). "Tom" - a question for Michael Matola, is it more or less an analog of calling Russian cats "Vas'ka"? (male name).
If somebody wants to read more linguistically accurate description of the phenomenon, Inflection versus Derivation.
What all this has to do with adjectives???
"Morphology. The study of the structure and form of words in language or a language, including inflection, derivation, and the formation of compounds."
[ July 03, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Manish Hatwalne
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Why compare Urdu with something else? It is very beautiful and unique in its own way, just like most other languages are! (Not VBScript, mind you! )
Anyway, few more interesting links -
http://www.urdupoetry.com - AFAIK, The largest resource for urdu poetry on the web.
http://www.aaina-e-ghazal.com - Small but beautiful site.
- Manish
Michael Matola
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MI: Oh. Now I am starting to comprehend how English is far richer than other languages. In English you can use adjectives -- this is indeed unparelled by any other language that has ever existed.
By the way, not everybody would consider the word "alley" in "alley cat" an adjective. The whole thing can be considered a single (compound) noun. (Shhh! don't tell anyone, this might destroy What Everyone Thinks They Know About English.)
People, you totally missed my point.
Languages is different.
"English is morphologically poor language" (Ok, I removed "very" ) is another way of saying that English is an analytical language, as Michael Matola pointed out in one of previous threads. As such, it has to rely on extensive vocabulary to convey shades of meaning that in another language could be expressed by a system of suffixes or word order.
Replace "has to" with "most commonly."
If you look closely enough you'll see some inflection in my cat example.
Does this difference matter for an art of poetry? I believe, it does. I even thoughtfully provided an example of a Russian poem that contributed to my intuition, because it was build around one suffix, that was added to a large set of nouns. This system of orthogonal suffixes which can be added to virtually any word and slightly modify its meaning, is one of most enjoyable morphological features of Russian.
Sure, it's great fun. Can be tricky for outsiders, but not completely overwhelming. But also it's just one of the many things that make Russian a cool-ass language. It's the feature you like most, apparently. For me, it's Russian word order.
"Orthogonal" and "virtually any word" are nice flourishes here, but really don't carry much meaning, but I won't digress to argue against them at this point. Because I'd much rather introduce...
a snippet of some genius poetry in English that, just like your example, is built around the repetition of an affix: in the English case it's the circumfix "for the...and the like" (it also happens to include varying internal rhymes and repitition). The poem as a whole is built off the repitition of (and in some places alteration between) "for" and "let"

For the instruments are by their rhimes,
For the shawm rhimes are lawn fawn and the like.
For the shawm rhimes are moon boon and the like.
For the harp rhimes are sing ring and the like.
For the harp rhimes are ring string and the like.
For the cymbal rhimes are bell well and the like.
For the cymbal rhimes are toll soul and the like.
For the flute rhimes are tooth youth and the like.
For the flute rhimes are suit mute and the like.
For the bassoon rhimes are pass class and the like.
For the dulcimer rhimes are grace place and the like.
For the clarinet rhimes are clean seen and the like.
For the trumpet rhimes are sound bound and the like.

