'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Strangely Diverging Inheritance

Several Sanskrit words have widely different meanings in different languages which inherited those words. Often, the divergence of meanings lead into different semantic categories - the same word ends up having rather distant meanings in different languages.

Let me list some such Sanskrit words - and their meanings in Hindi and Malayalam.

'Apeksha' - means 'expectation' in Hindi, 'humble request' in Malayalam
'Upanyas'/'Upanyasam' - 'novel' in Hindi, 'essay' in Malayalam
'Shraddha' - 'reverence' in Hindi, 'attention' in Malayalam
'Itihas'/'Itihasam' - 'history' in Hindi, 'epic' in Malayalam
'Charitra'/'Charitram' - 'character' in Hindi, 'history' in Malayalam
'Sambhaavana' - 'possibility/expectation' in Hindi, 'contribution' in Malayalam

My guess is that the Hindi meanings are in general, closer to the Sanskrit original (of course, words like 'novel' are unlikely to have a specific Sanskrit word - that literary form is, to a good approximation, a western import). From what I know, in the other Dravidian languages of India, the meanings of these and such words lean closer to those in Malayalam.

Note: Words changing their meanings on adoption into different languages is not restricted to Sanskrit. To give another example closer to (my) home, the Tamil word 'pazhi', meaning 'revenge' has come to be a verb meaning 'to blame' in Malayalam.

At the same time, I don't know of Latin or Greek words having such divergent meanings in the European languages (well, 'vulgar' originally was a Latin word meaning 'common' and has come to have a different meaning in English. Donno about what it means in say, Italian. 'Stranger', the equivalent of which means 'foreigner' in French and Italian also comes close to qualifying, I feel).


  • At 1:32 AM, Blogger Sumesh said…

    Hi Nandu,

    I don't have your email-id, so am using this space to message you. Do get back to me at sumeshj at_the_rate_of

  • At 11:11 AM, Blogger Maveli Keralam said…

    Sakskrit is a language derived from traditional Tamil. Infact Tamil is an old language from which a lot of languages have derived one of which is Sanskrit.

  • At 9:59 PM, Blogger Nahu said…

    You are right Maveli Keralam!


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