A grammar of Hindi

A grammar of Hindi. By Annie Montaut. (Studies in Indo-European linguistics 2.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2004. Pp. xii, 302. ISBN 389586904. $120.12.

Reviewed by Anna Pucilowski, University of Canterbury

Rather than add to an already large collection of standard grammars of Hindi, Annie Montaut aims to provide a description of modern standard Hindi within a functionalist framework. The book contains an introduction, three main sections on phonology, morphology, and syntax, and a conclusion.

In the introduction, M discusses the Hindi/Urdu debate, that is, whether the modern colloquial varieties of Hindi and Urdu are, in fact, the same language and the higher registers are simply two styles of the same language. M notes that, since the partition of India and Pakistan, politics has played a large role in the development of a distinctive Hindi language with closer links to Sanskrit than to Urdu or any regional languages. M chooses to describe the colloquial variety of Hindi, which is less sanskritized than the official version, and she mentions regional variations where relevant. Her purpose in this is to provide some information on language change and possible paths of grammaticization, and to highlight the fluidity of linguistic boundaries in the region. Her corpus is based on various styles of literature, conversations, film dialogues, and some newspapers. In the introduction M also describes the history of Hindi and its grammatical tradition.

Part 1 covers the phonology of Hindi. This is divided into seven sections: the writing system, Hindi sounds, phonemes and allophones, morphonological processes, syllabic structure, stress and syllabic structure, and historical evolution. Part 2 describes the morphology of Hindi, including the nominal constituent (Ch.1), the verbal constituent (Ch.2), and derivational morphology (Ch.3).

Part 3 looks at the syntax of Hindi. Ch. 1, ‘The simple sentence’, looks at basic clauses in Hindi. M describes the nominative and the ergative patterns of Hindi—a split-ergative language—as well as the dative, genitive, locative, and instrumental patterns. Hindi’s status as a split-ergative language, with the split based on aspect, makes it difficult to use terms like subject and object. M concludes with a discussion of case roles in Hindi, in particular the notion of subjecthood. Ch. 2 looks at complex sentences, including different types of subordination. Ch. 3 focuses on general structural questions, and looks at coordination, negation, interrogation, anaphora, and topicalization.

M concludes the book with a detailed discussion of some of the dialectal differences of Hindi, as well as some aspects of Hindi spoken outside of India. The book also contains an extensive bibliography. M’s detailed description free of strict theoretical restrictions makes this grammar interesting for any student of Hindi linguistics. The only difficulty I had with this book was the large number of errors in the English. Some careful editing would have made this book considerably easier to read.