Where are you from? This question is perhaps a quintessential part of belonging, a question that will eventually come up in a first-time conversation. You can come from somewhere, you can arrive from some town, you can prevent something from happening. The notion of “from” is essential to master, and in Nepali, there are two ways to express from: बाट (bāṭa)and देखि (dekhi).
Although both words mean roughly “from”, and can be sometimes interchanged freely, they are not the same. We shall now explore how they differ, and how one can choose between one over the other in certain situation.
काम गर्नु (kām garnu) = To work (lit. to do work)
गमला (gamalā) = Flowerpot
बार्दली (bārdalī) = Balcony
झर्नु (jharnu) = To fall
पाइनु = (pāinu) = To be obtained
कागज (kāgaj) = Paper
नङ (naṅ) = Nail
औँला (aum̐lā) = Finger
निस्किनु (niskinu) = To exit; to escape
दुध (dudh) = Milk
घिउ (ghiu) = Ghee; A type of clarified butter found in the Indian subcontinent
उत्पादन गर्नु (utpādan garnu) = To produce (lit. to do production)
अलङ्कार (alaṅkār) = (here) Stylistic device
बुझ्नु (bujhnu) = To understand
गाली (gālī) = Scolding
बच्नु (bacnu) = To be saved
खोप लगाउनु (khop lagāunu) = To get a vaccine (lit. to apply vaccine)
दादुरा (dādurā) = Measles
गुम्बा (gumbā) = Monastery
टाढो (ṭāḍho) = Far
विवाह (vivāha) = Marriage
सुरु हुनु (suru hunu) = To begin; To start
तिहार (tihār) = A (usually) 5-day festival celebrated during autumn
सकिनु (sakinu) = To be finished; To end
लाखे (lākhe) = A demon in Nepalese folklore, specifically of the ethnic Newari people, which serves as the subject for the Lakhey dance performed in Nepal
बाट (bāṭa) in essence show where a motion, journey or an action starts. It also indicates the source or provenance of something or someone. It also indicates separation or removal. It also indicates prevention of something.
Indicates the point of action
When you indicate the point of action, you show where a motion, journey or an action started:
ऊ घरबाट आयो (ū ghar-bāṭa āyo)
= He came from home
[subject + home (+) bāṭa-case marker + verb]
In the above sentence, the subject is indicated to come “from” home, indicating a point where a motion was started. Likewise:
म घरबाट गएँ (ma ghar-bāṭa gaem̐)
= I went from home
[subject + home (+) bāṭa-case marker + verb]
In the above sentence likewise, you indicate where you started your journey (home). Finally:
म घरबाट काम गर्छु (ma ghar-bāṭa kām garchu)
= I do work from home
[subject + home (+) bāṭa-case marker + work + do]
In the sentence above, you indicate where you start an action, mimicking the usage of “from” as in English.
Indicates source or origin
When you indicate the source or origin, you indicate the provenance of something or someone, or where something or someone originates from. This origin can be intrinsic to the object being defined, such as the place of manufacturing, or it can be a temporary source where it sprung out of. For example:
म नेपालबाट हो (ma nepāl-bāṭa ho)
= I am from Nepal
[subject + Nepal (+) bāṭa-case marker + verb]
In the above sentence, the subject is originating from Nepal, which is an intrinsic point of origin. This means that the “origin” cannot be removed easily, as you cannot simply say you came from “Mars” as that is not an attribute of your birth. No insult to Martians, however. Nevertheless, the origin can also be virtual, in the sense that an object, before its departure, rested there on a temporary or “virtual” fashion. For example:
यो गमला बार्दलीबाट झर्यो (yo gamalā bārdalī-bāṭa jharyo)
= This flowerpot fell from (the) balcony
[this + flowerpot + balcony (+) bāṭa-case marker + verb]
The point of origin is the balcony, which is virtual in the sense that the flowerpot did not necessarily always existed there, but could have been placed there a few seconds before it fell, or could have been there as a decoration for week before it fell. Either way, the place is temporary, but still shows the point of origin. We can also show something as a source from where we obtain things. For example:
खोलाबाट पानी पाइन्छ (kholā-bāṭa pānī pāincha)
= From (the) river water is obtained
[river (+) bāṭa-case marker + water + is obtained]
Indicates material composition
When you indicate the material composition, you are saying that something is “made from” something. In other words, you talk about the structure or composition of the substance. You have to attach बनेको (baneko) afterwards, which means “made”. For example:
कागजबाट बनेको किताब (kāgaj-bāṭa baneko kitāb)
= Book made from paper
[paper (+) bāṭa-case marker + made + book]
When defining a sentence using a copula, however, you usually add the object before define the material. For example:
यो किताब कागजबाट बनेको हो (yo kitāb kāgaj-bāṭa baneko ho)
= This book is made from paper
[this + book + paper (+) bāṭa-case marker + made + is]
While you can still technically not change the structure and get the same meaning across, the sentence sounds a bit less natural. This means, you can technically say “yo kāgaj-bāṭa baneko kitāb ho” but it sounds a bit less natural, but still correct.
