USE OF IDIOMATIC COMPOUNDS IN
V. Geetha Kumary, Ph.D.
1. IDIOMATIC COMPOUNDS IN MEDIA
This paper analyzes those special compounds in Malayalam, which are not hyponyms of either constituent. Some idiomatic usages are compounds and some compounds that are not idioms convey idiomatic meaning also. That is, all idiomatic usages are not compounds, but some compounds are idioms. Therefore, while analyzing the peculiar compounds of the above type, it is better to have a bird's eye view of all those idiomatic compounds that are commonly used in Malayalam.
This study tries to find out the role played by the idiomatic compounds in popularizing the media.
Compounding is a fundamental method of word-formation in any language. A compound is defined as 'a lexeme containing two or more potential stems that has not subsequently been subjected to a derivational process. It should be noted that while derivation may apply to forms containing more than one root, the presence of two roots is not criterial for derivation as it is for compounding' (Bauer 1983: 29).
In English, compound words are classified into (a) closed form, in which the constituents are melded together, (b) hyphenated form, in which the words are separated with a hyphen, and (c) open form, which are compounds where the two constituents are written separately.
In Malayalam compounds, the hyphenated forms are absent.
According to semantic criteria, compounds can be subdivided into four groups. Endocentric, exocentric, appositional, and dvandva or copulative compound (Bauer 1983: 29-31).
3. ENDOCENTRIC COMPOUND
Endocentric compounds are those which have a head, one component which determines the basic meaning and category of the whole. In these compounds, one member of the compound functions as the head and the other as its modifier, attributing a property to the head. For example, in the compound varsaka:lam 'rainy season' ka:lam 'season' is the head and varsha functions as the modifier. This is called an endocentric compound.
4. EXOCENTRIC COMPOUND
The term "endocentric compound" is used to refer to a particular type of compound, namely, the compounds that lack a head. The meaning of an exocentric compound may or may not be compositional (derivable from its parts) but no one component serves as the head.
The compounds that are not the hyponyms of the grammatical head but of some unexpressed semantic head are called exocentric compounds. Since the semantic head is unexpressed in such compounds, the compound is frequently seen as metaphorical. Example: ki:Ra:muTTi 'a problem too difficult to solve' and puliva:l 'a difficultly which one can neither avoid nor face.'
5. APPOSITIONAL COMPOUND
An appositional compound is a hyponym of both the constituents. In English the word maidservant which is a hyponym of both maid and servant: a maid servant is a type of maid and also a type of servant. In Malayalam, the compound vanita:po:li:s 'lady police' is an appositional compound.
6. DVANDVA OR COPULATIVE COMPOUND
The term 'dvandva or copulative compound is a term used for a type of compound in which there is a simple conjunction of two words, without any further dependency holding between them. Here, it is not always clear which element is the grammatical head. The compound is not a hyponym of either element, but the elements name separates entities which combine to form the entity denoted by the compound.' This type of compound is normally given the Sanskrit name of dvandva. For example, acchanammama:R 'father and mother,' su:Ryacandranma:R 'sun and moon,' etc.
The compounds which convey idiomatic meaning come under the category of exocentric compounds.
7. RELEVANCE OF IDIOMATIC COMPOUNDS IN THE NEWSPAPERS
Media use idiomatic compounds mainly with the following intentions:
- To create enthusiasm among the readers.
- To convey the undertone and sarcastic sense.
- To make their report catchy.
- To beautify their language.
- To establish a characteristic style of writing.
Media is really working as a wordsmith in coining compounds. Most of the compounds with an idiomatic meaning will create some enthusiasm in readers. Thus, a headline like 'janannaLkku saRkka:rinRe iruTTaTi' 'to the people, government's blow in the dark' will not give any idea about the news story thus creating a curiosity for further reading.
Here, the news story is about the electricity price hike, which becomes an additional burden to the public. Here, the newspaper is trying to tell the real fact avoiding a straight language like vaidyuti nirakku vaRdhana na:Le mutal pRa:balyattil 'Electicity charge hike from tomorrow onwards'.
