The role of speaker in meaning formation

ایک روزن لکھاری
معراج رعنا، صاحبِ مضمون

The role of speaker in meaning formation

(Meraj Ra’na)

Expression of thought is called speech. Thought has direct connection with the human brain, where it exists in liquid state, but on the moment when it completes the phase of expression or it gets the form of speech, it becomes important because it gets the support of our narration on its back. Now, somewhere, a sequence of meaning must exist in the speech.

Like other things thought also accept the impact of external changes at different state of its evolution. External changes are related to the all powers of mankind especially to their power of perception. Any experience or thought gets the form of speech due to the combination of ‘self perception’ and the ‘world perception’. This is the solid state of thought. Still it is considerable how the solid state of thought comes before us or how the meaning world is colonised in speech?

Before pondering over this question it is necessary to understand the aspects and kinds of speech, because the answer of the question may hide its face in the kinds of speech. Here speech doesn’t mean any specific form rather it means that system of expression which awards the position of piece of literature to any thought or experience. When we use the term literary piece, we mean those kinds which are categorised under the broad heads of prose and poetry.

[su_quote]Different positions, recognition of kinds, aesthetic principles and values of it are more or less decided. These all help us for the explanation and interpretation of speech. If we finalise any basic meaning of speech, it will be tough to get any additional meaning to make the speech more dignified. In other words, speech has two types of meaning: basic and additional. Additional depends on the basic one [/su_quote]

Basic meaning gets birth from tongue in first phase. Formation of additional meaning becomes the source of speaker, his presence and of his absence. It was well known by Arab thinkers e.g., Mulla Sakaki. In our era I.A.Richards (1893-1979), wrote about the  clearly in the chapter “Four Kinds of Meaning” in the book “Practical Criticism” :

                        For our purpose here, a division into four types of function,

                        Four kinds of meaning will suffice. Four aspects can be easily

                        distinguished. Let us call them Sense, Feeling, Tones and Intention.

                        (Practical Criticism, p.74, A.Richards, Kegan Paul, 1930)

Richards explains that the meaning comes in the form of sense, feeling, tone and intention. He includes narrator also in action. To be disagree with Richards is not possible but it is also noteworthy that he defined the formation of in the context of  specific genre i.e. poetry. When we talk about the cause and effects in reference and context of fiction, the opinion of Richards doesn’t support us too long.

Now let us ponder over the position of speaker. We know that one, who speaks, is speaker but it is difficult to clarify how speaker effects the meaning structure of speech. Even some times this question disturbs us whether the sense of speaker plays any important role in meaning formation of speech or not.

In the beginning of the 20th century “Chicago School” of New Criticism maintained the new rules and regulations to study the literature which emphasised on the close reading of the text. The positive impact of it came forth. Formalistic reading came into central position in the field of understanding of text with reference to text and of speech with reference to speech and in the discovery of the meaning world of both.

By “Narratology” the trend to search the specifications of meanings come into light. The trend of “New Criticism” may be called “New” but to call “New” to its basic stuff is not right possibly. In Platonic and Vedic philosophy we get the clear concept of reading system of literature. In Arabic literature Ibn-e-Khaldun (1332-1406) showed light on it by his views.

There has been agreement with new criticism and somewhere disagreement too. Basic dispute began at that time when the supporters of structural criticism started debate over the absence of speaker in speech. This claim of such structural criticism that speaker doesn’t have presence in text or speech is neither a new one nor there is any depth in its essence.

Plainly it is to say that Richardian rules were presented with misinterpretations. Since 1972 till date many points of new criticism were interpreted wrongly.”Writing writes not the writer” is one of them misinterpreted interpretations.

It’s true that in new criticism for understanding of literature and of poetry specially, the debate over historical and scientific matters was considered unnecessary. Richards, thought expect from poetry for the expression of any historical or scientific fact. For him the value and importance of poetry depends on pseudo statements means on those statements which state nothing but possess the flavour of speech.