Let's go back to our cats.
Do read the rest of the poem, especially if you're previously unfamiliar with Smart's cat Jeoffry. (Note that Rejoice in the Lamb is somewhat reconstructed from the larger Jubilate Agno. See also. And/or also.)
Tell me this stuff doesn't rock.
In my example, all words had the same stem. The phenomenon I wanted to point out was a high degree of word modifiability.
They're roots not stems (but that's a different conversation) and you used two of them, not one: kot- and kis-.
(kittens, by the way, were outside of my sample).
But they probably shouldn't have been, because that would have allowed you to list even more derivational forms (kotenok, kotiata, etc.) based on these inflections you're so mad for.
I am officially leaving town shortly, peeps. Will be back in a few days.
[ July 04, 2003: Message edited by: Michael Matola ]
Anonymous
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Was just fishing through my HTTP logs when I discovered someone had a look at "Discovering English Ghazal" from this site. So I came and read the rather fascinating discussion (fight?) about phonemes and who's got the better language.
*laughing*
I only know English, and all I can add to the discussion is that English is deep enough that it will is capable of keeping me occupied for the rest of my life. If I had a couple more lifetimes to live, I'd love to study Farsi, Urdu, Chinese and Arabic and their respective histories. But, one must deal with one's allotment as best he can... Academic education is not a gift I've been granted. So, I've had to settle for a self-education of a more ecclectic nature.
Anyway, the ghazal example on page 8, refered to by Ravish Kumar, is just about a year and a half old. I will be rewriting it over the next few months, as I am going over all the ghazals I have written from #1 to the last. In comparison with my more recent work, I rate the example on page 8 quite low as an example of the English Ghazal.
I would suggest reading something like "Vapors (ghazal #122)" in "Rediscovering English Ghazal: Volume IV" to get an idea of what really can be done with the ghazal as an English form. It took me two years of constant work to get to where I could produce something like "Vapors". Here's a link to Volume IV:
http://www.mochinet.com/Writing/CB/SeriesI-VolIV-RediscoveringEnglishGhazal.pdf
"Vapors (ghazal #122)" is more successful at breaking continuity, yet not so much so that everything goes flying apart. It is also rigidly stichic, using lines of trochaic-iambic septameter with a cesura splitting the fourth foot, a spondee, of each line. I haven't seen this specific line structure in English poetry yet, so I may[\I] have invented it.
An older piece that is one of my first real successes in maintaining rigidly stichic lines throughout the ghazal is "Acorn (ghazal #63)" in "Uncovering English Ghazal: Volume II". Here is a link to Volume II:
http://www.mochinet.com/Writing/CB/SeriesI-VolII-UncoveringEnglishGhazal.pdf
"Acorn" uses strict iambic pentameter, which I have discovered is not the greatest match for the English ghazal. Yet, in "Acorn" it appears to have been somewhat successful, though there may be too much continuity for Urdu tastes. I've done the best I could.
Anyway, thanks for the link, and especially the conversation. Very intriguing and enlightening read.
Cheerfulness,
-----Erin A. Thomas

Originally posted by Ravish Kumar:
I got two good links.
One tries to understand what is the problem in writing Ghazal in English.
And another is an attempt to write Ghazals in English while taking care of all minute details of Ghazal
First link is :
http://desiconnection.com/article/Visitors/
From this page:
Unfortunately, it has never fulfilled its promise in English. This may be due to the lack of awareness of its true structure, the lack of non-rhyming words in English, or the non-linear structure of the form itself.
Note: These wording are regarding Ghazal's rule. No were its trying to say that english is less poetic.
A [i]pak
[clean] approach to understand Ghazals in English. http://www.mochinet.com/Writing/CB/SeriesI-VolI-DiscoveringEnglishGhazal.pdf
Page number 5 - 8 is worth reading if you are intrested to know a new form of poetry in English.
Richard Hawkes
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Language and poetry are too subjective to ever decide if one language is better overall. One language will be better suited to writing a certain style of poetry than another. English is probably more documented and studied than other languages(?) but I wouldn't say it was THE most expressive. Many languages have examples of words to describe a concept or feeling that would take a few more words in English and vice-versa.
Originally posted by Michael Matola
Right, sort of. "Understand" has three syllables because it has three syllabic nuclei. Let's try a definition -- a syllable is a grouping of sounds (actually "phones," but I don't want to go there) that consists of a nucleus and an optional onset (something before the nucleus) and an optional codex (something after the nucleus). Syllabic nuclei are most commonly vowels, but some languages (English, for example) also allow certain sounds (liquids and nasals) to function as nuclei (at which point they're refered to as... drumroll... "syllabic liquids" and "syllabic nasals"). Without torturing anyone with any sort of phonetic transcription, the 3 nuclei of "understand" are the intial schwa, the syllabic liquid "r," and the vowel represented by the letter "a" near the end. (If you have difficulty with the idea that an "r" can be the nucleus of a syllable, then just go with another schwa for the second syllable.) English also gets pretty fuzzy in many situations whether a given intervocalic consonant is the codex of the earlier syllable or the onset of the later syllable; some languages keep things a bit tidier.
This might help. When Koreans pronounce English words, they treat every sound like a syllable:
Understand = 은더스탄드 = un-duh-suh-tann-duh
MacDonalds = 맥도놀드스 = mek-doh-nol-duh-suh
The Korean alphabet is completely phonetic. Its strange coming across all these extra syllables as a native English speaker!
R K Singh
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Originally posted by <Zahhar>:
Was just fishing through my HTTP logs when I discovered someone had a look at "Discovering English Ghazal" from this site. So I came and read the rather fascinating discussion (fight?) about phonemes and who's got the better language.
*laughing*

