aristera says

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


semantics, semeotics, tactility of language, et cetera

a friend insists on speaking 'correct' and 'global' english. what the hell is global english? for me it is a castrated language. no coloquil nuances or tactility. i personally think a language needs to grow over place and time. it is regressive otherwise. new words are added to the dictionary. we have our own quirks in terms of pronunciations and sentence construction too. our cultural background renders it thus. why mst i speak like the british do? english as indian a language as any vernacular language. i wonder if the other erstwhile colonies face the same problem.
take the word 'peon' for example. since i cant write phoenetics...kindly make do with this...
pyune ( as in like puke) is how we would say it here.
the americans go different, while the brits hail the 'pee-un'. does that make indian way of saying it wrong? we need to deconstruct this prosaic heirarchy where the British ways are a higher factor of the equation. we are no longer colonized. it is sad, because, if the french have their way of prnouncing english words, its hip. its sexy. its the pride they take in doing things their way. but if there is any mother-tongue-infiltration in india, we term the poor person a 'verni'. i wonder why we have such a low self-esteem as a nation.
i take much pride in the fact that i am multilinguistic. i speak english, hindi, marathi and gujarati rather fluently. i understand bengali, punjabi and a little bit of french. will someday take up a foreign language too. someday.
so the point being, its perfectly ok to have a heavy twang of any which sort. construct a sentence the way you think is best. purists have no place in the PostModern (PoMo) world.
a beautiful PoMo work which designs language is Roy's 'The God of Small Things'.
P.G.Woodhouse does that too. na?
what, ya!
like i love saying, 'fun hua!'

"what the hell is global english? for me it is a castrated language. no coloquil nuances or tactility. i personally think a language needs to grow over place and time. it is regressive otherwise. new words are added to the dictionary. we have our own quirks in terms of pronunciations and sentence construction too. our cultural background renders it thus. why mst i speak like the british do? english as indian a language as any vernacular language. i wonder if the other erstwhile colonies face the same problem."

- Global English my dear is just all about speaking English in a manner that is understandable to all. English is English. Why should it be spoken with Hindi, Gujrati, Sindhi, and a melange of other languages added to it?

Language in its purity sounds beautiful. For example if I were to infiltrate Urdu with English, wouldn't Ghalib cringe in his grave and holler? That's one way to look at it. Isn't it?

Languages need to grow over a period of time. I agree. However, not borrowing from other cultural nuances et al but from the parent language it self. In this case English.

Unfortunately there is a correct and incorrect way of speaking any language, leaving aside English. When a foreigner attempts to speak any Indian Language, it becomes the source of many a anecdote. Most of us mock our lesser-well-spoken friends - I wonder why? We were never conditioned to do that, were we? And yet...No matter what one says language to a certain extent becomes the cultural landmark so to say.

Its not about a poor self-esteem as a nation, its all about trying to acquire something which is good. And by that one doesn't mean stop speaking in mother tongues, because at the end of the day we are known by our mother tongues. The diversity shapes us. Even when it comes to language.

Why malign a language to a large extent? Why not make the attempt to learn it correctly when you can? I ask why. God of Small Things is a beautiful piece of literature and I hold ground to that. However, written and spoken english again are two different things.

"Fun hua" is a brilliant form of expression and works well. But what we have to face is that at the end of the day it is not as much about mastering the art of the language as it is about wanting to speak correctly.
Well as long as we know what we are speaking is an Indianised, or a 'localised' version of English, its okay. If we start insisting that what we speak is the right way to speak English, or for that matter any language, that is a problem. Or so me thinks...

But I am still wondering what is 'global' english??
sex and mumbai - nonsense. who decided what is correct? pure, perhaps. but is perfect and pure the same? need not be...adding nuances to language is maligning it? nonsense. why only borrow from the 'parent' language only? who decides that it is the only way? why is one not open to deviances? i know that the written and spoken are very different. dissemenation, eh? jacques would approve. language in its purity is beautiful, yes. but it does not mean its not beautiful when not pure. 'fun hua'!

casa - but i am questioning the very basis/indexicality of the definition of this 'right' way. just because it is the old way or the original way, is it the right way? oh and global english, like i said is castrated english. bland, banal.
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A category of scripts often derives from the same source. Usually the scripts in a Script Family are closely related, both historically and in features.

However English being a mélange of stunningly diverse influences, the association between the phonetic (how it sounds) and the syllabic (how it reads) has been lost. That is not the case with German or French. A written sounds the same (making allowances for tonality – rising, falling, high, low and flat tones, like in Thai) no matter where it is pronounced - in Paris or Madagascar, in Berlin or Burundi.

That's because the syllabic is FAITHFUL to the phonetic. Hence these languages are a lot easier to learn for the uninitiated, than English. There is no equivalent term "global french" because there is no need to standardize something that has been created logically and without exceptions.

As far as the "Apartheid of pronunciations" in urban India goes, I just find it laughable now - I have always spoken in fairly neutral but somewhat Indian-accented English in ten countries, and NEVER had a problem with being understood. As long as the grammar and syntax are correct, there is no problem at all. However if you decide to arbitrarily insert argotic and colloquial (you may want to change the spelling in your main post)words, then the onus of making them understood, with nuances is on you.

