IT is surprising that how in our society some not-too-well-known persons not associated with any university or literary organisation can do some wonderful research work despite little or no encouragement from any quarter.

Urdu Mufrad Af’aal Ki Farhang (glossary of Urdu’s simple verbs) is one such work. Compiled by Vasiullah Khokhar and just published by Lahore’s Dar-un-Navaadir, the book lists exactly 3,734 Urdu infinitives, tells whether they are transitive or intransitive and gives their pronunciation along with different shades of meanings.

Some of these infinitives are so rare that even some authentic Urdu dictionaries have missed out them. This truly is a labour of love as it is not going to be an event that would be celebrated with fanfare and the compiler would most probably not get any royalty, as is the practice in Urdu for such scholarly works.

You have to research it, write it, then knock at many doors to get it published and if and when some publisher agrees to publish such serious work, you can only keep your fingers crossed that you, the author, may not be the lone reader! Such is the apathy of our intellectual and literary circles.

An infinitive is a basic form of verb without an inflection, says Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Put simply, an infinitive is a verb that is not restricted by a tense (past, present or future) and does not mention a ‘doer’, that is, a person or thing that performs the action (or ‘agent’, or ‘subject’ as they call it in grammar). In English, the word ‘to’ is put before the verb to make an infinitive, such as, to go, to come, to play etc. So infinitives are basic verbs without tense and the doer, simple as that.

In English we have an infinitival prefix (the word ‘to’), but in Urdu we have an infinitival suffix na. In other words, na is added to the root of a verb to form an Urdu infinitive, for instance, ana (to come), jana (to go), sunna (to hear or listen), khelna (to play) etc. But na often forms an intransitive verb (called laazim in Urdu) and forming transitive verbs (called mut’addi in Urdu), often requires ana after the root of a verb instead of na.

For example, Urdu’s intransitive verb chalna (chal+na) means to walk or to move, but chalana (chal+ana) means to cause to walk, to make something move or drive. Just to remind you, intransitive verb is one that does not take a direct object.

Urdu has a kind of ‘double transitive’ verb or indirect causative, too (called mut’addi-ul-mut’addi in Urdu). For this indirect causative, vana is added as suffix to the root of the verb. It is used to express the causation of a transitive verb through an agent or doer or subject, though the subject may be omitted, as it is implied or understood. For instance, compare chalvana (chal+vana) with chalna and chalana. It is a double transitive that means: to cause to make walk, to cause to make drive or to cause to make move.

This can be confusing for a non-native, especially those who learn Urdu through English as in English some verbs are used both as intransitive and transitive and, secondly, English does not have double transitive verbs. For example, in English ‘graze’ means to eat grass and, also, feed grass to an animal.

In Urdu, charna means to graze (eat grass), but charana means to graze cattle and charvana means to cause to graze cattle. The book has taken care of all three kinds of Urdu verbs: intransitive, transitive and double transitive. These verbs have been listed in alphabetical order with brief meanings.

In his intro, Khokhar has defined dictionary (lughat) and glossary (farhang) along with a brief history of lexicography and early English dictionaries. What seems more interesting for the scholars are the details about Urdu glossaries and dictionaries of technical terms.

No doubt scores of glossaries and dictionaries of technical terms have been published in Urdu but, surprisingly, no detailed dictionary or glossary of Urdu verbs and infinitives has been compiled, except for a few brief ones, says Khokhar in his intro.

Giving a brief history, he says though some works on Urdu grammar, such as by Sonia Chernekova, the Russian grammarian, and Tamanna Imadi, have been published, these books discuss Urdu seegha, or tense in grammar, and tell how Urdu verbs change their form according to sentence and how they syntactically affect other words.

But no proper dictionary of Urdu infinitives listing them alphabetically has been compiled and the ones published, such as Masaadir-i-Sitta (by Nazeeruddin Jafri), Urdu Masdar Nama and Seh Lisani Masdar Nama (both by Hafeezur Rahman Vasif) are either too brief or lacking in some aspects.

The book fulfils a gap in Urdu grammar and would be useful for teachers and students alike.

drraufparekh@yahoo.com

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2023

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