Friday, November 12, 2010

Objects Shift, Humans Move, Languages Transform

I love languages. The romance is very much a part of daily life - observing the dialects, varied pronunciations, use of pin-point synonyms, clarity and brevity. Over the years one of the most enjoyable activities I've found is to figure out the impact of Indian languages on English and the other way round. A Hindi poet Kumar Vishwas joked, pointing at the weird ways in which English is mixed with Hindi in Uttar Pradesh, 'to avenge the British, they have been doing to English what British did to Indians'!

Coming to the title of the post, in strictest sense shift should be used in the context of objects whereas move should be used for humans. So 'We moved to Mumbai' is more appropriate than 'We shifted to Mumbai'. So the point of this post is that, I've found in most of the cases in Hindi or in Marathi, the word shift to be more 'Indianized' than the word move. So I've frequently heard Hum log shift ho gaye or Amhi Shift Jhalo whereas I've never heard move being used in Hinglish or Minglish. The reason for the more Indianization of shift and less of move still remains unknown to me. So the impact of this imbalance becomes imminent when somebody speaks English in a translated-from-mother-tongue manner, which happens in most of the cases. In the other direction, I've frequently heard my sister saying Ye combination theme ke sath jata hai. This is a direct translation of 'This combination goes with the theme', although it doesn't make much sense in the native language. I love to find the roots in such cross-lingual mix ups.

I watched an Interview of Shobha De in which she claimed to be the first journalist to introduce Hinglish to the Indian English Press. Anti purists who support such mingling of languages defend it by the fact that historically, anything averse to change underwent extinction and languages were and will be no exception. I'm not much of a supporter of the intermixed languages and try to avoid it as far as possible. But, I was simply in love of the philosophy by another showbiz person Bharat Dabholkar regarding Hinglish. He said, 'Pepole resort to Hinglish because they aren't proficient in English speaking yet they want to be seen as 'cool' while not speaking in Hindi alone'. Ideally linguistic fusion should be treated as the mixture of two correct languages and should not be used to shield the lack of proficiency in either language.

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