A Grammar of the Hindustani or Urdu Language
Platts (John T.)
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  1. The Grammar now offered to the public was begun in India many years ago; but its progress was so retarded by illness, press of official work, and other causes, that on my return to England about eighteen months ago, scarcely a third of it was in a form ready for the press.
  2. It owes its origin to certain Indian friends, whose arguments, backed by the results of my own reading and observation, led me to conclude —
    1. That, much as had been achieved in the field of Urdu Grammar by Europeans (and especially by Englishmen), that field had not been so thoroughly worked but that a great deal more might be won from it;
    2. That no small portion of the work which had been done was of a kind that afforded room for improvement.
  3. In justification of the first of these opinions, I would refer my readers to the large quantity of what is believed to be absolutely new matter that is to be found in almost every part of this work, and especially in the sections which treat of —
    1. Gender;
    2. Numerals;
    3. Persian and Arabic constructions;
    4. Causal verbs;
    5. Compound verbs;
    6. Particles;
    7. Derivation of words;
    and in almost every chapter of the Syntax.
  4. In support the second, I would point to the sections which treat of the construction —
    1. Of verbs and adjectives in connection with the broken plurals of the Arabic;
    2. Of nominal and frequentative verbs;
    3. Of the accusative case;
    4. Of predicative adjectives in construction with factitive verbs;
    5. Of the participles;
    and also to the sections which notice the different uses of the fragmentary verbs hai and tha, and the tenses of the subjunctive mood. In respect of some of these, the views propounded are so directly opposed to those maintained by preceding grammarians, that I have felt constrained to support them by foot-notes, remarks, citations from native grammars, and the opinions of native scholars; and thus the work has to some extent assumed a polemical character, for which I consider that some apology is due. This I offer the more readily, as I am conscious of being actuated by no motive beyond the simple desire to establish what, supported by the best native authorities, I hold to be correct views of the constructions in question.
  5. Besides the additions and changes referred to above, I may also, I believe, claim to have succeeded in reducing to rule some constructions which have hitherto been regarded as arbitrary. And here I may be permitted to observe that there is little in the structure of Urdu of the loose and arbitrary character which some recent writers on the grammar of the language impute to it. It may be difficult to discover the rules for certain constructions; and, in many instances, native scholars, no doubt, are unable to assign a satisfactory reason for the forms they use; but it is surely inconsequent to conclude from these facts that rules in such cases cannot be discovered, and that native scholars cannot be trusted to compose correctly in their own tongue. That “writers are guided by usage rather than by rule, and test the accuracy of a passage by the ear rather than by any recognized law,” is, in the main, true. But this practice is by no means confined to Urdu writers; nor are they a whit more liable to err in following the guidance of usage and the ear than the many excellent speakers and writers in other living tongues who follow the same guides. Indeed, as far as constructions which constitute the marked peculiarities of the language are concerned, it may be safely affirmed that Urdu writers of even ordinary ability are scarcely likely to make a slip. When therefore a form or expression occurs in one or more standard authors which appears to violate some well-known rule, a foreigner would do well to pause ere he condemns it as a “ transgression”; for it is infinitely more probable that he has not understood the construction, than that the authors have committed a palpable solecism.
  6. One of the features peculiar to this Grammar which I would notice here are the remarks and notes that touch upon the derivation and origin of words, and the formation of the cases and tenses — a subject upon which so much light has been thrown of late years by the study of comparative grammar. Students of Urdu and Hindi in the schools of India especially will, I trust, find this portion of the work both interesting and instructive; — and not only students, but those also who speak and write Urdu with perfect facility and accuracy. For it is notorious that Urdu scholars (and especially Mohammadans) are grossly ignorant of the origin of such words and inflexions in their language as are not derived from the Persian and Arabic. And the general restriction of their studies to these languages alone puts it out of their power to acquire a knowledge of the linguistic discoveries of modern philologists in fields lying apart from them.
  7. The arrangement and nomenclature of the work differ somewhat from those of preceding grammars. The declensions have been reduced to two; the numerals are noticed immediately after the attributive adjective; and the sections on Persian and Arabic constructions, treating as they do of substantives, adjectives, and numerals, it has been judged advisable to introduce immediately after the Urdu (Hindi) numerals, with the view of keeping the same parts of speech as much as possible together. These sections are, as has been already hinted, fuller and more complete than any notice of Persian and Arabic inflexions that has hitherto appeared in a grammar of Hindustani. Full as they are however, it would be presumptuous to say that they comprise all the constructions that occur in the language. But I trust I may say that they contain few that do not occur. The student will find it to his advantage to read these sections through — without dwelling on them at first; but more carefully on a second perusal, after he has made some acquaintance with Urdu literature; for Persian and Arabic, although not the back-bone, so to speak, form very important members of Urdu, and hence a knowledge of some of the principal facts of their inflexion is indispensable to a correct understanding and use of the language.
  8. The examples under the more important rules of the Syntax are numerous and varied. In their selection I have not confined myself to the Bag o Bahar and a few other works compiled about the same comparatively remote period — works which, however excellent they may be, can hardly be supposed to furnish examples of all the constructions and idioms current even in their day, much less of those now in use; and which may certainly be supposed to contain not a little that is now obsolete or rare — but have also drawn from more modern works, such as the Fasana’e ‘Aja’ib, the Urdu Reader (a work published under the authority of the Government of the N.W. Provinces of India), etc., and also from some of the best native newspapers; e.g. the Sho’la’e Tur of Kanhpur, and the ‘Aligarh Institute Gazette. Should the examples under some of the rules be regarded as too copious, I would urge the importance of the rules themselves in such cases, or the misconception that has hitherto prevailed respecting the constructions exemplified; and also that, while the copiousness of the examples is calculated to impress the rules on the student’s mind, their generally varied character and full propositional form will have the advantage of introducing him to diversities both of idiom and style.
  9. In the preparation of the work I have made free, but not, I trust, unfair, use of the Grammars of my predecessors, and especially of those published in recent years by native scholars : e.g. … [snip] …

Book Comment

Crosby Lockwood and Son, London, 1909, Hardback

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