When you indicate separation, you assert that something has been separated from something else. This can give the meaning of “to split” or “to part up”, and can mean the separation of one into many, i.e. the separation of an entity into its individual components. For example:
मेरो नङ औँलाबाट निस्कियो (mero naṅ aum̐lā-bāṭa niskiyo)
= My nail separated (lit. exited) from (my) finger
[my + nail + finger (+) bāṭa-case marker + exited]
In the case above, the verb “to exit” is used as it can also mean “to separate” in some contexts. As noted above, the separation of the nail from the finger is indicated using the marker bāṭa. You can also use this to indicate the precipitation or separation of things, such as solutions or filtration:
दुधबाट घिउ उत्पादन गर्नु (dudh-bāṭa ghiu utpādan garnu)
= To do production (of) ghee from milk
[milk (+) bāṭa-case marker + ghee + production + do]
This can also be something abstract, such as:
“अ”बाट अलङ्कार बुझ्नु (“a”-bāṭa alaṅkār bujhnu)
= To understand (the) stylistic device from (a single) “a”
[“a” (+) bāṭa-case marker + stylistic device + verb]
While the above sentence is a proverb in Nepali, roughly meaning “to be very intelligent”, it is a case of abstract separation. Basically, from a single character,e the person has already understood the stylistic device used by the author, indicating high levels of intelligence, despite the fact that only a single letter has been revealed.
When you indicate prevention, you assert that you have prevented an action being fulfilled or an action being prevented from befalling on someone or something. This can be seen as the avoidance of consequences, as shown below:
हिजो म गालीबाट बचेँ (hijo ma gālī-bāṭa bacem̐)
= Yesterday I saved (myself) from (a) scolding
[yesterday + I + scolding (+) bāṭa-case marker + verb]
In the sentence above, one prevented themselves from getting a scolding. In the following sentence:
खोप लगाएर दादुराबाट बचौँ (khop lagāera dādurā-bāṭa bacaum̐)
= Let’s save (ourselves) from Measles by getting (lit. applying) (the) vaccine
[vaccine + by applying + Measles(+) bāṭa-case marker + save]
The verb “ lagāunu” usually has the meanings of: to wear, to apply. In this case, it means “apply”, as you “apply” a vaccine. The normal word in English would be “getting”, but in Nepali, we use the term “applying”.
देखि (dekhi) in essence is more constrained than the former case marker. It often shows a range, a distance between two particular places or events, or shows something as a point of reference. Although it can sometimes substitute बाट (bāṭa) in some cases, such as indicating point of origin or action, in the following cases, they cannot usually be interchanged so easily.
Indicates distance between reference points
When you indicate the distance between reference points, you are showing the distance between one point to another. In other words, you are showing the distance from A to B, or from an origin to a destination point. For example:
यहाँदेखि गुम्बा जान्छु (yahām̐-dekhi gumbā jānchu)
= (I) go (to the) monastery from here
[here (+) dekhi-case marker + monastery + verb]
In Nepali, the “to” and the subject part is often omitted if the context is clear enough. In the case above, the subject is going from point A (here) to point B (monastery), and this distance or separation is indicated by देखि (dekhi). Another case in point:
बर्लिनदेखि ह्याम्बर्ग २८९ किलोमिटर टाढो छ (barlin-dekhi hyāmbarg duī saya unānnabbe kilomiṭar ṭāḍho cha)
= From Berlin is Hamburg 289 km far
[Berlin (+) dekhi-case marker + Hamburg + 289 + kilometre(s) + far + is]
In the above sentence, the distance between two cities is shown using the case marker.