And people who do this "convent" vs. "verny" thing - they're basically sad individuals who need to feel better about themselves.
wild reeds - hehe. you sound like an expert. i was sure i had mispelt 'colloquial'. but i have this disability. i can not spell right. never could. one doesnt decide to arbitarily insert anything (what the f*** is 'argotic'?. the term 'apartheid of pronunciations' just killed me. one more apartheid. help!
Omigawd...I had alot to say when I'd just read your post (btw I was also going to check that spelling, but since WildReeds has already been so kind I shall refrain) as I was saying I had alot to say, but seeing that we have far more expert comments here I'm going to keep my trap shut for now.

You know this had been a topic of great discussion on the erstwhile Kaashyapeya's bo and become a hot debate...there's really no end to this topic. I agree with you but only partially...coz giving free reign to how the language is used/corrupted/evolved can also lead to its death...have you heard some of the pidgin forms of the language? It's like another freaking language and quite a blasphemy really...

strong> Wild Reeds/strong> Thank you thank you for what you said abt French! I love you... (and no I'm not French ) :-)
Btw Argotic refers to jargon lang - generally slang. No I didn't look up the dictionary. argot en francais is slang...ain't I simply brilliant? ;-) Muhahaha maza happnd...wasn't this also something you said in addition to Fun hua?
geetanjali - no i never said 'maza happened'. thts so verni. hahaha.

wild reeds - dont beleive her. she is french.
look who is talkin???????????you corrected my pronunciation some days ago during a telephonic conversation. so when u get a taste of ur own poison u go into semantics, semeotics, tactility of language, et cetera........just cz some one tried to tell you how u mispronounced a word
why, by mutation, should a language die? isnt one born afresh? Geetanjali, remember Dr Ebeling teaching World Englishes -- there are studies of pidgin! and think of the poetry and music springing out of language transformation
the inevitable process of languages dying is sad but doesnt endanger English which is spoken by so many
not last, pidginizing is a method of emanzipation against a colonizer culture; some cultures like where people from diverse African origins were forced together dont have a native language but the originally foreign English (cant tell about French or other colonies)
finally, and just as a side remark, dont be mistaken on your neutral (aka standard?) way of speaking. A foreigner who gets along fine with his English in Europe, will in India often meet blank looks from people who are not used to hearing accents
on the GLOBAL ENGLISH question I'd just believe SatCity, now. Was there disagreement? And I like the message of the plural "Englishes", which is to me that multiple forms have developed and that each is rich of something
I just cant finish it off, today, but I just remembered: I tried to find a word you used the other day but couldnt find it, you were inventing language, here itself. Or maybe it was a fashionable word. But it was understandable altough I didnt know it. (O, WRAP IT UP!) That's good, was all I wanted to say
aparna - people call me a hypocrite. i think i am multifaceted. hehe.

canan... - wow! who is this?

all - i didnt know i was opening pandora's box. must post something new soon.
Thanks Aristera and Geetanjali. Hey Geetanjali, just checked out the Francesay blog. It's really cool! I've started a blog in French as well called Les Roseaux Sauvages. Great that the francophones are uniting together...
I think it's high time Indian English is universally acknowledged as a variant of English - just like American - which is a vastly different language from the uppity British English they attempted to teach us in Bombay. By Indian English, I don't mean the "ay tell no" variety, but the colloquial variants of many English words & phrases that are more commonly used in India than anywhere else.

For example, a quick look at today's Times of India reveals the phrase "20 flowery babes". What exactly is "flowery"? Are they wearing jasmine garlands in their hair? Are they frolicking on a bed of rose petals? Or does flowery mean sexy vixen? This phrase would be as alien to a Brit, as the word "lorry" to an American.

Anyway - my point is we need to distinguish between butchering the language, and acknowledging a fine variant that's unique to the sub-continent.
what is butchering a language?
maybe we could discuss examples
some might say Indian-style news headlines a la "Sonja visits Pak" or inventive spellings like KWALITY ICE CREAM go as butchering English while I take those two examples as part of Indian English

dont where the line should be drawn what is part of a variant of English and what isnt; it should be used by more than one speaker/ newspaper and over a longer period

one can distinguish usages that enter common language; those which dont then might be labeled rare misspellings

shame on me, Microsoft Spelling has an Indian variant in the list of Englishes; whatever the company is, their authority with many might take the "Indian English" campaign ahead
Hmm ... interesting question - what is butchering a language? Well if one throws out all the grammar rules, at some point it ceases to be English - might as well call it Hinglish, or Marathi-ish. Examples would be:

"constantly you are talking talking"
"don't talk in the middle"
"he really ratto-fied for the exam"
(all the "-fied" words warrant a whole separate discussion)

However, IMHO things like abbreviating Pakistan to Pak, and spelling KWALITY are not gramatically illogical and add a lot of regional flavor to the language.
Wild Reeds - I've been asked to drop by your blog...going there now.

Aristera - Sweetie, Canan's my fav German re...hint hint! Tum kaise nahin samjhe re?
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