Hi Zahar
What you think is fight [rather fascinating discussion (fight?) ], its the way we live here [in MD] .
I wish you visit more often here and tell us more about you and your work.
Anonymous
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Hi Ravish,
I'll tell you what I can. What would you like to know about it?
Hi Zahar
...
I wish you visit more often here and tell us more about you and your work.
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
Sara: In Urdu, there is a lot of stress on calligraphy or how beautiful your words look on paper.
I was going to respond that computers would kill calligraphy, because people do more typing than writing now. But then it occurred to me that in past there weren't too many good calligraphers either. Well, now they are called "font designers", and their art is reusable.
Manish: Why compare Urdu with something else? It is very beautiful and unique in its own way, just like most other languages are!
Presumably, we are a bunch of geeks here, and what can be more fun that to try to find patterns in what looks like chaos? There is a concept of "Markov chains" in the theory of probability, and A.A. Markov first applied this concept to the analysis of letter distribution in a famous poem "Eugene Onegin" (by A.Pushkin). Another alpha-geek, A.N. Kolmogorov, had some works applying his theory of complexity to poetry. He, for example, calculated the probability of two randomly chosen words in Russian to rhyme is ~ 0,005. Based on this, he then estimated that the "local dictionary" of A.Pushkin, which is words that he considered when choosing a rhyme, was 100-200. (Link, in Russian)
I recently read that good poetry has very high degree of imformativeness, which is understood as unpredictability, higher than prose. Words in a poem are unexpected, yet exact in certain sense. (If they were random, a poem would be just boring).
MM: By the way, not everybody would consider the word "alley" in "alley cat" an adjective. The whole thing can be considered a single (compound) noun. (Shhh! don't tell anyone, this might destroy What Everyone Thinks They Know About English.)
I thought "alley" in "alley cat" is a noun. "this might destroy What Everyone Thinks They Know About English" -- I do not think that I know anything about English after I read somewhere that there are only two verb tenses in English - past and present. "What happened to the future" - cried I in despair, but the author left his intriguing statement at this. Fortunately, another book put more light, explaining that the theoretical status of the future tense is dubious because it is not morphologically marked: there are no affixes that marks future, only string of words, "will do".
Zahhar: Was just fishing through my HTTP logs when I discovered someone had a look at "Discovering English Ghazal" from this site.
This is the power of Web media! If you mention a book, will the author come to your site to drop a word? No. You give a link -- and here you are!
Zahhar: So I came and read the rather fascinating discussion (fight?) about phonemes and who's got the better language.
This is a ritual fight. To express ourselves in straightforward manner is often boring. Overstatements are invigorating. They motivate people to work on repudiation, and a lot of good points appear a result.
Richard: Many languages have examples of words to describe a concept or feeling that would take a few more words in English and vice-versa.
There is an example (long) of lexical inequality:
"English-Russian dictionaries usually offer two Russian words as equivalents of the English word sad: grustnyj and petal'nyj (cf. e.g. Falla et al. 1992). The noun sadness is usually given two glosses: grust' and petal', although sometimes a third Russian word, toska, is also added (cf. e.g. Falla et al. 1992). This implies that grustnyj and grust' mean the same as petal'nyj and pecal' (as well as sad and sadness). In fact, however, this is not the case.

