Reviewed by Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich
This volume investigates Modern Standard Hindi (MSH): the official language of the Republic of India and the language of six states within India. Yamuna Kachru’s intention is to provide linguists and teachers with a systematic description of MSH by adopting a user-friendly, theory-neutral approach that incorporates the findings of modern Hindi linguistics. Thus, the foundations of this grammar approximate the basic linguistic theory proposed Robert Dixon (The rise and fall of languages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
K begins with a brief but highly informative introduction that describes the basic sociolinguistic factors and the emergence of MSH. Ch. 2 turns to its sound system—specifically, vowels, consonants (including consonants borrowed from English and Perso-Arabic), stress, intonation, syllable structure, and the relationship between Devanagari script and pronunciation. The Devanagari writing system is also the subject of Ch. 3.
In Ch. 4, K describes a rather traditional classification of the parts of speech (ten classes in sum). Interestingly, zero postpositions (i.e. case marked nouns without a postposition) typically occur with verbs of motion and duration— reminiscent of the accusative of time and space in other Indo-European languages. This chapter also includes information on inflectional patterns (e.g. case with nouns and pronouns; tense, aspect, and mood with verbs).
Ch. 5 deals with the complex world of MSH ‘Word formation’, Ch. 6 illustrates the architecture of ‘The noun phrase’, and Ch. 7 turns to the ‘Verb and verb phrase’. This layout echoes the distinction between noun phrases and verb phrases in early syntactic theory. The chapter on verbs also includes information about degrees of transitivity and ends with an overview of verbal paradigms.
Ch. 8 explores syntactic issues, such as sentence structure, word order, agreement patterns, voice, and mood. Additionally, K discusses various semantic types of simple sentences (i.e. constructional patterns). The section on ergative constructions (a key issue in the syntactic typology of MSH) is amazingly short (just a half page). In Ch. 9, K turns to complex clauses and compound sentences.
Chs. 10–11 address pragmatic issues: ‘Information structure’ (i.e. topic, focus) and ‘Discourse structure’, respectively. K’s account of discourse strategies in MSH is much richer than that of comparable descriptive grammars. The book ends with two appendices: the first includes four fully glossed text samples followed by English translations and the second provides a brief list of adjectival forms. The function of this second appendix, however, is not fully transparent.
This grammar of MSH is presented in an easy-to-read format. The many examples are fully glossed and will be a valuable source for linguists. In sum, this grammar is an important and helpful contribution to the linguistics of Modern Hindi.