8. HEADLINES AND COMPOUNDS
This type of headlines will tempt the readers to go through the story. Here the idiomatic usage of the term iruTTaTi 'blow in the dark' is suitable because the hike in the price of any essential commodity will hit the life of the ordinary people without any prior knowledge, which will be like a blow given in the darkness.
In another headline kRu:ravidhikku munnil ka:liTaRi kavi manam nontu 'poet's heart pained because of his slip before the cruel fate,' the idiomatic compound ka:liTaRi 'slip of leg' is used to convey the sense of 'fall'.
The news story is about the mental agony of a poet named palavila rameesan, whose right leg was amputated due to high diabetics. Here the title is very much poetic and is in accordance with the situation. This type of usage will create a curiosity among the readers for further reading.
Yet another example is Tu:Risam paddhatikku valiteLiyunnu, 'A clear path is opening for the Tourism plan.' In this heading, the compound valiteLiyunnu 'a way is opening' is used in an idiomatic sense instead of the term a:rambhikkuka 'to begin'. Here the news story is about the direct involvement of a minister and people's representatives for the uplift of Tirur-Ponnani river as a part of tourism development.
In another headline, the speedy progress in the construction of over-bridges above the railway gates of north Kerala railway lines is reported as malaba:R pa:takaLuTe kurukku aliyunnu 'the knots of Malabar railway is disentangling'. In this headline also, the compound kurukku aliyunnu is indirectly used to create curiosity among the readers.
9. SARCASTIC SENSE AND UNDERTONE
The compounds with an idiomatic sense are also used to convey the undertone or sarcastic sense. This type of compounds is commonly used in newspapers to sarcastically criticize the government and the political leaders.
In the headline, viva:dannaLuTe pukamaRayil paddhatikaL nasTappeTarutu 'plans should not be lost in the smoke-mask of controversies,' the compound pukamaRa 'smoke-mask' is used in an idiomatic sense. Here, the reporter is trying to make the public aware of the fact that there is some difference of opinion among the government and plan organizers which may lead to the loss of the plan. Here, the compound pukamaRa 'smoke-mask' is idiomatically used to convey the sarcastic tone. A sarcastic message that the controversies are only masks to cover the real facts from the public is conveyed. Hence the newspaper uses the term smoke-mask, which has a temporary existence.
In another example a:nRaNiyum ja:nuvum ottukaLikkunnu 'Antony and Janu are playing together,' the compound ottukaLi 'joined play' is used to convey the idea of pre-planned action. The report is regarding the comment of some about the strike led by the tribal leader C. K. Janu. They are arguing that the strike was an outcome of the hidden understanding between the chief minister and the tribal leader.
Yet another headline reads like this: mukhyamantRiya:yatumutal pa:ravayppukaLum oLiyambum ma:tram 'Since became chief minister only cheating and hidden attacks' This headline carries two compounds which are idiomatically used, pa:ravayppu and oLiyambu. These terms have wide currency in the present political vocabulary of Kerala. The term pa:ravayppu is used to convey the meaning of cheating. The second term oLiyambu 'hidden arrow' is used to convey the sense of hidden criticism. The news story is about the former Kerala chief minister A.K. Antony's confession of the sad truth that he experienced only hidden arrows and cheating from his own party since he became the chief minister. The report is sarcastically presented with the use of the above headline.
In another example, the careless attitude of the special task force of the Karnataka -Tamil Nadu government in arresting the sandalwood smuggler Veerappan is sarcastically reported with the headline vi:rappan ve:TTa dautya seena ippolum iruTTil tappunnu. 'Veerappan hunt: the special task force is still searching in the darkness.' This headline is an indirect comment on the Government's inefficiency to conduct the police work more efficiently. The term iruTTil tappunnu 'searching in the darkness' means doing a futile job, which is accurately used in the headline.
Yet another example for the sarcastic use of idiomatic compounds is the use of the term kase:rakaLi 'musical chair' in the headline ka:bu:L valituRakkum munpe: kase:rakaLikku tuTaKKam. This term is used in this context to convey the idea of the tricky play of political leaders for power. The news story is about the political situation in Afghanistan where, after the war, America is thinking about its political future.