Although figures that can be found in frequency dictionaries are only broadly indicative (if only because they differ from one frequency dictionary to another) the differences between the Russian and the English data are, nonetheless, too marked to be ignored. At the very least they show that neither petal' nor grust' is marginal in Russian speech, the way melancholy is marginal in English. They also show that Russian has three common everyday words (or families of words) in the domain in which English has only one."
It will be clear from the foregoing discussion that while both grust' and petal' have a great deal in common with the English sadness, they both differ from it in some respects. Unlike sadness, petal' has to have a definite cause, it has to imply a negative evaluation of some event or state of affairs, as well as a "bad feeling", and it has to extend in time; and grust' differs from sadness in implying (prototypically at least) a short term feeling and not necessarily a "bad one". (The death of a child, frequently mentioned in the literature as a "prototypical antecedent" of "sadness", could hardly be linked with grust'.) Thus, each of the three words considered here (sadness, grust', petal') has its own distinct meaning. There is of course no reason to think that one of these words corresponds to some universal cognitive scenario (let alone a distinctive universal pattern of autonomic nervous system activity, cf. Ekman 1994b: 17), whereas the others do not.
It could be said that the differences between grust', petal', and sadness are relatively minor. As noted earlier, however, there are languages (like Tahitian; cf. Levy 1973) where the closest counterpart of sadness differs from it so much that the language can be said to have no counterpart of sadness at all (not even an approximate one). The main point of this section was not to claim that Russian, like Tahitian, "has no word for sadness", but rather to demonstrate the methodology which can be used for comparing any "emotion concepts", no matter how different, both within a given language and across languages and cultures.
Anna Wierzbicka
Emotions Across Languages and Cultures: Diversity and Universals
[ July 06, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Anonymous
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I recently read that good poetry has very high degree of imformativeness, which is understood as unpredictability, higher than prose. Words in a poem are unexpected, yet exact in certain sense. (If they were random, a poem would be just boring).
I have to agree with this. But, most English poetry is what I have come to term as "me too" poetry. Someone decides he wants to be a poet, so he reads Ginsberg, Whitman and Rich and tries to write stuff that looks like what they see, and comes out just as flatulent and flabby.
The poetry that fascinates me is Chinese poetry, with the help of a friend who is a Chinese scholar. Chinese poetry fits the idea you presented and then some.
Prose tends to explicate on details, while poetry, good poetry, seeks to cut out superfluous intermediaries and provide the core expression of what is to be conveyed. From my reading of translated works from Farsi and Chinese, I am beginning to see that English poets, over Farsi and Chinese poets, have a nasty habit of writing everything with "I", "me", "my" and "see" all the way through it. The ego of the English poet is far more pronounced in his poetry, making the reading experience feel a lot like the poet is directly in your face cramming his words and ideas down your throatle... Not the most enjoyable experience. The most successful poetry, in any language, is the poetry makes the poet transperant, or at least only present in as much as is absolutely necessary.
I've been seeking to emulate the pros in my above statements and erradicate the cons, while at the same time developing my understanding of English prosody, both classic and modern, while developing my own system of prosody in parallel.
Zahhar: Was just fishing through my HTTP logs when I discovered someone had a look at "Discovering English Ghazal" from this site.
[This is the power of Web media! If you mention a book, will the author come to your site to drop a word? No. You give a link -- and here you are!
Hrrm, suddenly I feel terribly predictable.
There is an example (long) of lexical inequality:
"English-Russian dictionaries usually offer two Russian words as equivalents of the English word sad: grustnyj and petal'nyj (cf. e.g. Falla et al. 1992). The noun sadness is usually given two glosses: grust' and petal', although sometimes a third Russian word, toska, is also added (cf. e.g. Falla et al. 1992). This implies that grustnyj and grust' mean the same as petal'nyj and pecal' (as well as sad and sadness). In fact, however, this is not the case.

