[ilds] ILDS Digest, Vol 39, Issue 11_Urdu, Hindi and Hindustani

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Mon Jun 21 09:07:40 PDT 2010

Hi Bruce & Sumantra,

I'd doubt that a nanny was his only point of contact with local
languages, and his family seemed likely to have at least a modest
knowledge of the local languages.  After all, they'd been there for
some time...  And why wouldn't a Burmese ayah speak Hindi or Urdu?
Wouldn't there have been many other household staff who'd have spoken
either?  In /Pied Piper/, he reports many contacts with locals, and
that contact is reported using Hindi and Urdu.  I don't have MacNiven
in front of me, but also be careful about locations, since what's in
/Pied Piper of Lovers/ doesn't exactly match what really happened (and
Bowker often falls into the problem of conflating the novel with
Durrell's life for the Indian period).

Durrell's mother tongue was undoubtably English, but his first novel
shows that he had at least a modest knowledge of Hindi and Urdu, and
some others have complained that his limited Arabic contained too much
Urdu (I can't comment on that very well, but it seems plausible).  I'd
speculate his Hindi was probably phrases and vocabulary rather than a
grammatical knowledge, but his adeptness with languages is well
established, so this would be hard to determine, especially since he
was a child, and shifting languages in childhood isn't unusual.

I'd be inclined to read that statement as an expansion of the truth in
order to emphasize his discomfited position between India and England.
 After all, as he says in /Bitter Lemons/ (in a passage randomly
falling open on my desk today): "The truth is that both the British
and the Cypriot world offered one a gallery of humours which could
only be fully enjoyed by one who, like myself, had a stake in neither"

Perhaps Sumantra could comment on the spoken distinctions between Urdu
and Hindi for someone who wouldn't be likely to read in either
language (Devanagari vs. Persian would immediately demarcate the
scripts, right)?  I once spent a couple of weeks dallying with a book
on Hindi script (I don't recall much...), and I live in a very Indian
part of Vancouver where the different scripts seem to mark out
different parts of the Indo-Canadian community.  My outsider's hunch
is that they share a reasonable degree of inter-intelligibility and
cognates for common words, though Hindi derives largely from Sanskrit
and Urdu from Persian and Arabic.  Is that roughly right?


On 21 June 2010 06:51, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
> Sumantra,
> Thanks.  Any thoughts about Durrell's claim that his first language was Hindi, although his nanny at the time was Burmese, who presumably spoke Burmese and not Hindi.  I guess it is possible that there are Hindi speaking Burmese.
> Bruce
> On Jun 21, 2010, at 4:00 AM, Sumantra Nag wrote:
>> Sorry, just sending this post again after rearranging the content and correcting a few typographical errors. Sumantra
>> -----------------------------
>> Bruce,
>>> Actually Hindustani is a term used to describe the speech of modern India which is influenced by both Hindi and Urdu.
>>> Hindi is a language belonging to the Hindu heartland of India and is linked with the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, while Urdu has come from the Muslim countries. India was ruled by Mughal emperors settled in India during the medieval period before the British first came during  the seventeenth century to trade during the Mughal rule. Whereas the British later ruled from England, the Mughal emperors had settled in India.
>>> Sumantra
>>> ------------------------------------
>>> "MacNiven also notes Durrell's claims about speaking Urdu and does not see a contradiction, the two languages being dialects of Hindustani (p. 693, n. 35)."
>>> Message: 4
>>>> Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2010 15:50:55 -0700
>>>> From: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
>>>> Subject: Re: [ilds] "Our most exalted alumni was Lawrence Durrell"
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James Gifford, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English and University Core Director
School of English, Philosophy and Humanities
University College: Arts, Sciences, Professional Studies
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver Campus
Voice: 604-648-4476
Fax: 604-648-4489
E-mail: gifford at fdu.edu

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