Newspapers use the term kallukaTi 'stone bite' in a sarcastic sense to convey the idea of some unpleasant argument. In the sentence mantrisabhayuTe tuTakkam tanne kallukaTiyo:Te a:yirunnu 'the ministry begins with some unpleasant argument,' this term is used in the above sense.
10. MAKING HEADLINES MORE ATTRACTIVE AND CATCHY
The compounds which convey an idiomatic sense are also used to make the headline of a report more attractive. Thus the caption like sangha:TakaRkku svarabhe:dam: a:sva:sama:yi kalayuTe ponveTTam 'difference of opinion among the organizers: the light of art brings a sigh of relief' is made attractive through the poetic usage of the language. The compound svarabhe:dam is idiomatically used to convey the sense that there is a difference of opinion. This term is used instead of the commonly used term abhipRa:yabhinnata to make the headline more attractive. This term will go in tune with the situation because the news story is about the national youth festival where music and dance items are performed. The word svara of the term svarabhedam will sound good with the musical knot which is also called as svaram in Malayalam. Thus this term can also be interpreted as different musical knot in another context.
Yet another example for the rhythmic usage of idiomatic compound is the headline olivu nikatta:netti: Ti:minRe neTuntu:Na:yi 'came to fill the vacancy; became the main pillar'. Literally the word neTumtu:N means main pillar, but in this caption it is used idiomatically to convey the sense of becoming an integral part. The story is about the cricket player Stephen Rodger Vo who came to the cricket field to fill the vacancy of another player and became the captain of the team. The captain of a team is just like the main pillar of a building, both are unavoidable. These types of captions will make the report eye-catching.
The headline kaitta:??a:ke:NTa kathaka:ranma:R taLLippaRannu 'story writers who wanted to become a support disregarded me,' the term kaitta:??? is used to convey the meaning of support. This particular usage of the compound in an idiomatic sense makes the headline more attractive. ta:??? means an external support given to any structure which is not strong enough to stand erect.
11. CAPTIONS AND IDIOMATIC COMPOUNDS
Idiomatic compounds are also used to beautify the captions. The reporters will select culturally attested terms or the terms which have some cultural relevance for this purpose. One of the editorial captions given in Malayala Manorama runs like this info:sis enna subhasakunam 'INFOSYS the good omen'. Here the compound subhasakunam is idiomatically used to convey the idea of goodness. The term sakunam 'omen' is culturally related and people categorize certain happenings or things as good and bad omen. The editorial is about the willingness of INFOSYS to invest in Kerala State Information and Technology wing. The editor is having a hope that this may bring a progressive change in the investment atmosphere of Kerala.
The culturally attested terms like tilakakkuRi or toTuKuRi are commonly used in the headlines in the sense of something which is noble or distinguishing. These two words literally stand for the ornamental mark on the forehead. The cultural attestation of these terms is that in Indian culture putting the ornamental mark in the forehead of a person is treated as auspicious.
In another example, ma:navi:yattinu innu ke:LikoTTu 'Manaviyam programme commences from today,' the term ke:LikoTTu is used in the sense of beginning. This particular term is related to the performing art Kathakali of Kerala which means the beating of drums to announce that a Kathakali performance is soon going to be held. Thus, the culturally attested word ke:LikoTTu, instead of the common word a:rambham 'beginning,' will make the headline more attractive.
In another example, ke:ravum na:Tuni:nnunna ke:raLam 'Kerala where coconut is also vanishing', the term na:Tuni:nnunna is used to convey the meaning of diminishing. This term, in olden days, was used to announce the death of a king. The use of this culturally related term in the headline makes the headline catchy.
12. A CHARACTERISTIC STYLE FOR THE NEWSPAPER
The idiomatic compounds give the language of the newspaper a characteristic style. Making an attractive headline is not a layman's job. For selecting the lexical forms of the headline, one should have a very good knowledge of the language and its cultural background. Thus, in the newspaper, the use of idiomatic compounds also shows the efficiency of the reporter in using appropriate expression.
