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good article re: works addressing gurbaNee grammar
Posted by: Atma Singh (IP Logged)
Date: March 19, 2008 12:16PM

[www.panthic.org]

Bibliography of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
Sunday 8th of May 2005
Anoop Singh - Panthic Weekly Columnist

(KP)

Section 4 - Linguistic Studies
A - Gurbani Grammars

Introduction

From a linguistic perspective, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is an ocean of medieval Punjabi and Hindi dialect forms, and loanwords from Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit languages, as tadbhav (localized forms) and tatsam (original) terms. For a linguist who studies the history and origin of the Punjabi language, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the primary resource. Meanwhile, our intentions are somewhat different. Being students of Gurbani, our main purpose of understanding the language is to comprehend, or at least try to comprehend Guru's Words and Teachings in a proper way.

In this part of the Bibliography, we will present works dealing with the language of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In the past century, a great number of writings on the 'Sikh Sacred Language' have been prepared; however, as still is the situation, the Sikhs at large lack the understanding of this language.

Studies

Before we take a look at the serious studies in the field, we may mention the two special works written by Western scholars. Dr Ernest Trumpp, a German linguist who studied Indian languages and literature, tried to translate Sri Guru Granth Sahib, publishing the incomplete translation in 1877. According to Dr Harnam Singh Shan, the author of 'Guru Granth Sahib di Koshkari', Trumpp had prepared a grammar of the Gurbani before he started on the translation. However, no such work has yet been published and if the book does exist then it is the first attempt by any writer to construct a grammar of the 'Sikh Sacred Language'. Dr Shan located a manuscript titled 'Grammar to the Adi Granth', Dr Ernest Trumpp, 1873 at the State Library Munich, stored under the reference MSS.NO.Cod.Panj.3.

The second Western scholar who has written a work on what he calls the 'Sacred Language of the Sikhs' is Christopher Shackle, at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. His books is more like the modern language learning books and gives the reader tutorials and exercises in the Gurmukhi script, besides the grammar and includes selected readings. Along with 'A Guru Nanak glossary' (1981), Shackle's books are prescribed to western students of Sikhism, who have no initial knowledge of the Punjabi language and script. The book will also be helpful for some of our readers who do not understand the difficult Punjabi used in Punjabi Vyakarans, and in many ways this is the only alternative for understanding Gurbani language, without actually learning the special terminology of the Punjabi grammarians.


Among the Sikh scholars, Principal Teja Singh (1922) and Prof. Sahib Singh (1932) pioneered the field of Gurbani linguistics. The core of Principal Teja Singh's 'Shabadãtar Lagã-Matrã de Gujje Bhed' is that the importance of Gurmukhi vowels (sehari, behari, aunkar, etc) is as the tools for interpreting the Shabad-vaak. The work had immense popularity among Panthic scholars and had a great affect on the standardized printing of Sri Guru Granth Sahib by the SGPC, as the Shabadarth was normalized according to the rules found in this book. Thirty years after Teja Singh Ji, Bhai Randhir Singh Ji wrote a similar work that supported the view that vowels are in fact interpretive tools. However, there is a differentiation of thought between Bhai Randhir Singh and Principal Teja Singh. In the foreword of 'Gurbani dian Lagã-Matrã di Vilakhanta', the publisher, Giani Nahar Singh says: "The main purpose of this book is [to highlight] that Gurbani Shabads can have only one meaning. The functional placing of Lagã-Matrãs makes this clear."

Meanwhile, Prof. Sahib Singh went on to produce a full-fledged grammar of Gurbani, published in 1932. Initially, sections of the Panth did not accept the Gurbani Vyakaran as an authentic grammar; however as linguistics and modern scholars saw the value of this work, Prof Sahib Singh started to be called the 'Panini of the Sikhs' (Panini being the first person to construct a Sanskrit grammar). It should be noted that the grammarians Sahib Singh and Teja Singh, and Bhai Randhir Singh agreed upon the 'one-meaning' interpretation of Gurbani. This front consisting of modern linguists and Panthic scholars stood against the traditional views that Gurbani was not written according to any grammatical rules, and that there were endless meanings that must remain oral and not be published as written commentaries.

Another work from this era is 'Sri Guru Vyakaran Panchain' by Pandit Kartar Singh Dakha, published in 1945. The book is no longer published, and old copies are only available at specific Sikh Sahit libraries.