Although figures that can be found in frequency dictionaries are only broadly indicative (if only because they differ from one frequency dictionary to another) the differences between the Russian and the English data are, nonetheless, too marked to be ignored. At the very least they show that neither petal' nor grust' is marginal in Russian speech, the way melancholy is marginal in English. They also show that Russian has three common everyday words (or families of words) in the domain in which English has only one."
It will be clear from the foregoing discussion that while both grust' and petal' have a great deal in common with the English sadness, they both differ from it in some respects. Unlike sadness, petal' has to have a definite cause, it has to imply a negative evaluation of some event or state of affairs, as well as a "bad feeling", and it has to extend in time; and grust' differs from sadness in implying (prototypically at least) a short term feeling and not necessarily a "bad one". (The death of a child, frequently mentioned in the literature as a "prototypical antecedent" of "sadness", could hardly be linked with grust'.) Thus, each of the three words considered here (sadness, grust', petal') has its own distinct meaning. There is of course no reason to think that one of these words corresponds to some universal cognitive scenario (let alone a distinctive universal pattern of autonomic nervous system activity, cf. Ekman 1994b: 17), whereas the others do not.
It could be said that the differences between grust', petal', and sadness are relatively minor. As noted earlier, however, there are languages (like Tahitian; cf. Levy 1973) where the closest counterpart of sadness differs from it so much that the language can be said to have no counterpart of sadness at all (not even an approximate one). The main point of this section was not to claim that Russian, like Tahitian, "has no word for sadness", but rather to demonstrate the methodology which can be used for comparing any "emotion concepts", no matter how different, both within a given language and across languages and cultures.
As I read this, I thought to myself "context, English is a highly context-based language as well as culture. The average proletarian English speaking person has a cultural context that is wrapped up purely in television specials and box office hits. Beyond that, his education is not much to speak of, at least here in America.
The context in which "sad" might be used in a poem or colloquially will define the word to the reader or listener. Not only this, but "sad" will not always been the word of choice.
"My dog died; I'm sad."
"My dog died; I'm grieved."
"I'm depressed; My dog died."
"I'm feeling down; My dog died today."
"I'm sad and distressed; My dog is terribly ill."
"My 20 year old k9 companion died; I'm crushed."
"I makes me sad to realize I'll eventually outlive my dog."
"My dog has a tumor; I'm worried."
I think this conveys the idea. "Sadness" is expressed and conveyed in each of the statments above. With each statement, the sense of the sadness is slightly modified.
I'm sure this is also true for Russian and possibly all languages. The work of the poet is to find the word, or words that accurately and accutely convey the expression in the desired fashion. I doubt this is easy to accomplish in any language, and sometimes a new word needs to be coined. A skilled poet can invent a word that the reader will understand both based on the roots used in the word and the context of its usage.
Mapraputa Is
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Zahhar: I have to agree with this. But, most English poetry is what I have come to term as "me too" poetry. Someone decides he wants to be a poet, so he reads Ginsberg, Whitman and Rich and tries to write stuff that looks like what they see, and comes out just as flatulent and flabby.
Maybe... There is an alternative possible motivation, though. I just read this observation about why people believe in God, and thought that it can be the same with poetry.
"But the single strongest reason, I feel, for believing in God, comes from personal experience. (It also seems to be the only major reason (apart from social pressures or convenience) for changing religions.) Many people feel that God is watching out for them--they've discovered blessings in their lives because of keeping God's commandments, for example, or perhaps they've received powerful answers to prayers. They've heard voices of warning or had feelings of premonition, cautioning them against danger. They've had feelings of peace or happiness as they go to church or read the scriptures. Others have had other inexplicable, incommunicable "religious experiences". Some have even seen miracles, such as healing the sick or raising the dead. Some people experience miraculous visions, or have prophetic dreams. Perhaps words are given or ideas suddenly appear from an unknown source--a person says something or does something spectacular and admits that it felt as if "something (or someone) else" was working through him.
Such personal experiences are commonly found throughout the religious community. I've noticed myself that of the atheists I've known, most of them are atheists due to a complete lack of any such experiences or "evidences" of God's existence."
http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/6/20/44736/2173
I sometimes feel that I need to sit and write something poetical. Fortunately for the mankind, this happens seldom, once in two-three years.
Hrrm, suddenly I feel terribly predictable.
That's the beauty of my special talent. When I put my thoughts into words, the result means exactly the opposite to what I was thinking about. I was surprised to see your post because this never happened before, for the "owner" of the link to materialize on the other side. This was the *real* meaning of my remark.
[ July 07, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Michael Ernest
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But, most English poetry is what I have come to term as "me too" poetry. Someone decides he wants to be a poet, so he reads Ginsberg, Whitman and Rich and tries to write stuff that looks like what they see, and comes out just as flatulent and flabby.
Yeah, a high literacy rate is a real bitch, ain't it?
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
Yeah, a high literacy rate is a real bitch, ain't it?

