Gujarati Grammar: Postpositions

Although I have spoken Gujarati since childhood, I only learnt the alphabet in 2015. I then had to take a break from studying Gujarati for a while as I just couldn’t find the time for it.

Recently I’ve been trying to set aside a couple of hours every week to continue working though Colloquial Gujarati: The Complete Course for Beginners, by Jagdish Dave. I won’t tell you when I started the course…

It’s not as easy to find resources for Gujarati as it is for French or Spanish. So I thought it would be useful to post my own resources here on my blog. They won’t be in any particular order – I’ll be posting as I learn, and hopefully coming back and adding information as my knowledge grows.

The last topic I covered was postpositions so that is the focus of this post.

If you’d like to find out more about my experiences of learning Gujarati, click here.

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In English, prepositions normally indicate location, direction or time. They are placed before the word they govern, e.g. ‘under the table’, ‘on the platform’, ‘after dinner’.

In Gujarati, they are called postpositions because they are placed after they word they govern. Postpositions follow or a noun or pronoun and show its relationship with another word in the sentence.

These postpositions are broadly classified according to meaning in the table below.

Postpositions

English

Transliteration

Gujarati

Place and direction

in an-dar અંદર
out ba-hār બહાર
near pā-se પાસે
above ū-par ઉપર
under nĩ-che નીચે
between vach-che વચ્ચે

Time

before pa-he-lā̃ પહેલા
before āgaḷ આગળ
after pa-chhi પછી

Instrumentality

by va-ḍe વડે
through mār-phat મારફત

Absence

except vi-nā વિના
without va-gar વગર
without si-vāy સિવાય

Comparison

compared to kar-tā̃ કરતાં
equal to ba-rā-bar બરાબર
like mā-phak માફક

Purpose

for mā-ṭe માટે
for khā-tar ખાતર

 

 

Adapted from Colloquial Gujarati: The Complete Course for Beginners, by Jagdish Dave

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ka [kə]

 

When your native language feels like a foreign language

Although my working languages are French and English, my native language is actually Gujarati. Gujarati was my first language and it was all I spoke as a child. Once I started school, Gujarati was replaced by English, making brief appearances every time I visited my grandparents or went to community events.

Gujarati is native to the Indian state of Gujarat and it is spoken by over 50 million people worldwide.

I fell in love with French at school and it became an important part of my professional and personal life. But when I finished my studies, I realised that adding Gujarati to my working languages would make me stand out. Considering that it is my native language, you’d be forgiven for thinking that working with Gujarati is straightforward for me.

However, until earlier this year, I didn’t know how to read and write Gujarati. Initially, it seemed like a momentous task but once I got stuck in, with the help of a friend’s mum, I got through the letters fairly quickly. The difficult part is learning to read at a normal pace. Luckily, Gujarati is a phonetic language so everything is written as it is pronounced. My knowledge of French phonetics was indispensable as I knew how to use IPA symbols to distinguish between similar sounds.

Once you have mastered one language, learning subsequent languages becomes easier. This is true even when two languages are as different as French and Gujarati. Since I have studied French intensively for a long time, I have learnt about different aspects of language which I can now apply to Gujarati. In particular, I find it easier to grasp grammatical concepts like the difference between tenses.

An area that I struggle with is learning vocabulary. The language I use with my family is specific to our region of Gujarat so standard Gujarati, meaning Gujarati used in school or in the media, sounds very different to me. Even within my own community, I have found variation in everyday words like ‘kitchen’. This means that new vocabulary is often unfamiliar, whereas in my Spanish classes, I regularly spot similarities between French and Spanish words.

As I have always spoken Gujarati informally, it makes sense that I feel more confident in French. I know that I can speak French correctly and adapt to different contexts, both formal and informal. As I don’t yet feel this level of competence in Gujarati, I would rather work on my skills before adding Gujarati to my working languages. I hope I will then be able to offer the same high quality of translation and interpreting as I currently offer in French.

Other than the clear professional benefits of mastering Gujarati, it brings me personal satisfaction to reawaken a connection with my country of origin, le pays natal. I can now decipher my grandmother’s writing, mostly on labels in her kitchen. Instead of using Gujarati words, she often labels her jars in English but using Gujarati script. I was amused to discover that she had spelled ‘sugar’ as she pronounces it: soogar.

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My family’s home town: Tadkeshwar, Gujarat