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Ontogeny & Phylogeny In Life - 2
Language & Script
|by Gaurang Bhatt, MD|
Continued from Part 1
The important point to understand is that the choice of a word to name or designate a particular object or an action (which we call vocabulary) was initially totally arbitrary, as far as we can say and had no reason to bear any relation or connection to any particular script. Ancient Persian was written in the cuneiform script and currently modern Persian is written in the Arabic script. Turkish was written earlier in a Runic script, later in the Arabic script because of conquest and conversion by the Arab Muslim invasions. Since the time of Ataturk it is written in the Roman script.
On the other hand the terms used for transference of information from nuclear DNA to RNA is labeled transcription because the script changes from Desoxyribonucleic acid to Ribonucleic acid. The RNA is converted to a protein or polypeptide consisting of a chain of L-amino-acids and is called translation as this time it is not the script but the language which has changed. But because the order of a triplet of RNA determines a specific amino-acid (with some degeneration of the code), it is the script which determines the meaning, unlike in human language. There are four carbon nitrogen aromatic compounds available for each position in any triad. Thus we have 4 by 4 by 4 or 64 codes or choices, but only 20 amino-acids. Thus many amino-acids have more than one code making it somewhat degenerate but still fairly specific, unlike the total lack of connection or specificity of meaning in human languages between scripts, words and their meaning.
Those of you who remember the Sherlock Holmes story of The Dancing Men, and the secret script, which Holmes deciphers by using the frequency of letters in English words, paragraphs and language, or those of you who have read Simon Singh’s book “Code” or watched the Pat Sajak, Vanna White show, Wheel Of Fortune, know why he offers the letters RSTLNE in the final mega-prize round. Similar word and phrase frequencies and Baye’s theorem have been used to determine the authorship of some of the Federalist Papers, which was not known. It has been used to guess if one or more persons, wrote Shakespeare’s works and more importantly confirm that there were multiple authors of the Bible, which was written not at one time, but over decades, if not more. The myth of virgin Mary giving birth to Christ comes from the fact that the word Parthenos in Greek means a girl or a virgin and when the Bible which was originally written in Greek was translated, virgin was used in translation instead of girl. This helps us to infer that the earlier language in which it was written was Greek.
Ontogeny and phylogeny in languages are seen in their etymology (derivation and meaning of words), conjugating of verbs and declining of nouns (see my articles on “Monosyllabic Prefixes, Cases & Conjugation in Indo-European Languages and Char, Chaar, Aachaar, Aacharya, Charitra, Character). Now English is derived from Latin (Norman conquest), German (Angles & Saxons) with intermingling of Vikings by invasions (see my articles - The Mendelian Genetics Of The English Language and Proto-Indo-European: The Mother Of Languages).
In Sanskrit, the verb Vid means to know and thus Vidyaa means knowledge and the Vedas are the books of knowledge. It is not uncommon for words to have more than one meaning and Vid also means to see which is given as a secondary or tertiary meaning in a Sanskrit dictionary. Yet in its sister language Latin, Vide means to see as in Vide Infra or Veni, Vidi, Vici (Caesar’s words -I came, I saw, I conquered). That is why we have the English words Video, Vision and the sentences – Seeing is believing and seeing is knowing and A picture is worth a thousand words. It is likely that the primary meaning in Sanskrit was to see too, but it changed to know and one may speculate therefore that the parting between Sanskrit and Latin antedates 1500BCE at least, when the Vedas were composed.
English also derives from German, which has closer connections to Greek.
The Sanskrit for daughter is Dohitur. In Persian it is Dokhtar. In Indo-European it was Dhughater. In early German it was first Dhukter and then became Doxter. In Gothic it was Dauhtar. In Old High German it was Tohter. In Old Saxon, it was Dohtar and in Old Norse it is Dottir. A lot of spellings in German which had the consonants “cht”, changed spelling to “ght”, and lost their pronunciation and became night, light, fight etc. And so modern English retained the old spelling daughter but pronounced it dotter.
There are many such examples to prove the ontogeny and phylogeny. Because the rules for forming compound nouns, verb conjugations and tenses, noun declinations and cases, prefixes and suffixes are clearly spelled out in Sanskrit, it was used by all European linguists of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century for analyzing the Indo-European family of languages. In addition Panini’s Dhatupada and other writings as far back as 800 BCE, give a detailed list how nouns and other complex verbs are derived from monosyllabic verbs. Interested readers can refer to Mary Haas’s book, “The Prehistory Of Languages”.
A sentence from Sanskrit with English translation –
The phrase by effort is denoted by the instrumental case (adding en) to udyama meaning effort and the phrase not from a wish is denoted by a single Sanskrit word Manorathaya. The word Manorath is a compound word consisting of Man and Rath, literally the chariot of the mind (poetic description of a fervent wish). The modifications of pronunciation are elaborated in the treatise on Sandhi or Conjunction. It is very difficult to pronounce Manrath so the compound word becomes Man-o-rath.
Thus like German or Latin there is no absolute need for a definitive word order in Sanskrit and generally no need for prepositions, unlike in English. The eight cases for every noun makes prepositions unnecessary or redundant. The paucity of tense related inflections in the English language, in combination with the poor grammar skills of its native speakers in America, is beautifully punned upon by Pinker in his book “The Language Instinct”.
Now since the Vikings were brave and fierce warriors, but rather uneducated, they spoke a pigeon form of English and skipped inflections (cases and tenses) of nouns and verbs. This is why many regular English verbs have only three forms like turn and turns for present and turned for past tense. Also many nouns like deer and sheep are their own plurals. The children of the Vikings (second generation immigrants) probably re-standardized their ignorant parents’ pigeon into a simplified Creole language by adding prepositions and grammar, just as the mixture of immigrants did in Hawaii and also in Surinam. The Viking pronunciation was imposed on an archaic Germanic spelling giving us the modern dialect we call English, where spelling does not match pronunciation. With the Norman Conquest, French muddied the English spelling and pronunciation even more. I hope I have been able to elucidate the anomalous path of language and spelling as clearly as those of the facial and recurrent laryngeal nerves.
However I am like the proverbial jester who was sentenced to death by hanging by the tyrant king for his punning. His friends signed a petition for a plea of mercy and the king relented and proclaimed that the jester would be spared if he swore never to pun again. When the news was conveyed to the jester, his nature triumphed over his judgment and he proclaimed, “No noose is good news”. Of course, he was then hanged.
But Sanskrit is like an old matriarch of “Raintree County”, a relic of many generations, but still standing erect with clear vision like Moses, in whom age has not dimmed the eye, nor vigor. She brings out the old bible, in which is revealed the entire family tree and the skeletons in the closet, and even informs us presently, who even amongst the dead relatives (languages), deserves a place in the family mausoleum, despite some drops of tainted blood by some bigoted standards, once prevalent in a land where all men were created equal.
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