Actually, I think it's wonderful. But, there are two distinct senses for "high rate of literacy". One sense applies to "can read and understand some percentage of what is read", which is where there is a high rate in English. The second sense is "is very widely read and studied", in which case there is a very low literacy rate in English.
At least, there's my take on it.
Anonymous
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Maybe... There is an alternative possible motivation, though. I just read this observation about why people believe in God, and thought that it can be the same with poetry.
"But the single strongest reason, I feel, for believing in God, comes from personal experience. (It also seems to be the only major reason (apart from social pressures or convenience) for changing religions.) Many people feel that God is watching out for them--they've discovered blessings in their lives because of keeping God's commandments, for example, or perhaps they've received powerful answers to prayers. They've heard voices of warning or had feelings of premonition, cautioning them against danger. They've had feelings of peace or happiness as they go to church or read the scriptures. Others have had other inexplicable, incommunicable "religious experiences". Some have even seen miracles, such as healing the sick or raising the dead. Some people experience miraculous visions, or have prophetic dreams. Perhaps words are given or ideas suddenly appear from an unknown source--a person says something or does something spectacular and admits that it felt as if "something (or someone) else" was working through him.
Such personal experiences are commonly found throughout the religious community. I've noticed myself that of the atheists I've known, most of them are atheists due to a complete lack of any such experiences or "evidences" of God's existence."
Now that I think on it, I have noticed that "me, too" poets do defend their work and shove it down the throats of others with a definite fervent religious zeal.
That's the beauty of my special talent. When I put my thoughts into words, the result means exactly the opposite to what I was thinking about. I was surprised to see your post because this never happened before, for the "owner" of the link to materialize on the other side. This was the *real* meaning of my remark.
Wow, now I feel unpredictable. How'd you do that?
Michael Ernest
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Originally posted by <Zahhar>:

Actually, I think it's wonderful. But, there are two distinct senses for "high rate of literacy". One sense applies to "can read and understand some percentage of what is read", which is where there is a high rate in English. The second sense is "is very widely read and studied", in which case there is a very low literacy rate in English.
At least, there's my take on it.

The difference I believe you are looking for is between 'literacy' -- able to read (and write) -- and 'being literate' or capable of polished expression.
Are you thinking of some other language that is both widely used and widely studied? Mind the Socratic irony before you answer.
[ July 08, 2003: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
[QB]The difference I believe you are looking for is between 'literacy' -- able to read (and write) -- and 'being literate' or capable of polished expression.
Are you thinking of some other language that is both widely used and widely studied? Mind the Socratic irony before you answer.QB]