In his book “Science and Poetry” Richards clarified the difference between referential meaning and emotive meaning. He differentiates referential meaning from other scientific facts and emotive meaning from poetry.

It is the matter of consideration that it is obvious in the Richardian basic concepts that explanation and interpretation of any statement is possible with any social, political and religious reference. But it’s not clearly stated that absence of speaker in speech makes speech meaningful. It’s true that there is no image of speaker in Richardian theory as it was presented in classical era.

In other words it can be said that in “New Criticism “position of speaker is ambiguous instead of being transparent. In every condition, speaker exists in speech whether it’s poetry or prose. It is already said that in the light of “New Criticism” is difficult to clarify the role of speaker in the specification of meaning. Among the preachers of New Criticism all limit their critical opinion to the poetry only except F.R.Leavis. Leavis (1895-1978) is the only critic who applied his critical thoughts on poetry and fiction both.

Now we come back to the question what is the position of speaker in speech and how he influences to its meaning structure. First the role of speaker depends on the type of speech. If speech is poetic then the position of speaker would be different in it. If it is prosaic then speaker would be realised in a different way. Matter is not resolved here. There are many kinds of poetic and prosaic speech. For example we take ghazal (love poem), then this question is inevitable if a speaker exists in the couplet of ghazal what the role in the plays in meaning formation. Does he exist in the same way, in the case of qasida (ode), masnavi and marsiya (elegy)?

Same type of questions may be framed with reference to prose case of fiction. If we answer that, in speech internally and externally speaker holds different position and plays different role in meaning specification, then it is quite possible that two new questions will be raised:

1. If we agree that speaker exists in speech, then what means to differentiate in the position, post and duties of speaker on the basis of kinds of speech

2. When first and last work of speaker is to speak, means he inherit the speech, how it can be understood when speech is changed, it’s meaning formation style change too. Even if we accept it then where is it obvious that changed position of speaker disturb the continuity of speech?

A few examples are here:

ہوئے مر کے ہم جو رسوا ہوئے کیوں نہ غرقِ دریا
نہ کبھی جنازہ اٹھتا نہ کہیں مزار ہوتا


(We became defame, why didn’t drown into the river, neither there were crowd on death, nor there were any grave)

 جاتا ہے دوڑ دوڑ کے تیری طرف خیال
دھو دھو کے پاؤں ہیجیے پیکِ خیال کے


(Always feet of my thought run to you. Wash them again and again; Take this water, this water is pious as nectar.)

مل مل کے ہاتھ کہتی ہے، ہے ہے میں لٹتی ہوں
پردیس میں حُسین سے بھائی سے چھٹتی ہوں


(With extreme agony she yearns saying I am looted and departed to my brother Husain in this strange land)

 سُجات ایک ناگن کُجات ایک سانپ

اسنگت دیٹھیں کھیلتے لانپ جھانپ


(She snake is from upper cast while snake is from lower. They both are perceived performing foreplay together.)

In the first line of first couplet speaker is quite visible in the form of “we”. Generally “we” is used for plural and sometimes for singular too. But here it is used for present plural speaker. The formation of couplet is laid down on thought and experience. Its temperament posses the nature of totality.

Therefore, speaker presents himself in the form of “we”. When we see the meaning of couplet, the first meaning which attracts us is that speaker was defamed after death. Usually crowd is gathered after deaths and people show their agony on corpse and remember the merits of dead one even the dead person was too bad.

Against this tradition Ghalib says that “we” means lovers were in dejection in our whole life due to the ignoring attitude of beloved. After death we couldn’t escape ourselves from the negative comments of people. Lovers feel so much agony on this that they wish to drown into the river. Though the result of drowning is death too but the difference is that in case of drowning approximately there is no chance of defame.

