Today is the final day of Indian English and we have one final guest blog for you, from Gauri, a linguist and polyglot in the USA. Gauri writes as Litterateuse at her blog, 42, and tweets as @gau3. If you liked this guest post, you might like her post on Indian English here.
As someone fascinated by languages in general and English in particular, what interests me most is how every language develops its own version of English based on the comfort of its syntax. In fact, I’d go so far as to confess I’ve made a pastime out of guessing people’s native tongue based on what syntax they fit English in, how they articulate consonants, and what two sounds they tend to use interchangably. The endearing part is that the ‘wrongness’ – if one could call it that – is so consistent and universal, that it could well pass off as an independent (but unofficial) version of English.
“we are not making 1 any mistakes when we are speaking English language. It is only by the chance that we are sometimes using definite article 2 in an arbitrary manner. You are amused? 3 I will provide explanation.” [sic]
1 Marathi does have both present continuous as well as simple present tense. Yet, it is not uncommon for a speaker of Marathi – while speaking in English – to use the present continuous tense where one would generally use the simple present. When a Maharashtrian asks you “You are going to school?” he probably means one of two things:
Are you going to school (now)? [As opposed to going to the store.] Do you (generally) attend school? [As opposed to attending college / work.]
How do you know which is which? Well, that’s what context is for.
2 Marathi has no articles. The correct usage of the definite article does not come instinctively to a Marathi speaker. That should explain our capricious use of the definite article:
“When you will come back from market?”
“Why you are watching the TV just now?”
“How you came here? You took bus or you came by the car?”
3 Lastly, you are noticing how we are asking “You are noticing?” and not “Are you noticing?” ?
Again, this has to do with syntax – in Marathi, there is no change in the word order or sentence structure when you change a statement to a question – it’s only marked by a rising intonation while speaking and a question mark at the end when in print e.g.:
Tula ice cream avadta? (Do you like ice cream?)
Tula ice cream avadta. (You like ice cream.)
So when your Marathi friend emails you “You like orange pants with purple frill” – the odds are she only wants to know whether you do, and forgot to add the question mark. It’s less likely she’s accusing you of questionable taste. (Although what made her ask to begin with is something to think about.)
In a more formal context, we do use the particle ‘ka’ to indicate something is a question e.g.:
Tula ice cream avadta ka? (Do you like ice cream?)
Thankfully, in the written form, this will hardly be mistaken for a statement even when the question mark is missing. But then it comes with its own quirk – “ka” by itself can mean “or”.
Marathi speakers often tend to translate this literally and ask “You like ice cream or what?”
And then of course, there are other things that people never actually say, but we love to deliberately joke about. Like the diff-different ways in which English is spoken by var-various people, but not so much when they have two-two or even three-three Master’s degrees from foreign. Well, we all come with our own bag-baggage and lug-luggage of culture, and I am really loving it!Email this Post