I think I see where the confusion is here. Allow me to reference the OED for something more precise.
The first sense of 'literacy' is:
[/i]The quality or state of being literate;
So, now we turn to 'literate', where the first adjectival sense is:
Acquainted with letters or literature; educated, instructed, learned.
And, the first nounal sense is:
A liberally educated or learned person.
Now, later senses mentioned in the OED convey "able to read", but this is not the primary sense to which I previously made reference.
Sorry if I confused the matter. Again, I meant it when I said that I felt a high rate of proletarian literacy is wonderful, because it allows more of the populace to take part in and guide personal as well as national destiny. I was only saying that the literacy rate where this primary sense conveyed above is concerned is quite low. Most people are educated only so far as is necessary to work as a cog in the machine of the social system they belong to. Very few seem to have any real desire to move beyond this proletarian education to something more substantial.
Michael Ernest
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So you're into a class-based definition of what constitutes 'good' poetic expression. (That's my nice way of saying you sound like you want to be a snob.)
Consider the following associated ideas:
"90% of all writing is crap. Then again, 90% of everything is crap." -- Theodore Sturgeon
"What makes folk songs so atrocious is that they were written by 'the people'." -- Tom Lehrer
The general problem with a critical theory that discriminates by value systems such as economic class is that it leads to the idea of the best that has been said and written, i.e., a literary canon, a preferred and often idealized model of culture.
No one doubts that this appreciation of learning and awareness of a cultural past leads to elevated and inspired art forms. We also know the diseases that infect that approach: a more base form of discrimination in daily life that has little to do with art or high expression; a sense of privilege or entitlement among the elite that eventually devolves into baroque excesses, strangely moral movements (Victorianism), overly studied effects in sentimentalism (fin de siecle literature), and so on.
But even a decent Marxist critic probably would consider the parallel of proletariat to the great unwashed too simple an equation to be of any use.
[ July 08, 2003: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
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ME: We also know the diseases that infect that approach: a more base form of discrimination in daily life that has little to do with art or high expression; a sense of privilege or entitlement among the elite that eventually devolves into baroque excesses, strangely moral movements (Victorianism), overly studied effects in sentimentalism (fin de siecle literature), and so on.
This sounds like Marxism to me!
Michael Ernest
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You need to take the cotton out o' them ears, kitten.
Manish Hatwalne
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:

[b]Manish: Why compare Urdu with something else? It is very beautiful and unique in its own way, just like most other languages are!

Presumably, we are a bunch of geeks here, and what can be more fun that to try to find patterns in what looks like chaos? There is a concept of "Markov chains" in the theory of probability, and A.A. Markov first applied this concept to the analysis of letter distribution in a famous poem "Eugene Onegin" (by A.Pushkin). Another alpha-geek, A.N. Kolmogorov, had some works applying his theory of complexity to poetry. He, for example, calculated the probability of two randomly chosen words in Russian to rhyme is ~ 0,005. Based on this, he then estimated that the "local dictionary" of A.Pushkin, which is words that he considered when choosing a rhyme, was 100-200. (Link, in Russian)
[ July 06, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]

Hmmmmmm,
I didn't realize something profound is going on here... didn't seem like it initially... looked like more of "my language is better than yours" sort of silly debate.
Finding patterns in natural languages sounds very interesting... pls continue.
- Manish
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Ok, I'll continue.

(Though it took me quite a while...)

I don't remember now where I got the idea that it might be easier to come up with a rhyme in Russian than in English due to the fact that Russian is highly inflected language, but if it is my own I am going to be almost as proud as when I discovered that I re-discovered R. Jacobson' theory about baby talk

Philip Metres about translating Sergey Gandlevsky:

How to translate this explosivity? How to translate that tension, both classically situated and yet linguistically adrift? It is by now a translator's clich� to evoke the pliability and richness of the Russian language. The regularity of Russian conjugations and declensions, the flexibility of word order in sentence meaning, and the multisyllabic nature of Russian words all combine to create a seemingly endless wellspring of rhymes and metrical possibilities.
(A Kindred Orphanhood. By Sergey Gandlevsky.)


Daniel Weissbort in his From Russian with Love: Joseph Brodsky in English writes about Brodsky's insistence on keeping translations of his poems rhymed and metered:

Joseph had written: "Meters in verse are kinds of spiritual magnitudes for which nothing can be substituted... They cannot be replaced by each other and especially not by free verse."


and difficulties of the task:

Brodsky simply could not appreciate what was entailed in translating verse form into English. ... rhyme and assonance were more abundant in Russian, largely due to the inflectedness of the language and the strong accent or stress, never more than one beat per multisyllabic word.


To be continued...
 
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subject: Poetical languages: Urdu