Often in this case the body is lost, when there is no body, there is no corpse, no grave. One meaning of drowning into river is solitude also. If this meaning is accepted then it may be indicated that after expressing love death occurred. After death there became defame. The reason behind it that lover becomes remain in love scenario after it’s disclose as they were before it.

They must hide themselves after disclosing their feeling in such a place where no one might disturb them except themselves. It couldn’t be made possible and lovers became defame.

Here a question may be raised that when death of lover occurred, how it becomes possible that lover witness his own defame? Spectators may be only those who are alive and then their will to drown into river? Something strange and illogical. In the first recitation of couplet it seems illogical but as soon we recite it secondly and thirdly, we get the base of its logical and rational stand.

Apart from this couplet, any couplet of Ghalib gives totally different understanding in second recitation to the first recitation. Meaning manifestation and logical framework are obvious merits of Ghalib’s (1797-1869) poetry. Shamsur Rahman Faruqi writes interview type article entitled  “Mohammad Hasan Askari: Yesterday and Today: a Conversation” as follows:

                         [su_quote] “Ghalib is a great poet of meaning manifestation, but there is less feeling in his poetry means his couplet affects less to your emotions. It affects your mind, your intellect.” (Shabkhoon, 343, 1994)[/su_quote]

The second and third recitation of couplet provide logical and rational base that whole couplet emphasise on the term “we”. We may be the indication for lovers  in past who are expressing their agony on the condition of their seniors and trying to save themselves from this defame means they may  escape from the same mistake done by their seniors.

Form of “we” also explains that death of lovers is not real, it’s that death which is experienced in the departure of beloved, therefore it is very right to say that poetic observation of this couplet is based on logic and rational. If we wish we may change the first line (misra) in different manner as follow:

I became defame after death

You became defame after death

If we agree on above changed lines (misre), then the question is raised is it possible to understand or explain in the same way as it has been done before? It’s obvious that answer will be “no” because in changed lines individuality is framed due to the use of “I” and “You”.

It has already been laid that whole observation of couplet shift to individuality from totality. Secondly above to the use of these addressing words not only the meaning intensity and meaning possibilities are limited but the couplet is confined in a specific span of time also. In “Dejection: An Ode” of Coleridge (1772-1834), a beautiful example of same poetic framework is as follows:

                                       O Lady! We receive but what we give

                                        And in our life alone does nature live

                                        Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud

In the whole poem there is expression of reactions in between the nature and human behaviour and temperament. Coleridge wish to establish that nature doesn’t possess its own temperament. Instead of it the temperament of nature is divided due to our behaviour and temperament. When we become happy, we get the image of happiness in natural scenario. When we are dejected, we get the image of dejection in everything of natural scenario.

For the recitation of same situation Eliot frame the metaphor of “Objective Correlative”. Here also the positions of experience possess the plurality. Therefore, poet uses the term like “we” and “ours”. One couplet of Nasir Kazmi (1925-1972) possesses the same situation near about as follows:

دل تو میرا اداس ہے ناصر
شہر کیوں سائیں سائیں کرتا ہے


(Heart of mine is in dejection, why the whole city is in agony)

In this couplet too one’s experience is narrated nearly like to the experience of Coleridge. Difference is that Nasir unlike Coleridge makes his poetic experience compitable to “Individuality”. “Mine” used in the first line (misra) of couplet in singular form as its open proof. Second couplet is from odd (qasida) of Zauq.

In this addressee “You” is obvious while addresser is semi obvious. Here one may object that there is no sign in couplet to specify the existence of speaker. But it become obvious from temporal observation that speaker exists. Couplet is the representation of the condition of continuity. In part of ode poet praises someone. In other part poet narrates his need. First one is related to meaning sequence while second one is related to performance appraisal ultimately.

Therefore in the second part speaker is seen clearly. For example this line of couplet Ghalib  میری تنخواہ کیجیے ماہ بہ ماہ     (Fix my salary on monthly basis). In first part there may be many reasons for speaker to be in background. One reason may be that qasida is more dependent on previous experiences between one who praises and one who is praised. Therefore, there may be more meaning possibilities.