The idiomatic compounds commonly found in Malayalam newspapers are listed in a separate page. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO GO THIS SEPARATE PAGE.
13. GRAMMATICAL CATEGORIZATION OF IDIOMATIC COMPOUNDS
The structural analysis of all the idiomatic compounds shows the following grammatical combinations while forming idiomatic expressions. It is interesting to note that some of structural combinations such as adverb + verb, adverb + verbal noun are uncommon in the normal Malayalam language. However these idiomatic expressions often gain popularity and common use in the news papers.
(1) Noun + Noun
Around 20% of the idiomatic compounds will come under this sub grouping. Idiomatic compounds like agnipari:ksa (agni 'fire'+ pariiksa 'test'), kaNNiluNNi (kaNNil 'in the eye' uNNi 'infant'), kutirakkaccavaTam (kutira 'horse' kaccavaTam 'business') are examples for this type of combination.
(2) Noun + Verb
This is quite a productive pattern. Around 44% of the idiomatic compounds will come under this combination. The idiomatic compounds like ka:luva:ruka (ka:lu 'leg' va:ruka 'gather in handful') talapukayuka (tala 'head' pukayuka emit smoke') valiteLiyuka (vali 'way' teLiyuka 'to become clear') will come under this category.
(3) Noun + Verbal noun
Around 5% of the idiomatic compounds in Malayalam will come under this category. The compounds like kaNNukaTi (kaNNu 'eye' kaTi 'itching'), kaitta:nnu (kai 'hand' ta:nnu 'support') mutaleTuppu (mutal 'wealth' eTuppu taking') are examples.
(4) Verbal Noun + Verb
This combination is not so frequently found. The idiomatic compounds like no:TTamiTuka (no:TTam 'look' iTuka 'to put') will come under this category.
(5) Verbal noun + Verbal noun
In the examples piTippuke:Tu (piTippu 'grasp' ke:Tu 'defect') and piTivali (piTi 'grasp' vali 'pull') both the constituents are verbal nouns. This type of combination is also seen in the idiomatic compounds of Malayalam.
(6) Verbal Noun + Noun
The constituents of the examples kaRavappasu (kaRava 'milking' pasu 'cow') toTukuRi (toTu 'to touch' kuRi 'an ornamental mark in the forehead') and unnuvaTi (u:nnu 'stress' vaTi 'stick') are verbal noun and noun. In this combination around 5% of idiomatic compounds are found.
(7) Verb + Verb
Just like the above category, around 5% of idiomatic compounds may come under this type of combination. The compounds like poTTitteRikkuka (poTTi 'burst' teRikkuKa 'to spill') poLiccelutuka (poLiccu 'to dismantle' elutuka 'to write') are examples.
(8) Adjective + Noun
This category is with 12% of idiomatic compounds. The compounds like urukkumusTi (urukku 'steel' musTi 'hand') oLiyambu (oLi 'hidden' ambu 'arrow') come under this category.
(9) Adjective + Verb
This combination is not so frequently found. The idiomatic compound paccapiTikkuka (pacca 'green' piTikkuka 'to hold') come under this category.
(10) Adverb + Verbal noun
This is also a rare type of combination and the compound ottukaLi (ottu 'joint' kali 'play') is this type of combination. (Cf. Appendix I.)
Graphic representation of the possible grammatical categorization of idiomatic compounds is shown below.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE ANNEXURE FOR THE LIST OF GRAMMATICAL CATEGORIZATION OF IDIOMATIC COMPOUNDS IN MALAYALAM.
Bauer, Laurie. 1983.English word-formation. Cambridge University Press.
CLICK HERE FOR PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION. THIS VERSION INCLUDES THE TABLE OF IDIOMATIC COMPOUNDS USED IN MALAYALAM NEWSPAPERS AND THE ANNEXURE.
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V. Geetha Kumary, Ph.D.
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysore 570006, India