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

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue Jun 22 11:50:11 PDT 2010


1.  MacNiven assumes Durrell's first "ayah" spoke Burmese.  So, he says, probably with tongue in cheek, "The Burmese tongue vanished from his [young Durrell's] memory without a trace" (p. 19).  That assumption seems reasonable.

2.  In "From the Elephant's Back," Durrell bluntly writes, "My first language was Hindi."  I take this to mean his "mother tongue," which you and I agree was most probably English.  So here we have either a lie, a distortion, or an "expansion," as you call it.  I go for the first option.


On Jun 21, 2010, at 9:07 AM, James Gifford wrote:

> 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"
> (25).
> 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?
> Cheers,
> James
> 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)."

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