More or less same situation occurs in case of elegy (marsiya). Third couplet presents the same situation. Moreover elegies are framed more on the basis of historical knowledge than real experience. Therefore, during the description of Karbala speaker keeps himself in the background rather than in poetic scenario. Fourth couplet is from the very old masnavi “Kadam Rao Padam Rao”.

More or less the same situation is active in this also. It means speaker keep himself in background. Total poetic experience of masnavi is of dramatic nature. Some dramatic style is seen in the famous poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” of Coleridge. A few things are common in both. Firstl both central characters means “Kadam Rao Padam Rao” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” get to know really themselves due to super natural powers. Secondly in both poems speaker make occurrences of some unnatural acts by supernatural like Padam Rao and Albatross which both are snakes. Those unnatural acts seem very much compitable to nature.  Due to the same reason speaker exists in background of both the poems.

Apart from narrative poetry, some couplets of ghazal are also there in which existence of speaker is not seen obviously but he exists internally in it and without him existence of couplet is not possible. Existence of speaker affects the meaning length. It is time that identity of speaker is not established due to the words like “I”, “We” and “Mine”. In the poetry of Ghalib, couplets of same kind are recognised too much. For example this couplet:

گلہ ہے شوق کو دل میں بھی تنگیِ جا کا
گہر میں محو ہوا اضطراب دریا کا


(It is complain of love to heart for less space. Whole restlessness of river lost in the pearl)

A specific meaning of couplet is that love is feeling suffocation in heart also like other places, love shouldn’t hold this complain because heart becomes very vast. In the next moment it is realised that it is time that heart is vast but the love is vaster than it.

Therefore, absorption of love in heart is not possible same as the waves of rivers may not be absorbed in the pearl. Therefore in this situation, the complain of love is natural and genuine too. But when we study the couplet deeply, many other meanings come before or may come before as follows:

Heart becomes vast, so vast that universe may lost in it. An acceptance of it is obvious in the couplet of Dard (1721-1785) as follows:

ارض و سما کہاں تری وسعت کا پا سکے
میرا ہی دل ہے وہ کہ جہاں تو سما سکے


(Where did earth and sky may get  yours expansion, my heart is that place where you may get accommodation.)

Generally earth and sky seen very vast. But in reality beloved may not be accommodated in it. Because there is no expansion in earth and sky which is in glory of beloved. In the first line there is query and for the establishment of this query the term “where” is used.

In the second line it is answered with logic that heart is that place where corporeal beloved may stay. Hence it’s proved that my heart is more vast than earth and sky. It is the talent of Mir Dard that he made inferior a bigger truth of outer world in comparison to a smaller thing of the inner world. Mir expressed the expansion of heart in a different way:

دل وہ نگر نہیں کہ پھر آباد ہو سکے
پچھتاؤ گے سنو ہو یہ بستی اجاڑ کے


(Heart is not that city which may be colonised again. You will repent after ravishing this place.)

Beloved is warned in the couplet not to destroy heart. Because whatever is ruined, must be renovated. It is apart that time span of renovation is not specific. It can’t be predicted that how and when it will be renovated. But in the couplet beloved is warned that she shouldn’t ruin the heart of lover because it is not like material object which may get life again after being ruined.

Here is a point worthy to be noted in which great vastness of heart is hidden that only that thing may be colonised which is limited like city or country. But heart which is live this very time may not get life again after being ruined.

Poet has full command on this claim because he is well known about the expansion and vast feature of the heart, while demolisher is totally unaware from this fact. Step taken due to ignorance always become the cause of dilapidation. Pearl, which becomes the result of sharpness habited winds, is compared or treated like heart due to its many merits e.g., its shining is treated like the glass of heart.