Indicates the starting of an event
When you indicate the starting of an event, you indicate when or where an event started to take place. This is often temporal, as in it indicates time, or can be spatial as well, showing from where an event started.
२ बजेदेखि विवाह सुरु हुन्छ (duī baje-dekhi vivāha suru huncha)
= (The) wedding starts from 2 o’clock
[2 o’clock (+) dekhi-case marker + wedding + start + happen]
In the sentence above, the wedding is scheduled to happen from a certain time. However, the starting of an event can also indicate the end of something, such as:
भोलिदेखि तिहार सकिन्छ (bholi-dekhi tihār sakincha)
= Tihar ends from tomorrow
[tomorrow (+) dekhi-case marker + Tihar + ends]
However, you can also indicate from where an event starts, such as the following:
लाखेहरू यहाँदेखि नाचे (lākhe-harū yahām̐-dekhi nāce)
= (The) lakheys danced from here
[lakheys + here (+) dekhi-case marker + dance]
The sentence above does not indicate an event in time, but rather a location from where the lakheys danced.
Indicates the range
It indicates the range, i.e. where something starts and ends. This is very similar to the first usage, and the range can be anything from class ranks to ordered lists. For example:
आकाशदेखि हरि, यता आईज! (ākāś-dekhi hari, yatā āīja!)
= From Aakash (to) Hari, come here! [low respect imperative]
[Aakash (+) dekhi-case marker + Hari + here + come!]
The sentence above consists of an imperative, but the part we want to focus on are the names. A range of names are given, probably alphabetically, that the speaker wants to call out. When you use dekhi to indicate range, the sister postposition samma is also occasionally used along with it. For example:
हाम्रो पसलले नुनदेखि सुनसम्म बेच्छ (hāmro pasal-le nun-dekhi sun-samma beccha)
= Our shop sells from salt to gold
[our + shop (+) + salt (+) dekhi-case marker + gold (+) samma-postposition + verb]
SUBTLE DIFFERENCE IN MEANINGS
The subtle difference in meanings between bāṭa and dekhi lies on where something originates from. When I said they can often be interchanged, they can be, but the meaning slightly changes. For example, when you say “I came from Durbar Marg”, you can translate it into two sentences:
- म दरबार मार्गबाट आउँछु (ma darbār mārg-bāṭa āum̐chu)
- म दरबार मार्गदेखि आउँछु (ma darbār mārg-dekhi āum̐chu)
The impression from the first sentence is that either your domicile is in Durbar Marg, or you were there temporarily as part of your route to the destination. On the second sentence, the impression is that you started your travel from Durbar Marg, as in that your origin of travel started from there. It does not necessarily indicate domicile. Let’s take another pair of sentences:
- यो गमला बार्दलीबाट झर्यो (yo gamalā bārdalī-bāṭa jharyo)
- यो गमला बार्दलीदेखिझर्यो (yo gamalā bārdalī-dekhi jharyo)
In the pair of sentences above, the feeling of “origin” from the second sentence is stronger than the first, as in the point of origin. The two sentences still have the identical meaning of “The flowerpot fell from the balcony”, but the feeling of “the flowerpot exists there” is stronger with the second sentence.
- यहाँबाटगुम्बा जान्छु (yahām̐-bāṭa gumbā jānchu)
- यहाँदेखि गुम्बा जान्छु (yahām̐-dekhi gumbā jānchu)
In the pair of sentences above, the feeling of “specificity” from the second sentence is stronger than the first. In the first sentence, it gives the impression that you were roaming around before you decided to go to the monastery. Thus, when you say that sentence, it encompasses a wider net from where you will start your journey. In the second sentence, you intend to start from here to go to the monastery, from the exact spot you described.
- The function of बाट (bāṭa)and देखि (dekhi) is to serve as the ablative case markers.
- The notion of “from” is indicated by the case markers.
- बाट (bāṭa) in essence show where a motion, journey or an action starts, origin, material composition, separation or prevention.
- देखि (dekhi) shows a range, a distance between two particular places or events, or shows something as a point of reference.
- Dekhi is firmer in indicating origin than bāṭa.