The next period starts from after 1975, when new debates arise in the Panth, specially related to the correct pronunciation of Gurbani and the logical justification of the practise through the authentic grammar. The works produced in the debate would be presented in the next part of this Bibliography; however we must mention some authors who have given us new linguistic insights of Gurbani.

Dr Harkeerat Singh, a famous Punjabi linguist and student of Prof. Sahib Singh prepared a work titled 'Gurbani di Bhasha te Vyakaran', published by Punjabi University, Patiala in 1997. The author says that this book is meant as a supplement to the grammar written by Prof. Sahib Singh. New linguistic discoveries had appeared in the past forty-fifty years, and some of the assumptions made by the first grammarians of Gurbani were no longer relevant. Thus, Dr Harkeerat Singh presents us a highly linguistic view on the evolution of the Gurbani language from its roots in the Prakrit, to the development of Apabhrãsha. The main focus of the book is on the sound and pronunciation, and the discussion around the specimens of Punjabi dialects and tadbhav-tatsam forms. He has also given a linguistic understanding of the Gurmukhi vowels and moved away from the views of former grammarians that vowels only appear as interpretive tools. The evolutionary theory presented says that the existence of every vowel or sign in Gurbani is reasoned in the linguistic development in the Punjab.

Other scholars, such as Giani Harbans Singh 'Nirnaykar' still hold on to the grammarian thoughts of Prof. Sahib Singh, Teja Singh and Principal Harbhajan Singh, Sikh Missionary College, Amritsar. In his book 'Navin Gurbani Vyakaran' (2000), Giani Harbans Singh criticizes Harkeerat Singh, especially on his views regarding Gurbani pronunciation.

A short booklet titled 'Gurbani Vyakaran de Saral Nem', published by Sikh Missionary College (Ludhiana), presents an outline of various grammatical forms found in Gurbani.

Meanwhile, the greatest effort in the field of Gurbani grammar in recent years has been made by Bhai Joginder Singh Ji 'Talwara'. His 'Gurbani da Saral Vyakaran-Bodh' (two parts), published posthumously in April 2004 as volume three of 'Shri Guru Granth Sahib Bodh' forms more than 800 pages. The extensive study done by Bhai Sahib is nothing less than an encyclopedia of Gurbani language. Every thinkable aspect of the 'Sikh Sacred Language' has been commented. Gurbani language, script, sounds, morphology (as word formation), and other aspects of the grammar have been dealt with.

Bhai Joginder Singh Ji says that he is not a linguist, nor a grammarian, only a devoted student of Gurbani. However, this is also the strength of his work. Keeping in mind that his readers would be normal students of Gurbani who may not know grammatical and linguist terms, he gives clear definitions and formulations before the start of every new section of the book. Interestingly, the first part of the volume has three appendixes, where the first includes a list of 465 combined-terms found in Gurbani that scholars have not yet been able to separate. The author has given the Pad-Ched of such terms according to the grammar, with meanings of each related Shabad in one column. Another appendix has a glossary of Arabic and Persian terms found in Gurbani. All this makes Bhai Joginder Singh Ji's work the nearly perfect reference grammar of Gurbani. Its easy, yet beautiful and equally systematic design and layout brings out the best in Gurmukhi and Punjabi printing.

Works Cited

Gurbani Vyakaran de Saral Nem. Ludhiana: Sikh Missionary College.

Harbans Singh 'Nirnaykar', Giani. Navin Gurbani Vyakaran. Chandigarh: Gurmat Nirnay Bhavan, 2000.

Harkeerat Singh, Dr. Gurbani di Bhasha te Vyakaran. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1997.

Joginder Singh Talwara, Giani. Gurbani da Saral Vyakaran-Bodh. (2 vols). Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 2004.

Kartar Singh Dakha, Pandit. Sri Guru Vyakaran Panchain. Pub. author, 1945.

Randhir Singh, Bhai Sahib. Gurbani dian Lagã-Matrã di Vilakhanta. 3rd ed. Ludhiana: Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh Trust, 2003.

Sahib Singh, Prof. Gurbani Vyakaran. Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1932.

Shackle, Christopher. An introduction to the sacred language of the Sikhs. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1983.

Teja Singh, Principal. Shabadãtar Lagã-Matrã de Gujje Bhed. Amritsar: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandak Committee, 1922.

Trumpp, Dr Ernest. "Grammar to the Adi Granth" 1873. Manuscript located by Dr Harnam Singh Shan at State University Munich under reference number MSS.NO.Cod.Panj.3.


Anoop Singh can be reached at anoop.singh@panthic.org

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