The value and importance of both are obvious too. Value and importance of both is possible due to the fact that both come into light after passing through a special evolutionary process. Power and absorption is the merit of both. Pearl observes the intensified waves of sea while heart absorbs the expansion of earth and sky even love complains for its narrowness. Heart is not narrow really for love but it is the fact that love is proven to complain.

From the complain of love of narrow space it is also aimed to clarity the fact that heart is too great. To reveal the fact that complains is made by the love that heart is narrow. Negation of affirmation is the beauty of couplet. Despite of laid description of couplet it couldn’t be decided that whose heart is narrow and whose love is complaining that heart is congested. A few signals like “you “may be observed.

In Dard’s couplet such an interrogative condition is not observed.  Dard’s couplet doesn’t cover meaning expansion like Ghalib as in the first line “I” is obvious due to which couplet doesn’t exceed from a specific extent. And this all is generated due to heart. In my heart beloved may stay but not in others because in other’s heart, there is no space like in mine.

Ghalib only expresses spatial heart and complain of love as it is special poetic temperament of him. In the couplet under discussion, plurality of meaning exists due to indirect way of expression. In indirect way speaker exists in background, not in the front side of scenario.

In prose also the position of speaker is sound. Unlike poetry, the recognition of narrator is not different because prose is descriptive piece of literature. Fiction is based on fable. Therefore, for writing fable and to maintaining interest there becomes need of a few characters.

Characters of fiction are recognised from their dialogues. Their dialogues make their reactions effective. Healthy dialogues are those in which scenario of fable, age of characters, their religious beliefs and their social and political positions are taken care of:

                                  “When we put any material in fire, it separates residue

                                   After consuming its need or whatever it like to consume.”

This dialogue is delivered by Sheikh Ali Wajoodi in the famous novel “Firdus-e-Bareen”by Abdul Halim Sharar (1860-1926). Husain is the central character of this novel. To meet his beloved Zamurrud, he wishes to enter in world of light (Alam-e-noor) eagerly. As Wajoodi is famous cleric and he has involved in Alam-e-Noor. So Husain request to him. As a reaction said dialogue is delivered.

From the dialogue, intellect and knowledge, age and religious beliefs of Wajoodi may easily be observed. If Wajoodi do romantic talk instead of mystic talk, his personality may  be affected. In this way his character which is strongest character of novel will become the weakest.

In prose and fiction sometimes dialogues are felt against the set manner of characters but when we ponder over scenario, the same dialogues are felt compatible. For example following two small dialogues from famous tragedy “Othello” of Shakespeare (1564-1616) may be presented:

                                             Othello: She was as unreliable as water

                                             Emilia: You are as wicked as fire

Above dialogues were delivered in between Othello and Emilia just after the murder of Desdemona. Othello who is murderer of Desdemona tries to justify the murder saying her better half was unfaithful like water. Emilia instead of arguing in favour of Desdemona became furious on Othello. It is manner that if someone says that some dead person was not good and we are agreed on goodness of dead one, naturally we will reply as “no”.

Dead man was very good. According to this Emilia should say “no” she was as reliable as iron. But, whatever, she said was against expectation. The reason behind is that she was eye witness of Desdemona’s  innocence and of that time Emilia was embarrassed and she may transfer her emotions to Othello and may reveal the innocence of Desdemona on Othello by saying “you are as wicked as fire.”

Such poignant sentence only may break the continuity of thoughts of Othello so that he may think with strange feeling that what Emilia is saying. This point is that the above dialogues are of drama. Drama is more related to performing on stage than reading. Conception of stage is not possible without spectators. The nature of drama is one to one observation in between characters and spectators. When Emilia mocks husband of Desdemona after murder of innocent Desdemona, her emotion became the representation of spectators (may be reader also).

They also mock Othello as they are also known to the Desdemona’s innocence like Emilia. In this way poignant statement of Emilia becomes the source of revenge from the spectator’s side. Therefore it is fixed that dialogues are the source to recognise the characters of fiction. Dialogues are also one type of speech. Difference is only of idiomatic use of language. Characters of fiction are not independent, they are dependent to narrator who exists in and out of character and speaks with the tongue of the character.

