object:5.2.02 - Aryan Origins - The Elementary Roots of Language
book class:Vedic and Philological Studies
author class:Sri Aurobindo
subject class:Integral Yoga
The elementary roots of language are in sound the vowel or semivowel roots, and in sense those which convey the fundamental idea of being, burdened with the cognate & immediately resultant ideas of the substance that pervades and the motion that bridges the space & time through which being expresses itself, in which it exists and relates its different points to each other. These ideas inherent in knowledge would in a primitive race work themselves out dimly, by a slow process, from the initial expression of immediate feelings, experiences, sensations and needs. But the speakers of the Aryan language were not, according to my theory, entirely primitive and undeveloped. They developed language from the essential force of the sounds they used with some sort of philosophical harmony and rational order. They to some extent arranged language in its development instead of merely allowing it to develop fortuitously its own arrangement.
The elementary vowel roots which concern us, are the roots a (), i (), u () & (), the semivowel roots the V & Y families. The modified vowels e and o are in the Aryan languages secondary sounds conjunct of a and i, a and u. The diphthongsn ai and au with their Greek variations ei and ou are tertiary modifications of e & o. Another conjunct vowel l is a survival of a more ancient order of things in which l and r no less than v and y were considered as semivowels or rather as either vowel or consonant according to usage. R as a vowel has survived in the vowel , l as a separate vowel has perished, but its semivowel value survives in the metrical peculiarity of the Latin tongue of which a faint trace survives in Sanskrit, by which l & r in a conjunct consonant may or may not, at will, affect the quantity of the preceding syllable.
I shall consider first the vowel roots. They are four in number, a, i, u and , and all four of them indicate primarily the idea of being, existence in some elementary aspect or modification suggested by the innate quality or guna of the sound denoting it. A in its short form indicates being in its simplicity without any farther idea of modification or quality, mere or initial being creative of space, i an intense state of existence, being narrowed, forceful and insistent, tending to a goal, seeking to occupy space, u a wide, extended but not diffused state of existence, being medial and firmly occupant of space, a vibrant state of existence, pulsing in space, being active about a point, within a limit. The lengthened forms of these vowels add only a greater intensity to the meaning of the original forms, but the lengthening of the a modifies more profoundly. It brings in the sense of space already created & occupied by the diffusion of the simple state of beinga diffused or pervasive state of existence. These significances are, I suggest, eternally native to these sounds and consciously or unconsciously determined the use of them in language by Aryan speakers. To follow these developments and modifications it is necessary to take these roots one by one in themselves and in their derivatives.
From the persistent evidence of the Sanscrit language it is clear that to the initial idea of existence the Aryans attached, as fundamental circumstances of being, the farther ideas of motion, contact, sound, form and action and there are few root-families in which there are not the six substantial ideas which form the starting point of all farther development of use and significance.
Neither the root a itself nor its lengthened form occurs as an actual verb in any of the acknowledged Aryan languages, but in the Tamil we find the root (kiradu as it is described in the Tamil system) in the sense to be and a number of derivative significations. The verbals formed from this verb, ka and na, are utilised in the language to give a vague adjectival sense to the words to which they are attached or to modify a previous adjectival signification.
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