So it can be said that being natural and not natural of dialogues depend on the intellect of narrator. If narrator is wise like Shakespeare and Sharar, he must frame character like Wajoodi and Iago whose dialogues will not be natural but will play an important role in framing the fiction also.

In fiction there becomes a narrator without whom narration of fiction is impossible. Along with it, it is also decided that in any novel, drama or short story it is not difficult to recognise narrator, speech. Generally narrator exists in fiction in three ways, means in three ways he is considered as narrator of the occurrence.

In first way he exists outside of the story and run story with the help of characters. In it narrator is realised as independent as he maintains distance between narrator and characters. But sometimes this distance is diminished also and narrator reaches near to characters:

                               “He used to see the up and down of her face by his side glances

                                 He used to feel a strange feeling in himself. Though she was many

                                 Years elder than him but he used to think in his typical style “wow”!

                                 What an agile bird she is”. (“Khuda ki Basti” p.34, Shaukat Siddique)

These narrative lines are related to characters of novel named Raja and Nahid. In it the whole emphasis of narrator is on to clarify the mental condition of Raja who is servant of Nahid, daughter of a Professor. We feel here a distance between narrator and character. But in the last portion of last sentence this distance is demolished for few moments. “Wow”! What a tasty bird she is; this sentence does not clarify mental status of Raja only but shows one type of Dramatic Monologue also.

In second type narrator exists inside the story and proceed along with the characters. This type of narrator is known as conventional type of narration. From the first classical prose literature of Urdu ”Sabras” (Mulla Wajhi) to modern novel “Aag ka Dariya” (Qurratulain Hyder), in the narration of all type is used. Going through such type of narration, on every step we feel the existence of narrator as he says his point of view again and again on action and reactions of characters. e.g:

                          “Shadows are immortal, men are mortal. Shadows have great

                            power. We always follow the shadows in our whole life but

                            never get it is incorrigible on its place. Time and shadows have

                            mutually framed conspiracy”(“Aag ka Dariya”p.72, Qurratulain Hyder)

These lines reveal thoughts which come in the mind of Kamal Raza after seeing crowd of shadows and he becomes narrator too. But when the independence of narrator is withdrawn from him, we don’t feel the same. We don’t go through the one time before quoted lines, we don’t realise who is speaker, narrator or Kamal Raza. Such type of narration which become extreme need of someone. It is highly taken care of that when and how long characters will be left independent.

Third kind of narration is that in which narrator narrates the fiction directly with the help of addressing words like “I” and “We”. In this way he himself becomes a character of fiction and may go through the steps of evolution. There is a difficulty in such type of narration that it is difficult to create a balance in characters, and as narrator himself is a character, so to be unbiased is a tough job. For balance narrator must be impartial.

It is easy also in one way because of the fact narrator may narrate his personal experiences in an effective manner. Instead of by other character narrator himself convey that event and maintain natural tone:

                                        “One day Farris Effandi invited me to dinner at his home

                                         I accepted, my sprit hungry for divine bread, which

                                         Heaven placed in the hands of Selma” (“The Tempest”p.23, Khalil Gibran)

If Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) describes this experience in tongue of other character, firstly it couldn’t be conveyed as such. Secondly structure would be affected. If it is described as such as required, surely there will not be flavour as it is in the above mentioned lines. Abdulla Husain presented a beautiful example of this narration in his novelette “Nasheeb.

 Above mentioned kinds of narration are not fashion which must be used in fiction but these are source of expression through which experience come to us in the form of fiction. Therefore it depends on the nature of fiction that which type of narrator is suitable for narration.

It has already been said that in meaning formation the position of narrator and speaker plays an important role. As in subject of couplet we may discover stages of meaning. There is a condition that in tough job of communication present position of speaker or narrator is before narrative act.